4 non-tendered players Cardinals could pursue

December 5th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- With the Winter Meetings set to begin on Monday in San Diego, the Cardinals still have plenty of needs to address for 2020. And after this week’s non-tender deadline, there are 56 new free agents added to the market for teams to consider.

There are a variety of reasons players get non-tendered: injuries, diminished production and financials are some of the most common. So none of these signings would be huge or considered as the piece that gets the Cardinals far into the postseason again. But some of them are intriguing, and many might be cheaper to sign than a big-time free agent on the market.

The Cardinals are looking for ways to improve their offense in the outfield specifically, and pitching is on their minds as well. If a trade or another free-agent signing doesn’t work out, here are four non-tendered free agents who could help the Cardinals:

Pillar is mainly a center fielder, but he’s played the corner-outfield spots during his seven-year career. In 2019, while making $5.8 million, Pillar paced the Giants with 21 home runs and 87 RBIs, and he hit 37 doubles. The 30-year-old has struggled with getting on base with a .296 career on-base percentage, and this certainly wouldn’t be the big upgrade that would solve all the Cardinals’ problems. The Cardinals also have plenty of young, in-house candidates for the outfield jobs, and they want to see what the competition looks like come Spring Training. But if Pillar can continue his production, a popular veteran outfielder wouldn’t hurt, especially with the thin free-agent market for outfielders.

Santana was plagued with injuries in the second half of this season, but he had 21 homers and a .770 OPS with the Mariners in 2019. And he’s two years removed from his breakout 2017 season, when he hit 30 home runs and had an .875 OPS with the Brewers. The 27-year-old might fit better as a designated hitter with an American League team, but he does have the ability to play both corner-outfield spots. If he can prove he’s healthy and the Cardinals believe Santana can return to power-hitting form, he could fit in left field.

The Cardinals are still giving a chance to return to the rotation, but that will depend on his health and if his shoulder can withstand the innings. So the Cardinals are still looking at the pitching market. They’re not expected to go after top free agents like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, and some of the next tier of starters, like Zack Wheeler (Phillies) and Cole Hamels (Braves), have already come off the board. While the Cardinals are looking for an impact starter for the right price, Gausman could make sense.

The right-hander will turn 29 in January, and he was acquired by the Braves in the middle of 2018 and had a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts in the second half. He struggled in 2019, with a 6.19 ERA in 16 starts before being claimed off waivers by the Reds, where he was a reliever and had a 4.03 ERA in 15 games. If the Cardinals are looking for an innings-eater in that fifth spot, the former No. 4 overall Draft pick could get another shot in the rotation.

The Cardinals aren’t in huge need of a bullpen piece, but checking in on Treinen’s price wouldn’t be a bad idea. In 2018, Treinen had a 0.78 ERA in 80 1/3 innings (68 games) with 100 strikeouts compared to 21 walks, and he earned an All-Star appearance and a sixth-place finish in AL Cy Young voting as the A’s closer.

But the 31-year-old righty struggled this year, with a 4.91 ERA in 58 2/3 innings (57 games). His command hurt him, with 37 walks compared to 59 strikeouts. The Cardinals bullpen seems solid, but there is the question of who will be the closer until Jordan Hicks returns from Tommy John recovery. In that scenario, the Cardinals will likely value their in-house candidates, like or , more. But if Treinen can bounce back in 2020, it’s worth considering him.