Will Cards target these non-tendered hitters?

December 3rd, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- A new wave of players was pushed into the free-agent pool Wednesday with the non-tender deadline coming and going. Some were expected, and some were extremely notable -- especially for the Cardinals as they look to upgrade their offense this offseason while also keeping a close eye on their payroll for 2021.

The Cardinals decided to non-tender reliever John Brebbia and infielder Rangel Ravelo, clearing two spots to get their 40-man roster to 37.

A priority high on the Cardinals' needs this offseason is power, and the newest group of free agents offers plenty of it at different price points. Here are some new free agents who could fit well with the Cardinals:

, OF
Rosario has been one of the Twins’ most consistent sources of power for six seasons, but his increasing salary and the club’s abundance of young outfielders saw the 29-year-old pass through waivers and become a free agent. Multiple clubs are expected to be interested in the left fielder, and the Cardinals should be one of them. Rosario has averaged 28 home runs and 91 RBIs per 162 games over his career and has produced a .277/.310/.478 slash line.

While his strikeout rate has dropped consistently every year, Rosario doesn’t walk a ton, which has limited his value. He posted a career-best 8.2% walk rate in 2020, with his second-best walk rate of 5.9% coming in 2017. Rosario has an above-average arm in left field, leading to 53 outfield assists in his career, but Statcast has evaluated him as a below-average defender in each of the last four seasons, further limiting his value.

Still, Rosario’s power could be enough value on its own, and the Cardinals have the defense to help overcome Rosario’s shortcomings. He has excelled against offspeed pitching -- hitting .287 off those pitches in 2019 -- something that the Cardinals have struggled with the past two years. He’s left-handed, offering a complement to outfielders Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Austin Dean. Rosario was projected to make close to $9.5 million in arbitration this year, according to Cot’s Contracts, but passing through waivers and his non-tender could see that price drop.

, OF
The 10th overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, Dahl showed plenty of potential during his time with the Rockies, but he was limited by persistent injuries, including a stress reaction in his rib cage in 2016, a foot fracture in ’17, an ankle sprain to end his All-Star campaign in ’19 and most recently a right shoulder injury that required cleanup surgery this past season.

That’s a lot of injuries, and it’s a concern for any team looking to add Dahl to be a force in its lineup. But that’s just the thing: He can be a key addition to a lineup looking for pop. In 264 games and 1,020 plate appearances, the 26-year-old has a career .828 OPS, including the shortened 2020 season that only saw him play 24 games. In his first three years in the Majors, he posted a 111 OPS+ with a .297 batting average and a .346 on-base percentage.

Dahl is left-handed, offering another complement to the young right-handed outfielders the Cardinals have. And Dahl doesn’t struggle against lefties, with a .277/.312/.438 slash line against lefties compared to a .289/.342/.515 line against righties in his career. He also plays all three outfield positions, offering the Cardinals versatility, and the potential of three years of control is appealing as well.

, OF
OK, Renfroe wasn’t technically non-tendered. He was designated for assignment in November, signaling that the Rays were going to non-tender him anyway. Regardless, he’s a free agent, one that would be an appealing fit for the Cardinals, so he makes an appearance on this list.

Renfroe struggled in 2020, but he solidly improved every year since becoming a regular in 2017. His walk to strikeout rate has increased every year while showing he can improve his power output, too. He hit 33 home runs in 2019, up from 26 in each of the previous two years, and his isolated power (ISO) increased each year he was a regular with the Padres from 2017-19: .236, .256, .273.

Over five years in the Majors, Renfroe has a .228/.290/.486 slash line with a 106 OPS+, and that includes 2020, which was not kind to the 28-year-old. He posted a career-low 76 wRC+ while hitting just .156 in 139 plate appearances. Interested clubs will have to decide if there is much stock to put in those shortened-season numbers, but his improved statistics in previous years should still offer a glimpse of the potential Renfroe has, making him a low-cost acquisition with a high ceiling. The power, youth and defense are all there, perhaps making the low on-base percentage more palatable for the Cardinals.

Other intriguing names
• Left fielder was non-tendered by the Cubs, providing payroll flexibility on the North Side. Now he’ll be able to provide a slugging presence to the club that picks him up. Schwarber, 27, hit 38 home runs and collected 92 RBIs in 2019 and has a career .816 OPS, including a subpar 2020 in which he slugged a career-low .393. Schwarber was projected to earn $9 million to $10 million through arbitration, and several teams are expected to be interested in him.

could provide a versatile option to the Cardinals' infield, moving between second base and third base with Tommy Edman. He hit .299 in his two years with the Orioles, including .394 against left-handed pitchers.

• Outfielder had a solid season with the Braves, and he offers that thunder the Cardinals are seeking, having hit 16 home runs in 2020 with an .833 OPS. His .293 career on-base percentage, coupled with his age (32), might have the Cardinals looking elsewhere.