Kansas City Royals: Making the case, Cardinals free agents
By Jordan Foote
Ahead of Kansas City Royals free agency, let’s take a look at the St. Louis Cardinals’ upcoming free agents and decide whether the team should pursue any.
Welcome to the continuation of our “Kansas City Royals: Making the case” series for free agency. The St. Louis Cardinals created a ton of positive momentum down the stretch in 2019 — enough to finish with the best record in the NL Central. After getting swept in the NLCS, though, the team will be faced with some tough decisions as it looks to remain a contender in 2020.
Per Spotrac’s official list, the Cardinals have just five pending free agents as we approach the offseason. Are any players worth Royals general manager Dayton Moore pursuing this winter? Let’s find out.
Marcell Ozuna, LF
Ozuna is one of the biggest names in this year’s free agent market. In each of the last four seasons, the 28-year-old outfielder has clubbed at least 23 home runs and posted an OPS+ of more than 100. He was good for 2.2 bWAR in 2019 and has been valued by Spotrac as worth $18,138,737 per year as a free agent this winter.
With that said, Kansas City has to decide what to do with the poor-hitting-but-elite-defending duo of Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling in the outfield, along with dealing with Alex Gordon‘s option. Even if (when) Gordon’s option is declined, will he return for a 14th season at a lower salary? What about Jorge Soler? He’ll see some innings in the outfield as well. At the end of the day, Ozuna is going to cost a pretty penny to bring in and it isn’t certain whether the Royals would have a spot open for him in the first place. It’d be a splash move under new owner John Sherman, though.
Verdict: Pass (would be cool, though)
A 6-foot-6, 215-pound righty, Wacha has battled inconsistency and injuries throughout the entirety of his career. After an All-Star 2015 campaign at the age of 23, Wacha’s next two seasons saw him post ERAs of 5.09 and 4.13, respectively. His 2017 was a nice rebound as he was able to make 30 starts, winning 12 of them. Wacha’s 2018 was cut short but in 15 starts (84.1 innings of work), his ERA+ was 121.
Wacha came back down to earth in 2019. Tossing just 126.2 innings, an ERA of 4.76 is less than impressive, to say the least. His FIP (5.61) indicates that things could have been even worse. Wacha experienced some shoulder tightness late in the regular season, causing him to miss St. Louis’ playoff run. At 28, Wacha is facing a critical point in his career. Perhaps Dayton Moore will want to take a chance on him as a middle-of-the-rotation arm.
Cingrani missed the entire 2019 season following labrum surgery. He was moved to the Cardinals from the Los Angeles Dodgers, as LA was attempting to save money against the luxury tax. The left-handed relief pitcher hasn’t posted an ERA below 4.00 since 2013 and is now 30 years old. Moore is notorious for turning free agent, injury-riddled pitchers into Kansas City Royals, but the team can probably pass on Cingrani.
One of the oldest starting pitchers in all of baseball, Wainwright remains an okay option as the final starter in a major league rotation. Winning 14 of his 24 decisions in 2019, the lifetime Cardinal raised his career win total to 162. At the end of the day, it’s highly unlikely the veteran signs with anyone other than St. Louis should he decide to return in 2020.
Matt Wieters, C
Wieters, once one of the better catchers in baseball, is now nothing more than a backup. His production is nowhere near what it used to be, and how much better (or worse) that’ll get as he turns 34 next season is a legitimate question. The Kansas City Royals don’t need an aging backup to play behind Salvador Perez.
Ozuna’s name has been linked to the Kansas City Royals and Wacha’s recent struggles could cause his market to take a hit but other than that, there isn’t much to pick from here. If neither of those names peaks Dayton Moore’s interest, he can likely look elsewhere for free agents.