ST. LOUIS – Tis the season for free agency. Players can start signing with new MLB teams as early as Thursday afternoon.
The St. Louis Cardinals, coming off a division crown and four straight postseason berths, could make some moves in free agency to stay competitive. Occasionally, St. Louis will land a big-name free agent to a multi-year deal, like Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Miles Mikolas. Other offseasons come and go a little more quietly.
John Mozeliak, Cardinals President of Baseball Operations, noted weeks after the season ended that the team’s payroll is expected to increase for next season and there are some needs to address, including catcher and the pitching staff.
“We know there’s work to do [and] we know we have to do some things to improve our club,” said Mozeliak. “We didn’t finish the year like we wanted to, but there was a lot to be excited about in 2022. But you have to turn the page and move on.”
What exactly this insight means remains to be determined in the upcoming months. It’s anyone guess who might or might not join the Cardinals in free agency, but some sports hubs have already launched their predictions.
Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and others tab the Cardinals as the logical choice for a few free agents. The overall consensus is that three free agents might make strong fits in St. Louis: Willson Contreras, Carlos Rodon and Christian Vazquez.
Contreras, a three-time All Star, just wrapped up his seventh season with the rebuilding rival Chicago Cubs. He has slugged 20 home runs in the catcher’s spot four times, showing off rare pop out of the position. He has also averaged 18.5 base runners caught stealing per season and has logged at least 800 innings per season five times.
Rodon, a left-handed starting pitcher with back-to-back All-Star nods, has cruised to the tune of a 27-13 record, 422 strikeouts and 2.66 ERA in his last two seasons. He opted out of a contract with the San Francisco Giants that would have kept him one more year. Rodon’s postseason experience has been limited to two games, but he’s expected to be one of the most coveted arms.
Vazquez, a reigning World Series champion with two titles, just finished up his eighth season as an MLB backstop. He produced stout numbers offensively and defensively in a long tenure with the Boston Red Sox, including a .261 batting average, 55 home runs and 34% rate of runners caught stealing.
Sports Illustrated predicts Rodon and Vazquez will sign with the Cardinals out of free agency. CBS Sports suggests the Cardinals are among the top landing spots for Contreras, Rodon and Vazquez. A lengthy analysis via Pitcherlist.com believes the Cardinals will be the ultimate destination for Contreras.
It’s not a guarantee St. Louis will end up with any of these three, but given the trio’s experience and success, it’s worth watching where they might land.
In preparation for this piece, I asked about the free agency buzz via Twitter and collected hundreds of responses as to what the Cardinals might make a first priority. Among the poll responses…
- 43% believe Contreras will be the top target
- 29% believe Vazquez will be the top target
- 19% believe Rodon will be the top target
- 8% believe the Cardinals will prioritize something else
CBS Sports and Pitcherlist.com also list pitchers Tyler Anderson, Nick Martinez and Nate Eovaldi as possible fits for the 2023 St. Louis Cardinals.
“We’ll certainly try to address the club, try to improve it wherever we can, and hopefully over the next three or four months, we can call that a success,” said Mozeliak.
While exploring new roster possibilities, the Cardinals will also see veterans Jose Quintana and Corey Dickerson test free agency. It’s unclear if either will return to St. Louis. For a full list of MLB free agents in the 2022-23 season, click here.