Tha Sports Junkies 101

The Cardinals Keep Coming in Second on Free Agents, But Why?

Free Agents Kieth Allison/ Via

MLB: Cardinals

Albert Pujols, David Price, Jason Heyward, Luis Robert.  These guys all have one thing in common, the Cardinals came in second when trying to sign them as free agents.  Though it has not always been a bad thing, especially in the Heyward case, it has been a recurring theme.  Is there a reason for it, or do the Cardinals need to loosen the purse strings a little more?  I have a theory, that I think many Cards fans will like, and I think, if true, is a very smart strategy, for John Mozeliak.

Where the Cards Have Missed on Free Agents

After the 2011, World Championship, season, the Cardinals were faced with a decision, resign baseballs’ best player, or let him walk.  At the time, it seemed like there was an easy answer.  They did give Albert a significant offer, but, in the end, came up short.  However, time would tell that the front office made the correct decision, by letting Pujols go to Los Angeles.  He has not been the same player since leaving St. Louis that off season, and has definitely not been worth $250 million.

During the 2015 off season, the Cardinals pursued both David Price, and Jason Heyward.  Their efforts, again, would be to no avail, as neither player was brought to St. Louis.  It would seem, though, that like in the Pujols case, they have not missed out on much, from these players, to this point.

Heyward went on to have an abysmal 2016, for the Cubs, hitting just .23o, with 7 home runs, despite winning the World Series.  David Price, though he won 17 games, had a sub par year, by his standards.  He sported just a 3.99 ERA, during the regular season, and only threw 3 1/3 innings in the post season, giving up five earned runs.

The most recent case, in which the Cards have come up short, on a free agent, was that of Luis Robert.  Robert is a 19 year-old outfield prospect from Cuba.  After being stripped of their first two 2017 draft picks, signing Robert would have made sense for the Cardinals.  Instead, Robert signed with the White Sox for $26-27 million.  With the dollar for dollar tax, paid for exceeding the international spending limit, the signing likely would have cost the Cardinals $50+ million.  Only time will tell if they really did miss here.

Why They Have Missed

All these misses have frustrated Cards fans everywhere.  However, I think they may be forgiven, sooner rather than later.  John Mozeliak seems to always have his eyes on the future.  I think by not overpaying for these free agents, he is doing just that, looking ahead.  What is he looking ahead too?  The 2019 free agent pool.  In 2019, Manny Machado will be a 27 year-old, free agent, and he will be looking to get paid.

Machado is a franchise changing type player, and at just 27, it will be easy to extend a long-term offer.  There are only a handful of teams that will have the capital to afford him though.  The top three candidates, in my eyes, other than the Orioles, his current team, are the Yankees, the Cubs, and the Cardinals.

Now, here is the kicker for Cardinal fans.  Bryce Harper will also be a free agent, in 2019, and the Yankees are an early favorite, to sign him to a mega-deal, taking them out of the race for Machado.  The Cubs, on the other hand, are in a different situation.  They already have an All-Star third baseman, and an All-Star shortstop, the two positions in which Machado would play.  Thus, leaving the Cardinals a great opportunity to capitalize on a once in an era, type player.

With all the money the Cardinals have saved in free agency, and the amount of revenue they generate, they will have the money to make Machado a very competitive offer.  They will also be ridding of Adam Wainwrights contract, in 2019, and will not pay him as much as he is making now, clearing up more space for Machado.  I am not sure this is Mozeliak’s end goal, but it seems to make a lot of sense.