The St. Louis Cardinals have some tough decisions this offseason, and these three guys are in line to leave in free agency.
After making the NLCS in 2019, the St. Louis Cardinals’ postseason stay wasn’t as long this year as the lost in three games to the San Diego Padres in Wild Card Series. Still, this is one of the more consistently successful franchises in baseball.
But after a short season with no fans in stadiums, payroll belts will be tightening around baseball this offseason. The Cardinals will not be immune, as team president John Mozeliak recently acknowledged to reporters.
The affect of lack of gate revenue in 2020 is especially real for the Cardinals. St. Louis is a baseball-crazed town, and the Cardinals draw huge.
As noted by MLB Trade Rumors, the Cardinals have had Opening Day payrolls in the $160 million range in recent years. Right now, Spotrac has them projected to for almost $111 million in salary commitments for next year with some arbitration projections built in.
An effort to reduce payroll does not mean the Cardinals are going to trade a bunch of guys this offseason. But they may not make any big moves either, as exciting as a trade for Francisco Lindor would be.
The Cardinals don’t have a lot of option decisions or a lot of free agents. But these three free agents are in line to be as good as gone.
Wainwright pitched very well this past season (3.15 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 3.60 K/B), as he led the Cardinals in innings (65.2). But a FIP almost a full run above his ERA (4.10) paints a picture of good fortune with a typical good defense behind him, and Statcast numbers reflected generally below average work. He’s also 39 years old, and 2019 (14-10, 4.19 ERA, 171.2 innings, 8.0 K/9) might be his ceiling over a normal full season.
Wainwright has spent his entire career with the Cardinals, and he has said he wants to stay. He pitched on a one-year, $5 million deal this year, so something similar might bring him back easily.
“He goes, ’I don’t know, but let’s go somewhere together.’ I said I agree, let’s go somewhere together,” Wainwright said.
“Neither one of us wants to leave St. Louis,” Wainwright said. “We both want to be there, so we’ll see what happens. I know that times are weird…and the payroll flexibility is probably not what Mo [president of baseball operations John Mozeliak] wishes it was, but we’ll see. I don’t know.”
Beyond ace Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals have plenty of question marks for the 2021 starting rotation. Letting Wainwright depart would remove a veteran stabilizing force, not to mention draw ire from fans. But prepare to see Wainwright in 2021.