There are a ton of free agents still on the market in the MLB. Here are some guys I think could really help the Cardinals going into next season.
Some huge names are still on the board. Bautista. Trumbo. Chris Carter. But do any of these guys fit the mold of the Cards? Here are the three remaining free agents I think could most help the Red Birds in 2017.
As it stands right now, the Cardinals’ starting rotation, one through five, and even six if it were to be extended so far, is all right handed. Now, I’ll be the first to say that this is a potent group of pitchers, but every rotation needs at least one south paw to even things out. Jon Niese seems to be a great candidate.
Niese is nothing if not experienced pitching in the National League. He spent eight of his nine career years pithing in Flushing, moving to Pittsburgh just last year in the Neil Walker deal. Despite two consecutive seasons with an ERA around five, Niese has been a consistently solid lefty hurler. With just over an ERA of four in his nine years as a big leaguer, he wont wow you with dominance, but he does have the potential to get outs, as he showed in the 2015 Postseason with New York, practically dominating until a few bad games, most likely caused by over-use, sullied his playoff ERA. Personally, I prefer him out of the pen, but he can certainly fill a starter’s role, and with the acquisition of Brett Cecil over the off-season, that is probably where he would be of most service.
No one would expect him to become a top starter out of nowhere, and thus, coming off some rough seasons, he would probably sign for little money. But, he could, as he has in the past, act as a solid four or five spot in the rotation. Further, this move could push perhaps someone like Lance Lynn or Mike Leake into the bullpen, where there is now a surplus of left-handed long relief men, and a shortage of righties for the role. There is no promise Niese will perform at a top end level in 2017, but one thing is for sure: the Cardinals need to balance out their rotation, and Niese is on the market, ready to return to his home in the National League.
To be honest, I can’t think of a club that wouldn’t benefit from having this guy. He is an ultimate utility man that can serve solidly at really any position besides short, center, and the battery, while putting up consistently productive offensive numbers. At this point in his career, entering his age 35 season, Johnson is not a starter, and the Cardinals don’t need one, but he could serve as a fifth infielder and a fourth or fifth outfielder beautifully for the RedBirds, as he has for numerous teams in the past, while also posing as a pinch-hit threat off the bench.
A .251 career hitter, Johnson also would provide a desperately needed left bat to the Cardinals roster. As it stands, the Cardinals have six or seven right handed bats in their starting nine. Now, I am by no means implying that Johnson would be an every day starter, but a spot start here or there, or a lefty bat off the bench coming in against a tough right-handed relief pitcher could really go a long way to help the club. And it’s not as if Johnson is just a left handed bat. He brings some pop from the left side, averaging 18 homers and 64 RBI over an 162 game season in his 11 year career. All and all, Kelly Johnson coming to St. Louis would not be a bad thing.
Besides having one of the most awesome names in sports, Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be a very nice fit for the 2017 Cardinal roster. Here’s why. On the back end of his 10 year career, “Salty” has played for three teams in the last two seasons, and really hasn’t been very good in either year. Coming off a season in which he hit .170 in 92 games with Detroit, he is clearly in decline. However, he does still provide decent power from the plate, hitting 12 homers in those 92 games, and is a switch hitting presence that could benefit the Cards.
You are still probably thinking that none of this sounds very appealing. .170 and 12 homers, why would we ever want that. The real reason, however, I think this could be a good move, is because it would give youngster Carson Kelly another year to develop. As of now, all signs point toward Yadi being the main guy in 2017, with little to no dip in innings behind the plate. As a Cardinals’ fan, I don’t want my future backstop sitting on the bench for a hundred some odd games, watching baseball. I want him playing, even if that means sending him down to Triple-A for another year. After all, he is still only 22.
That’s why getting a cheap, serviceable backup, like Saltalamacchia, makes a ton of sense, in my opinion. He wont hurt you defensively, he won’t “wow” you offensively, but could put one over the fence here or there, but most importantly, he’ll take the kid’s spot on the bench, allowing him to get starter’s reps down in Triple-A. And Saltalamacchia, if he wants to keep playing, is in no position to bargain for a contract at this point in his career. Thus, of my three suggestions, I think this one makes the most sense, as Salty could allow for Kelly to get the reps he needs, while probably only costing the Cards six figures.
Now, Im not saying sign all of these guys. That wouldn’t make monetary, or managerial sense. But even one of these free agents, I feel, could really help jump start the Cardinals from where they were last year, on the outside looking in, to a potential playoff spot in 2017. And, who know, maybe we catch lightning in a bottle with one of these potential signings, and really take off and go places no one expected us to go.