After nabbing Dexter Fowler, Mozeliak has said the Cardinals are looking to improve their outfield depth. What are the options?
According to Jennifer Langosch, the Cardinals are looking to add left-handed hitting outfielders that can play multiple positions. The Cardinals outfield depth is solid, but also leaves much to be desired in terms of depth. Right now, the Cardinals have a rotation of Stephen Piscotty-Dexter Fowler-Randal Grichuk with Tommy Pham coming off the bench.
All of those players except for Fowler bat right handed, and even Fowler, a switch hitter, has better splits batting right handed. The Cardinals will need a left handed outfielder to give Matheny as much matchup flexibility as possible, which can be especially important late in the season. There are a plethora of left handed utility outfielders left on the market, so let’s look at the Cardinals’ most viable options.
Gregor Blanco has been one of the best fourth outfielders in baseball for quite a while. While he is probably most well known for his perfect game saving catch back in 2012, he did an excellent job as fourth outfielder for two world series winning teams. In 2012, he even filled in as a starter down the stretch after Melky Cabrera’s PED suspension. The oft injured Giants are forced to overuse him as a starter, which tends to deflate his numbers.
Last year, in an injury riddled season, he slashed an abysmal .224/.309/.311 in 106 games. However, the year before he managed a respectable .291/.368/.413 in 115 games. Not only is he solid offensively, but he bats left handed and brings speed and defense, something the Cardinals desperately need. Even though he is approaching his age 33 season, Blanco’s track record of being a solid fourth outfielder speaks for itself. He would thrive in the fourth outfielder role for the Cardinals.
Although Chris Coghlan spent the majority of his time in left last season, he has played all three outfield positions in the past. Last season, Coghlan slashed .252/.391/.388 in only 103 at bats. Despite limited use on a stacked Cubs team, Coghlan proved to be a competent offensive player. He even managed to be a plus in the outfield, something he had not done throughout his entire career.
Although Coghlan’s numbers look promising, he was pretty abysmal in the seasons before 2016, posting a slash line of .188/.290/.318 in 2015. Coghlan managed to be a net positive for the Cubs last year, but I think it was only because of his limited usage.
Even if the Cardinals use him in a limited role, there’s no telling which Coghlan will show up for the Cardinals next year. Signing him would be risky, and the payoff would not be that great in the long run.
While the Cardinals scour the free agent market, they should remember the one option they know very well. Brandon Moss has had an up and down couple of years with the Cardinals. Last year, he played most of his innings at first with a few innings in left and right sprinkled in between. He slashed .225/.300/.484 with 28 HR for the Cardinals last year.
The Cardinals know what they’re getting with Moss, a high power guy who can play subpar defense in the outfield. Moss is only getting older, so his defense isn’t likely to improve next season. If the Cardinals want to use Moss as a big bat off the bench, that could work, but if they’re looking for a defensive swap in the late innings/postseason, then Moss might not be the most viable option.
Michael Bourn had a sneaky good year with the Orioles last season. He played decent baseball for the D-backs before being traded to the Orioles where he slashed .283/.358/.435 in 24 games. That brought his yearly slash line up to .264/.314/.371 in addition to solid defense and base running.
Although Bourn will turn 34 next season, he showed last season that he can still hit and bring speed and defense. While his defense and base running will probably drop off a little next season, he would be a solid addition to the Cardinals bench. Bourn played most of his inning in right and left last season, but he has played center field before.
Off all these players, I think Blanco would be the best fit for the Cardinals as a fourth/fifth outfielder. Blanco has proved he can be a capable starter in the past, but he truly thrives in the backup role. He bats left handed and can play excellent defense at all three outfield positions.
Plus, he brings sorely needed speed to the base paths and he has a plethora of postseason experience. Blanco’s strengths just align very well with the Cardinals needs. While these are only a sample of the players the Cardinals could sign, all of them would be solid outfielders.
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