Any baseball fan would agree that the Cardinals are one of the National League’s best teams, but what prevented them from achieving post-season dominance in 2014? When it comes down to it, the answer is a lack of offensive production. The Cards were dead last in the National League in home runs with 105 during the regular season, down from 125 in 2013, and were tenth in the National League in runs scored with 619. To put the Cards runs scored number in perspective, the Cardinals led the national league in runs scored during the 2013 season with 783. This 164 run difference, over the span of only a single season, needs to be accounted for and General Manager John Mozeliak should be looking to make some significant acquisitions this offseason on the offensive side, especially at first base and catcher. Don’t get me wrong, Matt Adams and Yadier Molina are two of the most consistent hitters on the team, but the numbers show that these are the positions with the greatest offensive need as well.
This season versus left-handed pitchers Matt Adams posted a slash line of .190/.231/.298/ in 121 at bats. On the flip side, against right-handed pitching Adams posted a .318/.349/.505 line in 406 at bats. These numbers speak for themselves and Adams simply cannot compete with lefties at the major league level. The Cardinals need to install a platoon at first base for the 2015 season if they want to be world champions once again.
Luckily, Michael Morse and Michael Cuddyer are two first basemen on the free agent market who will mesh well with the organization and both are relatively cheap options. Morse has a career .277/.335/.485 slash line versus Left handed pitchers for his career and would be a huge offensive upgrade over Adams against lefties. He is also capable of playing the corner outfield positions and could see time in right field when he is not playing first base, depending on the play of Randal Grichuk.
Michael Cuddyer would also be a quality free agent signing to platoon with Adams. Although Cuddyer is 35 years old, he has hit .291 with a .378 OBP, .504 slugging percentage and a .883 OPS versus left-handed pitching for his career. Just this past season he hit .412 with 5 home runs in 51 at bats against lefties (his season was shortened by an injury). Cuddyer is also capable of playing the corner outfield positions as well as second and third base if Kolten Wong or Matt Carpenter needs a day off. Although Morse and Cuddyer may not be actively searching for platoon roles, if the Cardinals sign either of these free agents an offensive weakness at first base will turn into strength.
Yadier Molina provides very consistent offensive production for a catcher, but the Cardinals cannot assume he will be healthy for the entire season. As we witnessed this past season, when Molina was missing time with an injury, his backup, Tony Cruz, did not provide adequate production at the plate. Last season, Cruz hit .200 with a .270 OBP, .259 slugging percentage and a .530 OPS. If the Cardinals want to be competitors next season they need to sign a backup catcher that has the ability to step up and take over in case Molina sustains another prolonged injury.
A free agent this offseason that the Cardinals should consider to fill this role is Ryan Doumit. Although Doumit had a terrible 2014 season posting a .197/.235/.318 slash line, his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was a meager .250. Keep in mind that the league average in this statistic is .300. Looking at Doumit’s numbers from this point of view it can be inferred that not only was Doumit an extremely unlucky hitter during the 2014 season, but he should produce much closer to his .264/.324/.432 career slash line next season and provide some much-needed power off the bench as a pinch hitter. Doumit has also hit double-digit home runs in five out of the last seven seasons and the fact that he is a switch hitter adds to his value. Doumit would be a cheap replacement for Tony Cruz next season and he will provide substantial production from the backup catcher position. The Cardinals need to take advantage of this opportunity if they want to be competitors in 2015.