All the talk about the Cardinals and free agency has been centered around Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson. However, there are at least five more guys available that they should consider.
One of the Cardinals biggest needs is a corner infielder with some power. Jose Iglesias isn’t that guy, but he is a slick-fielding shortstop that would allow Paul DeJong to slide over to third.
Iglesias will be 29 next year and has spent time with both the Red Sox and Tigers over his seven-year career. He’s never been a heavy hitter, but generally hits for a decent average and steals a few bases. This past year he hit .269 and stole 15 bags. He’s been an All-Star one time back in 2015 and finished second in the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year race.
Jose’s real value is in the field. In 2018 he only had 1 defensive run saved but he had a UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) of 8.2 and a UZR/150 of 9.7. He also made 30 percent of plays when he had an unlikely chance last season. He would definitely help shore up what was a shaky Cards defense in 2018.
If Mozeliak gets the big bat and bullpen taken care of with money left over, a left-handed starter would be really nice to have. Patrick Corbin would be the first option, but if he’s already been scooped up, Dallas Keuchel wouldn’t be a bad plan b.
Keuchel is a former Cy Young Award-winning southpaw with several good years left in the tank. He’s been an American League All-Star twice, has won four Gold Gloves and placed fifth on the 2015 AL MVP ballot. Over his seven years in the bigs, he’s won 20 games once, thrown over 200 innings three times and has amassed 945 strikeouts.
In 2018 Keuchel went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA over an AL-leading 34 starts. His FIP of 3.69 and 2.6 WAR were also very good. He would fit nicely into an exclusively right-handed Cardinals rotation and help take some of the weight off the bullpen every fifth day.
Cody Allen and Craig Kimbrell
St. Louis’ second biggest need, behind the power bat, is bullpen help. More specifically, they could use a left-handed reliever and a solid proven closer. Obviously, Greg Holland didn’t work out in 2018, but that shouldn’t scare the Cards out of the free agent closer market. Especially with Cody Allen and Craig Kimbrel available.
Either one of the two would be a major presence in the ninth for the Birds. That’s something they’ve desperately needed over the past few years. With Jordan Hicks not quite ready to step into that role, Allen or Kimbrell either one would fit the bill.
Allen had a bit of a down year in 2018, but still tallied 27 saves. He posted a 4.70 ERA, 4.56 FIP and struck out 80 batters over 67 innings. His past several years are what makes him attractive though. Since 2013, this past season was the only one in which Allen had an ERA above 3.00. He’s saved 149 games for the Indians in that time span.
Kimbrel will definitely be the more expensive of the two, but for good reason. In 2018 he posted a 5-1 record, 2.74 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 42 saves and 96 strikeouts in 62.1 innings. He led the National League in saves for four straight seasons with Atlanta between 2011 and 2014. Over nine seasons he’s compiled 333 saves and has only had an ERA above 2.74 one time. On top of all that he’s a seven-time All-Star, a Rookie of the Year winner in 2011, has five top ten finishes for the Cy Young Award and has placed in the MVP voting three times.
Not only would a closer be huge for the 2019 Redbirds, but a late innings flame thrower with Bugs Bunny off-speed stuff also couldn’t hurt. Former Cardinal Joe Kelly is exactly that. He has been consistently hitting 97-100 MPH since being traded to Boston, making him a force in their bullpen.
Kelly is hitting free agency at 30 years old and at the perfect time in his career. After trying to start for several seasons he’s finally found his home in the back end of the pen. If the price is right the Cards should give a serious look at bringing Kelly back to St. Louis.
Featured Image by David Zalubowski of the Associate Press