The end of the 2018 season will bring an impressive free agent class. Highlighting that class are guys like Bryce Harper, Craig Kimbrel and Manny Machado. The Cardinals won’t be in on all of them, nor should they be, but they should make a strong run at Machado.
Reasons the Cardinals Should Go After Machado
Aside from the fact that he is a perennial All-Star, an MVP candidate and one of the best all-around players in the game, there are plenty of reasons the Cards could use Manny.
They Need A Third Baseman
Matt Carpenter has been very serviceable at third base this year putting up six DRS. That said, he’s probably better off at the other corner. His arm strength isn’t the greatest, nor is his range and he plays a fine first base. Given Jose Martinez’ defense and Matt Adams’ hitting and pending free agency, Carp is the best option at first regardless.
Moving him across the diamond full time opens up third base though. Jedd Gyorko does a good job a majority of the time, but he just hasn’t been consistent enough to warrant everyday playing time. That leaves a hole at the hot corner.
Fortunately for St. Louis, the perfect fit for that open position is set to hit free agency this winter. Manny Machado is one of the best third basemen in the game. In 2013, he put up 35 DRS at third. He’s been playing shortstop almost exclusively this season, which could be a problem, but his performance there has been much worse than at third. Over 1132.1 innings at short, Machado has -15 DRS. At third this year, in just 143 innings, he as three DRS.
They Still Need Another Power Bat
Last offseason the Cardinals went out and got Marcell Ozuna to fill a void in the power department. Even before the season though it felt like they still needed one more guy in that role. Fortunately, Carpenter has been that guy with 35 homers this season, but Ozuna hasn’t held up his end of the deal. If the same happens next season or its flipped around, the Redbirds are still going to be in need of another big bat.
Machado is just that, with a slash line of .302/.374/.545, 34 home runs, 96 RBI, a 144 wRC+ and an Off of 35.7. He’s exactly the kind of hitter the Cards are missing and have been missing in the middle of the order since Carlos Beltran left. Carpenter, Machado and Ozuna 1-2-3 would be a welcomed sight for fans in 2019, and a very uncomfortable one for opposing pitchers.
Players Like Machado Don’t Grow On Trees
The bottom line is, anytime a player like Machado becomes available and a team has the financial means to do so they have to make an effort to pick them up. There aren’t many players in the league right now that have the kind of clout that Manny has and there aren’t many prospects that have the potential to become what he is.
Machado will be in the MVP conversation every year for the next five years. He’ll be an All-Star for the next eight and he’ll remain a productive hitter even after that. The only guy that has a better combination of past performance and future potential than him, right now, is Mike Trout. Machado is a generational type player, which the Cardinals haven’t had since 2011, and they should make a real effort to acquire him this offseason.
Why They Won’t Go After Machado
The Cards front office doesn’t have a past of pulling off big free agent signings. Aside from Dexter Fowler, Mike Leake and Greg Holland, who are and were disasters, they haven’t made much noise in that market. This is cause for concern when Machado becomes available.
He’s Too Expensive
There are a lot of teams interested in Machado for the same reasons the Cardinals should be and that makes him valuable. Teams with more money than the Cards, like the Dodgers and Yankees for example, are going to be players to get Manny. That means John Mozeliak is going to have to get out of his comfort zone to land the big free agent.
Unfortunately, that’s something Mozeliak doesn’t like to do. He’s consistently come in second place on big free agents since Pujols in the 2011 offseason. Mo has missed out on David Price, Giancarlo Stanton, Max Scherzer, Jason Heyward and a few others. Obviously, in some cases it’s not been such a bad deal, but the point is, Mo is reluctant to spend big on big names and that’s what’s going to have to happen to get Machado to St. Louis.
They Don’t Need A Shortstop
Paul DeJong just signed a six-year extension with the Cardinals to be their shortstop after and impressive rookie campaign in 2017. This year his offense hasn’t been as good, but he’s still been solid up the middle on defense and is without a doubt an everyday big league shortstop.
That could pose an issue in the attempt to land Machado though. Machado has made it known from the beginning of 2018 that he wants to play short, rather than third. Despite being a much inferior defender at short than third, it looks like he’s sticking with his guns in LA. The Dodgers do have a very good third baseman, Justin Turner, who factors into Machado playing short, but that’s part of the reason he’s in Los Angeles in the first place. The Cardinals need is at the hot corner, so for Machado to accept a deal to St. Louis, he’s going to have to agree to go back to his normal position with limited opportunities at short.
Josh Donaldson is another free agent this season and he has no problem playing third base. The Cards have been associated with Donaldson since last season when it was rumored he was on the trading block. They missed out on him back in August though, when he went to Cleveland, which might indicate their level of interest in getting him.
Donaldson does have a history of injury and hasn’t exactly over-performed in 2018. Still, he is a former MVP and plays very good defense and is going to be much less expensive than Machado. He hasn’t been shy about his desire to play in Toronto, but the Blue Jays just traded him for next to nothing, so the feelings might not be mutual.
Finally, the Cardinals already have a third baseman in their system and on their roster at the moment in Patrick Wisdom. Wisdom is big league ready at 27 years old, after spending the better part of six seasons in the Minor Leagues, and is only going to be better by next spring.
He’s struggled a little lately, but his potential is still there and he’s displayed his ability at times this season with the Cardinals. Last year he hit 31 homers at Triple-A and he’s hit three with the Cards this season in 34 at-bats. If the Redbirds see him as the third baseman of the future they have no reason to spend the money on Machado this offseason.
Featured Image by John Bazemore of Associated Press
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