The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t linger on their disappointment in being rejected by offseason prize Giancarlo Stanton.
Within two days of the reigning National League MVP being introduced as the newest member of the New York Yankees, the Redbirds reached a deal for another Miami Marlins outfielder, Marcell Ozuna.
Ozuna, 27, is better than the average consolation prize and he brings the middle-of-the-lineup bat the Cardinals desperately needed.
He had a breakout season in 2017, batting .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBIs. He had a .376 on-base percentage, a .548 slugging average and an OPS of .924. All are career-bests.
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But are the Cardinals finished?
Manager Mike Matheny told the media Wednesday afternoon that there are still deals to be made.
That could mean any number of available players, but the Cardinals are reportedly among several teams to have queried the Baltimore Orioles about the availability of third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado.
No deal is imminent, but the suggestion does raise interesting possibilities.
Machado is a .279 hitter who averages 29 home runs and 86 RBIs per season and has won two Gold Gloves over his six major-league seasons. And he won’t even turn 25 until just before the next All-Star break.
Imagine: Carpenter, Fowler, Ozuna, Machado, Pham, DeJong, Molina, Wong/Gyorko.
What makes Machado a risky move, though, is that he’ll be a free agent at the end of next season. It may take a ransom in young pitchers to have Machado on a one-year rental. Factoring his track record and age, he’ll command a contract of Bryce Harper proportions — we’re talking something with total value in the $400-million range.
Traditionally, that kind of contract has been too rich for the Cardinal Way, which doesn’t often include a deep dive into the free-agent market. They prefer to pay players for their premium years and allow another team to pay for their slow decline into the sunset (see Albert Pujols).
But Machado is different. A 10-year deal with a 24-year-old All-Star guarantees a team almost all of his prime seasons.
Would it be costly? Yep. Would it deliver better “value” (a relative term in today’s baseball market)? Absolutely. Especially if an extension can be negotiated as a condition of a trade.
Not to oversell the point, but the Cardinals have the cash.
Remember, they had already planned to take on all of Stanton’s remaining contract, which amounts to $295 million over the next 10 years. The $11 million or so they’ll have to pay Ozuna next season with arbitration is the same amount they’re saving now that Jhonny Peralta’s contract has fallen off the books.
And they begin cashing in on that billion-dollar television rights contract this year.
The Cardinals have been thoughtful and frugal as a matter of standard operating procedure. They’ve also been outside looking in the last two seasons while the Chicago Cubs have all the playoff fun.
If ever there was a time for the Cardinals to take that bold and expensive plunge, this is it.