I was initially shocked by the reports that the St. Louis Cardinals have shown interest in signing Baltimore Orioles free agent Chris Davis.
After all, St. Louis’ own free agent, Jason Heyward, is more of a Cardinals prototypical player: multidimensional, an excellent defender, a well-respected leader... Davis, who lead Major League Baseball in home runs over the past three seasons, is a lousy fielder and he strikes out in bunches.
It’s extremely unlikely the Cardinals would invest in both Davis AND Heyward. Not only because of the cash outlay, but also because if they signed Davis to play first base and Heyward to play right field, either young slugger Randal Grichuk or top outfield prospect Stephen Piscotty, who burst on the major league scene in late 2015, would be left without a place to play.
I’d still prefer Heyward be re-signed if that can be done at a reasonable (by MLB standards) price. But I can see a case for Davis, especially if he comes cheaply enough to allow the Redbirds to also make a significant upgrade in the starting rotation.
Davis is a .257 hitter over the past three years with a mediocre .342 on base percentage. It’s a far cry from when Albert Pujols or Mark McGwire anchored the heart of the St. Louis batting order with on base percentages in the realm of 50 percent.
But offense is down across baseball and the price is higher for less talent.
Still, Davis could be a significant force for the middle of the Cardinals batting order, one of the most power-starved lineups in baseball in 2015.
If he batted clean-up, might manager Mike Matheny shift Matt Carpenter to third and bump Matt Holliday, if healthy, down to fifth. Carpenter, a dynamic offensive force, would benefit from seeing better pitches with Davis threatening to put up a crooked number behind him if the pitcher makes a single mistake. Holliday, who over his career has a knack of driving in runs in bunches, would become more of a supporting player than the main man in the middle of the lineup.
Davis is projected to land a contract of less than $150 million for seven years by several websites. Heyward has reportedly asked for $200 million and a deal at or approaching 10 years.
Would approximately $50 million in savings be enough for the Cardinals to consider a run at David Price or Jordan Zimmerman to offer some reliable help at the front of the rotation?