Perhaps the biggest need for the St. Louis Cardinals entering this offseason was an impact bat for what was often a stagnant offensive attack in 2017. The Cardinals didn’t waste any time in their search, pursuing former Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who swatted 59 home runs last season. Stanton, however, will be wearing pinstripes next season as a member of the New York Yankees.
Unfazed, the Cardinals added another former Marlin instead: Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna had a breakout year in 2017, slugging 37 home runs while driving in 124 runs. Ozuna instantly becomes the best hitter in the Cardinals’ lineup. That is of course, if St. Louis doesn’t search for another top-tier bat to compliment Ozuna.
There have been rumblings that the Cardinals are in the running for free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, or that the Cardinals might try and trade for a third baseman from the American League East, either the Baltimore Orioles’ Manny Machado or Toronto Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson.
It seems that the Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres are front runners for Hosmer, that Machado will stay put this offseason, and that the Jays are reluctant to trade Donaldson. That’s what we know as of right now. The offseason has progressed at an unusually slow pace this winter, but things could soon heat up and change course.
While it seems adding another offensive piece is not imminent at the moment for the Cardinals, let’s consider what they do have right now in their lineup.
Preceding Ozuna in the middle, the Cardinals have top-of-the-order candidates in Matt Carpenter, Tommy Pham, and Dexter Fowler. Expect these three plus Ozuna to fill out the 1-4 spots on the lineup card.
Carpenter is likely to lead off this season, although don’t discount the possibility that Fowler leads off at least a handful of times to mix things up, as manager Mike Matheny is known to do.
That means either Pham or Fowler will likely hit second, with the other hitting third. Ozuna is the best candidate for cleanup at the moment. If Ozuna were to hit third, That means either Pham or Fowler would have to hit cleanup, and neither has the same type of power that Ozuna possesses.
After the first four, Paul DeJong, Jedd Gyorko, and Jose Martinez are all candidates to hit in the middle of the order. If the Cardinals add either a first or third baseman before Opening Day, Gyorko and Martinez would likely be squeezed for playing time. With Carpenter set for a utility role, a rotation of Gyorko, Carpenter, and Martinez at first and third base seems likely as the Cardinals approach the spring.
Matheny loves hitting Yadier Molina higher in the order than he probably should. Sure, Molina gets hits, but his on base percentage is lacking for a middle-of-the-order hitter. Last season, Molina hit .273 but his OBP was just .312. Molina should hit seventh in the Cardinals order. That doesn’t mean he will.
Kolten Wong is the team’s second baseman, and he thrived last season in the eight hole. Without the pressure of hitting atop the lineup, Wong should grow into his own as a bottom-of-the-order, on-base guy.
The Cardinals’ lineup isn’t shabby as it stands right now. But if St. Louis wants to stack up to the Chicago Cubs’ offense, they should remain in the market for another bat. Time will tell if they are serious about adding more offense or if it’s just an offseason ploy.