Recent reports have connected the Cardinals to a couple high-profile names – their top free agent, outfielder Marcell Ozuna, as well as Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado – but pump the brakes if you expect a major acquisition prior to the season. Owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said Monday that he doesn’t think there’s a “significant” pickup in the offing, adding that it wouldn’t fit the Cardinals’ “model,” Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Between Ozuna and Arenado, the latter would unquestionably be the more impactful get, and he made it clear Monday he’s displeased with the Rockies. However, according to DeWitt, the Cardinals are “not actively” looking to make a trade. Arenado’s enormous contract (seven years, $234MM, including $35MM in 2020) may be part of the reason why.
The Cardinals, who began last year’s NL Central-winning campaign with a franchise-record Opening-Day payroll of just over $162MM, already have $168MM-plus in commitments heading into this season, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. If we’re to take DeWitt at his word, that’s about all they want to spend. The team’s “pushing the envelope” by even being in the $170MM range, per DeWitt, who did note the Cards would consider bumping that total “up a little bit.” But there’s nothing “little” about Arenado’s salary, and DeWitt revealed that, at this point, they “can’t be in that kind of ($35 million) range” on an addition(s) to their roster.
Ozuna’s next deal will be worth far less than Arenado’s, of course, but even he could prove too rich for the Cardinals’ blood. Regardless, they’re not pursuing Ozuna with much gusto, as Goold writes they aren’t “nearly as aggressive as other teams” on trying to reel in the qualifying offer recipient. Therefore, it appears St. Louis will enter the season with a mix of several other in-house options as their outfield choices.
Assuming the Cardinals don’t come away with Ozuna, Arenado or any other big names, this will go down as a quiet winter for the club. So far, Korean left-hander Kwang-hyun Kim – whom they signed to a modest guarantee worth $8MM over two years – has been the Cardinals’ most noteworthy outside acquisition. Aside from winning the derby for Kim, they’ve re-signed righty Adam Wainwright and catcher Matt Wieters for a combined $7MM.