The Cardinals, like many other clubs throughout the league, have a fairly robust slate of guaranteed salaries on the books for 2021 and could face limited financial flexibility this winter as ownership tries to recover from the revenue losses that swept the sport in the shortened 2020 campaign. To that end, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cards “are expected” to talk to second baseman Kolten Wong about a contract extension that would lessen the immediate cost of keeping him on the roster.
Wong, who turned 30 over the weekend, has just one year of control remaining, but that comes in the form of a non-guaranteed $12.5MM club option for next season. The option comes with a $1MM buyout, meaning there’s a net $11.5MM decision to be made when it comes to keeping the 2019 Gold Glover or cutting him loose.
Wong hit .265/.350/.326 this season. The on-base skills displayed by Wong were roughly in line with his previous three seasons, but the second baseman’s already limited power went up in smoke, as Wong connected on just one home run, adding four doubles and a pair of triples. His .061 ISO (slugging minus batting average) was the lowest of his career by more than 50 points. Defensively, he remained elite; his six Defensive Runs Saved were the second-most among second baseman and ranked 19th in Major League Baseball at any position.
The Cards have just shy of $110MM committed to next year’s payroll — not including Wong’s would-be $12.5MM salary — and have a rather substantial arbitration class that will feature Jack Flaherty, John Gant, Alex Reyes, Harrison Bader, Jordan Hicks and John Brebbia. They’ll also be forced into decisions on franchise icons Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, both of whom are free agents but have interest in returning for another go-around in St. Louis. And, of course, none of that group would do much to address the team’s frequently anemic offense, which will be a focal point for president of baseball ops John Mozeliak, GM Mike Girsch and the rest of the front office this winter.
On the surface, there’d be good reason for Wong to hold some mutual interest in a reworked deal. Beyond staying with the only club he’s ever known, the offseason market is expected to be rather frigid for mid-tier free agents due to the aforementioned revenue losses. The second base market, in particular, would also hold plenty of competition, most notably in the form of Yankees star DJ LeMahieu. He’s far from the only starting-caliber second baseman who’ll hit free agency this winter, however. Cesar Hernandez, Jonathan Schoop and bounceback candidate Jonathan Villar will all be on the market alongside myriad utility types who could capably hold down a second base gig on at least a part-time basis. The expected deluge of non-tenders should only add to the competition.
There’s no telling to what extent Cards chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. is willing to spend in the wake of revenue losses, but it’ll presumably be at a lower level than the rough $168MM projection (pre-prorating) that Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez put on their 2020 roster. DeWitt is the same owner who famously claimed that the baseball industry simply “isn’t very profitable” earlier this year.