The Cardinals began their offseason by declining second baseman Kolten Wong’s option, making him a free agent, but he remains unsigned two-plus months later. Although Wong called the Cardinals’ choice to let him go a “punch to the gut,” both sides remain interested in a reunion, per reports from Jon Heyman of MLB Network and Jim Hayes of Fox Sports Midwest.
The Cardinals caught heat for cutting ties with Wong in the first place, but it was not an indefensible decision. The team saved $11.5MM by letting go of Wong, who would have earned $12.5MM in 2021 in lieu of a $1MM buyout had the Cardinals retained him. Wong’s option would have been pricey for St. Louis or any other team.
To Wong’s credit, the 30-year-old has been a valuable part of the team since he debuted in 2013. A two-time Gold Glove winner, Wong has mixed outstanding defense (55 DRS, 32.6 UZR) with respectable offensive production throughout his career. Most recently, he batted .265/.350/.326 with one home run and five stolen bases over 208 plate appearances in 2020.
With Wong at least temporarily out of the picture, Tommy Edman is the in-house favorite to start at second for the Cardinals in 2021. If they’re not content with Edman, and if Wong goes someplace else, they could pivot to free agents such as Tommy La Stella or Cesar Hernandez.
Considering his solid all-around game, Wong could land with several teams this offseason for a lesser price (at least on an annual basis) than the Cardinals turned down. MLBTR predicted at the outset of the winter that Wong would sign for $16MM over two years. Since then, no fewer than a half-dozen teams have shown interest in Wong.