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St. Louis Cardinals: Exploring remaining free-agent outfielders

Pagan could be an option as a bench player for the Cardinals.

With Spring Training only nine days away, and the Cardinals are still looking to add a fifth outfielder. Tommy Pham, Stephen Piscotty, and Randal Grichuk all bat right-handed. A left hander would be a nice complementary piece as the grind of 162 games approaches. Brandon Moss was thought to be the Cardinals safety-net, but he signed with Kansas City. Pham was a solid fourth outfielder last season. He provided above average power (.440 SLG) , but struck out too much (38.8 K%). Considering Pham’s lengthy injury history, some insurance seems prudent.

Angel Pagan

Pagan was by far the best hitter of the unsigned outfielders. He slashed a very solid .277/.331/.418 and stole 15 bases. He hit a career high 12 home runs. His walk rate and strikeout rate have remained relatively stable over his ten-year career, and a .298 BABIP doesn’t scream regression.

Pagan only played left-field in 2016, and he didn’t play it particularly well. He was -6 defensive runs saved, and -20 and -5 DRS in 2015 and 2014. He bats right-handed, so he is far from a perfect fit for the Cardinals.

Since Fowler, Grichuk, and Pham are all capable of playing center, Pagan’s lack of versatility shouldn’t be a problem. In addition, Matt Adams and Greg Garcia are left-handed options off the bench. It wouldn’t make sense to sacrifice potential production by signing a poor hitter simply because they batted from the left side. Pagan is the best fit for the Cardinals right now.

Michael Bourn

The former All-Star checks off two of the Cardinals criteria: he can play center field and bats left-handed. In 413 plate appearances he batted .264 and got on-base at a .314 clip. Bourn has never been a power hitter, and only slugged .371. Bourn’s speed is no longer elite, but he still swiped 15 bases.

He was a net-positive defender in center and left, but slightly negative in right in 2016. His 22.3 K% is a cause for concern, and his 6.8 BB% leaves a little to be desired.

If John Mozeliak is dead-set on a left-handed hitting outfielder, Bourn is probably the best option. He provides a little speed and decent average, but needs to get on base more. He’s the best left-handed outfielder, but Pagan is still a better fit.

Coco Crisp

A seventh round selection by the Cardinals in the 1999 draft, Crisp could be an option off the bench for the team that drafted him 18 years after the fact. In 2016, the 36-year-old outfielder slashed .231/.302/.397 for the Athletics and Indians. His 9.2 BB% was the lowest since 2012. His 15.7 K% was lower than his 2016 K%, but will well above his career average. He provided surprising power, and hit 13 homers.

Crisp is no longer an above average defender. In center, he was -11 DRS in center field. He was by no metric a good defender, and has been in consistent decline defensively.

Jose Martinez

If nobody is signed, Martinez appears to be the fifth outfielder when the teams breaks camp. Martinez played 12 games in 2016 and made 18 plate appearances. He went 7/18 (.438) and appeared to have good speed. The 28 year-old spent the last two years at AAA, either with the Royals or Cardinals. His numbers are okay, but there’s a reason he became available last season.

The Cardinals roster is essentially set, but signings on the eve on Spring Training have proved critical in the past. While those signings have been pitchers, a solid depth piece could be critical as Pham has a lengthy injury history and Grichuk was an extremely streaky hitter last year.

The x-factor in this discussion is Harrison Bader. Bader, a third-round pick out of Florida in the 2015 draft, projects as a solid outfielder in the future. If the Cardinals expect Bader to be ready for a bench role at some point this season, expect the club to stand pat with Martinez. If they think he will need a full season at Memphis, I wouldn’t be surprised if they signed one of the names mentioned above before Spring Training.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Colin Garner
Colin is a catcher at Drury University who's a big fan of pitch calling, bullpenning, and Game of Thrones. Gets very frustrated with nonsense from people around him while attending games.
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