In just about six weeks the St. Louis Cardinals will be headed to Jupiter for Spring Training. We’ve made it past the halfway point in the offseason, yet there is still a ton of work to be done throughout baseball. The Cardinals have addressed the biggest weakness in the 2017 lineup by trading for Marcell Ozuna, but what else is in store for the Cardinals this offseason? According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com they’re still looking to add another bat to the lineup, as he states in this tweet from January 2nd:
Source: #STLCards remain involved in pursuit of Eric Hosmer, among other options to upgrade lineup. Cardinals also interested in third basemen, including Josh Donaldson in trade. Matt Carpenter’s versatility means Cardinals could add a 1B as easily as a 3B. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 2, 2018
Josh Donaldson would obviously be a huge addition for the Cardinals. Unfortunately Morosi tweeted two days later that the Blue Jays are not currently involved in any trade talks regarding Donaldson. That doesn’t mean they won’t eventually look to trade him, but based on many reports this winter it sounds like they would prefer to keep him.
I believe that if the Cardinals do add another bat this offseason, it is most likely to be a first baseman. They can also kill two birds with one stone as the current lineup lacks left handed power beyond Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler.
Morosi mentioned Eric Hosmer in his tweet, however, I don’t personally see how Hosmer is a fit for this team. He had a career year in 2017 and will be commanding a lot of money this offseason. It has been rumored that he’s gotten multiple offers in the 7 year, $140M range. That’s way too much for a player with a 9.9 career fWAR. Beyond that, his great 2017 season was partially inflated by a .351 batting average on balls in play. He has been wildly inconsistent in his career and he’s just too much of a commitment in both years and dollars to make sense for the Cardinals.
The player I want to focus on is Logan Morrison.
I know what you’re probably thinking. “Logan Morrison? The journeyman first baseman? Hasn’t he been bad most of his career?”. Those were my initial thoughts as well when I heard the Cardinals linked to him early in the offseason. Morrison, like Hosmer, is also coming off of a career year in 2017. The difference is that, unlike Hosmer, everything about Morrison’s 2017 looks legitimate. He turned himself into a different player, like we’ve seen from a lot of players around baseball in the past few seasons. You probably know it as the fly ball revolution.
In 2016 he was in the top 50 in MLB FB/LD exit velocity with an average of 95.7. At this point in his career he was basically an average hitting first baseman. As Matt Adams has taught us, that’s not a very valuable commodity in today’s game. This made him a prime candidate to try to start elevating the ball more, and in 2017, he did it. He increased his flyball% from 34.7% in 2016 to 46.2% in 2017. He did that while also posting the highest hard hit percentage of his career. The result was 38 home runs and a slash line of .246/.353/.516 with a 130 wRC+. Now that’s a valuable player. He actually had a BABIP that was below league average at .268, though that is in line with his career BABIP. So that’s probably about what should be expected for him. I see no reason that he can’t continue to hit at this rate moving forward.
It will be far less risky to sign Morrison.
I mentioned earlier that Hosmer was reportedly offered deals in the 7 year, $140M range. There’s a ton of risk in that.
I haven’t actually heard any rumors of what Morrison may be offered so I checked a couple of free agent projection lists. MLBTradeRumors.com predicts his to get 3 years, $36M. This FanGraphs article predicts that he’ll only receive a two year deal in the $20-$24 million range. That’s similar production for far less of a commitment. As we’ve seen around baseball, roster flexibility is a great thing.
A Morrison/Gyorko platoon would be extremely productive.
The beauty of signing Morrison to a deal like that is that you don’t have to play him every day. With Hosmer you would feel obligated to play him every day if you were handing him that kind of money.
This makes a platoon situation with Gyorko and Morrison a viable option because Carpenter can slide back and forth between first base and third base. I don’t exactly love the idea of Carpenter playing third but I think the additional offensive production would be worth it.
Morrison has been a very good hitter against right handed pitchers in his career and Gyorko has been very good against lefties. Here are their numbers against opposite handed pitchers last season:
|Morrison vs. RHP||449||.356||.548||.905||.374||137|
|Gyorko vs. LHP||113||.381||.594||.975||.402||150|
To get an idea of what kind of production we could expect out of this platoon I combined their numbers vs. opposite handed pitching and calculated what their combined wOBA would have been. In 562 plate appearances they would have had a .376 wOBA. When I went to the 2017 leaderboard to see how that would stack up I found something interesting. That number would have tied them for the 25th best wOBA in MLB with George Springer and…. Eric Hosmer.
There is also value in this because on the days that Morrison doesn’t play he provides left handed pop off the bench. That’s something that the Cardinals don’t currently have.
Thanks for reading