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4 St Louis Cardinals offseason moves to strengthen playoff hopes in 2022

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The St Louis Cardinals skyrocketed up the MLB standings in September with a 17-game winning streak, sneaking into the postseason and narrowly losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Wild Card Game. In an offseason that has already seen massive change for the organization, more is coming this winter.

Former manager Mike Shildt certainly wasn’t the club’s biggest problem, but the front office identified him as a weakness holding the team back from achieving more. After making such a bold move, St Louis will be under greater pressure to add to a roster that needs more talent to achieve the organization’s lofty goals.

Eight years removed from their last win in a National League Championship Series, the Cardinals have several needs to address this offseason. Fortunately, there are plenty of impact players on the market who should be on the team’s radar.

Let’s dive into a few moves the St Louis Cardinals could make this winter.

St Louis Cardinals sign Marcus Stroman

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets
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Max Scherzer would be a dream addition, but it would be a surprise to see him in the Cardinals rotation next season. While losing out on a perennial Cy Young Award candidate is disappointing, free-agent starting pitcher Marcus Stroman fits what St Louis needs. Among the realistic options, the 30-year-old righty should be squarely on the Cards’ radar.

The St Louis Cardinals are perfect for Stroman. He generated a 50.8% groundball rate this past season, which fits perfectly on a team that won five Gold Glove Awards. When Stroman isn’t generating grounders, he is striking batters out (84th percentile chase rate) and limiting home runs (0.85 HR/9). A durable pitcher who can cover 170-plus innings and fits the Cardinals’ rotation perfectly, a four, $88 million contract could work nicely for everyone.

Chris Taylor brings in versatility, power

MLB: NLCS-Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers
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Chris Taylor ended the St Louis Cardinals 2021 season and while fans won’t forget that moment, it will become far less painful if he switches teams. During the regular season, the Cardinals’ shortstops ranked 18th in wRC+ (94) and wOBA (.306). As for the team’s second basemen, they ranked 23rd in wRC+ (82). Now, let’s compare those numbers to what Taylor posted.

Keep in mind, Taylor’s numbers were dragged down by a bad September (.115/.175/.192) and he holds a .797 OPS over the last three seasons. Taylor’s bat would be a welcome addition to a Cardinals lineup that ranked 20th in runs scored (706) and 15th in OPS (.725) last year. But his defensive versatility is just as valuable.

Related: MLB power rankings – Best teams entering MLB offseason

Taylor, who rates in the 91st percentile for Sprint Speed, played 60 games in center field, 46 at second base, 30 in left field, 23 at shortstop, 11 at third and even made nine starts in right field. He earned 2 DRS at second this past season and turned 11 double plays. Wherever St. Louis wants him to play defensively, he can do it.

Collin McHugh offers pitching depth, upside

MLB: ALDS-Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
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Playoff contenders never have enough pitching depth and St. Louis experienced what happens when you run thin in 2021. Collin McHugh comes with injury risk, given he missed the entire 2020 season with elbow issues, but the 34-year-old righty is outstanding out of the bullpen and can even function as a starter.

From 2015-’17, serving as a starter in the Houston Astros rotation, McHugh recorded a 4.03 ERA, 3.76 FIP with a 21.3% strikeout rate and 3.23 K/BB ratio across 431.2 innings. Elbow problems impacted him in 2019 and ’20, but he rebounded strongly for the Rays in 2021. Functioning as both a starter and reliever, McHugh posted a 1.55 ERA with an outstanding 30% strikeout rate and a .206 batting average allowed in 64 innings.

He might only be a multi-inning reliever, but teams will recognize an arm that ranked 89th percentile in chase rate, 98th percentile in expected ERA and 99th percentile for lowest barrel rate allowed as a weapon. He needs to be a priority for the Cardinals.

St Louis Cardinals trade for Lou Trivino

MLB: Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics
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There are a few possibilities the Cardinals could explore to round out their batting order, but our priority is pitching. With St Louis still attempting to make Alex Reyes a starter, that means shifting more resources towards the bullpen. Lou Trivino is among the players being shopped by the Oakland Athletics and he is flying under the radar.

Trivino generates plenty of groundballs (48 percent in 2021) and does a nice job limiting hard contact by opposing hitters. While he did hit a rough patch during the season (13 ER in 3.2 innings from Aug. 21 – Sep. 4), he still finish the year sporting a 3.18 ERA and a .213 BAA. Arbitration-eligible for the next three seasons, he’d come a lot cheaper than Craig Kimbrel ($16 million).