Chicago Cubs: What’s next for the division rival?
Because the Cardinals haven’t made any major splashes in free agency of late, they find themselves in position to make a run at Machado or Harper. The question remains, will they actually be willing to be a big spender?
They don’t have any of their own core players set for free agency, besides Norris, who saved 28 games last season. Yadier Molina is their highest paid player set at $20 million for next season. Their total payroll is estimated at $103 million. The Cardinals definitely have the money to spend.
Looking at the Cardinals outfield for next season if they signed Harper, they’d have Ozuna, Fowler, Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill to go along with the 26-year-old superstar. If they signed Machado, the Cardinals would likely move Paul DeJong to third base. A Machado, DeJong, Kolton Wong and Matt Carpenter infield could open the eyes of the rest of the National League.
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However, you could argue the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals both are in a much better position to win than the Cardinals. The Dodgers have been to consecutive World Series and the Nationals, while regressing in 2018, have a 19-year-old slugger named Juan Soto who could help put the Nationals back at the top of the NL East with Harper. Having perennial Cy Young candidates Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg help, too. If the free agent duo wants to win, why go to St. Louis when they could stay where they are?
There is always the paycheck factor, but I’d be more than surprised if the Cardinals forked more money out than other teams rumored to be in the running. Other teams rumored to be in the running for Harper and Machado include the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, New York Mets, New York Yankees and San Diego Padres, according to recent reports. But, still, the Cardinals could go all in, especially after missing the postseason for three consecutive years.
Lastly, whether Cubs fans like to admit it or not, St. Louis is a baseball city and always has been. They have a long tenure of always being competitive and playing for division championships. That will likely be the Cardinals pitch to win over one of these two players.
If the Cardinals landed one of the two, they could be favored for the NL Central title in 2019, pending other moves they’d make this offseason. The middle of the order bat would be exactly what the doctor ordered in St. Louis and would put them back on the map after the Cubs and now the Brewers have taken all the attention from them the last three seasons.
I’m still not convinced Chicago won’t be involved in the Harper and Machado sweepstakes, but for now, it seems unlikely. The Winter Meetings in Las Vegas can’t get here fast enough.