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Cardinals: Donaldson or Moustakas? There is No Debate.

In his post-season press conference, John Mozeliak identified 3B and RF as the two positions at which the Cardinals can seek improvement.
RF is in play as the Cardinals hold off any firm commitment to Dexter Fowler and as one of the game’s premier hitters in Bryce Harper hits the free agent market. Any outfielder other than Harper isn’t enough of an upgrade over the in-house candidates, and therefore not worth significant financial commitment. For RF, it’s Harper or bust.
3B is prime for improvement, but it would appear there is more than one choice.
Jedd Gyorko has shown himself to be a quality defender at the position. He is extremely good at hitting LH pitching — posting a 150 wRC+ against southpaws in both 2017 and 2018 — but he is merely average — 101 and 94 wRC+ in ’17 and ’18 — against RH pitchers. As approximately 70% of MLB pitchers are right-handed, that doesn’t quite cut it for a full time starter. He has also been unable to display the durability to play everyday for a full season.
This is not to knock Jedd, whom I love. He is an extremely valuable piece that can protect you at 3B and 2B, but he leaves 3B as a clear position to upgrade.
Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images
So we turn to the free agent market to see who is available.
The market is led by former-MVP Josh Donaldson, followed by Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Jed Lowrie, and Lonnie Chisenhall (if you want to consider him a 3B still).
Those last 3 were covered in a recent post by my Bird Law podcast co-host Adam Butler, and you can find that here.
Without much detail, of those last 3, only Lowrie would fit as a full-time starter. He would be a good player to get, but it’s very likely he returns to Oakland.
Gonazlez is stronger defensively at other positions, and while his switch-hitting ways would seem to fit a platoon with Gyorko, his career wRC+ vs. RHP is 104 which is better than Gyorko’s career mark of 94, but not so significantly that he is worth the money that he will command.
Chisenhall has been an OF since 2015, but came up as a 3B. He hits LH and some adjustments in approach had led to much better production in between DL stints the last two years. It is highly questionable whether he would hold up defensively on the strong side of a platoon.
So 380 words later, we are left with big names:
Donaldson and Moustakas
Mike Moustakas has been pretty sufficiently overrated for much of his career. He is a solid player, slightly above average, but is comparable to a LH version of Jedd Gyorko, although not as good defensively.
You may be thinking, “well, that’s perfect, put them in a platoon.” I don’t totally disagree. I think the Cardinals would have a productive tandem in Gyorko and Moustakas. However, I do not think Moustakas passed on a $15M option with Milwaukee for this season in order to seek out a platoon role. He wants to be an everyday starter.
Besides, the Cardinals can do better.
The big thing I’ve seen when people link the Cardinals and Moustakas is that he fills their need for a starter at 3B and he brings a LH bat to a RH heavy lineup.
The flip-side is that when I see scribes link Donaldson to the Cardinals, one of the negatives is that he is another RH bat in a RH heavy lineup.
Both players would fill the 3B position with a proven starting caliber player.
Their handedness doesn’t matter.
For comparison:
Career vs. RHP
Moustakas: .254/.312/.443, .755 OPS, 102 wRC+
Donaldson: .272/.362/.482, .843 OPS, 133 wRC+
Gyorko: .237/.298/.411, .709 OPS, 94 wRC+
2017-18 vs. RHP
Moustakas: .260/.321/.509, .831 OPS, 115 wRC+
Donaldson: .259/.373/.499, .872 OPS, 134 wRC+
Gyorko: .250/.328/.408, .736 OPS, 98 wRC+
2017-18 vs. LHP
Moustakas: .264/.299/.441, .740 OPS, 95 wRC+
Donaldson: .273/.381/.608, .989 OPS, 161 wRC+
Gyorko: .318/.387/.561, .947 OPS, 150 wRC+
I looked at the last two seasons to give a better representation of who those players are now.
You can see that Moustakas is an upgrade vs. RHP compared to Gyorko. Although, it lies mostly in slugging over the last two seasons with Jedd posting a slightly higher OBP.
However, it’s clear that Donaldson, even in an injury diminished state the last two years, is better than vs. RHP than Moustakas. That negates the LH/RH hitting aspect of the comparison.
We can also see that over the last two season, Donaldson has outperformed the incredible work Gyorko has done vs. LHP. Essentially, Donaldson at his lowest point was better than Gyorko at his highest.
Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
Gyorko has a 3.1 UZR/150 over the period of 2016-18, the years that he settled at 3B with the Cardinals. He has accumulated 24 Defensive Runs Saved during that time.
Moustakas has a career UZR/150 of 2.3 at 3B. He has accumulated 9 defensive runs saved from 2011-2018.
Donaldson has a career UZR/150 of 5.9 at 3B. He has accumulated 53 Defensive Runs Saved since 2012. Donaldson has taken a step back since heading to Toronto. Some of that can be blamed on leg injuries.
Overall, Donaldson still shows as the superior defender to Moustakas and should be at least the equal of Gyorko, given health.
Donaldson > Moustakas vs. RHP
Donaldson > Gyorko vs. LHP
Donaldson > Platoon defensively, overall.
Donaldson simply outperforms the Moustakas/Gyorko combo.
He leaves Moustakas in the dust if you take away the platoon option.
And for what it’s worth…
Matt Adams has a .854 OPS and 119 wRC+ vs. RHP over the last two years, which is slightly better than Moustakas over the same time period. Although Matt Carpenter is not as good defensively as Moustakas at 3B, you would get nearly identical overall offensive production by bringing back Adams — for a fraction of the cost — and running with a 3-man platoon at 1B and 3B.
That doesn’t sound like an ideal plan does it? I know that I wouldn’t be satisfied with it.
Yet it would achieve, generally, the same results as signing Moustakas.
Monetary Value
From a contract standpoint, Jim Bowden estimates the two players as such:
Moustakas: 3yrs/$30M
Donaldson: 3yrs/$54M
Note: Gyorko makes $13M in 2018 and the team holds a $13M option for 2020.
Using the Bowden contract estimates, here’s how much the Cardinals would be paying to the 3B position, per year:
Over the next two seasons:
Moustakas/Gyorko: $23M
Donaldson: $18M
Over the next three seasons:
Moustakas(3)/Gyorko(2): $56M
Donaldson(3): $54M
Signing Donaldson would also allow the Cardinals to shop Gyorko this winter in an attempt to clear some payroll space. Although Jedd would still be very valuable, the presence of Yairo Munoz has lessened the need to carry Gyorko if he is not the primary 3B.
The Cardinals would save $10M over the next 2 seasons by going the Sign-Donaldson/Trade-Gyorko route.
They would save $2M over the 3 year span by going that route vs. the Moustakas/Gyorko platoon.
So Donaldson is the better value financially AND the more productive player.
I understand the injury and age concerns, but that’s the risk you take for a significant upgrade in production.
They could search for an upgrade via the trade market, that option does exist.
But if the Cardinals want to sign a free agent 3B, it’s Donaldson.
There is no debate.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Note: I would not be satisfied if the Cardinals one big play was Donaldson. Other improvements must come as well.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks to Fangraphs for the stats!
Follow me on Twitter for more Cards talk: Follow @hes_verygood
Or Follow the Bird Law Podcast / Blog: Follow @birdlawpod

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St. Louis Cardinals: Fixing the 40-Man

Category : Cardinals

The Cardinals enter the offseason with a full 40-man roster. While the deadline to finalize the 40-man is still a month away, it’s the first important date on the offseason calendar, and 40-man decisions will have implications throughout the offseason.
The Cardinals ended the season with a full 40-man roster, but four players from the 2018 roster will file for free-agency: Adam Wainwright, Matt Adams, Bud Norris, and Tyson Ross. Wainwright has already agreed to terms with the club but has to officially file for free agency before the contract can be finalized due to MLB rules, which are explained here. The club may be interested in keeping Norris, but let’s assume they don’t. The club will have 37 players on their 40-man roster once Wainwright’s contract is finalized.
There are two types of players that will be added before the November deadline: players on the 60-day DL and players who are Rule-5 eligible (rules explained here). Let’s start with the 60-Day DL.
The 60-Day DL
Dexter Fowler, Luke Gregerson, Michael Wacha, and Alex Reyes finished the season on the 60-Day. All four would have been able to be activated had the Cardinals not resigned Wainwright, but they did. Fowler, Wacha, and Reyes will have to be added to the 40-man for obvious reasons. There are certainly some who would like to see Fowler given his outright release, but given his contract situation, that’s just not realistic.
Gregerson, however, only appeared in 17 games in 2018 and had a 7.11 ERA when he did pitch. He has one year and $5.5 million remaining on his contract. DeWitt won’t like paying him not to pitch, but the 40-man roster spot has more value than Gregerson would provide in 2019. The Cardinals should release him.
The Rule 5  
Now we get into the meat of the matter, and that’s the players who are Rule 5 eligible. They are Max Schrock, Ryan Helsley, Lane Thomas, Chris Chinea, Genesis Cabrera, Ryan McCarvel, Wadye Ynfante, Dennis Ortega, Junior Fernandez, Bryan Dobzanksi, and Roel Ramirez.
That’s a lot of names, and the Cardinals won’t have to protect them all. Chinea, McCarvel, and Ynfante are in no danger of being selected in the Rule 5. You can cross them off the list.
The big three are Helsley, Thomas, and Cabrera. They have to be added to the 40-man because another team would almost certainly take a chance on them in December.
Schrock, Ortega, Fernandez, Dobzanksi, and Ramirez are somewhere in the middle.
Schrock was acquired in the Stephen Piscotty trade as a contact-first second baseman. He was remarkably consistent while in the Nationals’ and A’s systems but struggled to a .249/.296/.331 slash line with Memphis. On top of his dip in production, Schrock can only play second base and he’s an average defender at best. I don’t think he would get taken in the Rule 5 and if he did Tommy Edman would provide more versatile infield depth. There’s no need to protect Schrock.
Ortega was Rule 5 eligible last season but had yet to make it past State College, so he was in no danger of being taken. Ortega is a really good defensive catcher and his arm and eagerness to throw are reminiscent of a young Yadier Molina. No matter how exciting the progress he made at the plate last year, his 99 wRC+ was still below average for the Midwest League. I don’t think they’ll need to protect Ortega and if he was selected, I think there’s a good chance he’d be returned to the Cardinals at some point during the season.
It’s possible another team could take a flier on Fernandez, Dobzanski, or Ramirez and stash them in the bullpen for an entire season.
Ramirez was acquired in the Tommy Pham trade, and I wrote about him in July. At the time he was acquired, he was having a good season in the Rays organization, but struggled with Memphis (5.06 ERA, 4.48 FIP). I wouldn’t think the Cardinals would add him to the 40-man, but last year they protected Derian Gonzalez, so…
Fernandez was someone who most evaluators expected a huge breakout from in 2018. After being shut down for most of the second half two years ago, he only threw 30 2/3 innings a year ago. That doesn’t sound like someone at risk of being taken to me.
Surprisingly, Dobzanski might be the most likely to be taken. He’s coming off a great year, having notched a 2.89 ERA in Peoria and 1.13 ERA in Palm Beach across nearly 60 innings of relief. There’s been very little written about him; I couldn’t even find anything from the great Kyle Reis. My mind keeps going back to the Derian Gonzalez situation a year ago. Nobody thought he’d be protected last year, and he was. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cardinals felt the need to protect an extra arm, and Dobzanksi is the most likely pitcher to be selected.
Now, the tough decisions
Adding Helsley, Thomas, Cabrera, and Dobzanski (or Fernandez or Ramirez, really) would put the Cardinals at 44 players on their 40-man. Obviously too many.
There are three easy removals: Matt Bowman, Derian Gonzalez, and Tyler Webb.
That’s still more than 40 players, and realistically the club would like to have a roster spot or two in order to make acquisitions during the offseason. There’s probably still two or three players that need to be removed.
Greg Garcia should be the first to go. Yairo Muñoz and Edmundo Sosa provide depth at shortstop and Muñoz is without question the superior hitter. Garcia is entering his first arbitration year in 2019, so the club can simply non-tender him.
At last, we’re working with a legal roster that protects the Cardinals top prospects from the Rule 5.
It’s not unusual for Mozeliak to make a trade with the purpose of freeing up a 40-man roster spot (think the Aledmys Diaz trade about a year ago). I would not at all be surprised to see something involving a pitcher (Conner Greene, Mike Mayes, Giovanny Gallegos, or Chasen Shreve look like candidates) or an outfielder like JAG or Justin Williams.
In conclusion, I think the Cardinals should…
Add Fowler, Wacha, and Reyes from the 60-Day DL.
Add Helsley, Thomas, Cabrera and one of Dobzanksi, Ramirez, or Fernandez.
DFA Bowman, Gonzalez, Webb, and Gregerson.
Non-tender Greg Garcia.
Trade one or two of Greene, Mayers, Gallegos, Shreve, JAG, or Williams.
That leaves 38 players on the Cardinals 40-man. The top prospects would be protected, and the club would have two roster spots to play with throughout the offseason. They should consider Bryce Harper for one of them.
Thanks for reading.
Colin Garner

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