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Goold: The who, what and where of Cardinals offseason decisions

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Cardinals workout at Busch before opening day

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol gets a pat on the chest on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, from team president of baseball operations John Mozeliak at Busch Stadium during their workout before their opening day game against the Pirates on Thursday. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

Sports columnists Ben Frederickson and Jeff Gordon discuss the directions the Cardinals could go after yet another postseason flop.

Check out the highlights from Derrick Goold’s Cardinals chat with readers. The full transcript of the chat can be found here.

Q: There is little doubt that the Cards need a stud starter, Jack Flaherty, if healthy is a number 1 or 2 starter but the Cards do not have that dominant second starter which other playoff teams have. For 2023 with Donavon and Edmond at 2nd and shortstop, are all other positions up for grabs?

Goold: Designated Hitter/OF would be one place to look. The Cardinals have Yepez in the mix, but a left-handed hitter would make sense (is Gorman that option?). And they do need to keep in mind that Jordan Walker could thunder his way through spring and into that mix. Still...

Is the outfield/DH mix of Nootbaar, Carlson, Yepez, O'Neill, Walker the answer?

It's a better balance than Cardinals have had, but it also commits them to a similar lineup from this year.

Minus Pujols' production.

Q: Waino has been very tight lipped. You've covered him for his career. What's your feeling on if he returns? I think it more likely than not that he does come back.

Goold: I don't know at this point. He says he has an idea of his decision. But that would suggest two things -- he's spoke with his wife and daughters already about 2023. I do know that the Cardinals and his agent hoped to speak in the past few weeks to get a sense of what a return would look like if Wainwright opted to pitch in 2023. He has made it clear, in talking with my colleague Rick Hummel, that there is an appeal to chase 210 wins. 

The other night in the clubhouse he made it clear that the question presented him was coming back, but only if he was sure that not pitching in the postseason this year was motivation to "never have that happen again."

Q: What’s up, DG? Are the Cardinals going to hold on to Andrew Knizner and have prospect Ivan Herrera as the backup or will they look to upgrade? I keep seeing Contreras as an option. I think that would be a great addition.

Goold: They are going to look into other catching options. I get that some of the Cubs writers are trying to ship Contreras and the Cardinals -- and that would make for fine copy. But the Cardinals are going to look at some better defensive options; that's just their nature. And that could mean a trade. Or, just going with a clear glove-first guy, and there are going to be a couple of free agents that fit that description.

Q: There are, as I see it, the following positions of need: outfielder, shortstop, catcher, and a starting pitcher that is a solid # 1 or 2. We also need one of the position players to have a consistent RBI bat (which should be the outfield). Your thoughts?

Goold: I'm not really going to buy into the RBI as the measure of the hitter the Cardinals need, sorry.

 You nailed it with this -- they need an .850 OPS outfield. Full stop.

They need that player to be part of the lineup and prominent in it. The corner outfield spots are still the land of giants, where the Betts and Soto and Acuna and prominent hitters play for contending teams. The Cardinals need that outfield. Coming into this season, they thought it would O'Neill. Injuries had other ideas. Can it be Nootbaar? He has definitely raised his ceiling for the coming year with his second half. For sure. But if it's not one of them, is it Carlson? If they can two all the better. But they need more from the outfield because that's where championship contenders get thump.

Q: Hi Derrick, what would you say are the odds that Cards make push for Carlos Rodon in the off-season?

Goold: They've gone down that road before. I wouldn't put the odds at zero, but getting a sense of where they're going to put their thumb for free-agent pursuits is not yet clear. It will be in the coming weeks as they, the Cardinals, start making those decisions, too. Is he possible? Yes. Is he a high probability? At the moment, does not seem to fit, but their discussions in the coming week could change that.

Q: You mention the likelihood of the Cardinals seeking a better defensive option behind the plate than Wilson Contreras. Does Jacob Stallings seem a likely desirable target despite his poor offensive year with the Marlins this year?

Goold: He's a superb defensive catcher. Last I checked on this possibility, I was told -- not by anyone affiliated with the Cardinals -- that the Marlins dig him and plan to keep him. I'm eager to see more about what direction Miami goes into the offseason and if that stance holds.

Q: I certainly hope they sign Quintana to an extension as he was our best pitcher down the stretch. What do you think the chances of that happen are?

A: I think Quintana has pitched his way into being an interesting fit for the Cardinals, one who makes a lot more sense here at the start of October than he did when the trade was made in July. The Cardinals recently described Jordan Montgomery as "one of the best pitchers in the league," and I found that interesting. They do have him for one more season, Matz under contract, and Quintana is a free agent. Is a three-lefty rotation the direction they want to go? Hard to see a spot for all three if the Cardinals are going to lineup Mikolas, Hudson, and Flaherty as parts of the rotation, too. There's a real riddle there, but Quintana's style of pitching, his fit for the clubhouse, and yes his cost -- there's just a lot there that suggests he'd be a good fit for a return, and maybe the move is to trade one of the starters to make room.

Q: Where do you think Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn fit into the Cardinals plan for next year? Are they ready for a serious look?

Goold: Walker will force the issue in spring. Winn will do so from Class AAA next year.

Q: You mentioned acquiring a catcher through a trade. What about James McCann or Sean Murphy? Also, who were some of the FA catchers you were alluding too that will be available? Thanks.

Goold: Sean Murphy, yes. Let's see what Oakland wants to do this winter. Start there. The free agents are Barnhart, Zunino, and there will be others. Castro, I believe. There's a group. Gold Glove winner Barnhart would be the defense-first name that stands out from it.

Q: Is Bryan Reynolds a better hitter than Willson Contreras? You dismissed Contreras as just above average hitter as a catcher, but his OPS was higher than Reynolds and he hit 22 HRs in 113 games while Reynolds hit 27 in 145 and both are good for one strikeout a game and their walk rate is similar. I honestly don't think Contreras should be discounted as an option. Both or either of these players make us better for next year.

Goold: Let's look. Give me a minute. But let's begin with this note: I did not suggest Bryan Reynolds for DH. He would play outfield. So, the question is a better player for the Cardinals, not reduced to a "better hitter." I think they could do better at hitter for DH. But let's explore...

In 2022, Reynolds had a wRC+ of 125, and that ranked 26th in the NL. Contreras was ahead of him with fewer at-bats, at 132 wRC+.

In their careers, Reynolds has a 127 OPS+ and Contreras has a 115 OPS+.

Their slash lines: .281/.361/.481, .842 OPS and .256/.349/.492, .808 OPS respectively. 

Reynolds has fewer years in the majors but already has an offensive WAR of 14.4, which is just behind Contreras' 17.8 in 240 games. But their average over the time of WAR/162 is about the same, Reynolds' 4.5 to Contreras' 4.6, and that's noteworthy because on Baseball_Reference.com, it includes defenses.

The past two years, here's how their lines look:

Reynolds -- .283/.368/.492 for a .861 OPS

Contreras -- .240/.344/.457 for a .797 OPS

That does seem to suggest that Reynolds is the better hitter over the past two years, and he's showed up on MVP ballots to reflect that. But it's close, and there's arguments that you could make strongly on both sides, so let me get to the number that also stands out to me: 30 and 27. Contreras is 30. Reynolds is 27.

Is Bryan Reynolds a better hitter than Willson Contreras, you ask?

He's going to be in the coming years, is my answer.

Q: If the Cardinals go after a SS, who would be their target? I think Turner is out of their price range, but what about Dansby Swanson or Xander Bogaerts?

Goold: I don't know yet that Turner is out of their price range. That is something to watch develop.

The Cardinals have shown a willingness to add significant salary for 2023 because they were going to do so with Soto. So, hold them to that. Bogaerts has not moved the needle much for the Cardinals before. I will be checking to see if that's changed coming out of this season, and if the reason for that before as the cost of a trade vs. the cost of free agency. Swanson would be an interesting add. He has the same agent as Freddie Freeman, so...And we have seen that episode with Atlanta. He also could be a Dodger. That would change the market for Turner.

Q: Trout in CF for Cards next year. It can happen.

Goold: In some Multiverse, sure.

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman recalls the heroics of Pete Kozma (and Daniel Descalso!) from this day in 2012. Plus, a happy birthday shoutout to brief Blue J.J. Daigneault! And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented by Window Nation!

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