That was the Cardinals’ reported offer to Jason Heyward, who agreed to a reported eight-year, $184 million deal with the Cubs. It’s highly unlikely St. Louis will make an offer nearly that large to another free agent, but it comes of the heels of the reported $190 million it offered free-agent ace David Price. So the money is there, and the front office hasn’t been shy about trying to spend it. Things seemed to turn out OK when the Angels outbid the Cardinals for Albert Pujols ($240 million over 10 years) a few years back.
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They still can acquire an elite outfielder
Among the names still on free-agent market: Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, Dexter Fowler. None of those players would be a big step down defensively from Heyward, and several actually would be an upgrade offensively. Then there’s the trade market, which features the likes of Carlos Gonzalez, who is coming off a 40-homer season with the Rockies. If the Cardinals look for offense at another position, a guy like free-agent first baseman Chris Davis could supply it.
They still have plenty of (young) offensive talent
St. Louis won 100 games this past season, despite finishing 24th in the majors in runs scored. Veterans Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holliday will be back. Kolten Wong took a big step forward in his first full season as the starting second baseman, and rookie outfielders Randall Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham made huge impacts. The Cubs haven't cornered the market on productive young bats.
Getty ImagesJeff Curry
Adam Wainwright is healthy
The rotation has some holes after losing John Lackey to free agency and Lance Lynn to elbow surgery, but Wainwright returns as the ace. Wainwright made only four starts last season before tearing his Achilles tendon, but from 2009-14 he ranked third in the majors in ERA (2.83) and fourth in wins (92) — despite missing the entire 2011 season. Michael Wacha is a solid No. 2, though there are durability questions about Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia. But, again, there are plenty of free agents still available, including Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto and Yovani Gallardo.
Getty ImagesDilip Vishwanat
The wild cards provide a great safety net
There are two of those wild cards now, so there is a sense of security if the Cardinals fall short of a fourth consecutive division title. St. Louis needs to look no further than this past season to know that a wild-card berth can lead to bigger things (the Cubs were a wild card and advanced to the NLCS after beating the division-champion Cardinals). When St. Louis last won the World Series in 2011, it was as a wild card.