The St. Louis Cardinals are said to have plans to add a left-handed outfielder to the fold. Will this be a reunion with a former Cardinal or via an addition?
During the Winter Warmup (unfortunately not at AutoZone Park in Memphis thanks to winter weather), St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak mentioned that the organization holds plans to add a left-handed outfielder to fortify the current squad. Two names that fit this bill are Brandon Moss and Sam Fuld.
Brandon Moss played with the Cardinals in 2016 after joining them at the trade deadline during the 2015 season. In 132 at-bats in 2015 for the St. Louis Cardinals, Moss posted a .250/.344/.409 slash showing that he was indeed recovering from years of injury.
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Moss appeared in 413 at-bats for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016 posting a slash line of .225/.300/.484. Moss’ greatest contributions for the squad came via the long ball. In 2015, during his time with the team, Moss smashed four homers in his 132 at-bats and followed this by smashing twenty-eight round-trippers in 2016.
At the conclusion of the 2016 season, the Cardinals had a decision to make regarding Moss: grant free agency, extend a contract, or offer the qualifying offer. The Cardinals opted to allow Moss to walk as they weren’t prepared to offer the type of contract that Moss was reportedly seeking nor were they ready to pay Moss the exorbitant qualifying offer amount. Thus, Moss now sits as a free agent.
Sitting as a free agent shouldn’t be that poor a situation for Moss who performed fairly well and yet he remains a free agent today. Is this due to his age? Moss turned thirty-three in September. Is this due to his desire for a multi-year contract? This seems the most likely reason but, at this point, Moss may be more inclined to accept a one-year deal.
Assuming that Moss would accept a one-year deal, should the Cardinals bite? I’ll save my judgement for a little later after I look at another name being linked to the Cardinals: Sam Fuld.
Fuld, two years older than Moss, has been rumored to be a name the Cardinals are considering to add to their roster for 2017. Fuld commands an eight-year MLB career (Moss owns a ten-year MLB career) amassing for a career slash of .227/.307/.325. Moss’ career slash is .241/.319/.455. In 2016, Fuld played at O.co Stadium which players say offense goes to die.
Accounting for O.co Stadium, Fuld produced a slash line of .197/.276/.293 in an injury-shortened 2015 season. In this season, Fuld appeared in 290 at-bats and then found himself batting a shoulder injury. This injury would lead to surgery that prevented him from playing in 2016.
Now, Fuld is looking to return and the Cardinals are considering kicking the tires probably due to the low cost. Question: will the low cost minimize the risk? Time will likely tell but I’m still left scratching my head trying to figure out why the Cards would have interest in Fuld over Moss…?
Let’s look at defense to see if this helps me understand Fuld-over-Moss. By the way, there is no real indication today that the Cardinals do value Fuld over Moss other than Twitter chatter.
Defensively, Moss has appeared at all outfield spots and first base (oddly he has appeared at third base as well). Fuld, in his career, has appeared at all outfield spots, not first base, and- interestingly- on the pitcher’s mound for 1/3 of an inning. Moss owns a career 5.8 WAR (0.2 WAR in 2015 for STL and 0.8 WAR in 2016 for STL). Fuld owns a career 4.8 WAR (0.9 WAR in 2015).
dWAR accounts for the defensive wins above replacement fielders. Moss earned a dWAR of -0.8 in 2016 and -0.2 in 2015. Fuld earned a dWAR of 0.8 in 2015. This is the first instance of Fuld bettering Moss’ statistical numbers.
Fangraphs awards UZR or the ultimate zone rating that is used to evaluate defensive statistics to compare position players. In 2015, Moss earned a UZR rating of 0.1 in LF, -1.1 in RF, and 0.2 at first base. In 2016, Moss earned a -3.3 UZR at first, 2.2 UZR at LF, and 3.1 at RF.
Fuld earned a UZR of 6.0 in LF in 2015 despite facing injuries, a 0.9 UZR in CF, and a -0.4 UZR in RF. Here too, as before, Fuld is the better defender if compared to Moss. So the question stands: do the Cardinals desire a power backup or a defensive backup?
Financially speaking, Moss was paid $8.2M in 2016. Fuld was paid $1.925M in 2015. Fuld will be cheaper but will come with decreased offense (Fuld hit only two home runs in 2015). So, which is most needed in the left-handed backup role for the outfield: power or defense?
If I had my druthers, I’d much rather the St. Louis Cardinals reunite with Moss than take the risk with Fuld. I would much rather reunite with Moss’ power than Fuld’s defense. I believe that Tommy Pham can provide the defensive backup if Moss can spell relief at the corners while providing a power threat off the bench.