Notable Departures: Jason Heyward
The Cardinals didn’t make any major moves despite Jason Heyward, arguably their best bat in 2o15, departing for the rival Chicago Cubs. The team will instead rely on the aforementioned young duo Grichuk and Piscotty. Outside of the starters, however, the Cardinals upgraded their bench significantly. Instead of Tony Cruz to back up Yadier Molina the team now has Brayan Pena after the team signed the 34-year-old to a two-year contract earlier in the offseason. Pena (a career .260 hitter compared to Cruz’s .220) will allow the Cardinals to give more off days to Molina and should prove much more effective than Cruz was.
The Cardinals also replaced Pete Kozma with Jedd Gyorko when they acquired Gyorko in a trade that sent Jon Jay to the San Diego Padres. This is again a depth move that will allow the Cardinals to give more off days to both Jhonny Peralta and Kolten Wong to keep them fresh late in the season. In 2015 Peralta and Wong were both noticeably gassed down the stretch and it showed in their performance as both began to struggle at the plate due to manager Mike Matheny not having any viable options to put in the lineup every now and then. Gyorko posted a .745 OPS just two years ago when he hit 23 homers and the Cardinals are hoping they can turn him back in that direction. The biggest addition to the offense is Pena, as Molina could miss the beginning of the season and Pena will be able to hold the fort down far better than Cruz ever would.
While it would have been nice to see the Cardinals retain Heyward or even get Chris Davis (as was rumored earlier in the offseason) the team is clearly confident in Grichuk and Piscotty and will be looking for a bounce-back year from Matt Holliday