By Anthony Schramm, from Cardsblog.com
Last year, former Cardinal, Mark Reynolds, signed an incentive laden minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies without a guarantee of a roster spot. With starting first baseman, Ian Desmond, on the disabled list to start the year, Reynolds secured an Opening Day roster spot and proceeded to mash 30 home runs with a .839 OPS.
Most minor league deals don't turn out this way but with virtually no risk, teams can afford to take a chance to catch lightning in a bottle. The Cardinals shouldn't pass up the opportunity for an impact player on a minor league pact, but who should they target?
2017: 234 PA | .202/.256/.344 | 6 HR | .256 wOBA | 53 wRC+ | -0.7 WAR
2016 saw Michael Saunders finally live up to the potential he flashed in parts of six Major League seasons. After breaking out to hit 24 home runs with a .815 OPS for the Toronto Blue Jays, Saunders earned a one year $9 million deal from the Philadelphia Phillies to prove his breakout was for real.
That breakout now looks like a fluke. After posting the worst offensive year of his career, Saunders finds himself looking for any opportunity to re-establish himself as a starting caliber outfielder.
The Cardinals outfield situation appears set with Marcell Ozuna, Tommy Pham, and Dexter Fowler as starters with Jose Martinez and either Harrison Bader or Tyler O'Neill coming off the bench.
An injury to any starting offensive player outside of Paul DeJong will thrust Martinez into the starting lineup with Matt Carpenter expected to shift to 2nd or 3rd if need be allowing Martinez to take over at 1st.
Without another reliable power bat off the bench, the Cardinals could use Saunders to take over the Matt Adams role as Mike Matheny's go-to pinch hitter. A breakout spring from Saunders could also allow the Cardinals to keep Bader/O'Neill in AAA to see everyday at bats.
2016 (DNP in 2017): 118.2 IP | 5.54 ERA | 4.36 FIP | 7.74 K/9 | 2.73 BB/9 | 0.9 WAR
After sitting out all of 2017 to spend time with family, it is unclear whether or not Peavy would consider a return to the big leagues. If he does return, however, he'd be worth a flier on a minor league deal.
After struggling in 2016 and turning 37 in May, it appears Peavy's days as a reliable starter are behind him. With the Cardinals' starting five locked in and tons of starting pitching depth in the minors, Peavy would only be counted on to start in a pinch.
As a relief option, however, Peavy could rejuvenate his career in a new role. Tyler Lyons has been promoted from his long relief/spot starter role into a new role as a multi-inning back end option. Without another bullpen arm capable of starting or eating innings in middle relief, the Cardinals could be in the market for Peavy's services so long as he's willing to accept a relief role.
In 2016, his ERA skyrocketed from 2.80 the first time through the order to 8.77 his second time through the lineup. In 2015, his ERA the first time through the order was even more impressive at 2.08. Peavy could prove to be a reliable option to give the Cards two or three solid innings on any given day or spot start if need be. His leadership as a former World Champion and Cy Young winner would be an added bonus for a relatively inexperienced bullpen.
2017: 15.2 IP | 10.91 ERA | 3.29 FIP | 12.64 K/9 | 5.74 BB/9 | 0.3 WAR
Viewed as the closer of the future in Detroit, Rondon's straight fastball and lack of control led to the Tigers giving up on his lights out potential. With an electric slider that generates whiffs and a fastball that sits in the high 90's, Rondon has the stuff to be an elite closer in the big leagues.
Walks and lack of movement on his fastball have been his kryptonite throughout his career. However, his strikeout ability and young age (27) would make him an enticing project for new pitching coach, Mike Maddux.
The Cardinals appear content to go into 2018 with Luke Gregerson as their closer. Lyons, Brett Cecil, Matt Bowman, and Dominic Leone are expected to see high leverage situations with Alex Reyes expected to slide into the back end once he returns from Tommy John surgery.
While that group has a high floor, they don't exactly shorten the game for opponents. With Sam Tuivailala and John Brebbia serving as the only flamethrowers in the Cardinals bullpen, the lack of a proven high octane reliever could be the team's undoing. Adding Rondon to the mix gives the Cardinals the potential lock down reliever that this bullpen is currently missing.