No, this article is not about the St. Louis Cardinals coming in second in the 2015 National League Division Series. That story remains to be told in this countdown.
This is about the team just missing out on three of their top free agent targets during this 2015-2016 off-season.
The first was least understood.
The second was most surprising.
The third was most painful.
Needing more thump in the lineup with first base a likely source of improvement, the Cardinals made a push in late October and early November for slugging Korean first sacker Byung-ho Park.
St. Louis submitted a bid for the right to negotiate with Park’s Korean Baseball Organization team, the Nexen Heroes, but fell short. It was announced on November 9 that the Minnesota Twins had the top bid of $12.85 million, with the Cardinals reportedly coming in second. Once their bid was accepted by the Heroes, the Twins quickly signed Park to a four-year, $12 million contract plus a fifth-year option.
Next up was what appeared to be the organization’s master strike for the winter, a move that could help define the direction of the franchise for many years to come.
Instead, the Cardinals were outbid at the last moment by the Boston Red Sox for the services of star left-handed pitcher David Price. After the Cardinals offered a reported $190 million that they and Price both thought would be the winner, the 30-year-old ended up signing with the Red Sox on November 30 for seven years, $217 million dollars, a record deal for a pitcher.
Finally, the team’s main acquisition target from the winter before, who cost the Cardinals a young, inexpensive front-line pitcher in Shelby Miller, not only spurned St. Louis, but signed with their biggest rival for what he asserted was less money.
Outfielder Jason Heyward did not want to negotiate with the Cardinals during the 2015 season and once a free agent, the 26-year-old decided to become a Chicago Cub instead. St. Louis reportedly offered more total money, $200 million, but the Cubs’ deal gives Heyward more money up front and greater flexibility. It is an eight-year contract worth $184 million, and gives him the choice of becoming a free agent again after years three and four.
Upon his introduction in Chicago on December 15, Heyward rubbed further salt in the Cardinals wound by stating a factor in his decision to leave was St. Louis’ aging core of Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday.
Responding to Heyward’s remarks, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said, “I don’t think it’s going to ring too well with our club.” Wainwright fired the final volley, stating that Heyward was apparently not the right fit to carry on the Cardinals tradition as they were “looking for that guy who wants to be the man.”
As if the rivalry wasn’t already hot between the Cardinals, who won the Central Division, and the Cubs, who prevailed in the NLDS, Heyward added more heat, likely to remain for years to come.
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