Wong Gone?

Here’s the thing — unless you live under a rock or simply ignore how the St. Louis Cardinals organization works, Kolten Wong becoming a free agent shouldn’t surprise you.

News of Wong becoming a free agent broke nearly two weeks ago when the Cardinals declined Wong’s $12.5MM club option for the 2021 season.

The now two-time Gold Glove winner is a free agent for the first time in his career. Yes, the two-time Gold Glove second baseman — the double play king, the man who saved their behinds defensively every night Kolten Wong.

In an excellent article by St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold, Wong called the organization’s decision, “Such a punch to the gut.”

He continued, “I gave my heart and soul to the organization. Working my way up, learning, going back to the minors, and then to battle, to work, to figure things out, and to fight my way back up — that was everything to me. I know I can be better. And just as I’m starting to figure out what my game brings to this new age of baseball.”

In a normal year, Wong’s option could have likely ended with a different fate, but coming off the shortened 60-game season and reduced revenues from fan-less games and a drop in merchandise, the Cardinals looked to cut payroll with Wong.

Among the teams interested in Wong? The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the home of former Cardinal Albert Pujols. Theoretically if Wong were to sign with the Angels, he would be teamed up with Anthony Rendon, Mike Trout, Pujols, and David Fletcher. Not bad company.

As a 30-year-old infielder, Wong led all National League second basemen with 129 assists in the 2020 season. He was in the top tier for double plays turned with 29 as well. For the advanced metrics crowd, Wong led all second baseman in Defensive Runs Saved with six, Defensive Wins Above Replacement with 4.5, and Ultimate Zone Rating with 7.5.

With 181 ABs, Wong hit one home run. He ended the season with 16 RBI and five stolen bases. He had an average of .265 and OPS of .676. Only Paul Goldschmidt (.305) led higher in batting average. Goldschmidt (.883) and Edman (.685) led Wong in OPS.

So what about second base?

Mozeliak announced that Tommy Edman would become the team’s starting second baseman. Which is fine. Edman has proved himself time and time again with the organization that he has the tools to be an exceptional infielder (and outfielder). But this does leave room for third base and Matt Carpenter isn’t getting any younger or confident as the fan base chisels away at that confidence with each error or blunder he commits. (Don’t make him apologize at WWU for his previous season again, folks.)

Much to a few fans dismay, due to Carpenter’s contract — he will see playing time at third. Now in a perfect word, Paul DeJong would move to third and the Cardinals would go after someone like, say, Francisco Lindor. Keyword? Perfect world.

Wong will join teammates Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Brad Miller, and Matt Wieters as free agents.

As news breaks, Dugout Dish will have you covered. Follow along on Twitter @dugoutdish and @chelseabrooke.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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