Free Masyn Winn!
C’mon. Isn’t it about time for this rookie, power-hitting version of Ozzie Smith to graduate to the big leagues? Winn has conquered Triple A pitching. He has nothing left to prove there.
— Well, let’s start with his .353 average, .414 OBP, .684 slug and 1.098 OPS since June 18. In 157 plate appearances over that time, Winn has 10 doubles, three triples, 10 homers, 34 RBI and 41 runs scored. My playful comment aside, Winn isn’t at Ozzie Smith’s level defensively – no one was or ever will be. And The Wizard is a Hall of Famer. But Winn is a dynamic fielder with a rocket-launcher arm. The St. Louis front office claims that it can get back to winning in 2024, and Winn will be a significant part of the formula. So give the baby Wizard a head start by getting acclimated to the majors over the final two months of the regular season.
— The Cardinals traded shortstop Paul DeJong to Toronto. Brendan Donovan is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his throwing arm. The infield supply has been reduced by two men.
— STL’s recent infield alignments have included journeyman Taylor Motter. He has played at second base, third base and shortstop. Since July 23 Motter is batting .154 in 28 plate appearances – which is as many PA as Dylan Carlson and more than Nolan Gorman, Alec Burleson and Willson Contreras. Infielder Jose Fermin is starting games.
— Why are the Cardinals giving playing-time opportunities to Motter and Fermin instead of plugging in Winn, a future star? These at-bats and innings should be going to this 21-year-old wizard apprentice who will be a shining star for years to come.
— Yes, I know that veteran shortstop Tommy Edman is back from the IL. But is it against the law to have a frank discussion about Edman? After a strong opening month to the 2023 season, Edman is 30 percent below league average offensively (per wRC+) since the start of May. Over that time Tommy has a .221 average and substandard .275 OBP. He gets overmatched by right-handed pitching. Edman still plays capable infield defense, and did fine in centerfield, but he’s leveled off defensively in 2023. Edman’s speed is an attribute, but Winn is faster.
— Edman is making $4.2 million this year and has two more arbitration-level seasons to go; his salaries will only increase. We all respect Edman but the idea that he’s some sort of untouchable talent is ludicrous. He should be a potential trade chip next offseason because the Cardinals still have to prune their collection of infielders. Edman’s utility-player aspect is appealing, but in 2024 the Cardinals can’t block Winn at shortstop or Gorman at second base. And Donovan will be ready to return as a valuable utility asset in 2024.
— Not only that, but the Cardinals acquired infielders Thomas Saggese and Cesar Prieto from Texas and Baltimore (respectively) at the trade deadline. Both are bat-first talents that have major-league futures. The Cardinals placed Prieto at Triple A and slotted Saggese at Double A. Both are within range of joining the big club at some point next season or in 2025. Their arrival can be viewed as a reason to believe that the front office will move at least one notable infielder when the offseason rolls around.
— The only thing that gives me a little pause are Winn’s splits against right-handed pitching. Winn, who bats from the right side, has a 1.063 OPS vs. lefties and a .741 against righties. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a .741 OPS vs. RH.) But will spending an extra month at Triple A turn Winn into a brute against righties?
— The Cardinals did rookie Jordan Walker a disservice by bringing him to the majors too soon. They ignored his high ground-ball rate in the minors and 2023 spring training and sent him back down to work on putting more balls in flight. More than that, the front office was irresponsible for the organizational failure to prepare Walker to play in a corner-outfield spot. But it’s a different situation with Winn. He’s a shortstop. He’s also played some second base without a glitch. Winn will not be a defensive liability. He will be a defensive asset.
— Unlike Walker, who made the direct jump to the majors from Double A, Winn has 98 games and 468 plate appearances against Triple A pitching. That matters, and Winn has only gotten better. After a cold April (.608 OPS) at the plate, Winn has batted .308 with a .381 OBP and .530 slug for a .911 OPS. And his climb since May 1 includes 12 doubles, five triples, 15 homers and 50 RBI.
The Cincinnati Reds, 59-52, are a delightful surprise in 2023. They’re dueling the Brewers and Cubs for first place in the NL Central and are 10 and ½ games above St. Louis in the standings. The Reds have used 20 rookies this season including eight position players. They’ve benefited from massive contributions by Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, Spencer Steer, Will Benson, Stuart Fairchild and Christian Encarnacion-Strand. (Plus starting pitchers Andrew Abbott and Brandon Williams.)
So why haven’t the Cardinals promoted Winn?
This isn’t a money thing, right? No, it isn’t that. If the Cardinals are delaying for a strategic reason, it almost certainly concerns the new rules for rookie eligibility and the possibility of receiving draft-pick compensation.
To be eligible to win NL Rookie of the Year in 2024, Winn would maintain his rookie status as long as he doesn’t exceed 130 at-bats or 45 days on the Cardinals’ active MLB roster in 2023. The Cardinals are aware of that, so the timing of a Winn call-up makes a difference.
If Winn stays eligible and wins Rookie of the Year in 2024, the Cardinals would receive a draft choice (following the first round) in the 2025 MLB Draft. The Cardinals value the draft and would like having an extra early pick.
There’s some risk for the Cardinals as well. If Winn ends up with a top-two spot in the Rookie of the Year voting, he picks up an extra year of service time and can enter free agency a year ahead of schedule. Look at it this way, from the team’s standpoint: if Winn finishes second in the 2024 RoY voting, is it really worth it to lose a season of contract control? The Cardinals could circumvent that by signing Winn to a long-term contract before he reaches free agency … but I’m getting too deep into the shrubbery here.
To summarize, the Cardinals have two basic choices: (1) bring Winn to the majors early, have him exceed his rookie eligibility for 2024, and relinquish the chance to collect an extra draft pick. Or (2) bring Winn up later, have him maintain his 2024 rookie eligibility and possibly lose a year of valuable contract control if he finishes first or second in the Rookie of the Year balloting.
Winn should be here soon enough. But I’d like to see him get as much MLB experience as he can before the start of 2024 spring training.
Thursday night, Memphis romped over visiting Jacksonville 17-6. Winn was a wrecking ball, going 4 for 5 with a double, homer, walk, three RBI and four runs scored. He’s not just knocking on the door; he’s banging on that gate to the majors so loudly the front office can hear it in St. Louis.
Thanks for reading …
Have a pleasant weekend…
Bernie hosts a weekday sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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The “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and B. Miklasz is available at 590thefan.com, the 590 the fan app or your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.
All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible, Baseball Prospectus or Bill James Online.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.