This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Brendan Donovan
Stats: 95 G, 371 PA, 48 R, 10 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 34 RBI, 5 SB, 1 CS, .284/.365/.422, 1.9 bWAR
Statcast: 5.8% barrel, 37.3% sweet spot, 109.1 max exit velocity, .345 wOBA, .353 xwOBA, 14.3% K, 8.9% BB
Donovan had a fine rookie season, even winning the first ever utility Gold Glove, and helped show why he was such a favorite of Kyle Reis. However, we have seen people like him come and go. There weren’t a lot of expectations on him going into 2023 but perhaps there should have been. After all, he went to Driveline during the offseason.
It didn’t take long before the modifications he made showed up in real action. He tore up Jupiter, hitting four homers in 19 games and posting an OPS just shy of .900. Jupiter’s not typically a place where offensive bones are made, but it was spring training and the quality of pitchers faced can vary. Was it real or a mirage?
He had three hits and a home run on Opening Day. He had another homer two days later. It quickly became obvious that the changes were going to hold and the bat was going to play. He did run into a bit of a slump–he didn’t hit another home run until May 7–but after that things clicked back into gear. From then until the end of June, he had an .818 OPS, he played all over the field (left field, right field, first base, second base, third base) and became vital to an offense that seemed to sputter when he wasn’t around.
At the beginning of July, though, the variety of positions faded and he shifted to DH. It took a few days before we found out he was having arm issues and, while it always seemed like he was getting close to returning to the field, it never happened save an appearance at first base on July 4, after the injury had been disclosed, to finish out a 15-2 blowout by the Marlins. While the arm problems were focused more on him throwing the ball, this was a move that really didn’t make any sense. Then again, that was a game where the club lost the DH and used Alec Burleson as a pitcher so overall, not their finest hour.
I assume that the Cardinals were getting encouraging or at least conflicting information about Donovan’s progress, but eventually the club realized that even though he was hitting .325 in July, the arm wasn’t getting better and he might as well have surgery with the season already lost. He had surgery on the flexor tendon at the beginning of August and is expected to be fully ready for Opening Day.
Ready for who, though? Donovan’s flexibility, offensive prowess, and plenty of years of control make him a very desirable target. There was one mention in The Athletic of a Yankee swap which would net the Cardinals three pitchers for him. Whether that’s a reasonable deal or the product of a fevered imagination, it still indicates that Donovan has value around the league. If the Cardinals are going to acquire young pitching, Donovan may be one of the only ways that they can get it.
What’s in store for 2024: Donovan is going to be starting somewhere for someone on Opening Day and my guess is it will be second base (depending on the pitcher) for the Cardinals. I think we’ll hear a lot of rumors around him this winter but the club won’t pull the trigger.