The dreams of Cardinal’s fans are always big. We dream of signing the next Albert Pujols, a player that will revolutionize the game and take our team to the championship level that we all assume is so close. Like any dream though we have to wake up. We have to live in the real world where great players don’t just appear. As the offseason commences fans want to see an aggressive approach from the front office. We want to see our teams name in the running for superstars like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. While I admittedly would love to see either with the Birds on the Bat across their chest I am not going to allow myself to think that this is anything more then just a dream. The reality is that the Cardinals will not realistically be in the running for either. So what do we do? The answer: Build around the youth!
Last season we saw the progression of the young pitching staff that we had been hearing about for years. Jack Flaherty, Austin Gomber and Dakota Hudson emerged as key pieces in a rotation and bullpen that needed the boost. Going into 2019 where does this leave the state of the rotation? I look at it like this
Starters Flaherty, Mikolas, Martinez, Gant, Gomber/Poncedeleon/Hudson
Relievers: Reyes, Hicks, Shreve, Leone, Wainwright, Cecil, Brebbia, Mayers
The Cardinals one addition should be a lock down leftie reliever. Cash in on one that had a terrible 2018. Andrew Miller makes a lot of sense for the team. A disappointing 2018 season will leave Miller vulnerable on the free agent market. A 4.24 ERA in a walk year is a not ideal for someone looking to make it big. Despite his struggles Miller was still effective against lefties holding them to just a .556 OPS. Miller also has playoff experience to help out a cast of young relievers. He can be an assist to a guy like Chasen Shreve whom brings potential but flexibility to move to the minors. The Brett Cecil deal lingers in the minds of most fans but with Miller in the fold you will be able to utilize Cecil in a lot of less stressful moments. Not listing Adam Wainwright in the rotation will be tough but this team has to move on and give their young arms a chance. John Gant proved himself to be more reliable in the rotation and a three way fight between Hudson, Gomber and Poncedeleon will give you three guys that have been more effective in the pen if they don’t win the final spot. Put Brebbia in the closer role to start the season, but don’t be locked into it. Play the matchups and the hot hand. If Hicks develops a strikeout pitch use him in the ninth. Trust the young arms.
*Luke Weaver has to prove he can trust his fastball command or he has no place on this team.
Marcell Ozuna didn’t have the year most Cardinal fans had hoped for, but it wasn’t as bad as many perceived. 23 homers and 88 RBI’s was actually more accurate to his career averages. The Cardinals traded for a player based a 2017 season where he broke out. His regression had a lot to do with his lingering shoulder injury, but it also had to do with being protected in the lineup by Jedd Gyorko rather then Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. His production drop off hurt but is still on par with what the Cardinals would have gotten from the departed Stephen Piscotty or Randall Grichuk. Ozuna needs protection, but I don’t believe it should be a free agent outfielder. There are three targets the Cardinals should consider:
1. Josh Donaldson 2. Steve Pearce 3. Eduardo Escobar
Each of these players has a flaw. Donaldson is injury prone, Pearce is has been inconsistent, Escobar is unpredictable. But each has what the Cardinals need, power. Adding Escobar and Pearce will give you two player that can play multiple positions and provide late game matchup advantages. Donaldson should be the clear frontrunner for the Cardinals. Give him a two year deal and while you let Nolan Gorman develop. This will give you the MVP bat that you can have until your young star is ready for the majors. This lineup with the pitching they possess could be a huge addition.
|Option A||Option B|
|Matt Carpenter, 1B||Carpenter 3B|
|Yadier Molina, C||Eduardo Escobar, 2B|
|Marcell Ozuna, LF||Marcell Ozuna, LF|
|Josh Donaldson, 3B||Steve Pearce, 1B|
|Tyler O’Neil, RF||Tyler O’Neil, RF|
|Paul Dejong, SS||Yadier Molina, C|
|Kolten Wong, 2B||Paul DeJong, SS|
|Harrison Bader, CF||Harrison Bader, CF|
Let O’Neil get the at bats this season and see what you have. He strikes out a lot, but no more then players like Kris Bryant did in their first full seasons. The one asset you have in the minors is young outfielders, it’ time to see what they can bring in a full season. The Dexter Fowler experience is over. Put him on the bench and eat the money if you have to. The Cardinals didn’t have a great season, I would love to add a premier bat but to think the they can outbid a bigger market team and convince them to be here is unrealistic. Build around your youth, add veterans that make sense as you wait for your young bats.
The Cardinals are not far away from being a force. The depth is there in the pitching staff and the young players are on the way. Let me know what you think.