Top five free agents since 2010: St. Louis Cardinals

The MLB offseason has been eventful for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Trading for slugger Paul Goldschmidt and signing bullpen presence Andrew Miller. While the market is still full of impactful players the Cardinals made It well known that they are looking to be players during the 2018 offseason.  It got me thinking about the last time the Cardinals made a big move on the free agent market.  Here are my top five free agent pickups since 2010.

5.Jhonny Peralta, 2013

The Cardinals inked a freshly suspended Peralta in the offseason of 2013 to a 4-year $52 million deal. Peralta was signed to fill a long-time gap in the Cardinals lineup at shortstop and for a small time he was very effective. His first season was successful in St. Louis posting a career best WAR of 5.9 during the 2014 season.

Peralta tailed off in the 2015 season with his WAR dropping to an abysmal 1.9. Whoever Peralta’s raw statistics were credible enough to earn himself an All-Star game bid.  The decline continued in 2015 as injuries and poor play led to his eventual release in 2017.   Peralta’s production over two seasons still puts him on this list.

4. Pat Neshek, 2013

Pat Neshek signed in the 2013 offseason along with Peralta.  Neshek however was not nearly at the same cost.  Neshek signed a 1-year minor league deal with incentives, he paid that off beyond the Cardinals highest beliefs. Looked at as a right-handed specialist Neshek developed into a lights out middle inning pitcher for the National League champs. 

A career high in wins with 7 and a 1.87 earned-run average, a 2.37 fielding-independent ERA, and $13.7 million in surplus value. Neshek earned himself his first ever All-Star game appearance, Neshek was able to turn his 2013 success into a bigger contract with the Astros the next season.  While it was only one year his success over that season at such a low cost was a huge asset.

3. Seunghwan Oh, 2015

The Korean Buddha was a quiet signing in the 2015 offseason.  The former NPB closer signed a one-year deal with a team option for the 2017 season.  Oh had a stellar 2016 season, eventually forcing himself into the closers role.  His 1.92 ERA, 103 strikeouts and 19 saves were amassed over 76 games. 

Oh filled a need for the Cardinals in 2016, the club of course picked up his option for the 2017 season.  Unfortunately, Oh was not able to perform at the same level as the previous season forcing the Cardinals to let him walk after the season.  His slider has regained its effectiveness in 2018 making him a valuable asset for the wildcard winning Colorado Rockies.

2. Carlos Beltran, 2011

Looking for a veteran beat before the 2012 season the Cardinals signed multi-time all-star Carlos Beltran to their World Series roster.  At two-years, $26 million the Cardinals were looking to solidify their lineup after losing superstar Albert Pujols.

Beltran paid off the Cardinals investment, hitting 32 homers with a .842 OPS.  Beltran earned himself another all-star appearance in his storied career. His 3.9 WAR was the highest he had over the last four seasons.

Beltran followed up 2012 with another solid season, but injuries down the stretch of 2013 hurt the final playoff run.  Going into his age 37 season the Cardinals let Beltran walk, signing with the New York Yankees. 

1. Lance Berkman, 2010

Primarily a first baseman his entire career.  Most thought it was a bit of a stretch to sign the 35-year old Berkman.  He had come off the worst season of his career while splitting time with the Yankees and Astros.  Moving Berkman to the outfield the Cardinals got a rejuvenated player that was worth every bit of his 1-year, $8 million he signed for.  He posted a 163 wRC+, his highest mark since 2001, and was among the team’s best hitters in the postseason, where he had one of the most important hits in Cardinals baseball history.

Berkman’s second season with the Cardinals was plagued by injury.  But he had the biggest impact of any player signed over the last ten years.

Thoughts?

Time to sell. Is that a bad thing?

The Cardinals stepped into the second half taking a glass is half full approach.  By moving on from Mike Matheny all their problems would magically dissapear.  The bullpen would pitch better, Ozuna and Fowler would start hitting, the defense would play error free.  After just six games they realized that not only was the glass half empty but it has been thrown to the ground and shattered.

Sitting five games back in the Wild Card is an illusion of potential for a team that has lost its way.  While they only sit five games back they have to jump two teams in their own division just to make case for the second spot. It is time to open their eyes and see that this is a team that has to find a new direction.  I wrote a piece earlier in the month talking about the potential of trading “ace” Carlos Martinez in hopes to have a return that can set them up for future success.  While it is unlikely that they move on from Martinez they have to see that it is time move the pieces that are not going to be a part of the future.   Players like Jedd Gyroko, Jose Martinez, Kolten Wong,  Tommy Pham and Bud Norris have to be put on the trade block.  Each one of these players have friendly contracts and assets that can intrigue true contending teams.

Players like Jedd, Jose and Kolten may not bring you high valued prospects in return, but  they can allow the team to open up spots for young talent. Players that are ready in the minors like Patrick Wisdom and Tyler O’Neil need to be called up and put into bench roles while Yairo Munoz and Harrison Bader should be given the chance to play everyday to see what they can bring to the table on a day to day basis.  The players that can bring you the most value on the market like Bud Norris and Tommy Pham should be moved in order to restock your system with top 15 potential players.

So why not move your hottest hitter Matt Carpenter or your bad contract Dexter Fowler or your “big” offseason pickup Marcell Ozuna?

Carpenter is the player you have to build around, moving him full time to first base is your best option and can bring you stability to work around for your infield.

Fowler’s contract will most surely be impossible to move.  The reality is that you have to put him on the bench and try and find a suitor in the offseason that will help you take on some of his salary (Very Unlikely).

Ozuna is injured.  He has little to no value at the moment unless you want to sell low.  Shut him down and let him go fix his shoulder injury.  If you would like to move him next season before he becomes a free agent then look into it then.  He has to much potential as a great trade piece when he is fully healthy.

It’s hard for a front office to admit that the season is a bust.  I am not admitting that it is a bust yet, but what the organization is putting on the field is not one that can make it to the playoffs let alone compete in an extremely competitive 2018 National League Central.  Let the young kids come up and see what kind of impact they bring.  Being a seller at the deadline does not admit defeat it can show a better understanding of your personal.  This team needs a change, they need fresh faces beyond Mike Shildt.  Let the young guys play and see if it can turn things around.  Use Poncdeleon, Gomber and eventually Dakota Hudson in the bullpen if their is not a spot in the rotation.  Let Bader get as many at bats as he can and see if he changes your team dynamic.  Cardinals fans may not like the idea of “selling” but they will have to understand that sometimes selling just means admitting your mistakes.   Everyone can accept that.

Trading Carlos?

When Mike Matheny was finally let go by the St. Louis Cardinals a large portion of the fanbase rejoiced.  Matheny the subject of  ridicule since his hire has left Cardinal Nation with a gleaming light of hope at the end of the longest mediocrity tunnel this era has seen.  Now that he is gone it is time for the Cardinals to look to the future, as they rebuild the culture and the team they have to figure out who they should take a long for the ride.  Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak have to look at this roster and figure out who they want to be a part of the next ERA of Cardinals baseball.  Is Carlos Martinez a part of those plans?

Let’s look at the positives of Carlos Martinez.  At the end of the 2018 season Carlos will be 27 years old,  he will have a contract that is team friendly based on the price of quality starting pitchers.  Earning just $11.5 Million per year over the next three seasons he will not hurt your budget.  Carlos currently ranks 33rd in the league in starting pitcher salary per season behind guys like James Shields, Tyler Chatwood and our old St. Louis friends Lance Lynn and Mike Leake.

Carlos has been great for three straight season propelling himself to the top of the rotation accumulating 43 wins and averaging 30 starts per year during that span.  He proudly represented the Cardinals in two All- Star games, 2015 and 2017.  Despite some minor injuries Carlos has stayed healthy enough to keep his spot at the top of the rotation.  While other such as Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright have broken down, Carlos seems to come back from injuries strong and capable.   Outside of a handful of pitchers in the league he would be an ace on most staffs.

Now let’s look at the negatives. Carlos has been known to be an emotional player,  during the stress of a playoff run and/or series he has been known to get a little flustered.  The veteran presence of Yadier Molina has been able to hide some of those issues.  Martinez can be wild at times his BB/9 has reached a career high so far in 2018 at 4.67.

While erratic at times Carlos will still find himself on the list of top potential targets of any team if made available.  With the firing of Matheny, Cardinals management has made it clear that they are not afraid to shake things up.  While moving Martinez may be looked at as giving up on the 2018 season, would he not bring back the most of any player on your current roster?

Imagine you are the Yankees, stacked with a loaded farm system and the Cardinals have made this great cost controlled pitcher available.  How can you not offer up some of your top prospects to get him. As a Cardinals fan can you really be that upset if you move on from Carlos, when you have seen the strength of your developing pitchers.

Cardinals get: Gleyber Torres,  Domingo German, Dermis Garcia

Yankees get: Carlos Martinez, Jedd Gyorko

While this is obviously hypothetical, I cannot see any way as an organization you cannot at least open up the negotiation.  The Cardinals have been looking for a dynamic position player to take the reigns of the team since the departure of Albert Pujols. Moving on from Carlos Martinez will have backlash,  while he is great on the field he is also a charismatic personality that people are enthralled in seeing. The Cardinals will have a better idea of where they are right out of the All- Star break heading to Chicago for 5 games that can make or break your season.  At that point they have to decide whether Martinez is the future himself or is the key to bringing in the future.

 

Who is Trae Santos?

The Frontier League Homerun Derby took place at Carshield Field in O’Fallon, Missouri this week.  Fans filled the stadium for a chance to see former Cardinals greats compete with Frontier League All-Stars in matchup of local favorites vs. unknown up and comers.  Former Cardinals Mark Whiten, Ray Lankford, Kerry Robinson and Rick Ankiel were set to put on a show for the thousands in attendance. To their surprise they were upstaged by a little known first baseman playing just across the river for the Gateway Grizzlies.  His name was Trae Santos.

Trae Santos put on a show from the first pitch launching mammoth homers over the giant right field wall at Carshield Field.  Santos ran through the Frontier League competitors smashing 22 homers in the first two rounds, setting up a matchup with former Cardinal P/OF Rick Ankiel.  Santos dispatched of Ankiel rather quickly beating his 3 homers in just a few swings.  Fans that had come to see the former Cardinals greats swing left wondering who was this power hitting machine manning first for the Grizzlies.  Who was Trae Santos?

In 2005, star pitcher and first baseman Trae Santos led the Guam Little League team all the way to the semifinals of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. With that success, the Santos family made a momentous decision. They decided to move their family to America where Trae began to make his mark the baseball community. Drafted in the 17th round of the 2013 MLB draft by the San Diego Padres out of Troy University.  Playing 4 seasons in affiliated ball Santos had trouble standing out.  Hitting his peak during the 2015 season, Santos hit 14 homers and drove in 60 runs for the Fort Wayne Tincaps of the Midwest League. Unable to improve on those numbers the Padres released Santos after the 2016 season, leaving Trae at a crossroads in his career.

“The phones weren’t really ringing last year.  I just kept working on my swing and hitting the gym everyday. Waiting for that opportunity.” said Santos when asked about taking the 2017 season off.

Manager Phil Warren gave Trae a call with an invite to tryout for the Gateway Grizzlies.  With the departure of long time first baseman Craig Massoni their was an opening on the Gateway roster.   Looking for pop in the middle of the order Santos seemed to fit right into the needs of the team.  Beating out Kristian Brito for the starting first baseman spot, Santos jumped right into the middle of the Gateway lineup.  Santos came out the gates struggling in 2018.  Showing signs of rust from the year off of competitive baseball.  After a few weeks into the season Santo was hitting well below .200.  Phil Warren refused to give up on the young slugger.

“I sat Trae down and told him to stop putting so much pressure on himself.  These guys are out here trying to get you out.  Stop worrying so much and just do what you know you can do.” said Warren.

The brief conversation paid off huge for Santos as he was able to turn things around almost immediately.   Hitting .288 with 11HRS, 34RBI’s, earning himself a slot in the Frontier League All-Star game his comeback was complete.

Santos has had a roller coaster career so far in baseball.  Right now he is heading towards the top of the coaster in hopes that there will not be the long drop this time.  At the age of 25 getting a call back to affiliated ball will be a long shot.  But the statement he made during the Homerun Derby will live on in the history of the Frontier League.  Maybe Santos will not be the second player ever to make it to the Majors but he will go down in the Frontier League history books along with the creation of the Baseball’s Best Burger and Brett Gray’s 25 strikeout night.

Come see Trae Santos lead the Gateway Grizzlies in the second half of the season beginning July 14th vs. the River City Rascals.

Paul DeJong, changing Cardinals needs

The St. Louis Cardinals currently sit four games out of the Central Division.  A team riding the proverbial roller coaster all season has kept themselves relevant despite having to make adjustments to the lineup all season.  The early struggles of lineup mainstays like Marcell Ozuna and Matt Carpenter had fans voicing their displeasure with management.  They shouted from the rooftops about trading away the young arms for a rental slugger like Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson.  As the Cardinals prepare to enter July they may end up receiving a power upgrade that will cost them no prospects.

Paul DeJong has targeted a return to the lineup around the All-Star break.  DeJong will instantly bring more power into a lineup that has begun to produce at more levels.  DeJong’s development as a hitter cannot be ignored.  While strikeouts are still a problem that is impossible to ignore, DeJong has increased his walk rate.  Through 108 games last season DeJong walked just 21 times. Before his injury in just 41 games he has walked 16 times raising his walk percentage by almost 5%. DeJong’s injury also allowed more at bats for Yairo Munoz, allowing him to establish himself as a major league player.

When comparing DeJong to both Machado and Donaldsons advanced analytics the differences are not what you may think. Donaldson’s numbers are nearly identical to DeJong, while  Manny Machado’s are not earth shattering in comparison, in fact they are very comparable if played out over a full season of the season.

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Machado Advanced Stats

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DeJong Advanced Stats

Machado’s advanced numbers with nearly double the at bats compare favorably to DeJong’s with no clear advantage.  Machado brings with him the intrigue of a marquee name, but does not bring the clear offensive advantages. The Cardinals also do not have to deal with the distraction of what to do with Machado at the end of the season.  They can focus on their current needs.

That brings me to what the Cardinals need to have their focus on, the bullpen.  Bud Norris and Jordan Hicks have cemented themselves in the backend of the pen but the need for help is still relevant. Padres closer Brad Hand sits at the top of the list for most contending teams, the price for him will be very high for the Cardinals.  They will most likely look at the second left handed reliever option Zach Britton.  Britton’s 2018 has not been great but he brings late inning experience as well as experience against high level opponents while playing in the American League East.

If the Orioles are being stubborn about the value of Britton, the Cardinals should take a look at a guy they let walk away in the offseason, Zack Duke.  The Minnesota Twins have not been able to put it together in 2018, they have a few assets on their roster that may be available when the trade deadline hits.  Duke has been extremely effective versus lefties in during the 2018 season allowing just a .184 average.  While it may seem crazy to “backtrack” on a reliever that they could have resigned in the offseason, Duke will be low cost both in trade value and contact cost.

If the Twins believe they are still in contention for some reason the next potential suitor would be Alex Claudio of the Texas Rangers.  The Rangers have a long rebuild ahead of them, a left-handed reliever will not help them long term.  Claudio has tons of value with his abilities to get out left handed hitters, similarly to Britton, Claudio has the experience in the late innings.

Cardinals fans want management to make a big move, but they have to understand that they have an impact player ready to make his return without costing the team any of their prospects.  Fill the needs that make sense, go out and get yourself the bullpen help that can cement you as a playoff team.  Fans have to see that it makes more sense to fill the bullpen need rather then bank on a big name for half a season.

 

 

Pham leading off makes sense

The St. Louis Cardinals lineup debate has been centered around the struggles of Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler. Both players have spent time in the leadoff spot for the majority of their careers, because of this the casual fan has this predetermination that they have to be at the top of the lineup to be effective.  That isn’t what makes sense right now in the Cardinals lineup.  During the two game series with the Chicago White Sox, Mike Matheny decided to put Tommy Pham in the leadoff spot.  While the offense didn’t explode, it could be the move that ends up making the Cardinals better offensively the rest of the 2018 season.

When the St. Louis Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler in December, 2016, they were wanting a player with speed who could get on base at the top of the lineup.  This would allow the Cardinals to shift Matt Carpenter to a more RBI-producing role in the middle of lineup that they believed he was better suited for.  The Cardinals abandoned that approach early in 2017 more out of necessity than anything else.  Opening the 2018 campaign, Matheny decided that it was time to put Fowler back in that role in order to accommodate his new toy Marcell Ozuna in the number four spot in the order.  It did not hurt that the top four in the lineup would now feature switch hitter, right handed hitter, left handed hitter and right handed hitter 1-4 in the lineup.  The traditionalist that Mike Matheny is assumed this would cause problems for opposing managers late in games. Matheny’s plan made sense to start the season but with the struggles of Fowler much like 2017, Matheny has been forced to make a change to his lineup once again.

Matt Carpenter was not the leadoff batter for the Cardinals last season until June 7. Once June 7 hit, so did Carpenter. His xwOBA (Execpted Weighted On-base Average)was a solid .368 and his wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) was 20 points higher at .388, indicating Carpenter’s results might have been a bit lucky. In 2018, Carpenter has seen his luck change a bit even though most advanced statistics have stayed the same and some have improved according to baseballsavant.com. It took Carpenter awhile to find his groove in 2017, I look for him to turn it around as the season goes on.  If he continues to barrel the ball at at 17% rate he will eventually find the holes in the defense.  So the question is why not put Carpenter in the lead off spot?

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The answer is no, with Matt Carpenter in the two hole Tommy Pham can feel free to take off whenever he sees an advantage.  Carpenter famously likes to take pitches,  at times seems to prefer to hit with a few strikes on him.  Carpenter’s patience can be a virtue.  The more he takes the better read Pham can get on a pitcher which will allow him to utilize his speed.   With Pham on the move, it can move the defense out of their lefty shift opening up more hitting lanes for Carpenter.  The argument for Carpenter continues to be that he only hits while in the leadoff spot.  His stats do prove the historically he is a better hitter in that spot. Is is just that he can’t hit anywhere else or is it that he has never been given a chance to prove himself anywhere else for long enough?

The movement of Tommy Pham into the lead off spot will allow the Cardinals to put their most productive hitter in a position to get more at bats.  Pham’s .330 BA, .447 OBP both lead the club.  Pham will also be able to move on the base paths more freely while hitting in the lead off spot.  Matheny has to find a way to spark the offense. Tommy Pham is the spark that can light the offensive fire.  He can bring immediate energy to the team similar to the way he lead off the first game of the White Sox series.  Mike has to continue to let this play out.  Carpenter will adjust and Fowler will benefit from the move.  Fowler will be able to let his swing loose and utilize his power from both sides of the plate.  A free swinging Fowler at this point in his career is his best option.  Tommy Pham leading off makes sense for him and for the team as a whole.

 

 

 

Role Definition: Luke Gregerson

Luke Gregerson was activated by the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday.  He will now take his role in the redbird bullpen.  But what is that role?

John Mozeliak signed the 9 year veteran to a 2-year, $11-million contract in the offseason in hopes to add a reliable arm to a bullpen that had some uncertainty.  Mozeliak then shocked Cardinal nation by saying that he saw the Cardinals going into the 2018 season with Gregerson as the teams closer. While Gregerson has been an effective reliever during his tenure he had not seen much time as a full time closer, his most time spent as a closer was in 2015 with the Astros where he recorded 31 of his 66 career saves. His signing was not the impact the fanbase was looking for in the offseason. As the season drew near Gregerson’s closer role still set, an unfortunate hamstring strain caused management to call an audible in their bullpen play.  Feeling as if the injury caused a need in the back end, the Cardinals brought in 2017 NL saves leader Greg Holland as well as gave opportunities to other relievers.

With the signing of Holland, the emergence of rookie Jordan Hicks and and the steadiness of early season “Closer” Bud Norris, Gregerson’s role doesn’t seem clear. Gregerson is going to have to take on a role that most wouldn’t be accustomed to in traditional baseball circles. He must be the guy Mike Matheny goes to against tough lefties in middle inning situations.  Injuries to 2017 free agent signee Brett Cecil and young lefty Ryan Sheriff have left the Cardinals with a uncertain options in their bullpen.  Tyler Lyons currently is the only left handed pitcher in the Cardinals bullpen and frankly he has not be effective in that role. Lefties are currently hitting over .300 against Lyons.  While the Cardinals wait for another left handed pitcher to step up they have to find a way to handle current left handed bats.  Gregerson has the ability to get those outs as well as not put Lyons in a situation to lose confidence or have him be the left handed version of Matt Bowman.

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Cardinals fans will want to see a power arm like Jordan Hicks take on powerful left handed hitters, but it will be important for Matheny to fight the urge to use the young fireballer in those situations.  While Hicks has the stuff to handle any hitter he currently is still learning his new role in the pen. Keep his confidence high while he develops into what could be a cornerstone piece in the Cardinals pitching staff for years to come.

During Gregerson’s most successful season as a closer in 2015  he held left handed hitters to a .233 BA, while slugging .325 and only allowing 1 home run.  Gregerson during that time was exposed to batters much more. Gregerson’s effectiveness against lefties will be depended on his slider movement. He has the ability to fool left handed batters with the movement he brings from an awkward angle. His 3 different sliders feature movement from all different angles.  Each one can be effective against left handed hitters.

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The Cardinals will be faced with another situation where they have to ease a player into a role. While he can be a featured player at the end of games, Gregerson right now has to fill a need for his ball club.  The clubs biggest hole is a left handed reliever, while technically he doesn’t fill that role, he does have the numbers against some of the premier left handed hitters that the Cardinals will be facing during the season.

Anthony Rizzo 0 for 4

Joey Votto 0 for 5

Corey Dickerson  1 for 4, no homeruns

Carlos Gonzalez 2 for 11

Brandon Belt 0 for 9

Charlie Blackmon 1 for 5

Jay Bruce 0 for 4

It will be hard for Mike Matheny to get away from the classic lefty vs. lefty matchup but with the lack of choices that he has it is time to try put a veteran in this role.  Gregerson showed that he still has the ability in high leverage situations during the World Baseball Classic closing for a team of All- Stars.  The 2017 MLB season may not have reflected that ability, but now he moves to a much more pitcher friendly National League park.  While Cardinals fans wait for their other left handed relievers to recover this role could be the most beneficial role that Luke Gregerson can play. Mozilak and Matheny may have seen him as a stable force at the end of games but baseball is about day by day adjustments. This is the right move for the team and for the success of the pitcher.

 

 

 

This Bud’s a Closer

Greg Holland made his debut for the Cardinals walking 4 over 1/3 of an inning eventually earning the loss.  The Cardinals signed Holland for the pressure situations during the season but to expect him to come in and make an impact right away is unfair to him and unfair to the fanbase.  The Cardinals have an answer for the closing role but Mike Matheny for some reason wants to fight it and force Greg Holland into the role.  That answer is former Cardinal killer Bud Norris.

Bud Norris converted to the bullpen full time last year while with the Los Angeles Angels. Norris began the season as the Angels closer and found some immediate success. Norris’s 2017 strikeouts per nine spiked dramatically, going from just under eight to well above ten strikeouts per nine innings, mostly due to his developing cutter. Before suffering the knee problems Norris was very comparable to Holland in nearly every statistic according to fangraphs.

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While Norris was finding his niche in the bullpen Greg Holland was also finding success as closer for the Colorado Rockies.  But similarly to Norris an injury caused second half trouble for Holland. While Holland finished the 2017 season tied with Kenley Janson for  the most saves in the National League there was still some issues with arm fatigue. Holland throughout the year was showing signs of velocity loss in his fast ball which scared off many potential suitors during the offseason.  Cardinals management signed Holland to a 1 year $14million contract because they felt they saw a need that would put them over the top in the NL Central, but they cannot force Holland into the role with a couple of Palm Beach appearances.  Holland needs time to get comfortable both on the mound and with his new team.  That does not mean that Cardinals have to lose.  Use Holland in situations that are stressful but do not set him up to fail until he is at full strength.

Bud Norris has been great over the first two weeks of the season getting a hold and a save in two of the four Cardinal wins.  He has shown the ability to handle high leverage situations early and has a veteran presence on the mound.  I understand that Greg Holland is the closer the fanbase wants and he will eventually be the guy they want, but he needs time to work on his mechanics.  He is not a fireball closer like Aroldis Chapman or Wade Davis.  Holland’s game is about movement and location similar to an aging Mariano Rivera.

The signing of Holland made sense on multiple levels for the Redbirds but again this has turned into a case of Mike Matheny making a bad decision with the bullpen.  Relievers live a life of ups and downs, confidence is a huge part of the game.  Putting Holland in a tough situation to start the year is the exact situation that needs to be avoided.  Ease him into the role early in the season.  I am not saying he should get special treatment but his ego had to take a pretty big shot taking this long to sign with a team.  Matheny and new pitching coach Mike Maddux have a tough task ahead of them trying to fit new bullpen pieces into the puzzle.  They have to let the new arms develop there role.

Bud Norris isn’t a flashy name he probably isn’t even the guy for the job in the long run, but right now with a bullpen of uncertainty he is the only one that has been certain. The Cardinals have a team ready to win right now and he gives them the best chance to finish off games.  Don’t look at this as a game with defined roles based off of projections.  Look at the guy that right now gives you the best chance to win.  His name is Devin “Bud” Norris and he should be the closer.

Wainwright or Flaherty? The Debate

Adam Wainwright has been the backbone of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation since he became a full time starter in 2007.  146 wins over his career has earned him the respect of players and fans alike, but as he steps on the mound Thursday for the Cardinals home opener the fan base has been split on whether this is the right decision.

Jack Flaherty has been a top prospect in the Cardinals system for the last few seasons.  Reaching as high as #38 on MLB.com’s prospect rankings.  The former first round pick carried his spring training momentum into the regular season striking out 9 over 5 innings against the vaunted Milwaukee Brewers lineup.  Flaherty had the misfortune of being the odd man out of the rotation with the return of Wainwright.  The question for Flaherty is, What happens next?

Flaherty will continue to make starts in Memphis.  While he has nothing more to prove in the minors sending Flaherty down was the only choice to the Cardinals.  Wainwright may one day be an option for the bullpen but as of now you have to see if he still has anything left in the tank. If he does have the ability to get outs it can be a huge asset to a playoff run with his veteran presence on the mound.  No one will debate that Flaherty was great in Milwaukee, but has not yet earned the confidence to say that he is the answer in the rotation.  2017’s 6+ ERA may be a thing of the past but it still lingers in the mind of Cardinals management.

The reason the move has caused such a backlash from Cardinals Nation is really due to Cardinals management giving mixed signals to its fanbase.  During the offseason John Mozeliak made it clear that the Cardinals were set with their young arms.  They planned to move forward with the young arms rather then spend money on a veteran like Jason Vargas or bringing back long time Cardinal Lance Lynn.  After making such a bold statement in the offseason they seem to contradict themselves by sending down the young arm before you are sure your veteran is ready to go.

The St. Louis fanbase lives for their Cardinals.  They are allowed to question the decisions by management.  But when you look at this situation, this was the only move that made sense.  Adam Wainwright is not going to the bullpen, Jack Flaherty makes no sense moving to the bullpen.  By sending Flaherty down now it also allows him to continue his regular rotation spot.  Flaherty has to stay positive – especially with the injury histories of Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright – the uncertainty of Luke Weaver and Miles Mikolas there will be a spot for the young hurler to make an impact in the 2018 season.

Jack Flaherty is going to be a good, possibly great starting pitcher on the major league level but he has to be patient and mature during this process.  Go talk to Carson Kelly about how to handle this situation.  Don’t ask Pham.