St. Louis Cardinals- New Year’s Resolutions

Marcel Ozuna- Get myself paid.

Contract years are always a great way to inspire a player to be his best.  He is not only playing for his team but he is playing for himself and his future. Ozuna wasn’t the player the Cardinals traded for in the winter of 2018. He wasn’t the power hitting impact bat that would make the Cardinals lineup a force to be reckoned with.

Ozuna spent most of the season injured, putting together a respectable season but not one that is going to get him the contract he will be looking for. Fans won’t be excited to see a player that will clearly be inspired by the all mighty dollar, but that will be the story for Ozuna in 2019.  I expect Marcel to return to MVP level performance, 35 homers will be a guarantee.

Paul DeJong- Play 150 games

Paul DeJong will enter the 2019 season as one of the most intriguing candidates for a breakout season. At just 25 years old, DeJong is still developing a major league shortstop.  A broken hand on a wild pitch as well as a few different prolonged slumps caused his stats to take a bit of a dive.  Still finishing with an impressive 3.8 WAR DeJong will now have the luxury of a stronger lineup around him. 

DeJong does not have any logical replacements on the bench outside of the versatile Yairo Munoz, who would be a preferred utility player.  DeJong will not only need to continue his progression as a player but he must also find his way into the lineup on a daily basis.  The more he plays the better the Cardinals will be.

Carlos Martinez- Become the Ace I think I am

The time for development is done for Carlos Martinez.  As he enters 2019 he will be looking to take over the role of rotation leader. Adam Wainwright has signed on for another season but it is time for Carlos to be the best pitcher in the rotation or if needed in the bullpen. 

Martinez is entering his 7th season for the Cardinals, he is still just 27 years old!  The attitude he brings out to the mound is one of dominance.  He believes that he is the best player on the field and now it is time for him to prove it. Two straight season Carlos has been the opening day starter for the Cardinals, it would be safe to assume that he and Miles Mikolas will be dueling for that honor in spring training. 

Martinez’s mediocore season accompanied with him now history of injuries has put him in a place where he has to prove himself.  That will be his goal in 2019, he will prove he is an ace.

Harrison Bader- Win the Gold Glove

Asking a second-year player to go out and win a prestigious award is not like asking your coworker to make sure they up their sales.  Bader showed the ability to take over games defensively.  He will now have the chance to play every day and showed the world that he is that good.

Bader finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year Ballot in 2018 and should have won a Gold Glove. In 2019 Bader will take his next step forcing the baseball world to take notice and give him the award. 

Jordan Hicks- Establish my slider

Since his first pitch in the majors Jordan Hicks has been a force in the league.  Hick’s first pitched was 100.8 MPH sinker that immediately grabbed the attention of players, media and fans.  While Hicks was showing he could throw the hardest fastballs in the league, he was still not getting the strikeout numbers that a player of his caliber should be.

Averaging just an 8.1 so/9 in 2018. Hicks has a rocket for an arm, but has still now established a secondary pitch that is effective enough to make him an elite level reliever. In April, 175 pitchers threw at least 50 sliders, and only four got fewer swings than Hicks’ 28.6 percent. It was worse outside the zone, which is where you really want sliders to induce swings and misses. Only two pitchers got fewer chases then Hicks did.

 Then all of a sudden in June, Hicks began to establish his slider. Hicks was able to go from a 30% swing and miss rate to a 60% swing and miss rate, doubling his strikeouts from the month before in three less innings.  When Hicks has a slider working he is a pitching that can be a potential closer.  Start the season dominating with a slider.

Mike Schildt- Don’t be Mike Matheny

This one is easy.  Don’t be Mike Matheny.  Trust your young players and make changes when you need to. Don’t be like Matheny.

Cardinals struck Gold! Whats next?

An impact bat, someone that can strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers, a player to build your lineup around.  These were the comments most associated with the St. Louis Cardinals heading into the offseason. A team that has the ancillary pieces to win but lacked the true star that can change an organization. Enter Paul Goldschmidt, the silent assassin that has been hidden in the desert. St. Louis was able to make a deal for the perrennial MVP for a catcher that was not going to play for two years, a pitcher that was 9th on the depth chart and player that feels like the last resort throw in Brad Pitt and Jonah hill were looking for in Moneyball.  Now that the power bat has been added its time to move on to the next step.  Cardinals fans don’t want Mo and Girsch to settle.  Let’s look at some different scenarios that could happen. 

Dream Scenario-Sign Bryce Harper, Craig Kimbrel and find a suitor for Dexter Fowler.  

The Cardinals still have a need for a left-handed swinging outfielder that they can rely on for the upcoming season. Currently the projected bench consists of Yairo Munoz, Jedd Gyroko, Jose Martinez, Dexter Fowler/Tyler O’neil and whomever the backup catcher will be.  That is a litany of right handed bats to go along with the switching hitting Fowler.  The need for a left-handed swinging outfielder is obvious.  Enter Bryce Harper, the most decorated of potential free agent signings could fit right into a lineup in need of left-handed depth.  The endless ways that this lineup could be constructed with bats like Goldy, Carp, Harper and Ozuna would be a murderers row of potential OPS. dominance.

Lets be realistic in the idea that after the season someone will have to walk.  Try and lock up Harper for 10year/$350,000 deal with a player option after four years.  You then proceed to let Marcell Ozuna walk after the 2019 season and take more of your finances to lock up Goldschmidt for 3-4 years at about $25 million a year.  While that is a lot of money attributed to two players, you have to take into account that Yadier Molina’s $20 million a year will be coming off the books in 2020. 

Next you get Craig Kimbrel, the model of consistency over the last decade to be your close, eat the money for Dexter Fowler and hopefully find a suitor willing to take him on just to cut him loose. All of a sudden you have filled every hole your team has with the premium player that those positions. 

Nightmare Scenario- Cards do nothing to build on their momentum.

This is a simple answer, if the Cardinals front office decides that the bullpen is complete, the struggles to finish off games will continue.  The great offense that Goldschmidt will provide could be negated because Jordan Hicks has been overused for the week.  While bringing in an accomplished closer is not a walk in the park, the Cardinals may still be burned by their most recent moves in free agency to bolster their bullpen. Memories of the Brett Cecil and Greg Holland contract are still haunting Mozeliak, so Andrew Miller and Craig Kimbrel may be to much for him. 

If Dexter Fowler is still in the plans for the Cardinals they are banking on a player that had a historically bad season entering his age 33 season. 

Realistic Scenario- Extend Mikolas, add reliever and lefty bench player.

Miles Mikolas doesn’t bring the flash of a high-level starter.  He doesn’t have the Carlos Martinez stuff or the youth of Jack Flaherty.  What he brings is a vital ability to todays game that has gotten lost in the emergence of the bullpen era.  Mikolas is an innings eater that relies on pitching to contact and being efficient.  He will lead the team in innings pitched next year (barring injury) and will save innings for your core bullpen arms. Lock him up and throw away the key.  

Signing Tony Sipp should be the next move that completes the bullpen.  Allow your relievers to work out who the closer will be going into next season and solidify the left side. Sipp not only held lefties to a .191BA last season but also held a 0.90ERA in Minute Maid Park!  With Anthony Rizzo and Christian Yelich being the premiere players on your opposition Sipp would be the perfect addition to a staff that is unproven to say the least from the left side. 

Bryce Harper makes a lot of sense, but the addition of Goldschmidt will be the move that Mozeliak will justify over spending more for Harper.  Adding Micheal Brantley would be ideal after the pickup of Goldy, but to live more realistic I could see a reclamation project like Matt Joyce or a proven bench player like Gerardo Parra.  While these are sexy options they could fit the need of a lefty handed bat in the outfield.  Sadly though I see a platoon of Fowler/O’Neil coming into the season.  

Finally, they need to trade Jose Martinez to an American League club.  He brings limited power and basically zero defense from your bench.  He was great in 2018 but there is no where for him to go from here.  

Thanks and let me hear your opinions.

Lee Smith- True Hall of Famer

Lee Smith established himself as one of MLB’s most dominating closers over his 18-year, 8-team career. Smith converted an astonishing 478 saves (3rd all time), had 7 All-Star game appearances, and was the all time saves leader in major league baseball history until dethroned by Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman in 2006.  Smith will not make it to the Hall of Fame but his legacy should not be tarnished for that fact.  Despite the opinions of the voters Smith was worthy of the honor. Smith is the perfect indication of a flawed system when rating what a relievers true impact can be.  

A native of Jamestown, La., Smith was discovered by Negro Leagues legend Buck O’Neil, who spent decades as a scout for the Cubs. While dealing with control issues early on in his career Smith was converted into a reliever by the Cubbies and found immediate success. Making his debut in 1980 Smith had fixed his control issues and become a cornerstone in the bullpen.  When Closer Bruce Sutter was traded to the Cardinals in December of 1980 Smith assumed the role of closer after the strike shortened season of 1981. Now in the closers role Smith showed that he had what it took to be a dominant reliever earning his first All- Star appearance in 83′, leading the national league with 29 saves and pitching to a 1.65 ERA in 103 1/3 innings—the type of performance that would unfortunately become nearly obsolete by the end of the decade with the Eckersley-driven move to the one-inning closer (A point that will come up later). Smith continued his model of consistency placing top five in the national league in saves as well as ERA over the next four seasons. A trade to the Boston Red Sox in 1987 was a blip his career, most notably taking the loss in Game 2 of the ALCS  against the Athletics.  It was a trade to the St. Louis Cardinals at the beginning of the 1990 season that put his career back on track. 

The Cardinals gave Smith a stellar opportunity to close, allowing him to cement himself in closer allure.  Raking up saves like dirt on Craig Biggio’s helmet, Smith put together three of the most impressive seasons any reliever has ever put on, breaking Bruce Sutter’s NL saves record with 47 in 1991, followed by three straight 40+ save seasons.  Smith was so great during the 91′ season he finished second in the NL Cy Young voting behind Tom Glavine.  Smith took over the career saves record in 1993 passing then leader Jeff Reardon. Smith spent the rest of his career as a bit of a journey men, moving around from team to team.  His effectiveness didn’t end though as he collected 33 saves with Baltimore in 1994 and 37 saves with California in 1995.  Smith spent his final years in a setup role before calling it quits in 1997, retiring as the all time saves leader in professional baseball, but at the time only two career relievers, Hoyt Whilhelm ’85 and Rollie Fingers ’92 had gotten the call of immortality into the baseball Hall of Fame.  Smith had a tough hill to climb.

There were multiple reasons why he should have been a Hall of Famer:

 1.)Third All-Time in MLB saves behind Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. 

2.)7-time All Star

3.)Smith’s 169 long saves (four outs or more) ranks fourth behind Rollie Fingers (201), Goose Gossage (193) and Bruce Sutter (188), all of whom began their major league careers several years earlier. Smith’s 1,022 total appearances ranked ranked third when he retired, behind only Wilhelm and Kent Tekluve, but he is now tied for 12th.

4.)First pitcher in history to 400 career saves.

5.) Four straight 40 save seasons

The biggest reason why Smith should be in the Hall of Fame cannot be broken down by sabermetrics. Smith was the model of consistency at a position that at the time was not a one inning relief role.  For ten years Smith was the standard of what to look for in a relief pitcher.  While the late 90’s and early 2000’s Rivera and Hoffman became the highest ceiling of a reliever, they were both looking up to the standards that were set by Lee Smith.  He consistency and bulldog approach were the things that made him great sadly those are not the standards we vote by anymore.  Smith never lead a team to the World Series, he was constantly on the move during his career.  He was not a dominant WAR player, he was just the best of his time for 5+ years.  It’s a shame he is not in the Hall of Fame.