Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Cardinals acquire Drew Robinson. Needle doesn't move.

One of the items on the Cardinals to do list for the Winter Meetings was to acquire a left handed hitting bench bat, preferably one with pop. 

Today the Cardinals acquired Drew Robinson from the Rangers for Patrick Wisdom.

Here's hoping he's not what the Cardinals had in mind.

Yes, he's a left handed hitting utility player with some pop.  However, to this point he has not shown he can hit major league pitching.  In 216 major league at bats in 2017 and 2018, he has struck out 99 times or nearly 46% of the time.

He was not much better during his minor league career, striking out 924 times in 2,911 at bats or 32% of the time. 

Perhaps the Cardinals just want to provide Tyler O'Neil (57 K's in 130 AB's) with some competition for the highest strikeout rate for 2019 or maybe the asking price for guys like Daniel Descalso was too much?

Whatever the case, I'm not enamored with the move.

Hopefully, Robinson will prove me wrong.


Monday, December 10, 2018

Winter Meetings: What is on the Cardinals to do list?

With the acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks last week, the Cardinals already checked one item off their to do list for this off season. Although another big bat, like Bryce Harper, would be nice, it doesn't appear to be in the Cards.

So, what is left on the Cardinals to do list for this off season?  Let's take a look:

1.  Strengthen the bullpen, particularly from the left side

The Cards still have two years and $15 million left on the regrettable Brett Cecil contract and while they don't want to make the same mistake again, they still need to strengthen the left side of their bullpen if they want to contend next year.

Derrick Goold indicates that the Cardinals are in on lefties Zach Britton and Andrew Miller.  Both have closing experience, which could allow the Cards to give Jordan Hicks more time to develop before thrusting him into that role.  

However, both Britton (Achilles) and Miller (shoulder) dealt with injuries last year and will not come cheap.  They are in high demand and will likely cost in excess of $30 million over 3 years.  While the Cards have the financial flexibility to make such a deal, its hard to see them go all in on either Britton or Miller after getting burned by Cecil.

If neither of them work out for the Cardinals, they could pivot to the next tier of lefties, such as Justin Wilson, Oliver Perez and/or Tony Sipp.

2.  Add a left handed bench bat, preferably one with some pop

The Cards entered this off season looking for a big bat, preferably one who hits left handed. 

However, they ended up with Goldschmidt.  

While that is all well and good, the Cardinals could still use some pop from the left side to keep opposing teams honest.

According to Goold, they have had talks with Daniel Descalso's agent about a possible reunion and Derek Dietrich is another possibility.  

Beyond that, there's not many appealing options on the free agent market, so the team might have to look inwards and hope they can make do with someone like the switch hitting Tommy Edman or lefty Max Schrock, although neither offers much pop. 

3.  Sort out the outfield logjam

According to Brendan Schaeffer, the Cardinals are going to give Dexter Fowler every opportunity to assume the everyday right field role in 2019.  While that is the PC thing to say, its hard to see him bouncing back from a .180/.278/.298 season that was cut short by a foot injury.

The Cards have Tyler O'Neil waiting in the wings, but he strikes out a ton (57 times in 130 at bats) and may not hit much better.

That leaves Jose Martinez.  He was the second best hitter on the team, in terms of OPS (behind only Matt Carpenter) and while his defense is much maligned, his DRS of -6 is only slightly worse than Fowler's -5 and his UZR of -1 is actually better than Fowler's -5.2 mark.

Long story short, I wouldn't give up on Martinez just yet.  While they are unlikely to be able to trade away Fowler and his hefty contract, especially given his down year, they could be willing to relegate him to a 4th outfielder/defensive replacement role.

In any case, it should be an interesting week.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

After blockbuster trade for Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals fans still want more.

As you may have heard, the St. Louis Cardinals pulled off a big trade yesterday, acquiring Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks for a few spare parts. 

That's not to belittle Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly or Andy Young (or the compensation draft pick) that the Cardinals gave up for Goldschmidt.  They could very well end up becoming All-Stars for Arizona for years to come.  

However, it was pretty obvious that the Cardinals did not see any of these players as an integral part of their 2019 or future plans:  Weaver struggled last year and was demoted to the pen, Kelly may have been surpassed by Andrew Knizer as the Cardinals catcher of the future, and no one had probably heard of Young prior to this trade.

While that was an excellent get by the Cards and one that should help the team's offense and defense for 2019, what concerned most Cardinals fans was the news that came out shortly after.

According to Jennifer Langosch, despite "substantial financial flexibility", the Cards will not pursue Bryce Harper and will instead turn their attention to other needs.

Wait...what?

Yes, you heard that correctly.  The Cardinals have the wherewithal to pursue another difference maker in Harper, but are already pulling themselves out of the race.

Granted, this could just be a smoke screen by the Cards.  A means of trying to lower Harper's asking price.  But, if it is not, it makes one wonder just how committed to winning the Cardinals really are.

The addition of Goldschmidt certainly improves the Cardinals chances for 2019.  But both he and Marcell Ozuna are due to become free agents after next season.  The Cards are certainly hoping to sign one or both of them to an extension, but that is not a given.

The Cardinals, due to their draft position in the mid to late first round each year, are unlikely to acquire a big hitter in the draft.  Thus, their best bet is to either acquire such a bat via trade (like Ozuna and Goldy) or free agency.

Signing a player like Harper would guarantee that the Cardinals have a middle of the order bat locked up for years to come.  Plus it would send a message to the rest of the NL Central that the Cardinals are serious about contending in 2019, not just for the division title but for the World Series.

Signing Harper would give the Cards a formidable lineup for 2019, as well as better lefty/righty balance in the heart of the order.  It would be the kind of bold move that the Cardinals management rarely makes, but one that they should make.

The Cardinals already have Nelly recruiting Harper for them and the addition of Goldschmidt should make the Cards more appealing to Bryce.  It just comes down to whether the Cardinals are willing to pony up what it would take to get him.

Past history and my gut tells me that will not happen.  But one can certainly hope.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Could the Cardinals offense be improved in 2016?

The St. Louis Cardinals offense suffered a big loss when Jason Heyward took less money to sign with the rival Cubs.  Given that the Cards finished 11th in the NL in runs scored, Heyward and his 3.8 oWAR (offensive Wins Against Replacement) will be missed.

With the inability to resign Heyward and the apparent unwillingness to sign another big bat, most fans have given up hope for the Cardinals offense.

But fear not fans, despite the loss of Heyward, its still possible that the team's offense can improve.

Here's how....

Stay Healthy

The Cardinals lost two very important offensive pieces in Matt Holliday and Matt Adams for significant portions of the 2015 season.  Holliday only played in 73 games, while Adams only played in 60.

Prior to 2015, Holliday average a 3.3 oWAR from 2012-2014, while Adams posted a 1.5 and 1.4 oWAR in his first two seasons in the majors.

If the Cardinals can get 130 to 140 games from both of those two guys, it will go a long way to replacing Heyward's production.

More Piscotty

The main benefactor from the Heyward departure appears to be Cards youngster Stephen Piscotty.

Piscotty burst onto the scene in 2015, hitting .305/.359/.494, good for a 1.4 oWAR in just 63 games.  He should get the majority of the playing time in right field and could double that oWAR in 2016.

While his defense will not make anyone forget Heyward, his offense should not be much of a drop off.

Better Bench

One thing John Mozeliak did do this offseason was improve the team's bench.

Gone are the light hitting Pete Kozma (-0.7 oWAR), Jon Jay (-0.6 oWAR), Tony Cruz (-0.5 oWAR), Peter Bourjos (-0.3 oWAR) and Mark Reynolds (-0.3 oWAR).

Replacing them are Jed Gyorko (1.2 oWAR), Brayan Pena (0.6 oWAR), a full season of Tommy Pham (1.1 oWAR in 52 games) and late 2015 acquisition Brandon Moss (0.1 oWAR in 51 games).

Overall the Cardinals offense can improve, but there are some questions.  Can Holliday stay healthy for a full season?  Will Piscotty continue to produce or will he suffer a sophomore slump?  Can the bench be relied on to give the starters (especially aging veterans Yadier Molina and Holliday) some rest?

The answers to those questions will determine the fate of the Cardinals offense.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Where has all of the Cardinals pitching depth gone?

There was a time, not so long ago, that the Cardinals were the envy of General Managers everywhere for their pitching depth.  You think your team has good pitching depth?  We had 3 guys who can throw 95+ mph (Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal) vying for our 5th starter spot in 2013.

Now, with the expectation that Adam Wainwright will miss the rest of the season with an Achilles tendon injury, per Ken Rosenthal, the Cardinals pitching depth, or lack thereof, is going to come into question.

Gone are Joe Kelly (traded to Boston last year for John Lackey) and Shelby Miller (traded for Jason Heyward).  Rosenthal is the Cardinals closer and the pipeline of power arms seems to have dried up.

Now the Cards pitching depth consists of a bunch of lefty control specialists (Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons), while the team's remaining minor league power arms are either being groomed for relief (Sam Tuivailala) or are too far away from the majors to offer much help this year (Alex Reyes).

What is even more concerning is that, while he should have been groomed as a starter and allowed to build up his innings each year, Carlos Martinez spent the last two years in the Cardinals bullpen and, as a result, he will likely face an innings limit this year (speculated to be around 150 innings). 

Another concern is that Michael Wacha will likely be on a similar innings limit as well, after a stress fracture sidelined him for a few months last year. 

Assuming that Wainwright is out for the year and Martinez and Wacha reach their innings limits in mid-to-late August, who is going to step in to fill those voids?  Who will be in the Cardinals rotation in the playoffs?  Will they even make the playoffs?

These are legitimate concerns for a team that use to pride itself on its pitching depth.  What use to be a strength now appears to be a weakness and the team could suffer as a result.