After leading the NL in runs scored last year, the Cardinals offense has gone south this year, currently sitting in a 13th place tie with the Cubs for fewest runs scored. While their excellent starting pitching has buoyed them so far this year, recent injuries to their pitchers have put more pressure on the offense to perform.
What are the Cardinals options for boosting their sagging offense? Here are some thoughts.
The first and foremost option was to promote Oscar Taveras and play him, which the Cardinals did yesterday. The only question now is where will he play?
Mike Matheny started him in right field yesterday, with Allen Craig moving to left and Matt Holliday spending a day on the bench and its likely that Matheny will work out some sort of 3-man platoon with Taveras, Craig and Holliday. I don't see the Cardinals working Matt Adams into that platoon, as he's been one of the team's most consistent hitters this season.
Taveras could also play center field, giving the Cardinals a bit more punch than the current duo of Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos, however that would come at the expense of the team's defense.
Acquire a Second or Third Baseman
The Cardinals second base duo of Kolten Wong and Mark Ellis have been pathetic offensively so far this season. As a team, the Cardinals' second basemen are hitting a combined .201, third worst in the NL, with a .534 OPS, second worst in the NL.
Rumors are already swirling that the Cardinals are looking for a second or third baseman (allowing Matt Carpenter to move back to second). I went into detail as to the Cards options in Monday's post, so I won't dwell on this too much. But let's just say that it doesn't appear that Wong is ready for prime time.
Give the bench a boost
On those days when Jon Jay starts, the Cardinals bench is downright laughable, with the likes of Peter Bourjos (.204/.270/.309), Daniel Descalso (.182/.232/.234), Mark Ellis (.194/.276/.239) and Tony Cruz (.229/.315/.271) waiting in the wings. None of those guys are going to strike fear in the heart of pitchers if they came up to pinch hit.
The addition of Taveras to the active roster helps in that it forces either Allen Craig or Matt Holliday to the bench, giving the team at least one potent bat to use in key situations. However, the bench could use more help.
The Cards have tried out Randal Grichuk and Joey Butler off the bench to no avail, so perhaps its time to dig a little deeper into the farm system for some help.
Stephen Piscotty is currently hitting .307/.368/.437 at AAA Memphis and doesn't seem to have anything left to prove there. However, he is primarily a corner outfielder and, with Taveras already up, the only one he could replace would be Bourjos, leaving the team with only Taveras as the backup center fielder.
Another option might be James Ramsey, who is hitting .307/.389/.550 at AA Springfield, including 12 homers, but the Cardinals would likely prefer to keep him in the minors to continue his development.
Aledmys Diaz is healthy and hitting .291/.311/.453 at Springfield and might be an upgrade over Descalso. However, he is hitting only .262/.295/.333 in June and may need some more time to get his stroke back.
Around this time last year, Giancarlo Stanton was the subject of many trade rumors and this year Matt Kemp's name has come up. While their respective teams are still in contention, I tend to believe their GM's will not trade them, but you never know. The Cards have the kind of team depth to pull off such a move, if they so desired.
However, acquiring a guy like Stanton would likely require the Cards to give up a ton of prospects, starting with Oscar Taveras and adding a couple young pitchers to boot (Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales perhaps). In short, you would basically have to gut your farm system to land a stud hitter like him and, while adding a guy like Stanton would certainly give the Cardinals offense a boost, I just don't see John Mozeliak making such a move.
Overall, the best bets for the Cardinals to improve their offense would be to find ample playing time for Taveras and hope he hits, then go out and acquire a second or third baseman. Doing so would also improve the bench by default, by pushing Wong and either Holliday or Craig to the bench and lead to a better overall offensive team.