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St. Louis Cardinals: A Potential 25 Man Shit Show

With the St. Louis Cardinals 2017 season in the rear view mirror, mercifully, there has already been a ton of speculation about what the Cardinals’ front office should do to bolster their roster for a playoff run in 2018. According to Derrick Goold’s piece in this Sunday’s St. Louis Post Dispatch, Cardinals GM Michael Girsch had listed “a shutdown closer, a starting pitcher, and a middle-order hitter” as objects on his list of needs in the offseason.

I’m here to tell you and Michael Girsch that addressing those 3 needs won’t be nearly enough. The Cardinals have a potential shit show of a 25 man roster on their hands entering 2018. Those three acquisitions will certainly help, but it won’t get it done.

I went back and forth with using the word “shit” in this article and as the headline. I thought about switching it to “train wreck” or “disaster”, but none of those term come close to explaining my own level of frustration with the 2017 club and what the Cardinals have under contract for 2018. I’ve always been a supporter/defender of John Mozeliak and the front office, and using this harsh word is the best that I can do to explain my frustration with them right now. I apologize to anyone who might be offended. Be equally offended by this roster’s talent level.

Just take a look at what the Cardinals current, under contract, 40 man roster looks like right now, if it were to be totally healthy entering 2018:

Starting Pitchers Relievers Position Players
C. Martinez M.Bowman Y. Molina
M. Wacha J. Brebbia C. Kelly
A. Wainwright B. Cecil A. Rosario
L. Weaver T. Lyons M. Carpenter
J. Flaherty R. Sherriff L. Voit
J. Gant S. Tuivailala K. Wong
Al. Reyes J. Lucas B. Valera
S. Alcantara A. Mejia
M. Mayers P. DeJong
R. Wick E. Sosa
J. Gyorko
G. Garcia
A. Diaz
T. Pham
D. Fowler
S. Piscotty
R. Grichuk
J. Martinez
H. Bader
M. Sierra

There are 37 names on that 40 man. Now, I’m not going to get into which names should be removed from this list or which names from the minor leagues should be added, whether it be because of skill or protection from the Rule 5 draft. That’s not what this exercise is.

Next, let’s take a look at what that 40 Man roster would yield when projected down to an opening day 25 Man roster. For this lesson, I’m going to pick the best options for the bullpen and rotation in my opinion, then the position players from what I believe Mr. Matheny would do. I’m also going to hold Alex Reyes out because I have no idea when exactly he’ll be ready and I have no idea what the Cardinals plan is for him during the 2018 season. It’s a cut-corner, but necessary. The 25 man:

Starting Pitchers Relievers Position Players
C. Martinez M.Bowman Y. Molina
M. Wacha J. Brebbia C. Kelly
A. Wainwright B. Cecil M. Carpenter
L. Weaver T. Lyons K. Wong
J. Flaherty R. Sherriff P. DeJong
S. Tuivailala J. Gyorko
J. Lucas T. Pham
S. Alcantara D. Fowler
S. Piscotty
C. Kelly
R. Grichuk
J. Martinez
G. Garcia

 

First, you’ll notice that, yes, once again, we are back to a four man bench and a 13-armed staff. I don’t think that there is any reason to think that’ll end any time soon. Now, there’s a lot going on here, so let’s break this down by groupings:

 

Upgrades In The Rotation: 1 For Sure, 2 If We’re Being Honest

As prospect Over-Lord here at The Redbird Daily, it’s well documented how much I love Jack Flaherty. I’d ask him to marry me if we were both into that sort of thing. However, if you want to make a playoff run your best bet will be to have Flaherty as a midseason option during the 2018 season if a pitcher goes down to injury or needs a break.

The second spot in need of an upgrade is Adam Wainwright‘s spot. What a great career he’s had. MAYBE the elbow procedure he just had fixes him. MAYBE he finds some of that magic that’s made him a sure-fire Cardinals Hall of Famer. MAYBE he’s just good enough to be a solid fifth starter. I started to type out the stats as to why you need to upgrade Waino, but they are too depressing for this Cardinals fan. Follow the link to his player page if you want to break your own heart. I’m not going to do it to you.

But that’s just one too many “maybe’s” for me. Maybe we get lucky and Waino is tanking at the same time that Alex Reyes is ready to join the rotation, but I for one am tired of hoping for things to work out. If you want to contend for the division in 2018 you have to take charge of your situation, not wait for it to play out. Waino needs to be upgraded.

 

Upgrades in the Bullpen: 3 For Sure, 4 If We’re Being Honest

Right now, the last three names that would be pitching out of the bullpen entering the 2018 season would be Sam Tuivailala, Josh Lucas, and Sandy Alcantara. That’s terrifying.

There is a ton of upside to Sandy Alcantara in the bullpen, but nothing about his performance after being called up when the rosters expanded in September indicates that he’s ready for the rigors of the Major Leagues. I certainly don’t think that his 6.48 ERA, 1.800 WHIP, 6 walks, and 2 HR allowed in 8.1 innings is major league ready. Hell, nothing about his 4.60 ERA, 54 BB, and 13 HR allowed in 125.1 Double-A innings during the 2017 season indicates that he’s ready for that challenge. Send him to Memphis. Keep him in the rotation at the onset. Go to him when Bowman explodes after what will be two-plus years of abuse in late May.

Getting back to Tui and Lucas, sure, they might be OK pieces but, again, we’ve played that game enough over the last couple of years. The bullpen needs to be fortified with arms that Mr. Matheny will use, and he’ll never use Tui or Lucas in any type of high leverage situation. In today’s MLB, every reliever needs to be able to be used in high leverage. Unfortunately, that’ll never be Tuivailala. He had a great 2017 season in the majors that saw him rack up an ERA of 2.55 and 34 K’s in 42.1 IP, but he never succeeded when put into high-leverage situations. Sure, he might be fine as the last option out of the pen, but why even take that chance if you have the money to spend?

If you really want to make the bullpen a sure thing(moving it from a weakness, to a question mark, to a sure thing) you start by adding three arms.

The fourth pen arm, to me, is preparing for the inevitable collapse of Bowman and the leveling-out of John Brebbia. Our very own Adam Butler wrote about the deception of Brebbia’s numbers at the onset of his ML career. Follow Adam on Twitter for more updates on why Brebbia’s leveling-out is inevitable. Maybe that spot goes to Waino eventually. Like I said, if I’m the Cardinals front office I’m not waiting for dominoes to fall, I’m setting up the pattern.

Re-signing Juan Nicasio would be a great step in the right direction, but only a step. I’m not even sure that you can say that about the other relief option they’ve been rumored to be interested in, Japanese Closer Yoshihisa Hirano. Lucas, Tui(out of options), and Sandy are the kind of arms that you want to have in reserve, not at the forefront.

And all of this is without bringing up Tyler Lyons health issues or what might become of Ryan Sherriff.

 

Position Player Upgrades: 3, and 3 If We’re Being Honest

I’m going to start with the most obvious upgrade point: a utility MI in place of Greg Garcia. Yes, Garcia gets on base fine, but as a utility player he offers very little else. I always categorize Garcia as “fine”. He walks great, but everything else he does “fine”.

This team has been “fine” for long enough.

He can’t play SS to the level that you’d need him to on an extended time line and he doesn’t hit the ball well enough to be a valuable bat off of the bench. He did hit .253 with an OBP of .365 and both of those numbers are solid off of the bench, but his OPS of .697 is so “blah” that you couldn’t even categorize it as “fine”. Sure, it’d be a small, almost insignificant upgrade, but it’s an upgrade that absolutely needs to be made.

I also wanted to bring this up because this is the one spot that the Cardinals might actually have a chance to fill without going outside of the organization. The upgrade for Garcia could very well be Aledmys Diaz. As a matter of fact, it should probably be Diaz. There’s still a lot of growth need for Diaz, but I do really like him as a bat-off-of-the-bench option, that won’t take care of the SS defense, though (We’ll get to that in a bit).

The second most obvious upgrade point is right field(it’s more of  a third OF because of outfield alignment being in flux in my mind, but I doubt that’s how the organization views it). The Piscotty/Grichuk experiment is hopefully/should be at an end. I guess there’s a chance that Harrison Bader could be a fixture in right, but I want something proven that’s going to absolutely help this team and remove some of the questions and I don’t think anything that Bader did while slashing 235/283/376/659 indicated that he’s an improvement over the other options on the 40 man at this stage. That starting spot needs to be upgraded.

The third upgrade should come at third base. At this point, we all know that Jedd Gyorko is a great utility player. Imagine if your bench has Gyroko, Jose Martinez, and Grichuk or(not and) Piscotty as options off of the bench. That’s as good of a bench as you’re going to find. The best part about upgrading Gyorko, other than having an upgrade over Gyorko, is that you solidify the utility infield position that Greg Garcia and Aledmys Diaz just aren’t quite good enough for on a championship caliber club.

That being said, the Cardinals do not have a viable defensive option at SS that is major league ready. Mejia is solid there, but that bat won’t play. Edmundo Sosa and Tommy Edman aren’t ready for the show. Garcia, Diaz, and Gyorko don’t have the skill set to play there regularly if Paul DeJong goes down. Personally, I’d go with a 12 man pitching staff, and use the extra spot to add a bench SS like Alcides Escobar, but that’s a conversation for a different day.

 

Total Upgrades For Sure: 7. Total Upgrades If We Are Being Honest: 9

I know, that’s a lot. It’s a tough ask, as well. But, if we are being honest, these 7 to 9 upgrades will be the difference in 7-10 wins and that’s the difference between falling short of the wild card and winning a competitive division on the rise. If you want to clean up the shit show completely, it starts with 7 upgrades. It’s time to start looking at this roster realistically and not through the lenses of hope.

With 3,447,937 people coming in the gates in 2017 and a decreased payroll, isn’t it time to stop messing around with questions marks?

Share your thoughts. I’d love to hear them. How many upgrades do you think the Cardinals’ need?

Thanks For Reading!

Kyle Reis

@kyler416

Kyle Reis
Kyle is a South City St Louis born and raised. He is 30 years old and grew up at old Busch Stadium. His favorite Cardinals player of all time is Ray Lankford. Kyle is an overly simple person who loves countable baseball statistics, following minor league baseball, and friendly discourse. He tends to not take people seriously that refer for the team that they root for as "we" instead of "them".
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