Much has already been written about the shorter than expected October for the Cardinals, so that part of the story can be filed away with the other misses of recent memory. On the night when the NLCS continues on without St. Louis, one other team in recent memory also ended its season too soon but led to greater things.
It is hard to believe that Matt Holliday has been with the organization since 2009, but his stellar stretch carried the flawed squad to the first of many showdowns with the Dodgers in the playoffs. It was a disastrous series that ended before anyone knew what happened but certainly set the stage for the current run of success by the Birds on the Bat. Surprisingly, that may also be the other year that stands out for two reasons. The offense led those Cards to the NL Central crown but outside of a pair of aces and an All-Star closer, a complete 25-man roster was hard to construct.
The loss of Troy Glaus for all but September plus the end of Chris Duncan‘s time under the Arch were just a couple of the noteworthy issues, not to mention mid-season acquisition Mark DeRosa was never truly healthy enough to fill the gaps. Sound familiar? When you also factor in a starting rotation that featured Joel Pineiro and Todd Wellemeyer as well as a shell of what Kyle Lohse did the year before, you start to wonder how St. Louis managed to win 91 games.
As rough as the ending was that year, it mirrors the feelings many have heading into another long, uncertain Winter. The front office was able to secure the services of Holliday following his impressive audition, and that certainly will be job number one for John Mozeliak in regards to Jason Heyward with plenty of resources at his disposal. My focus, however, happens to fall on the other 23 members of the roster who are not slated to occupy one of the corner outfield spots.
Typically the competition of sorts involves a rotation spot or possibly the long man out of the bullpen. Rarely do you find the Cardinals hurting for options on the mound, but that will be the biggest question mark right out of the offseason gate. Will the front office dive into the deep water and snag an front line starter? What a about a trade from the outfield depth to get a proven arm to clear up the questions?
One thing we now know for sure has been said by Mo himself and involves how the squad will be built moving forward. If you look at the remaining teams in the playoffs, each made key moves during the season as well as before it to strengthen the base. It is now up to St. Louis to replicate that philosophy and come out swinging in free agency. That doesn’t involve overpaying just to make a splash, but it wouldn’t hurt to show the rest of the Central that 2016 belongs to the Redbirds.
After getting the opportunity to watch some of the postseason, there are two similar veterans making many more friends in the game by making plays no matter the situation. They also will be free agents and just the type of player needed to add firepower from multiple positions. Daniel Murphy gets extra points for sharing a birthday with me (poor guy) and for being the type of glue guy who just wants to play. He would be a very nice complementary piece who has stepped up on the biggest stage and will get a nice deal out of his October.
The other guy on my radar will not come as a surprise, since I have been hoping to see Ben Zobrist wearing a St. Louis uniform going on at least five years now. He is the perfect weapon in my opinion, and the Royals have thrived since adding him mid-season. Kansas City was still in first place but much like the other Missouri team, there were question marks about the lineup as well as one spot in the field. Zobrist was brought in out of necessity when KC lost an All-Star, and he has since locked down second base for defending AL champs.
The Cardinals may not have very many holes coming off their 100 wins, so it is vital to add the right pieces to make sure the team chemistry continues to flourish. That won’t be an issue with either one of these players who aptly fills the role of super utility and then some. Having options never gets in that way and also frees up guys who may be struggling to get a breather without the team missing a beat. 2009 and 2015 may forever be linked as what could-have-been seasons, but the time to do something about it is right around the corner.