UCB Roundtable: What’s a Successful Offseason?

Usually after the season ends members of the United Cardinal Bloggers get together and toss out questions for folks to answer, a way to while away the time as the winter approaches.  This year was no different and, as I typically do, I brought up the rear and asked the following question:

We’ve talked a lot about different moves, so this might cover some of the same ground, but what would constitute an outstanding offseason for you?  What would be just acceptable?  What has to be done at a very minimum?

Here’s what I got in response from some very quality folks.

Josey Curtis (Viva El Birdos): To me, the Cardinals at least need to address the issues in their bullpen. One could argue (to a point) that the offensive struggles last season were fueled by injuries, and that’s a problem that can’t be avoided. The bullpen, however, will take a huge hit this offseason, losing Nicasio, Duke, and Oh with Rosenthal already out for next year. I think the team should attempt to keep Nicasio or Duke (or both) and also look to add another quality reliever.

Adam Butler (The Redbird Daily): An outstanding offseason to me would mean offensive upgrades both in right field and at third base. A number two starter, and four quality relievers. I’d also like to see another upgrade somewhere around the diamond. Something like Dee Gordon over Kolten Wong. Overall I’m thinking of something along the lines of Yelich for the outfield, Seager or Donaldson at third base, Yu Darvish for the rotation and Nicasio, Jake McGee, Brandon Morrow and Trevor Cahill for the bullpen. Those names are just examples, as there are plenty of other players that I would be perfectly happy with in their place. I realize this is dreaming but I believe it’s what they need to make them the preseason favorites to win the division, and that’s my definition of an outstanding offseason.

An acceptable offseason is a significant upgrade at one of the offensive positions I mentioned, a solid starting pitcher and three quality relievers.

An absolute minimum has to be an offensive upgrade at 3B or RF, a swingman starting pitcher (could be Cahill), and two quality relievers. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an established closer. It feels like these moves absolutely have to be made if they want to see the postseason in 2018.

Mark Tomasik (RetroSimba): The Cardinals entering 2018 remind me of the Cardinals entering 2000.

After winning a division title and coming within a victory of winning the National League pennant in 1996, the Cardinals went three consecutive seasons without qualifying for the postseason. Management responded by addressing needs and acquiring proven performers in the key areas before the 2000 season: Jim Edmonds (center field), Fernando Vina (second base), Mike Matheny (catcher), Darryl Kile, Pat Hentgen, Andy Benes (starting pitching) and Dave Veres and Mike James (bullpen).

What a magnificent job by general manager Walt Jocketty. In one off-season, he transformed the Cardinals from a bunch of bums into postseason qualifiers. He changed a culture and established a new tone and set up the Cardinals for an amazing run of success through 2006.

So, it can be done. That means, at a very minimum, Cardinals management needs to show backbone and guts and clean house with the roster. It needs to acquire a real leadoff batter (a Fernando Vina or David Eckstein type of player), it needs to get a reliable run-producing bat or two, it needs to upgrade the starting pitching and the bullpen and, most of all, it needs to get players who can excel on defense and execute basic fundamentals.

The mistake-filled baseball of the last two seasons is completely unacceptable and must be addressed.

The Cardinals need to say they have given a fair chance to the likes of Matt Carpenter, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Aledmys Diaz, Trevor Rosenthal and perhaps even Kolten Wong, and admit it’s not working. All of those players, along with Brett Cecil, Dexter Fowler and others, need to go. Clean house, shake up the roster like it’s 1999 again and get it done.

Josh Gilliam (Pitchers Hit Eighth): Easiest to start at the end at least for me. At the minimum fix the logjam in the outfield by dealing one of Piscotty or RG. That opens up the ability for some breathing room and leads to the other parts of your question.

An acceptable offseason under the Arch means adding one bullpen closer type no matter who it is as well as insurance for the rotation. After the two pitchers, any established bat would make it a winning Winter heading into the Caravan.
St. Louis has already started the process of having an outstanding 2018 just by changing a few pieces around on Matheny’s staff. It will only get harder once the Winter Meetings hit, so the next 60 days are crucial. Overpaying for a bat will be required but necessary to close the gap. Honestly there isn’t really a favorite at this point except the younger the better in my opinion.
To finish off the perfect offseason, however, there needs to be one last rabbit out of the hat. Trading for another proven ace will in the long run prove to be crucial down the stretch. As Verlander and Darvish have showed this October, the answer may not be obvious but find a #2 starter and watch out NL!
Which brings it around to me.  After all, it’s really not fair to submit a question and not answer it yourself, right?
The Cardinal front office, as I’ve said probably too many times on various podcasts, has let their reservoir of good will dry up.  They can’t get by on past results now that there have been two years in a row that the club hasn’t made the playoffs and the last time they did see October, the Cubs knocked them out.  They can’t expect a lot of sympathy after spending the trade deadline of the past couple of years (and, to a lesser extent, last offseason) talking about significant changes and then not seeing anything develop.  This offseason, they’ve talked about getting a closer and an impact bat.  I think at a minimum they have to bring in an intriguing bat like Christian Yelich.  Yelich is good, talented, and has potential but he’s not a game changer right now.  If they do that, they buy themselves a little time, but it’s probably the bare minimum.
An acceptable offseason brings in that big bat.  I don’t think a closer, as valuable and necessary as it can be, stokes the imagination of anyone around.  There’s going to be more talk about fixing the rest of the bullpen and you should never pay that much for relievers and things like that for it to be the home run.  A big bat, whether Giancarlo Stanton or Josh Donaldson or another guy that comes out of nowhere, will at least help the club say they addressed the biggest issue and have folks excited about next year.
To hit it out of the park, they need that impact bat, some bullpen help, and a #2 starter.  I don’t know that they’ll do all that–more likely they’ll look for an end of the rotation guy on a 1-2 year deal–but if they did, they’d fix a lot of problems for this club.
What do you think?  Hit us up in the comments!

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