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.