Wheels Turning, Traction Lacking

We are now into Day 3 of the general managers’ meetings and we aren’t much farther along in the process of knowing what the 2018 team will look like than we were before they started.  While there’s been plenty of rumors, usually around Giancarlo Stanton, there’s been no trades or free agent signings by any team.  I expected that the Cardinals would need to do something this week to free up room on the 40-man roster, as Monday is the deadline to protect players before the Rule 5 draft.  However, Michael Girsch said that he felt the club could protect who they wanted to protect, so either the five spots are enough or they feel they can cut people like Mike Mayers loose if they need to create room instead of being forced into a deal.

As for Stanton, he either has no interest in St. Louis (or Boston, apparently) or he’s got an open mind about every place.  Basically, we still know nothing in regards to all of this and who knows when we will.  I will say I was pretty sure Stanton would get moved this offseason but if this idea that the Marlins are asking for the moon and not willing to eat salary is correct, it seems less likely.  If Stanton limits the field further, it might well be impossible.

Speaking of the whole Schrodinger’s offseason, the Cardinals either are or are not looking at adding a significant starter.  I think it’s more likely that they aren’t, otherwise they probably would have more interest in retaining Lance Lynn.  That said, the rotation has a ton of question marks in it for next year.  Some sort of veteran presence would not go amiss.  I imagine they are looking for a innings-eater #4 guy that will sign a two-year deal, but I’m not sure exactly who that would be.

Also in the second article, there’s talk about Alex Reyes.  On Twitter yesterday, the big thing that popped was that the Cardinals were going to start Reyes in the bullpen and he might not wind up in the bigs until May 1.  The article doesn’t set that out as a given, though, just one possibility that the front office is looking at.  (They are looking at so many possibilities for so many things right now.  It’d be nice if they stopped looking and started doing a bit!)  Reyes starting in the bullpen has always made sense, especially since John Mozeliak told the bloggers Reyes would have started in the bullpen this past season had he been healthy.  Add in a little Tommy John surgery and jumping back into the rotation is a little iffy.  Reyes could be ready by Opening Day, though, and if he is the Cardinals will have to figure out the best way to limit his innings so that hopefully he’s still available in October.  There are a number of off days in April, though, so they might be able to juggle the rotation and skip him a few times.  My guess is he’ll start in the ‘pen, but there’s still plenty of things that have to happen before we are sure.

Also, it was good to hear that Mo is confident in the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons.  He was also confident in Brett Cecil, which meant a little less.  I do think Cecil will be better than we saw this year and he was overall better than we think he was, but it’s still a bit of a risk.  It’s also a reliever that has three years more on a pricey deal that nobody would take in a trade, so you have to make the best of it.  We’ll see how that goes but there’s really nothing else the club can do but put on a happy face and hope that Cecil makes whatever adjustments he needs during the winter.

The biggest news comes from a couple of veterans.  In a complete reversal of what they said last winter, the Cardinals have told Matt Carpenter to be ready to move around the diamond in 2018.  Of course, they told him to plan on playing first all year last year and he had one of his worst seasons yet, so maybe that had something to do with it.  (Probably more the shoulder and the oblique injuries, but who knows.)  This would also indicate that they are no longer considering Carpenter to be the key to the offense like they may have in the past.  I mean, how many super-utility guys are the biggest threat the team has?  Heck, there’s probably only a couple of super-utility guys that actually can hit–Ben Zobrist comes to mind–but they always have key players that they supplement.

We’ve said for a long time that Carpenter is a very good complementary player but he’s not the guy you should be building your offense around and it seems like that paradigm shift has happened in the front office as well.  This might be a way to cover up Carpenter’s defensive flaws, as he can be adequate at many positions but allow for better players to come in around him.  Of course, the way baseball is, no matter where he plays the ball will find him.  I also worry about him playing third base especially given how we saw him throwing at the end of the season.  The shoulder tendinitis was supposed to be cured by rest, but we’ll see.  If he’s throwing those lollipops again next season, his time on the other side of the diamond should be limited.

Speaking of veteran players moving around, Mozeliak went out to Las Vegas to talk to Dexter Fowler, letting him know the club wasn’t going to trade him but they would be thinking about moving him to a corner outfield spot.  Now, before we talk about the merits of this, can we acknowledge the fact that Mo went out of his way to let Fowler know their plans?  Remember, it was just last season–after the signing of Fowler–that Randal Grichuk just had to guess that he was moving off of center.  There was no communication to him about where he might be playing, a situation we’ve seen often from this front office.  So either they are trying to change their ways, thought Fowler might deal with it better with a chat, or they just like Fowler better.  I hope it’s the first, but I kinda doubt it.

Anyway, moving Fowler makes sense even if there are no other moves, as Tommy Pham proved to be more than capable of covering center better than Fowler did.  (At worst, this creates an Andrew McCutchen situation where if Fowler does have to take back over center due to injury, he’s motivated to keep it.)  It could well be an offshoot of the Stanton discussions, as my Musial co-host Allen Medlock mentioned, but I think while that was in mind, it was more about giving them an option to make any deal.  The front office seems enamored with possibilities this offseason.  We’ll see if they ever get around to capitalizing on one.  (Which is not a fair take, since it’s still early and no other team has done anything, but with all the things they could and need to do, it’d be nice to see some movement.)

One of those needs is figuring out the outfield situation.  There are too many outfielders for St. Louis and Memphis and Springfield is probably getting crowded as well, plus there’s the whole idea that a lot of the names that the Cards are tied to….play the outfield.  I think that’s the thing that is frustrating me the most.  It feels so reminiscent of the past few offseasons, where there’s been an obvious glut but no move to clear it.  Matt Adams comes to mind as do a number of pitching arms.  I do think they’ll be trading some of these outfielders–they basically have no choice–but the longer they go it would feel the less strength they have in their negotiating hand.

Finally, the bullpen is going to be addressed, though there’s still questions about how.  The Cards would seem to want an established closer but even if they do that they are going to need some more arms in the pen.  One of those arms will likely not be Juan Nicasio, who is seemingly holding out for that closer role but isn’t what the Cardinals want.  Which is surprising, given how well he did over the three weeks he was there.  I really felt like this was one of those trade-and-try-to-sign deals but there’s not been much of a push to get him.  I think most of you reading are in the same boat that I am where we don’t want to see a lot of money go at a closer because it’s not the most efficient use of resources.  I’d be fine with Nicasio in the role and some other arms surrounding him, guys that you could move into the ninth if necessary.  I wonder if this big ninth inning guy is another way for them to try to limit what Mike Matheny does with his bullpen usage.  Then again, they have Mike Maddux who is supposed to be taking on a lot of that responsibility so you’d think that would be less of a consideration.  It just feels like as great as having that huge arm in the ninth is, so many times things don’t work out with them and I’d rather it not work out with a $5 million guy than a $20 million guy.

Perhaps the day is something breaks loose, but with Girsch coming out and saying the 40-man is fine (which could be a negotiating tactic, true) I’m more inclined to believe they aren’t as active until the winter meetings.  Surely they will do something before that but from the outside looking in right now it’s tough to see it.  Would love to be wrong!

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