The 2018 season is essentially over, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this cluster-f*ck of a team is going to suddenly rebound into a contending team that can take on the AL East Juggernauts, but at the same time, let’s not dive into a full-blown Miami rebuild. The most idealistic look is the New York Yankees most recent resurgence, without truly having to tank. I’m a bit of an outside-the-box thinker and if I was in the driver’s seat this is essentially where I would start to look into adjusting the roster:
Current Roster: Pham, Ozuna, Fowler & Bader
Waiting in the Wings: O’Neill, Mercado, Arozarena, Adolis Garcia
Not being a frequent Memphis Redbirds viewer and relying on what I see on Twitter, it seems like O’Neill is the only Memphis outfielder ready to make the full-time jump to the majors with the other three needing some more seasoning. That leaves the Cardinals with 5 full-time major league outfielders and a trade piece. Who gets traded?
Ozuna, Fowler and Pham have all performed considerably worse than last season. Ozuna is under control for a single season longer, Fowler is owed some serious money and Pham costs legitimately nothing. With O’Neill showing the power potential of he-man, Ozuna might be the perfect trade chip in this market of anemic-power bats. Yes, Ozuna has slumped and his power numbers are less-than-ideal, but a contender like the Astros would love to have his bat of Tucker or Marisnick.
Current Roster: Carpenter, Wong, DeJong, Gyorko, Jose Martinez, Munoz, Garcia
Waiting in the Wings: Schrock, Wisdom, Voit
With the recent injury to Aaron Judge and the obvious fit for Jose to transition to a DH, this trade needs to happen.
Jose has become redundant on the Cardinals with Carpenter heating up, and Carpenter’s arm never looks ideal at 3B. Gyorko could also be a great trade chip and would allow for Wisdom to finally get a shot at the majors in a season where the remainder can be used as a bit of an experiment. I’m hesitant to trade Wong unless a major-league ready 2B comes back as Schrock doesn’t appear ready to make the jump yet. Voit also could provide some power off the bench in a Matt Adams-esque pinch hitting role, as I don’t envision him ever really being a full-time starter.
Current Roster: Molina, Pena
Waiting in the Wings: Kelly, Knizner
Catching depth is arguably one of the most important things to have in the minors, and franchises value catching prospects very highly. Look at what the Indians netted for just trading Francisco Mejia away. There is an argument to be made about keeping both Kelly and Knizner, and with the Maldonado trade to the Astros, it seems like the market this deadline isn’t really there for catchers, but Mo should be listening for offers on Kelly if they start popping up.
Current Roster: Carlos Martinez (DL), Michael Wacha (DL), Miles Mikolas, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, John Gant, Adam Wainwright (DL) , Austin Gomber (1 Start), Daniel Poncedeleon (1 Start), Dakota Hudson (??) Alex Reyes (2019)
Waiting in the Wings: Ryan Helsley (DL)
The depth of this teams starting pitching staff is absurd. Carlos is the ace, and unless a franchise player is coming back i.e. Arenado, please do not trade him away. Wacha is a great piece and I don’t see a reason to trade him either. Mikolas provides some intrigue, but if 2019 looks to be a contending season there’s no reason to deal him. Weaver and Flaherty have mostly proven to be worthy of the majors. Wainwright is essentially retired at this point. Gomber, Ponce and Hudson are all chomping at the bit to get up to the majors and Reyes is tentatively back next year. This is going to be the biggest challenge for Mo to get creative with. I’ve heard some of this in the rumbles as well, but I’d like to take a stab at creating a new-era bullpen look for the Cardinals to finish the 2018 Season:
Start 1: Carlos Martinez
Start 2: Michael Wacha
Start 3: Miles Mikolas
Start 4: Jack Flaherty
Start 5: Luke Weaver
Second Starter 1: Austin Gomber
Second Starter 2: John Gant
Second Starter 3: Dakota Hudson
Second Starter 4: Daniel Poncedeleon
Reliever 1: John Brebbia
Reliever 2: Mike Mayers
Closer: Jordan Hicks
The idea would be that every time through the rotation, 4 out of the 5 starting pitchers would be relieved by essentially a second starter who could traverse through the lineup themselves up to 2 times. This makes the assumption that 1 starter in the rotation can handle themselves through the lineup 3 times and hand-off the game to the bullpen in a more traditional sense. How would this look?
Start 1: Carlos Martinez (5.1 IP) - Austin Gomber (3.2 IP)
Start 2: Michael Wacha (4.2 IP) - John Gant (3.1 IP) - Jordan Hicks (1.0 IP)
Start 3: Miles Mikolas (6.0 IP) - Mike Mayers (2.0 IP) - Jordan Hicks (1.0 IP)
Start 4: Jack Flaherty (4.0 IP) - Dakota Hudson (4.0 IP) - John Brebbia (1.0 IP)
Start 5: Luke Weaver (3.2 IP) - Daniel Poncedeleon (4.0 IP) - John Brebbia (1.1 IP) - Jordan Hicks (1.0 IP)
Is there room for error? Absolutely. This gets tricky with trying to have strong warm-up routines for second starters, and envisioning which games call for a starter to be pulled in which scenario. Extra inning games could also be tricky. And don't forget all the damn lat injuries that will inevitably happen. The idea of this though being a hybrid of what Tampa Bay is attempting to manipulate with their bullpen game and old-school baseball. Why do it?
Well the rotation currently has about 2 maybe 3 guys who on-paper should be able to stretch to 200 innings. Among those 3 (Mikolas, Wacha and Carlos) 2 of them have spent considerable amount of time on the DL, and therefore there are a lot of innings that need to be absorbed by young pitchers who simply shouldn’t reach those values.
The rest of the bullpen: Lyons, Tui, Gregerson, Holland, Norris, Cecil
Do whatever you can to trade any of them for any form of assets. Norris could yield a decent prospect, and the others might just be a simple salary dump or a DFA, but they simply cannot provide much value to this team anymore or especially in the future.
Ideal Remaining 2018 Roster:
Outfield: Pham, Fowler, O’Neill, Bader (4)
Infield: Carpenter, Wong, DeJong, Wisdom, Garcia, Munoz, Voit (7)
Catching: Molina, Pena (2)
Starting Pitchers: Carlos, Wacha, Mikolas, Flaherty, Weaver (5)
2nd Starting Pitchers: Hudson, Gomber, Poncedeleon, Gant (4)
Relievers: Brebbia, Mayers, Hicks (3)
Because Carlos, Wacha and Wong are on the DL – hang on to Tui, Lyons and Cecil and play who gets ‘right’ the fastest to earn their roster spots until they are no longer viable.
Batting Order might look something like this:
Carpenter - 1B
Molina - C
DeJong - SS
O'Neill - LF
Pham - CF
Fowler - RF
Wisdom/Munoz - 3B
Wong - 2B
Assuming Gyorko, Jose, Norris and Ozuna are all traded -- I'd hope the Cardinals managed to upgrade at least one position on the field that would make the above lineup tweaked with a newcomer or two, maybe Josh Donaldson or Clint Frazier...
Thanks for the read and @cardinalsgifs for the slick image as always