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After 2021, where do the Cardinals go from here?

Updated: Apr 6, 2022




The Cardinals made it to 90 wins and the Wild Card playoff game. This was after a plethora of injuries to the pitching staff. Underperforming players like Matt Carpenter .169/.305/.275 and Paul DeJong .197/.284/.390 They survived the roller coaster ride of being on top of the National League in May to being almost bottom of the division in July. Using a 17-game win streak that propelled them into the playoffs. Then the hard fought Wild-Card loss to the Dodgers.



TJ McFarland via St Louis Cardinals

Then the "Band-Aid" moves (Luis Garcia, Wade LeBlanc, TJ McFarland, Jon Lester, and JA Happ) that Mozeliak made started to pay off. Then the phenomenal win streak of 17 games in a row propelled them into the Wild Card picture. Then the hard-fought loss to the Dodgers. The future looked good as Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina were signed for next year. Nolan Arenado announced he would not opt-out of his contract. Then Mo decided it was the right time to fire manager Mike Shildt for "philosophical differences" on October 14th. Then on October 25th, he hired Bench coach Oliver Marmol as the new manager. They have brought former Cardinal Skip Schumaker into a coaching role as bench coach.




Five cardinal payers received Golden Gloves Nolan Arenado (9th consecutive), Paul Goldschmidt (4), Tyler O'Neill (2), Tommy Edman (1), and Harrison Bader (1). That is the FIRST time a team has had FIVE Gold Glove winners in one season in MLB HISTORY! Arenado also won his FIFTH Consecutive Platinum Glove. The Cardinal team was also awarded the TEAM NL Golden Glove.


Photos; Nolan Arenado via Eric Espada- Getty images, Tyler O'Neill & Harrison Bader via Quinn Harris - Getty images, Paul Goldschmidt via Jeff Roberson - AP, Tommy Edman via MLB JPeg


The CBA deadline has come and gone, and now we have a lockout. So, what does it mean at this point?

First, it means that no trades can be made involving the 40-man roster with a lockout.

Second, No MLB Free Agents can sign with any team.

Third, players cannot use major league club facilities.


Now the clubs can speculate and plan for when the lockout is over.

So, what is the speculation for the Redbirds?


WHAT HAS HE DONE?

First, let's look at what has been done.

November 3 & 4

LHPs JA Happ, Kwang Hyun Kim, Wade LeBlanc, Jon Lester, TJ McFarland, and Andrew Miller opted for Free Agency, As did RHP Luis Garcia.

The Cardinals declined options on Utility Inf Matt Carpenter and RHP Carlos Martinez, allowing them to become free agents.

November 8

The Cardinals signed LHP TJ McFarland to a 1-year 2.5-million-dollar deal.

November 9

The Cardinals signed SS Anderson Tejada

November 18

Cardinals signed RHP Ljay Newsome and outrighted him to Memphis.

November 19

The Cardinals selected RHPs Jake Walsh, Freddy Pacheco, and 3B Brendan Donovan for the 40-man roster to protect them from the rule 5 draft.


Steven Matz via -AP

November 24 The Cardinals signed LH starter Steven Matz from the Toronto Blue Jays. to a 4-year 44-million-dollar deal. Matz was 14-7 in 29 games with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.334 WHIP. He is a ground ball-type pitcher with a 3.34 SO/BB ratio.







Now over the last couple of years. We have seen Mo make moves to get the likes of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Youngsters who have come along and Developed like Tommy Edman, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Tyler O'Neill, Dylan Carlson, and Edmundo Sosa this year. This year we have the option of money to spend on Free Agency. The current payroll for 2022 is 128.7 million. That accounts for only 13 players with signed contracts (Goldy, Arenado, Wainwright ECT). So that leaves 13 positions to fill, which would be your pre-arb or arbitration players (Carlson, Edman, Helsley, ECT). All of these contracts are likely to be in the league minimum range between $575,000 and $600,000. So that would add another 5.4 million to the payroll, making the estimated payroll 134.1 million, which if we go off what they had in 2021, which was 168.9. That leaves about 34 million and changes. You could figure possibly an 8-10% increase, so possibly up to 40 million is available.


What we have

So, first let's look at what we have.



The Outfield

Tyler O'Neill via Joe Puetz - USA Today

By all accounts, it appears that the outfield will be as it was last year, with O'Neill, Bader, and Carlson as your starting group. With two Gold Gloves and putting up combined numbers of .244/.308/.434 68 HRs and 195 RBIs. Numbers are not overwhelming but given injuries and how those guys finished the season, it bodes well. The Cardinals did struggle with a 4th Outfielder. Using 5 different players, none would adequately provide what would be considered adequate help. It wasn't until Lars Nootbaar came along that the Cardinals had a legitimate 4th Outfielder and one who could hit from the left side.


The Infield

Nolan Arenado via Jeff Roberson -AP

The infield looks pretty set defensively with 3 Gold Gloves, Arenado, Edman, and Goldschmidt. Even though neither DeJong nor Sosa has a Gold Glove, they are both excellent defensively.

Offensively is the other question. Arenado had a down year overall, but he showed enough to make me believe that he will adjust well to Busch. Goldschmidt had a very solid Goldy type year. Edman struggled in the leadoff spot, especially in OBP (.313). Career-wise he has had better OBP, batting 7th .350 and 2nd .335. But it is hard not to utilize his speed at the top of the lineup. This year, Paul DeJong and his lack of production stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. Hitting below the Mendoza line, he was a target for criticism all year. However, if you look deeper, he was not far off his norms in terms of HR%, SO%, and BB% his opposite-field hitting was up, and his pull rate was down. So, was it just bad luck? Was it his injuries? Sosa did replace him late in the season, but I am not sure he is the long-term replacement.


Catching

Yadier Molina via Jeff Roberson-AP

Molina behind the plate for his final season? Knizner is his back (so far), and Herrera is waiting in the wings. I think the position is covered.







The Rotation

Flaherty, Wainwright, Mikolas, Hudson, and Newcomer Matz seem to be the logical starting rotation. Jake Woodford and Johan Oviedo gained valuable major league experience last year, plus you have Mathew Liberatore, Zack Tompson, who is seemingly ready to take the next step. This would give Reyes and Jordan Hicks a chance at Memphis to become starters.


Genesis Cabrera Via Jeff Cury and Fox Sports Kodi Whitley vs Fox Sports


The Bullpen is still very young. Replacing Andrew Miller with TJ McFarland will help. Still, the bulk of available bullpen arms Genesis Cabrera, Kodi Whitley, Ryan Helsley, and JR Fernandez. are between 24-26 years old. McFarland is the oldest at 32, followed by Gallegos, 29.




Now for what we need.


Shortstop


One possible spot for an upgrade would be SS. Some big names are still out there, like Carlos Correa and Trevor Story, who also have hefty price tags. Between 26-30 million in annual salary. and both seem to want relatively long-term deals. (Reportedly, Correa wants a 10-year contract, and Story is looking for at least 7 years. Not sure the Cardinals want to invest in anything more than 3-5 years. There is also veteran Andrelton Simmons, who might be more in the contract range (about 10-12 million market value). The Cardinals have in mind he is a .265 career hitter but light in the slugging Which may not be needed that much depending on If O'Neill can keep up his power production and the likely hood of a power bat DH.

Johnathan Villar is a switch hitter with some pop. He is only 30 and could be had for an annual of 3-4 million.


I mentioned Anderson Tejada earlier. With only a handful of major league games in the last two years, he seems unlikely to be more than position depth in the minors.


Bullpen

Brad Hand via Ken Blaze -USA Today

McFarland was a good addition to the pen, but another veteran arm or two would not hurt, especially a left-hander. One name that screams out to me is Brad Hand. He had three good years in Cleveland and last year with the Mets was a down year but not terrible. He is 32 and would give the pen 3 LH arms and probably cost 3 years 35 million. Another name I think the Cardinals should consider is Alex Colome. He is a well-traveled but effective right-hander who is 32 but still has a couple of good years left in the tank and could probably be had for 2 years 13 million.


Bench strength

One area exposed last year primarily in the first couple of months was the lack of bench strength. The Cardinals started the season with Austin Dean, Justin Williams (platoon outfielders), John Nogowski, Edmundo Sosa, Andrew Knizner, Jose Rondon, and Matt Carpenter. The reality is that the only ones left are Sosa and Knizner. Now late in the season, we did see Lars Nootbaar make his bench presence felt but depending on how other things work out, we WILL: need bench help.

Infielders like: Hanser Alberto, Brad Miller, Brandon Drury, Outfielders like; Joc Pederson, Corey Dickerson, Odubel Herrera. Any of the would-be solid bench/role players.



Brad Miller via Bill Greenblat- UPI Corey Dickerson via Eric Hartline via USA Today Joc Pederson via John Bazemore - AP



For DH, one left-hander I would target is Kyle Schwarber. I would not put him in the outfield, but why not stand there and be power from the left side? Now he will cost in the 12–15-million-dollar neighborhood.

Joc Pederson could also prove to be a valuable LH DH.

Kyle Schwarber via Michael Dwyer - AP Joc Pederson via John Bazemore - AP


Albert Pujols via Robert Hanashiro- USA Today

Sentimentally, many fans would like to see Albert Pujols return for ST Louis as a part-time DH/PH and maybe a game or two at 1B. That is a possibility. How likely a possibility is unknown at this time. He could be quite the site to see Him, Wano and Yadi go out together. It would be even more fun if it were with a World Series.






Juan Yepez via Allison Rhodes-Peoria Chiefs

Internally the birds might have an option for the DH right-hand DH in prospect Juan Yepez. He hit .289 with 34 HRs and 103 RBIs in 537 PA between Springfield, Memphis, and the Arizona fall league. It almost certain he will get a long look in Spring Training. If his trend upwards continues, he will be on the roster in some capacity.



In summary

My order of priority on outside help would be

*Bullpen of experienced depth and an LH closer - I put the pen first because the immediate need is. My first call after the lockout would be to Brad Hand get a solid Left-hand closer type to match with Gallegos. That combination would be outstanding in my book.

* Bench depth, preferably LH, who could share the DH role - With virtually no bench but Knizner, Sosa, and Nootbaar, you need depth AND experience.

* Full-time DH - DH I would prefer LH, but if it can't be had, then give the youngsters a shot.

* SS - If we can improve the bench and nail down a solid DH, DeJong is not that big of an issue.


Who knows when the lockout will end? One thi8ng is inevitable when it ends, and the phones will be ringing ALL-OVER Major-League baseball. Let's hope MO's phone bill is paid up.


Thanks for reading, and check out my new podcast, Talking Sports on the Bleachers

As always, leave comments or hit me up on Twitter @BigD_GCS or hit up the show at @TSotB.GCS

So long, for now, and have a Happy New Year!


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