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Is it time to stray, from the Cardinal Way?

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

Bill Dewitt Jr. speaks after season ends without a playoff berth for the 3rd year in a row

We have all heard it, "The Cardinal Way" it's like a mantra used during times of great success and extraordinary times of stress and unrest. This term has been used by Cardinal ownership and the front office for over a decade, and it was the right term until recently, and frankly, we're all sick of it.

There was a time when free agents would flock for the chance to play with the Cardinals organization. Great coaching, team chemistry, excellent baseball city, Mark McGwire, Jason Isringhausen, Larry Walker, Matt Holiday, Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran, etc. That's all fine and dandy, but when was the last time you saw a high impact free-agent signing outside of Matt Holliday that was a big name the team signed that went on to have a successful career, I.E., more than 1-2 years? I'm not talking trades, although I'll get into that.

Most of the signings over the last few seasons have been reclamation projects, the tail end of careers, or after a slump in most cases. I ask when outside of attempting to trade for Giancarlo Stanton, who didn't want to come to St. Louis and eventually went to New York, then eventually landing the slightly underwhelming Marcell Ozuna. The stat line dipped tremendously from his 2017 campaign of AVG.312/SLG .548/OBP .376 37 HR 124 RBI to 2018 AVG.280./SLG .433/OBP .325 23 HR 88 RBI.

Ozuna answering questions after trade to Cardinals

That's big for someone you were expecting to be a star player in your lineup. Now I know it's a minimal sample size. He was hurt for a portion of 2018, and we don't have a lot to go on just yet. Still, if there isn't an improvement in 2019, I can say without a doubt, that particular trade could be a bust depending on the progression of pitcher Sandy Alcantara in Miami. We will wait and see.

By comparison, Christian Yelich had a monster year with the Brewers with a slash line of AVG .326 SLG .402 OBP .598 with 36 HR and 110 RBI, and an awe-inspiring year defensively in centerfield for the Brew Crew. Might I add the Brewers made the playoffs with Yelich, Cain's stellar additions, and Mike Moustakas's trade?

The Dexter Fowler signing is another excellent example of reaching on a signing. After the Cardinals lost out on Jason Heyward to the Cubs, Which was a blessing in disguise for the Cards, Fowler won the World Series and had the best year of his career with the Cubs. The Cardinals offered Fowler a five-year $82.5 million offer, even considering most of his career was very mediocre.

Up to 2017, Fowler was excellent defensively, had speed, decent middle of the order bat. What he wasn't was a scary or even solid lead-off guy. Dexter's slash line for his career is AVG .262 OBP .360 SLG .420 OPS .780 Fowler is a great complementary player, great person, and a great teammate, but a superstar player worthy of that type of contract is a reach.

The Cardinals are not viewed with the wonder that they once were anymore. Players are more and more worried about protecting their futures with guaranteed contracts. You can't sell them on Cardinals nation or BFIB (Best fans in baseball) or the Cardinals organization's lineage. You have to start tossing some severe money around if you are going to land the likes of a Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, so on and so forth.

Harper & Machado will command $300-$400 million. Donaldson is 33 and will be slightly cheaper due to fears of decline at around $100-$200 million or possibly less. With the emergence of young stars like Harrison Bader, Paul DeJong, and Tyler O'Neill, it's something to think about. Along with mainstays like Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina. Suppose you add one or possibly two of these guys. The Cards would be considered by most as a playoff lock.

All that being said, it's all sweet bye and bye and the pie in the sky to think what could happen, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to Dewitt and if he is willing to back the Brinks truck up to land a Superstar player or two. We shall see soon enough if he follows through or if the purse strings are too tight to unwind.

Thanks for reading

Derek King

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