The Michael Wacha Solution

In 2013, he was the future of the franchise. He went from ‘fast rising prospect’ to ‘late season revelation’ and ended the year as a postseason hero with possibly the brightest future of any Cardinal pitching prospect in a stacked system.

In the first half of 2014, he was dominant. Over the first 2 months of the season, he posted a 2.77 FIP with a 75-19 K/BB ratio and 1.07 WHIP in 77.1 IP. Then, a unique injury bug bit Michael Wacha and left him on the sidelines until his infamous flameout in the NLCS, which ended the Cardinals’ 2014 season with him on the mound watching Travis Ishikawa circle the bases after hitting a pennant clinching home run for the San Francisco Giants.

Ever since the injury, Wacha hasn’t been the same. There have been flashes of previous brilliance, but no real consistent stretches of 2013 Wacha. Rock bottom came last year, when Wacha’s full season ERA sat at 5.09 over 138 IP.

However, during April of 2017, Wacha showed some promise and reinvigoration. In 24 IP, he posted a 2.55 ERA with 24 K’s and 6 BB’s. But, over the last 35.1 IP, Wacha has slogged his way to a 5.88 ERA with 32 K’s and a frighteningly high 11.6 BB%.

So, what gives?

Diving into Wacha’s velocity numbers, I couldn’t find anything substantial that would point towards his recent struggles. Month to month, the velocity has held steady on each one of his 4 pitches throughout a game, so it’s not that. His heat maps are all similar, his pitch locations are all similar; I just couldn’t find anything.

With no statistic to point to as a reason for Wacha’s struggles, we just kind of have to assume one unfortunate thing. Until further notice, Michael Wacha is not cut out to be a starting pitcher; for one reason or another, whether we can quantify it or not.

That leaves the Cardinals with quite a predicament.

Wacha can clearly still be effective at the Major League level, as his great start to the season showed. However, as his recent track record has showed, that success, as a starter, is not consistent and can’t be counted on.

I can’t be the only one to think of this before, but the solution here seems simple.

The Cardinals shouldn’t just give up with Wacha and sell low on him right now (see: Matt Adams, and look how that’s turning out). Wacha also shouldn’t be sent down because he’ll just dominate the minors.

Michael Wacha should be sent to the bullpen and turned into a super reliever.

Now, I understand that transitioning from being a starter to being a reliever is difficult, no matter how simple anyone may try to make it seem. But the numbers that make me think Wacha’s transition could be simple are his splits each time he goes through a lineup.

As a starter, Wacha’s first time through the order is sparkling. This season, he sports a 1.95 ERA, 9.59 K/9, 2.20 BB/9, and a 0.95 WHIP. Further, for his career, Wacha has a 2.73 ERA with 200 K’s and 66 BB’s in 207.2 IP.

Essentially, over the course of a full season’s worth of innings pitched, Wacha has been worth 6.8 WAR according to FanSided’s WAR calculator. In case you don’t know, that is outstanding value.

The second time through the order? Yikes.

In 2017, Wacha’s second-time-through ERA balloons to 7.54, his K/9 drops to 6.08 and his walk rate also balloons up to 10.3%. Third time through the order is a similar story, (6.08 ERA, 9 K’s, 6 BB’s in 13.1 IP).

And, again, these numbers bear out over the course of his career. In 191 IP while going through the order a second time, Wacha’s ERA is a decent 3.91, but the K/9 goes down to 7.45 and the BB/9 goes up to 3.39. Third time through, his ERA balloons to 5.16 in 134.1 IP with a rather paltry 6.35 K/9.

Michael Wacha has electric stuff. He sports a 4 pitch mix with a fastball that can still touch the upper 90’s and a changeup that’s produced a career K% of 34.1%. This is a guy who definitely belongs in the Major Leagues, but as a reliever right now.

And, although limited, Wacha’s career numbers as a reliever are incredibly promising. In 16.1 career IP as a reliever, Wacha has a 12.6 K/9, 1.1 BB/9 and a heartening 2.10 xFIP. Personally, I rely on these numbers a lot more than Wacha’s 7.16 ERA in those 16.1 reliever innings.

For the Cardinals, the solution here seems pretty simple. With a guy like Luke Weaver currently tearing up Triple-A, Wacha’s transition to the bullpen doesn’t have to leave the Cardinals without a 5th starter.

Further, the Cardinals need bullpen help right now. So why not discover that help internally, like GM John Mozeliak just loves to do.

All the pieces here seem to perfectly fit, and if Wacha continues to struggle as a starter, you’ll only hear me harp on this point more.

Thanks for reading.

The Michael Wacha Solution

Evaluating a Potential Carlos Martinez Extension

The St. Louis Cardinals have a long tradition of outstanding starting pitching. It extends all the way back to the inception of the franchise and has continued to present day.

This tradition is highlighted by names such as Dizzy Dean and the Gashouse Gang teams of the 1930’s, Bob Gibson – the greatest postseason pitcher of all time, John Tudor – the best Cardinals pitcher of a golden era, and Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

Without fail, every single time one Cardinal ace begins to slip down the aging curve and lose his touch, the torch is passed onto a younger pitcher to become the ace of the staff. Most recently, when Chris Carpenter was in the twilight of his career he passed the metaphorical torch on to Adam Wainwright after the 2011 season, symbolizing the franchise’s full commitment to Waino as the ace of the staff.

Adam Wainwright is now 35 years old and coming off a 2016 season in which he posted career highs in ERA and FIP (4.62 and 3.93) while posting a career low in strikeouts. Not to really emphasize his age because Waino could come back and have a tremendous season in 2017, but at 35 years old, it’s hard to realistically see Wainwright re-discovering his peak form that lasted from 2009-2014.

And what a peak form it was, might I add.

But, getting back to the point, Wainwright’s time as the ace of the Cardinal staff is coming to a close. We are in the twilight years of his time holding the metaphorical torch, and it’s time to pass it on. It’s time for the Cardinals to designate a new torch-bearer.

And I can’t think of a better player to both fulfill this metaphor and become the next Cardinal ace than 25-year-old fireballer, Carlos Martinez.

In 2016, his second year on full-time starting pitcher duty, Martinez threw a career high 195.1 innings, while posting an ERA of 3.04, xFIP of 3.28, and a new career high in bWAR at 5.4.

Now, Martinez is entering his first year of arbitration this offseason, and will be predictably due a fairly hefty sum due to his excellent performance as a starter over these past two seasons. But, the Cardinals shouldn’t even allow him to reach arbitration and sign him to an extension as soon as possible, cutting all of the deadlock and riffraff that comes with arbitration hearings and negotiations.

In signing Martinez to an extension, the Cardinals are pushing all of their chips to the middle of the table and betting on El Gallo, thus passing the torch on to him from Adam Wainwright.

Before we get into what a Martinez extension would potentially look like, I want to quickly review why Martinez deserves this extension and the moniker of ‘Cardinal Ace’.

Taking a quick glance at his first two seasons, it’s a very impressive performance from a young pitcher, but it isn’t quite what you want to see from a guy that you’re gambling the franchise on. The numbers are good, but they don’t necessarily scream ‘ACE’.

Over his first two seasons as a starter, Martinez has posted a cumulative ERA of 3.02, FIP of 3.36, K/9 of 8.5, bWAR of 9.5 and 87 RAR – this is a stat that is like WAR, but measures how many runs above replacement level a pitcher is.

Among starters during that span, Martinez ranks 9th in all of baseball in bWAR, is tied for 10th in ERA, 21st in FIP, 20th in xFIP and 21st in K/9. So, judging solely off of these numbers, Carlos Martinez is a good pitcher who is teetering on the verge of becoming elite.

And, might I remind you, he is entering his age 25 season.

But, the most interesting thing about Martinez’s peripherals so far that points towards him really taking the reigns as the ace of the St. Louis staff came when I compared his career numbers to those of incumbent Cardinal ace, Adam Wainwright.

Like Martinez, Wainwright began his career as a reliever, exceeding his rookie limits during the Cardinals’ 2006 World Series run as the closer. Like Martinez, Wainwright spent the first two seasons of his career as a very good reliever for the Cardinals, having a cumulative FIP during his 2005 and 2006 seasons as a reliever of 2.91. And, like Martinez, Wainwright then transitioned into a starting pitcher role, having mild success.

During his first two years as a starter, Wainwright posted an ERA+ of 119 in 2007 and 132 in 2008. During his first two years as a starter, Martinez posted an ERA+ of 130 in 2015 and 135 in 2016.

Anyone else starting to see this parallel?

Wainwright then exploded into his prime years during the 2009 season, during which he posted a 2.63 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 155 ERA+ and 7.2 bWAR in 233 innings. Wainwright’s respective ERA+’s over the 4 seasons during which he was a starter after 2008: 155, 160, 147 and 153.

Again, Carlos Martinez is 25 years old, his career nearly mirrors Adam Wainwright’s, and Martinez’s first two seasons as a starter were better than Wainwright’s. Do you see why this gets me excited, now?

But, the question of this article was not, ‘Should Carlos Martinez get an extension?’

The question of this article was, ‘What would a Carlos Martinez extension look like?’

The crux of figuring out what a potential Carlos Martinez extensions will look like is all based off of Martinez’s projected WAR, and the market value for a win. Currently, market dollar value for one win is $8.0 million. Meaning that a player with 1.0 WAR would be worth – in a perfect world – $8 million.

Trying to project out Martinez’s WAR in the future can be a tricky exercise because, first off, his 2017 projections have not been released yet. Alas, trying to figure out how much Carlos Martinez will be worth through future seasons is very rough around the edges.

So what I did do is take an unofficial Fangraphs aging chart for pitchers and attempt to make Martinez’s career mirror this graph as closely as possible while adding on a 5% inflation to the market dollar value of a win every year.

pitcher-age-graph

So, roughly judging this graph, the total WAR for pitchers in their age 24 season – which Martinez was during 2016 – was 850. That number then roughly jumped to 1,000 during the age 25 season, 117.6% increase.

Applying this same math to Martinez bWAR, his 2017 value will be 6.35 WAR according to Ryan’s rough projections. If we also take into account the Adam Wainwright career trajectory that Martinez appears to be mirroring, this 6.3 WAR appears even more reasonable, as Wainwright posted a 6.2 WAR in his 3rd season as a starter.

Now, going back to the graph, the jump in collective WAR from age 25 seasons to age 26 seasons is approximately 107.5% – roughly 1,000 WAR to roughly 1,075 WAR. Increasing Martinez’s Ryan projected 2017 bWAR of 6.35 by 107.5% yields a Ryan-projected 2018 bWAR of 6.82.

As we can see in the graph above, the bWAR line peaks at the age-26 season and then begins to decline down towards zero. From age-26 to age-27, the decline is approximately 3.3%. From age-27 to age-28, the decline is approximately 6.8%. The age-28 to age-29 decline is approximately 15.5%, and the age-29 to age-30 decline is approximately 8.6%.

I’m stopping at the age-30 season on this graph because my ideal extension length for Carlos Martinez – both for team and player – is 6 years. This would buy out all three of his arbitration years as well as three free agent years while paying him during his prime years, thus maximizing his value.

So, applying this unofficial pitcher age chart graph thing as well as my super unofficial percentages, Carlos Martinez’s Ryan-projected WAR during the 6 potential seasons of this extension would be as follows.

2017: 6.35

2018: 6.82

2019: 6.66

2020: 6.20

2021: 5.24

2022: 4.79

Overall, during the 6 years on this potential extension, Martinez would deliver – according to my extremely rough projections – a total of 36.06 WAR. That is absolutely astounding value.

So, how would this look when calculating Martinez’s Ryan-projected WAR in combination with the dollar market value for a win?

As I mentioned earlier, the current market value for one win is $8 million. For the sake of this exercise, I will add on a 5% inflation to that $8 million number every year. Martinez’s value comes out as follows.

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-1-08-54-am

So, according to the market value for wins and my rough projections, the Cardinals should offer Carlos Martinez a 6 year extension somewhere in the range of $320 million to match his value.

Is that realistic? Absolutely not. As much as I love Martinez, $320 million over 6 years is insane and should not even be considered by the Cardinals.

Market value is absolutely outrageous these days, and I knew that this exercise would yield an incredibly high answer to the question, “What is Carlos Martinez’s projected value?” So how do we try to figure out what his potential extension should look like?

Martinez is a unique case. He is a pitcher that has hit arbitration at the ripe age of 25, having two full and very productive seasons of being a starting pitcher under his belt. At 25, it’s both reasonable and viable to expect his value to only increase over the next few years as he ages into his peak years.

Right now, his value is high enough to reasonably warrant a pricy extension on its own, but when you consider that he should only get better? His value only increases. Thus, it’s basically impossible to find another player in the history of baseball that was in this situation and then compare the contract that nonexistent player signed and point to that as the blueprint for what Martinez should be extended for.

So bear with me here because this could be a bit of a stretch, but I have found a player that seems comparable to Martinez in the New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka.

When signed in the winter of 2014, Tanaka was entering his age 25 season, like Martinez. The only difference between the two is that Tanaka had been pitching in the Japanese professional league since his age-18 season in 2007, giving him a much longer track record.

Anyway, the contract that the Yankees signed Tanaka to was a 7 year, $155 million deal; an average annual value of $22 million complete with a full no trade clause and an opt-out after the 2017 season.

Applying this AAV down to the ideal 6 year extension that I have in mind for Martinez, the potential extension total comes to 6 years and $132 million. And let’s throw the full no-trade clause and opt-out after the 4th year into the deal as well just for the sake of mirroring Tanaka’s deal.

To the naked eye, this seems a bit steep to pay Martinez. But when you project out his value, he could – according to my numbers – out-perform the value of this contract by nearly $200 million. So you tell me if it’s a good or bad deal.

Personally, I really like the framework of a 6 year, $132 million extension with full no-trade and an opt out. I believe this deal checks all of the boxes.

Fully committing to Martinez as the future ace? Check, this would be the biggest deal in Cardinals history both from an AAV and total dollar value standpoint.

Allowing Martinez stability and some control? Check, the full no-trade guarantees that he’ll be in St. Louis for the duration of the deal while the opt-out gives him the option of going back onto the free agent market after his age-28 season in 2020.

Not over-committing with too many years? Check, the 6 years all come during the supposed prime of Martinez’s career, which maximizes his value while not paying him too much during the downturn that his early to mid-30’s could potentially be.

All of these numbers are extremely raw and very rough around the edges so please don’t take them as fact or guarantee, but this has still been a worthwhile exercise in attempting to define and project Carlos Martinez’s value going forward.

Both sides are supposedly interested in an extension, the entirety of the Cardinal fan base is interested in an extension, so what’s not to love?

Go make it happen, Mo.

Evaluating a Potential Carlos Martinez Extension

A Center Field Solution for the Cardinals

What can I say about the Cardinals center field situation that hasn’t already been said? Randal Grichuk, while not as bad as you might think, played just above the replacement level by crushing baseballs after his August recall from Triple-A to make up for ‘blah’ defense.

Look, you know the deal by now, Grichuk is not a center fielder, as badly as you and I both might want him to be. For Grichuk, this season can be viewed one of two ways.

You can be disappointed in his center field defense, porous ability to get on base, high strikeout rate, and view Randal Grichuk’s 2016 season as a lost cause that will only hurt his development as a quality player. Or, as I see things, you can view his season as a positive.

See, in 2016 we learned what Randal Grichuk isn’t, which can often be more important than knowing what someone is. We learned that Randal Grichuk is not a center fielder, and he is not a hitter who gets on base at a high clip.

Right now, we’re in a situation where he had to take one step back in order to take a big leap forward, which I believe will happen in 2017 when he likely takes over the full time left field job. Grichuk is a plus defender in left field – tallying 5 DRS in just under 370 innings while playing left field in St. Louis. And he can, and will, hit 40 home runs while slugging .500 and driving in over 100 runs if the Cardinals simply leave him be in the lineup and don’t nag him about getting on base all the time.

Did we not go over this already?

Anyway, this article isn’t about Grichuk, nor is it about Stephen Piscotty, the Cardinals everyday right fielder. This article is about the hole that is left by Grichuk’s evacuation of Busch Stadium’s center field.

While not officially confirming that Grichuk will be moving to left field, Cardinals General Manager, John Mozeliak, emphasized that two of his priorities during the 2016 offseason are upgrading the porous St. Louis defense and finding a solution in center field.

Many names have been floated around as a potential solution to the Cardinals central issue of the offseason. Charlie Blackmon, Andrew McCutchen, A.J. Pollock, Carlos Gomez, Adam Eaton, Ian Desmond and Dexter Fowler are just a few of the names that have been tossed into the magic hat of potential options for the Cardinals. However, I want to zero in on one guy that wasn’t listed above.

Kevin Kiermaier.

Kiermaier.jpg
Photo by Will Vragovic for the Tampa Bay Times

John Mozeliak’s two main focuses for the offseason, as he stated, are center field and defense. So why not kill a ton of birds with just one stone?

I don’t think anyone really needs an introduction to Kiermaier’s defense, but just in case you do, here are the things you need to know.

In two seasons and just under 2,000 innings played in center field, Kiermaier has an astonishing 68 defensive runs saved and a UZR/150 of 35.4. No one has ever posted a higher single season DRS in center field than the 42 DRS that Kiermaier posted during his gold glove season in 2015.

The man is the greatest defensive center fielder of all time, not even remotely kidding with that statement. While playing nearly 500 less innings than 2nd place Kevin Pillar, Kiermaier led all center fielders with 25 defensive runs saved and a 26.9 UZR/150 during the 2016 season. 

So, let’s say that the Cardinals make a deal for Kiermaier. Not only does this solve the problem of center field defense by nabbing the greatest center field defender of all time, but left field defense is made stronger by the simple subtraction of Matt Holliday and addition of Randal Grichuk.

And just imagine all of the extra base hits that the outfield trio of Kevin Kiermaier, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty could potentially take away from opposing hitters. It’s mesmerizing just to dream about it.

Now, I know that there are much better offensive options available, and Kiermaier’s career WRC+ of 105 isn’t ideal offense from a franchise center fielder, but with the offensive talent that the Cardinals can trot out in 2016, they do have the ability to pull Kiermaier’s potentially league average offense.

Just as I have pointed out that Randal Grichuk does not need to be an on-base maestro, Kevin Kiermaier – in a potential sense – would not need to carry the Cardinal offense. The 2017 Cardinals must be a puzzle in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So, what does Kevin Kiermaier do well that could fit into a puzzle?

Kevin.jpg
This. He does this very well. (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports)

I already touched on his defense, but his other plus quality is base running. If you had no prior knowledge of Kiermaier, but knew that he was an outstanding defender in center field, you might have been able to guess that he was a pretty darn good baserunner too; which he most definitely is.

In 2016, Kiermaier’s 6.5 BsR – “an all encompassing base running statistic that turns stolen bases, caught stealings, and other base running plays into runs above and below average” – ranked 7th in all of baseball, just ahead of Starling Marte.

The highest Cardinal on that list? Stephen Piscotty in a tie for 114th with Chris Carter of the Milwaukee Brewers at -2.8 BsR. Yikes.

Our findings conclude that Kevin Kiermaier’s strengths are running the bases and defense. And what were the Cardinals primary weaknesses in 2016? Running the bases and defense; it’s almost too perfect of a fit.

And even further, Kiermaier plays for the Tampa Bay Rays, a notoriously low budget team that must maximize the talent they have by trading it for young, controllable players before the current roster gets too expensive for them to keep.

Kiermaier fits this bill. Although he is still several years away from free agency, it continues to seem more and more likely that, even with his league average offense, Kiermaier will be able to command a hefty contract that Tampa Bay will not be able to afford. Considering what we all saw Jason Heyward sign for this past offseason, defense and base running can command massive contracts, and that’s what Kiermaier has.

And with a restocked farm system, the Cardinals now have the depth and young, controllable talent to be able to reasonably make this deal happen. So, not only does this appear to be an absolutely perfect fit, but the deal doesn’t seem outlandish to accomplish, as a potential trade for Andrew Mccutcheon or A.J. Pollock currently feels, as great as those would be.

Look, everyone needs to get over the fact that the Cardinals don’t have a bona fide, all encompassing superstar player that can garner MVP votes and put up 7 WAR seasons. That means, as I said, that the whole of the 2017 Cardinals must be greater than the sum of its parts.

If we include Kiermaier into this puzzle, all of the pieces are there for the Cardinals to be successful.

Power? Yup, even with the assumption that Jedd Gyorko regresses back to his career norms, the Cardinals still have Randal Grichuk and Matt Carpenter as power sources; and if Gyorko doesn’t regress, that’s even more power.

Speed? Kiermaier takes the reigns here and joins up with Kolten Wong to spearhead a much improved St. Louis Cardinals team on the base paths.

On base ability? Matt Carpenter and Aledmys Diaz, step right up and show off your shiny on base percentages that set the table for the run producers behind you like Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty.

Defense? Kiermaier takes the reigns here as well, covering acres of ground in center field, while having Kolten Wong as the – supposed – primary second baseman in 2017 also will definitely help in this area.

From a position player standpoint, the Cardinals have every ingredient to field a very successful team in 2017 – provided that my theoretical Kevin Kiermaier addition does occur. All of those ingredients may not come from one player, but that’s the beauty of this team. All of the pieces of the puzzle fit together to produce a winning ball club.

All we need is Kevin Kiermaier to fit into those last few tricky spots.

A Center Field Solution for the Cardinals

Free Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk, the greek god of baseball, a “Lamborghini”, a “wild stallion that just needs to run free”; the man of many nicknames, long hair and glorious forearms is stirring the pot of conversation in Cardinal-land.

He’s been hailed as the next great Cardinal center fielder, sent down to Triple-A, called back up, sent back down, called back up and been a general disappointment along the way. But, the heir to the great Colby Rasmus’ throne has caught fire recently, and he’s done it by accepting his game and playing it.

In all my years of studying baseball, I’ve made the mind-blowing discovery that you can break down every single hitter in the history of God’s greatest game into two categories. Hitters either slug, or they get on base. If you do both, you are a superstar. If you do neither, you are not collecting paychecks as a professional baseball player.

Randal Grichuk slugs, and he slugs really well.

Entering the season, Grichuk was saddled with the expectation that he would seize the Cardinals center field job by storm, maximizing his incredible raw power, stealing 20 bases, playing top notch defense, and finally mastering the art of becoming an on-base aficionado.

As exciting as the though was, our expectations of Grichuk were too high, and he crumbled underneath them. He’s admitted that he was trying to hard to modify his swing and his approach in the name of trying to get on base more, and that he “lost most of [his] power in the process.”

The Cardinals sent him down in mid-May, and then recalled him in June, only to send him back down in July and call him back up just after August started. Upon his most recent call-up, Grichuk got some words of advice from a fellow slugger, Brandon Moss.

“I wanted to show him some things on similar players that have struggled in their careers or struggled in their first couple years and then all of a sudden the power number starts to spike because the on-base started to climb. The batting average slowly climbs, sometimes goes down, but that’s okay. I’m not trying to shape him, but I’m trying to give him a better idea because I feel like that’s where he was lost. He wants stardom. He needs the patience for it, but it will come.”

Those are some powerful words, coming from a late blooming slugger like Moss, who accepted what he was, and unapologetically exploded onto the scene in Oakland during his age 29 season, in which he slugged .596, sported an insane .954 OPS, and blasted 30 home runs to drive in 87.

Moss’ career high average in a season in which he has at least 300 plate appearances is .263, which he’s tallying this year, and he’s clearly never cared about that; nor should he. Like I said, hitters either get paid to slug, or they get paid to get on base. It’s that simple, and Moss slugs as well as anyone in baseball.

And, since his latest promotion back into the Major Leagues, Grichuk is slugging at ridiculous levels as well.

Much like Moss was doing during his initial stint in the major leagues with Boston, Grichuk has been trying to be a player he is not. Drafted with the pick before Mike Trout, he has consistently tried to be a dynamic power-speed threat that plays sparkling CF defense and is the total package 5 tool player. That’s just not who he is.

When Randal Grichuk is at his best, his walk rate will sit around 6 or 7%, his strikeout rate will be somewhere around 25%, and his OBP will be in the .320’s. And this is all 100% okay, Randal Grichuk does not need to be an on-base machine, the Cardinals can pay other guys to do that.

STOP TRYING TO MAKE RANDAL GRICHUK INTO SOMETHING HE ISN’T.

What Grichuk is, however, is a man of large biceps and monstrous power, so turn him loose and watch baseballs fly.

Since his latest callus – and, presumably, his chat with Brandon Moss that has seemed to set him free – Grichuk is slugging .900, with 5 home runs and 12 out of his 13 hits have gone for extra bases. He is getting on base at a respectable .341 clip, but his K/BB ratio is 15/1. So just let him be what he is.

Grichuk is absolutely mashing the baseball since coming back, and the one stat that really jumps out at me and is indicative of his approach is added velocity. Really quick, added velocity is a stat cast number the measures the difference between incoming pitch velocity and exit velocity. The difference is either added or subtracted velocity.

Randal Grichuk has a season average of 10.52 MPH of added velocity, meaning that the balls he does square up are being absolutely smashed. He has seemed to stop worrying about trying to make contact with everything – and thus stopped chasing that pesky breaking ball away that every pitcher knows is his weakness – and has started hunting fastballs that he can do damage with. For reference, the MLB average for added velocity is 3.51 MPH.

Even more indicative of the type of player Randal Grichuk is are his numbers over the last 30 games. He’s slashing .250/.287/.615 with 8 home runs, 18 RBI’s and a K/BB ratio of 38/5. As I said, he slugs, and he slugs very well.

Let Randal Grichuk be himself, stop trying to turn him into an on base machine  while still maintaining his power, we all saw how that experiment turned out, (demotions…lots of demotions). Put him in every day CF, hit him 6th or 7th in the lineup, and turn him loose. The man will absolutely mash.

The Cardinals can pay other guys to get on base in front of Grichuk, but they just need to leave him be and let him do his thing. Balls will fly, runs will be driven in, and everyone wins.

#FreeRandalGrichuk.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan

Featured image courtesy of Harry How for Getty Images

Free Randal Grichuk

The Cardinals are Getting Hot and That Should be Scary

Recently, I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine, and intern for Yahoo sports. He was telling me about how his boss is a big Cubs fan, and has been riding really high throughout this season during the Cubs monstrous run of success. However, he is “deathly afraid” of the Cardinals making the playoffs, regardless of how weak they may seem to be.

Guess what, his fears may be coming true.

Seemingly forgotten by just about everyone throughout the course of this season, the Cardinals have silently hovered around .500 and treaded water in the shadow of the Chicago Cubs empire. Comfortably living underneath the enormous amount of hype being put on the Cubs, St. Louis has trusted their ability to get hot at the right time and their veteran and playoff experience.

The sentiment throughout the clubhouse has consistently been, ‘we will do what is necessary when it is necessary.’ And, sure enough, here we are in late August, looking up at the standings and seeing the Cardinals holding onto a playoff spot and starting to get hot.

And that should be scary to every other team in the national league.

When I was looking at St. Louis before the season and trying to get a beat on the type of team they would be trotting out on a nightly basis, one thing always stuck out. Depth; St. Louis has it in spades. Teams like Washington or Chicago or even Miami may be able to put out a stronger starting 9 than the Cardinals, but St. louis has the 25 man – and even 40 man – roster to compete with anyone.

Having won 6 of their last 7 games following a woeful stretch of series against the lowly Reds, Braves and the mighty Cubs, something has clicked in the Cardinal clubhouse. The much maligned St. Louis bullpen has given up 2 runs in their last 21 innings, and the offense has put up 38 runs over the last 7 games. And this is all without, by and large, the best offensive player in the lineup being healthy since late July.

The Cardinals are just beginning to hit their stride, and they still have an extra gear.

So, when I say that St. Louis has the 25 man roster to compete with any club, what, exactly, does that mean and why should that raise their status as a true contending club? There’s one player in particular that I want to use to highlight my point, and who is, by himself, a microcosm of the St. Louis season.

Jedd Gyorko came over from the San Diego Padres during the offseason as the return package for Jon Jay. At the time, I thought, “Okay, a little move for some infield depth and flexibility with maybe some added power. Well done, Mo.” Turns out, Gyorko has been far more than just ‘a little move’.

While playing all 4 different infield positions and batting in every single lineup spot 1-9, Gyorko has turned in his best all around season, and has a case for being the Cardinals finest offensive player. And, keep in mind, this was a simple depth move that was supposed to strengthen the bench.

Gyorko hit his 20th home run of the season on Sunday in Philadelphia – good for 2nd on the team behind Brandon Moss’s 23 bombs, we’ll get into that – and has not yet eclipsed the 300 at bat mark. His 2.5 WAR is nearing a career high and is good for 4th on the team. Again, this is a depth player that doesn’t even have 300 at bats. And since July 1st, Gyorko is slugging .581, with 13 home runs in 136 at bats and a WRC+ of 146. With the rash of injuries that has hit St. Louis since late June, Gyorko’s surge has been incredible.

Yet another example of the Cardinals ‘next man up’ mentality. And, to even further Gyorko’s remarkable season, he plays good defense. Between his 4 infield positions – highlighted by a +6 at third base – Gyorko has 9 defensive runs saved.

Furthering the Cardinals depth is Brandon Moss. Coming into the season, the thing that Gyorko and Moss had in common was that both of them didn’t have a set role with the team. They were both sort of in limbo, not knowing when they would be called upon, but knowing that they would be called upon. Come August, both are vital cogs in the Cardinal machine, and Moss has re-asserted himself as one of the premier power hitters in all of baseball.

During the same game that Gyorko his his 20th bomb of the year, Moss mashed his 23rd, something that I would have expected at the start of the season, but am still in shock and awe of.

That team leading 23rd home run now has Moss averaging one home run every 12.6 at bats. For players with at least 300 at bats, this is the best rate in all of baseball. And Moss’ monstrous .570 slugging percentage on the entire season ranks 2nd in the national league behind Daniel Murphy (boo this man).

Now, what does this all have to do with the Cardinals chances in the playoffs? Every team has some surprises that come along and do big things, why are they special?

I’m highlighting these two players because they are a glimpse into why the Cardinals serve as a dangerous and scary beast one the playoffs arrive. The home run has been the primary weapon of choice in the Cardinal arsenal throughout this season, but those home runs come in wave after wave after wave.

St. Louis has 9 players with at least 10 home runs, and one – Tommy Pham – that should easily eclipse 10 and even has an outside shot at 20. And, as dangerous as the lineup may seem right now, just wait until Aledmys Diaz returns from a thumb injury. Adding a .912 OPS back into a lineup that sits 3rd in all of Major League Baseball with 631 runs scored can’t possibly hurt.

On a statistic-less note, St. Louis serves as a dangerous playoff team just because of their experience. As good as the Chicago Cubs or Washington Nationals are, those two teams just haven’t ‘been there’. The core of the St. Louis clubhouse has won a World Series and been to the playoffs for 5 straight seasons. This is a club that simply knows how to get the job done.

And, considering the random, free-for-all style of baseball that the playoffs often give us, St. Louis is as good a bet as anyone. When you throw everything out the window and put the Cardinals in the playoffs, their lineup, pitching staff, and bullpen match up favorably with anyone.

Let’s take Los Angeles, for example.

Match up the two lineups and St. Louis has scored 82 more runs and features a team OPS that is 57 points higher. On the starting pitching side, LA has a slight edge with an ERA of 4.09 in 673 innings while St. Louis sports a 4.23 ERA in 731.1 innings. However, the 673 innings pitched by Los Angeles’ pitching staff are only better than Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, while St. Louis’ 731.1 innings are good for 6th best in baseball. Which leads us into the bullpens, where Los Angeles ranks 3rd in all of baseball with at 3.25 ERA, while St. Louis sits right behind them, in 4th, at 3.30. But, considering all the innings that the Los Angeles rotation has thrown, the Dodger bullpen has shown signs of wear and tear of late with a 5.27 bullpen ERA during the month of August.

Los Angeles isn’t the only example I could use, but it just shows that St. Louis – even with all of their perceived flaws – can match up with anyone in a playoff scenario and be dangerous. Just a month ago, I was clamoring for John Mozeliak to sell, wave the white flag, and look towards next season with a clearer picture. Not only did Mozeliak not do what I told him to, but his club has now gotten hot, and is in somewhat secure control of a Wild Card spot.

Baseball is random, the Cardinals are random. When hot and healthy, this is not a team to be messed with, and the Cardinals are getting both hot and healthy; and that should scare the rest of baseball.

Recently, I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine, and intern for Yahoo sports. He was telling me about how his boss is a big Cubs fan, and has been riding really high throughout this season during the Cubs monstrous run of success. However, he is “deathly afraid” of the Cardinals making the playoffs, regardless of how weak they may seem to be.

Guess what, his fears may be coming true.

Seemingly forgotten by just about everyone throughout the course of this season, the Cardinals have silently hovered around .500 and treaded water in the shadow of the Chicago Cubs empire. Comfortably living underneath the enormous amount of hype being put on the Cubs, St. Louis has trusted their ability to get hot at the right time and their veteran and playoff experience.

The sentiment throughout the clubhouse has consistently been, ‘we will do what is necessary when it is necessary.’ And, sure enough, here we are in late August, looking up at the standings and seeing the Cardinals holding onto a playoff spot and starting to get hot.

And that should be scary to every other team in the national league.

When I was looking at St. Louis before the season and trying to get a beat on the type of team they would be trotting out on a nightly basis, one thing always stuck out. Depth; St. Louis has it in spades. Teams like Washington or Chicago or even Miami may be able to put out a stronger starting 9 than the Cardinals, but St. louis has the 25 man – and even 40 man – roster to compete with anyone.

Having won 6 of their last 7 games following a woeful stretch of series against the lowly Reds, Braves and the mighty Cubs, something has clicked in the Cardinal clubhouse. The much maligned St. Louis bullpen has given up 2 runs in their last 21 innings, and the offense has put up 38 runs over the last 7 games. And this is all without, by and large, the best offensive player in the lineup being healthy since late July.

The Cardinals are just beginning to hit their stride, and they still have an extra gear.

So, when I say that St. Louis has the 25 man roster to compete with any club, what, exactly, does that mean and why should that raise their status as a true contending club? There’s one player in particular that I want to use to highlight my point, and who is, by himself, a microcosm of the St. Louis season.

Jedd Gyorko came over from the San Diego Padres during the offseason as the return package for Jon Jay. At the time, I thought, “Okay, a little move for some infield depth and flexibility with maybe some added power. Well done, Mo.” Turns out, Gyorko has been far more than just ‘a little move’.

While playing all 4 different infield positions and batting in every single lineup spot 1-9, Gyorko has turned in his best all around season, and has a case for being the Cardinals finest offensive player. And, keep in mind, this was a simple depth move that was supposed to strengthen the bench.

Gyorko hit his 20th home run of the season on Sunday in Philadelphia – good for 2nd on the team behind Brandon Moss’s 23 bombs, we’ll get into that – and has not yet eclipsed the 300 at bat mark. His 2.5 WAR is nearing a career high and is good for 4th on the team. Again, this is a depth player that doesn’t even have 300 at bats. And since July 1st, Gyorko is slugging .581, with 13 home runs in 136 at bats and a WRC+ of 146. With the rash of injuries that has hit St. Louis since late June, Gyorko’s surge has been incredible.

Yet another example of the Cardinals ‘next man up’ mentality. And, to even further Gyorko’s remarkable season, he plays good defense. Between his 4 infield positions – highlighted by a +6 at third base – Gyorko has 9 defensive runs saved.

Furthering the Cardinals depth is Brandon Moss. Coming into the season, the thing that Gyorko and Moss had in common was that both of them didn’t have a set role with the team. They were both sort of in limbo, not knowing when they would be called upon, but knowing that they would be called upon. Come August, both are vital cogs in the Cardinal machine, and Moss has re-asserted himself as one of the premier power hitters in all of baseball.

During the same game that Gyorko his his 20th bomb of the year, Moss mashed his 23rd, something that I would have expected at the start of the season, but am still in shock and awe of.

That team leading 23rd home run now has Moss averaging one home run every 12.6 at bats. For players with at least 300 at bats, this is the best rate in all of baseball. And Moss’ monstrous .570 slugging percentage on the entire season ranks 2nd in the national league behind Daniel Murphy (boo this man).

Now, what does this all have to do with the Cardinals chances in the playoffs? Every team has some surprises that come along and do big things, why are they special?

I’m highlighting these two players because they are a glimpse into why the Cardinals serve as a dangerous and scary beast one the playoffs arrive. The home run has been the primary weapon of choice in the Cardinal arsenal throughout this season, but those home runs come in wave after wave after wave.

St. Louis has 9 players with at least 10 home runs, and one – Tommy Pham – that should easily eclipse 10 and even has an outside shot at 20. And, as dangerous as the lineup may seem right now, just wait until Aledmys Diaz returns from a thumb injury. Adding a .912 OPS back into a lineup that sits 3rd in all of Major League Baseball with 631 runs scored can’t possibly hurt.

On a statistic-less note, St. Louis serves as a dangerous playoff team just because of their experience. As good as the Chicago Cubs or Washington Nationals are, those two teams just haven’t ‘been there’. The core of the St. Louis clubhouse has won a World Series and been to the playoffs for 5 straight seasons. This is a club that simply knows how to get the job done.

And, considering the random, free-for-all style of baseball that the playoffs often give us, St. Louis is as good a bet as anyone. When you throw everything out the window and put the Cardinals in the playoffs, their lineup, pitching staff, and bullpen match up favorably with anyone.

Let’s take Los Angeles, for example.

Match up the two lineups and St. Louis has scored 82 more runs and features a team OPS that is 57 points higher. On the starting pitching side, LA has a slight edge with an ERA of 4.09 in 673 innings while St. Louis sports a 4.23 ERA in 731.1 innings. However, the 673 innings pitched by Los Angeles’ pitching staff are only better than Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, while St. Louis’ 731.1 innings are good for 6th best in baseball. Which leads us into the bullpens, where Los Angeles ranks 3rd in all of baseball with at 3.25 ERA, while St. Louis sits right behind them, in 4th, at 3.30. But, considering all the innings that the Los Angeles rotation has thrown, the Dodger bullpen has shown signs of wear and tear of late with a 5.27 bullpen ERA during the month of August.

Los Angeles isn’t the only example I could use, but it just shows that St. Louis – even with all of their perceived flaws – can match up with anyone in a playoff scenario and be dangerous. Just a month ago, I was clamoring for John Mozeliak to sell, wave the white flag, and look towards next season with a clearer picture. Not only did Mozeliak not do what I told him to, but his club has now gotten hot, and is in somewhat secure control of a Wild Card spot.

Baseball is random, the Cardinals are random. When hot and healthy, this is not a team to be messed with, and the Cardinals are getting both hot and healthy; and that should scare the rest of baseball.

The Cardinals are Getting Hot and That Should be Scary

Star Power: Does St. Louis Have It?

Considering my busy schedule, I’ve been writing a lot lately; and there has been a lot to write about recently. The Rams ditched town, hockey is hockey-ing, and ZiPS released their annual projections, so there has certainly been quite a bit for me to discuss; and speaking of those projections, they will be cited, and we will be talking more baseball. So let’s do it.

On Monday, St. Louis columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote an article headlined, Cardinals Have Depth Among Position Players but is There a Star in the House? As a precursor, I have not actually read the article, but just the headline got me thinking and researching. So here’s my take on the proposed ‘issue’, apologies in advance to Bernie if I steal any of his points as it is unintentional.

Before we dive in I want to define what I mean by ‘star’ or ‘star-power’. A star is someone who is within the top 5 for MVP candidacy or Cy Young candidacy. A Paul Goldschmidt or Mike Trout or Kris Bryant type player that produces big numbers and can have an entire lineup or pitching staff revolve around him.

Moving on.

Last season, en route to becoming the first team since the 2011 Phillies to win 100 games, the Cardinals had no position player exceed the 6.5 WAR benchmark set by Jason Heyward and no pitcher exceed the 5.6 WAR benchmark set by John Lackey.

Both of those players are gone, which leaves the highest returning WAR being Matt Carpenter’s 3.9. 3.9 WAR certainly isn’t indicative of a bad player, but it’s definitely not star-level production. The highest ZiPS projected position players, in terms of WAR, for the 2016 Cardinals are Carpenter at 3.8 WAR and Yadier Molina at 3.3 WAR.

All solid numbers, but nothing to really revolve the world around. But, as I brought up earlier in my article about how underrated the Pirates were, ZiPS has a tendency to perennially underrate teams and players – looking at you, Royals.

If you’re looking for the stars in St. Louis, it takes a lot of optimism and hometown bias to find them. Fortunately for the sake of this article, I have both of those things in spades.

If you asked a random sample of 100 people that know the game of baseball, “who is the best position player on the St. Louis Cardinals?” your answers would vastly vary.

All of the stat-heads would tell you that Matt Carpenter is because of his combination of surprising power and his ability to get on base at a very healthy clip. Fans who watch the Cardinals on a day-to-day basis and trust their eyes more than the numbers – kind of like me – would tell you Yadier Molina is the best player on the Cardinals and it’s not up for debate. Optimists would tell you Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty and pessimists would tell you Matt Holliday is still the best of a bad bunch.

Asking the same question to the same audience about who the best pitcher was would reveal many different answers as well. Stat-heads would say Carlos Martinez because of his ability to punch people out, keep the ball in the ballpark and do all of the things that FIP-people enjoy. The same people that told you Yadier Molina was the best position player would tell you that Adam Wainwright was clearly the best pitcher because of his ‘ace’ status and workhorse mentality and that won’t change until he retires. Optimists still believe in Michael Wacha and pessimists would argue for Lance Lynn – even though he’s hurt. But that’s all a different article for a different day.

Unlike a lot of other teams, the debate of who is the best position player and pitcher in St. Louis yields a multitude of different answers. It’s an extremely unique situation that the Cardinals have, as this exercise proves their exceptional depth but also proves their lack of top-end talent.

So are there any true “stars” in St. Louis?

Carpenter 1
Photo by Dilip Vishwanet for Getty Images

If you’re really optimistic, you might believe that Matt Carpenter is the star in St. Louis. In 2013 he displayed his now legendary penchant for getting on base by posting a .392 OBP and leading the league with 126 runs scored, 199 hits, and 82 walks to only 98 strikeouts. 2 years later, in 2015, Carpenter demonstrated his surprising power, blasting 28 home runs, knocking in 84 runs, slugging a robust .505, still walking a healthy 81 times to augment a .365 OBP and doing all of this out of the leadoff spot.

In my years of studying baseball, I have broken down hitters into two categories; hitters either slug, or they get on base. If you do both, you’re a superstar, and if you do neither you’re not playing professional baseball.

Carpenter has shown the ability to both get on base and slug, but combining them is something we have yet to see. If he can, expect to see a season similar to his 6.3 WAR campaign in 2013, except look for more of those 55 doubles Carpenter mashed to leave the ballpark. Optimistically, Carpenter can absolutely be a superstar; realistically, he’ll continue to be a 4 or 5 win player that is vastly underappreciated and undervalued.

Much like Carpenter, it requires a lot of optimism to view guys like Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty as superstars; but it is possible.

In just 350 PA in 2015, Grichuk produced a 3.5 WAR thanks to his terrific defense (9 defensive runs saved in just 783 innings in the field) and immense raw power (.548 slugging, .272 ISO). Projected out over 600 PA – again, according to my brilliant math skills – Grichuk produces 6.0 WAR and 29 HR; pushing superstar territory.

Grichuk 1
Photo by Harry How for Getty Images

The only real issue with Grichuk is his strikeout rate is alarmingly high (31.4%) and his walk rate is far too low (6.4%) which produced a .329 OBP. Ideally, Grichuk cuts down his strikeout rate, walks more, and thus gets more pitches to hit, but it’s hard to complain about the numbers I just projected out. But for the sake of this article, not quite a superstar level player.

Stephen Piscotty is the position player wild card for St. Louis. A textbook case of ‘small sample size theater’, Piscotty posted terrific numbers in a small amount of PA – .853 OPS, .189 ISO, 143 WRC+ and a .372 BABIP thanks to the 13th highest average velocity on balls in play (approx. 305 MPH). As Fangraphs’ Mike Podhorzer pointed out, this could either be the tip of the iceberg for a budding superstar, or it could be a flash in a pan for a slightly above average outfielder.

So what do I make of all those numbers?

I think Grichuk has shown his peak. He’s an extremely athletic outfielder – Cardinals’ hitting coach John Mabry called him a “Lamborghini” this past spring training – who plays above average defense at all three outfield positions and can hit a baseball a long way. Of the two categories of hitters that I brought up earlier, Grichuk slugs, and he slugs well. But I think it’s rather unrealistic to expect him to get on base at the type of clip that would warrant the ‘superstar’ label his slugging prowess would justify.

As for Piscotty, I firmly believe that he is a lineup staple in St. Louis, and the crown jewel of the whole Albert Pujols episode (sorry, Michael Wacha). Throughout the minors he showed an ability to consistently get on base, and while in the majors he showed a much greater ability to drive the baseball – thanks to some swing adjustments he made during the 2014-15 offseason. Is he a superstar right now? Not yet, but his time is coming and I believe that.

Piscotty 1
Photo by Jeff Curry for Getty Images

The Cardinals may not have a Mike Trout-type perennial MVP candidate in their stockpile of position players, but unlike Mike Trout’s Anaheim team the Cardinals have next to no positional weaknesses and their depth is unmatched.

Catcher? The best defensive catcher in the history of the game and the backbone of the club resides back there. 3rd base? Carpenter and his projected 3.8 WAR. Jhonny Peralta and his 7.5 WAR over the past two seasons holds down the fort at SS, while Kolten Wong and Jedd Gyorko project out as a 3.5 WAR platoon at second. I evaluated 1st base just this past week, but between Brandon Moss and Matt Adams, St. Louis is still projected to post up 2.3 WAR. Between the outfield trio of Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty, the Cardinal outfield is projected to be worth 8.2 WAR in 2016. The Cardinals top 5 bench options – which I’ve designated as Matt Adams, Tommy Pham, Greg Garcia, Brayan Peña and Jedd Gyorko – are projected to be worth 6.3 WAR.

As I said, the Cardinals depth is unmatched, but they do lack star power. You can’t describe them as top heavy, but the midsection of the St. Louis roster is incredibly thick and talented.

Is it a 100 win team? Probably not, but is it the team that ZiPS has projected for 84 wins? To me, that seems like an insult. I brought this up the other day, but I believe St. Louis will thrive in the underdog role the media has placed them in.

And their stockpile of middle-end talent will be leading the charge.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

 

 

 

Star Power: Does St. Louis Have It?

Cardinals Rumor Roundup: November 21

The free agent farmer’s market is officially open for business, and the rumor mill is churning in full force. Fellow citizen, prepare to be fully immersed in a perpetual and almost nonsensical stream of rumors and “inside information.”

With that lead in, let’s take a look at all of the rumors surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals and how I personally feel about them and gauge their probability of actually coming to fruition.

Rumor #1: Cardinals could target Freddie Freeman in a trade

I haven’t really heard this from any credible insiders, it’s been more of an internet blogger piece of clickbait. But still, it gets my attention because we’re talking about Freddie Freeman here.

Freddie Freeman
Photo by Steve Mitchell for USA Today

I’ve written about possibly solving the Cardinals 1st  base issue by trading Matt Adams to Baltimore for a bullpen package and letting Stephen Piscotty run with 1st base, but the more and more I think about that the more and more I realize that Piscotty’s future is in the outfield, not at 1st base. So why put him there now?

Atlanta sort of seems to be caught in the middle of a total rebuild and an attempt to contend right now, as they have been acquiring players that are young and raw enough to be developed as future talents, but still will be able to contribute right away in 2016. The Cardinals have plenty to offer in that regard.

Ideally, they could sell Atlanta on the potential of Matt Adams as a cheap alternative to Freeman and the veteran presence of Matt Holliday in that outfield to help bolster the development of Hector Olivera. Combine that with a pitcher like Tim Cooney or Marco Gonzales and it would be enough to get the deal done.

But we don’t live in an ideal world and there is no way in hell that scenario would ever play out. Regardless of that, if Atlanta is selling Freeman the Cardinals should give him a look. He would be a massive upgrade over anything the Cardinals could put out there in 2016, not to mention they would have control of him for 6 more years at a rather modest $16 million a year considering his talent level.

Freddie Freeman 2
Photo by Curtis Compton for Associated Press

Will it happen? Extremely doubtful for two reasons. Reason 1 is that the Cardinals don’t go out and make big deals for positions that they already have internal options for. John Mozeliak is too conservative, and loves giving his homegrown guys a chance. And reason 2 is that the Braves really have no reason to deal Freeman. He’s young, he’s controlled, and he’s exceptionally talented, not to mention the fact that he’s the face of the franchise. This deal won’t happen.

Rumor #2: The Cardinals have reached out to Mark Buehrle to express their interest, but Buehrle isn’t sure if he wants to play in 2016

            This one actually has some weight, as Bob Elliot of the Toronto Sun writes that, “while Buehrle is unsure of whether or not he wants to pitch in 2016, he will sign with the Cardinals if he does.” So basically, it’s retirement or the Cardinals for the St. Charles native Buehrle. How do I feel about it?

Don’t like it.

Buehrle requested that he be left off of Toronto’s playoff roster because he was retiring at the end of the season and didn’t want to pitch in the playoffs. That, to me, sounds like a guy that’s out of gas in his baseball life and I just have no interest in that on the Cardinals in 2016.

Buehrle
Photo by Elsa for Getty Images

Currently, with Lance Lynn’s absence, the Cardinals have an innings void that they don’t necessarily know how to fill at the moment. Could Buehrle provide the club with about 200 or so quality innings to fill that gap? Potentially, and he’d probably be relatively cheap too. But I just don’t like this one.

I feel like Buehrle has run his course in the game, and when I consider the incredible depth of the starting pitching market this offseason, the Cardinals can find a much, much better option to fill those innings.

So I don’t like this one, but the probability of it happening is way higher than the Freeman trade. Keep your eyes on this one.

Rumor #3: The Cardinals are in contact with Scott Boras and have shown strong interest in Chris Davis

            Again, like the last rumor this one has significant weight, as Ken Rosenthal first reported it and was subsequently backed up by John Paul Morosi and multiple other outlets. But unlike my casual displeasure with the last rumor, I really don’t like this one.

The Cardinals need power, and they need it in spades, and this has been well documented by anyone with an opinion that has watched the Cardinals over the course of the past 4 or 5 years. But Chris Davis is not the answer to the Cardinals power deficiency.

Chris Davis
Photo by Tommy Gilligan for USA Today

Everything in baseball is a gamble, but some gambles are not ones worth taking. And although Davis has defensive versatility and can launch homers when he’s right, he strikes out so freaking much, doesn’t fit the Cardinals offensive mold, would cost them a 1st round draft pick, and will likely command around $25 million a year.

Davis will also be on the wrong side of 30 for the majority of any long term deal he would sign, and aging power hitters are not something that you want to be dishing out $20+ million to.

As I inferred with my endorsement of the Cardinals potential pursuit of Freddie Freeman earlier, I am all for going out and searching for answers at 1st base from outside sources, but I would much rather have an internal solution over Chris Davis.

Chris Davis 2
Photo by Patrick Semansky for Associated Press

Do I like it? Hell no, and I’m really against it. But will it happen? I have absolutely no clue. I expected the Cardinals to check in on Davis, but I still don’t expect them to be major players in his market. So keep an eye on this one simply because it’s a big fish in the free agent pond, but don’t put too much stock into the early rumor reports.

If you can’t tell from these rumors, the Cardinals deficiencies heading into 2016 are really clear. They need starting pitching in place of Lance Lynn – and also with the entire rest of the rotation having injury issues – and they need a solution to their 1st base issue. What doesn’t come up here is their bullpen issues, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

As I usually say, the cards are in the hands of almighty John Mozeliak, and I have faith that he’ll get the job done. As for the rumor mill, it’ll keep churning, and I’ll keep looking and listening and opining.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

 

Cardinals Rumor Roundup: November 21