More Tyler O’Neill’s: A Sequel

On yesterday’s episode of, ‘Ryan is the GM of the Cardinals’, I traded away Kolten Wong to Oakland in exchange for Matt Chapman and I also sent Jedd Gyorko and Trevor Rosenthal to Tampa Bay in exchange for Willy Adames.

My trade deadline goal remains to sell 2017’s expendable parts in exchange for pieces that will help the Cardinals win in 2018 and beyond. So, with all this in mind, let’s take a look at who is still left in my ‘sell’ pile, shall we?

The most simple player in the pile is Lance Lynn, so let’s start there.

Lynn is set to become a free agent at the end of 2017 and he surely won’t re-sign with the Cardinals. For starters, St. Louis has a wealth of pitching talent just waiting for an opportunity to take Lynn’s rotation spot. Alex Reyes is presumably first in line, closely followed by Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, and Dakota Hudson among others.

Secondly, with Lynn’s track record of quality, (career 3.37 FIP while averaging 191 IP in each of his 4 full seasons as a starter) he will likely be able to command money on the open market the Cardinals won’t be willing to pay him with so many younger, cheaper options available.

Lance Lynn
Photo courtesy of St. Louis Cardinals

The course of action is simple here. With a 3.30 ERA in 114 IP so far this season, Lynn poses as an attractive piece for one of 2017’s many contending teams in dire need of starting pitching help. Houston needs pitching help, Milwaukee needs pitching, the Cubs need pitching, but I’ve got my eyes on two teams and I want a bidding war between them.

With today’s news that Clayton Kershaw will be out for 4-6 weeks with back trouble, the Los Angeles Dodgers suddenly have a real need for starting pitching. Pair them up with a New York Yankees team desperately trying to catch the Boston Red Sox and we’re in business.

From both of their perspectives, Lynn makes a lot of sense both during and beyond 2017. Quality, durable, dependable starting pitching is difficult to find. Lynn would fill an immediate need in both teams’ rotations – the Yankees’ rotation already needed help before Michael Pineda went down with Tommy John surgery – and he would make sense to sign in the offseason considering that both teams easily have the money and will definitely be looking to win immediately beyond 2017.

From the Cardinals’ perspective…oh boy is this going to be fun.

Both the Yankees’ and Dodgers’ farm systems are loaded, but I believe the deal more feasibly gets done with the Dodgers as the trade partner. For one, the Yankees have already given up Blake Rutherford and others to trade for a Todd Frazier package and they could be hesitant to give up even more future talent for more rentals. However, if the Cardinals can manage to net Justus Sheffield or Chance Adams in return for Lynn, that would be ideal.

As for the Dodgers, they haven’t made any moves yet and maintain that the team they put out on the field right now is plenty good enough to win the World Series. However, staring down the barrel of being without Kershaw for possibly 6 weeks and with the Diamondbacks and Rockies hot on their trail, starting pitching is needed and the iron is hot.

Does that mean that the Dodgers will panic and give up Yadier Alvarez or Walker Buehler for Lynn? No, that seems excessive, but neither of those guys are players the Cardinals should target. Willie Calhoun makes much more sense.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Fall Stars Game
Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers

Could demanding a Calhoun for Lynn trade still seem excessive from the Dodgers’ end? Absolutely, but he’s the guy the Cardinals should have earmarked in this potential trade.

Calhoun is currently wrecking Triple-A to the tune of a .965 OPS with 22 homers and 65 RBI’s and the bat is an asset. He’ll be ready to contribute immediately in 2018 and getting him in return for Lynn would be a steal for the Cardinals.

I’m probably overvaluing Lance Lynn right now, but the need for starting pitching is dire for contending teams right now and the starting pitching market appears dry. Other than Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray – who will both cost a fortune of talent – the trade market for starting pitchers is weak at best. Lynn has definite value and the Cardinals need to capitalize on that value while the need is there for some teams.

After trading Lynn, I’m left with Michael Wacha, Randal Grichuk and Seung Hwan-Oh as the only remaining players in my ‘sell’ pile. I don’t think any Cardinal fan needs a reminder that Oh has struggled this year, so I’m not even going to pretend like I can move him for any future value players. I’ll keep him in St. Louis, let him play out his deal and then go from there.

But Wacha and Grichuk? I’ve got a few ideas.

While the two of them do seem to be having down years, there is a lot of value between Wacha and Grichuk, so I want to package them together. Neither of them are rentals in any way, as Wacha has 3 more years of team control after 2017 and Grichuk has 4 more years of control. Both in their age 26 season, it’s reasonable to expect each of those team controlled years to be of prime production.

So what kind of team would want two young, controllable, productive players? Both Wacha and Grichuk strike me as players that don’t fit in on a winning team right now, but will be focal points in a year or two. This means that the kind of team interested in Grichuk and Wacha would have to be a rebuilding club, but not a club in a full rebuild. Someone like the Angels, the Twins, Rangers or Mariners. However, the Angels don’t have any pieces I like, the Twins just made a trade for Jaime Garcia, the Rangers appear to be in sell mode, and the Mariners just gave up a top prospect to the Cardinals already so let’s leave them alone for now.

None of those teams make perfect sense, so let’s head down to the Braves and make a deal with them because they make perfect sense.

Firstly, from the Braves perspective, they have never viewed themselves as truly rebuilding. With the opening of a new park this year, Atlanta tried to put out as competitive a team as possible to break in SunTrust Park instead of buying into a full rebuild. But, while still doing that, the Braves have stacked up their farm system and will be loaded in two or three years.

Wacha and Grichuk, being young and controllable, make sense in the mold of Atlanta’s rebuild. They can both help right now while still being around for the completion of the rebuild project. Grichuk and Wacha both slide right into Atlanta’s current team and help to accelerate the rebuild process.

For the Cardinals, we’re gonna keep looking for players that can help win in 2018. One name from the Braves’ system come to mind; Sean Newcomb.

sean newcomb
Photo courtesy of Atlanta Braves

Newcomb has already come up and had a cup of coffee with the big club and although he struggled, the stuff is outstanding from the left side. A high 90’s fastball combined with a hammer curveball have produced 75 K’s in 56 IP at Triple-A this year. As stacked as the Cardinals’ farm system is with pitching, there aren’t any top quality left handed starters. Newcomb fits that bill perfectly.

A Michael Wacha and Randal Grichuk for Sean Newcomb trade would serve the Cardinals and Braves both well and would continue the necessary ‘Tyler O’Neill’ trend in St. Louis.

So, after all the dust has settled, let’s take a look at the work we’ve done.

Kolten Wong is an Oakland Athletic in exchange for 3B Matt Chapman. Jedd Gyorko and Trevor Rosenthal have both been sent to Tampa Bay for SS Willy Adames. I’m making an executive decision here and sending Lance Lynn to the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for Willie Calhoun. And a Michael Wacha + Randal Grichuk package has been shipped to Atlanta in exchange for Sean Newcomb.

These 4 deals combined with the Tyler O’Neill trade that I based these articles on create a clear direction for the Cardinals and put them in prime position to win in 2018 and beyond.

Matt Chapman slides in at 3rd base with Gyorko gone. Willy Adames takes the reigns at SS while bumping Paul DeJong over to 2nd base. With Lynn and Wacha now out of the rotation, the way is cleared for Luke Weaver and Sean Newcomb. Calhoun stays down at Triple-A for now, but he’ll hit his way up soon and create some fantastic outfield depth.

My way certainly isn’t the only way for the Cardinals do go about their trade deadline business, but I believe it’s pretty darn effective. Here’s hoping Mike Girsch can come up with a plan as good as one created by an unexperienced kid that works retail and still believes that ERA is more important than FIP.

Happy deadline week!

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan

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More Tyler O’Neill’s: A Sequel

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

Spitfire: Cardinals Offseason Improvement Ideas

About a month ago, when the sadness of a broken season was still freshly marinating in my mind, I put out a fairly halfhearted list of some steps the Cardinals front office could take to put out an improved product in 2016. As I sort of mentioned, it was a pretty halfhearted and safe list and since then I’ve had a lot of time to do a lot of thinking. So here’s a new, improved, and much bolder list of Cardinals offseason improvement ideas.

When I put together that list about a month ago, the 2016 rotation looked pretty set in stone. Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia, with Alex Reyes, Marco Gonzales, Tyler Lyons and Tim Cooney waiting in the wings.

Well, since then Lance Lynn has undergone Tommy John surgery, Reyes has been suspended for a positive marijuana test – the unfairness of which I’ll get into later – and the overall health record of the rotation looks pretty shaky.

Lance Lynn will miss the entire upcoming season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Lance Lynn will miss the entire upcoming season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch

Wainwright will be 34 on opening day and coming off a serious Achilles tear, Martinez will be coming off a shoulder strain, Wacha looked like a shell of himself in the 2nd half of the 2015 season coming off his serious shoulder injury in 2014, and Garcia’s injury track record is quite alarming.

On top of all that, Reyes won’t be a big league factor until the middle of May, Gonzales is coming off injuries, Cooney’s coming off an appendectomy that robbed him of the last two months of his season, and Lyons is a guy that really shouldn’t be relied upon as a consistent major league starter at this point.

In case you haven’t gotten the point yet, the Redbird rotation is in some serious flux right now. So that’s where this list starts.

Revised Step 1: Go Get a Mid-Tier Starter or Two

Would it be cool if the Cardinals landed David Price or Zack Greinke? Of course, but should they be willing to potentially spend upwards of $200 million on a pitcher? The Cardinals are in a bit of a rut, but not that kind of a rut. But this SP market is really deep – like really deep – and the Cardinals should be making serious runs at a lot of guys in the middle of this market.

Three names really jump out at me here; Hisashi Iwakuma, Mike Leake, and Scott Kazmir. Each are quality, middle of the rotation guys who can be had for relatively low coin.

Iwakuma is coming off an injury plagued year, but placed 3rd in AL Cy Young voting just two years ago and has a no-hitter to his name.

Iwakuma celebrates his August 2015 no-hitter vs. Baltimore. Photo courtesy of USA Today
Iwakuma celebrates his August 2015 no-hitter vs. Baltimore. Photo courtesy of USA Today

He could reasonably be had for somewhere around $9 or $10 million on a 1 year, prove-it deal. Although, he comes with the most risk, as he has the qualifying offer mantra attached to him, so the Cardinals would have to give up a 1st round pick for potentially just a year of Iwakuma’s services.

Kazmir’s 2015 season numbers don’t really impress you – a 3.98 FIP and 130 ERA+ in 183 IP – but take a look deeper and see that he posted a 3.16 FIP and 160 ERA+ during his time in Oakland, and was an all-star in both 2014 and 2015.

Oakland is a notorious pitcher’s park, and St. Louis is becoming the same type of mold. Houston is a notorious hitter’s park, and Kazmir understandably struggled. Bring him to St. Louis on a 2 year deal and he could thrive just like he did in Oakland. Also, Kazmir would not cost the Cardinals a 1st round compensation pick like Iwakuma would, but will likely be more expensive.

Kazmir delivers a pitch for the Oakland A's in 2015. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Tribune
Kazmir delivers a pitch for the Oakland A’s in 2015. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Tribune

Mike Leake really shouldn’t need much of an introduction among the members of the BFIB, as he has consistently shut the Cardinals down throughout his career with Cincinnati.

Leake delivers a pitch against St. Louis during a Sunday night game in May. Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Leake delivers a pitch against St. Louis during a Sunday night game in May. Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch

He’s an innings eater who fields his position exceptionally, can swing the bat a little bit and be a quality back of the rotation arm. Like Kazmir, there’s no compensation pick attached to his hip, and, considering the numbers, Leake should be able to be had for somewhere in the neighborhood of what Bartolo Colón got from the Mets two offseasons ago – 2 years for $20 mil.

These three were just names that jumped out at me, but the Cardinals should be very actively mining the middle of the starting pitcher market for quality arms to replace Lance Lynn and bridge the gap until guys like Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty are ready to take on big league roles.

Should the Mozeliak hat be thrown in the circles of David Price and Zack Greinke or Johnny Cueto? Sure, but the Cardinals can’t get caught up in bidding wars with the Dodgers or Cubs just because they now have “payroll muscle” to flex.

Revised Step 2: Clear Up First Base for Piscotty

First base is clearly the Cardinals’ biggest everyday positional issue with too many mouths to feed and not enough playing time to go around adequately. So who gets the majority of the at-bats and who doesn’t?

Well, I’ve got a rather creative solution that I can guarantee you’ll be hearing about for the first time.

As I stated in that big bold sentence up there, the Cardinals need to clear the way for Stephen Piscotty to take over as the everyday 1st basemen in 2016. He was their best offensive player in 2015 – yeah, all of 2015, not just the 2nd half, but the whole season – and the Cardinals need to make room for his bat to be in the lineup every day.

So how do they do that with Matt Adams still sitting there as a very viable option? We’re going to deal Adams somewhere, and I have a very specific destination in mind.

Baltimore.

Matt Adams makes a play during a 2014 game against the Orioles. Photo by Rob Carr for Getty Images
Matt Adams makes a play during a 2014 game against the Orioles. Photo by Rob Carr for Getty Images

Why Baltimore? Well, let’s think about it together. Who was Baltimore’s first baseman in 2015? Chris Davis.

Davis is coming off a monstrous year, will command an equally monstrous paycheck – one that the Cardinals need to avoid throwing their hat in on – and with Matt Wieters accepting his qualifying offer – which will put him on the books for $15.8 million – and Darren O’Day on their minds, the Orioles chances of keeping Davis are becoming increasingly slim by the day.

In come the Cardinals with the offer of Adams, still a quality first baseman, especially in the American League where O’s manager Buck Showalter can rest his legs but still keep him in the lineup with the DH option.

Adams could have a lot of value to Baltimore, and potentially yield a return of either a solid pitching prospect – a la Mike Wright – or a solid bullpen haul – Brian Matusz, Brad Brach, or, if God is on our side, Zach Britton.

This could potentially fix two issues. 1st base is now Piscotty’s, and the bullpen is strengthened.

Boom. Mic drop

Revised Step 3: SIGN JASON HEYWARD

This isn’t revised at all, but I’m putting it in here because it just can’t be said enough. Pay the man. Pay him whatever you need to pay him. Offer to re-name the stadium after him, offer him all your shares of Apple, offer him a lifetime supply of Imo’s, offer to build him a house in Frontenac; whatever you have to offer him, do it.

This seems harsh and untrue, but if Jason Heyward is in a different uniform on opening day 2016 playing on a salary under $200 million the Cardinals will have failed the offseason. Heyward is the top priority and nothing should get done before signing him. Plain and simple.

Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat for Getty Images
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat for Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune
Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune
Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Photo courtesy of USA Today. I can't get enough of Heyward, please sign him. Please?
Photo courtesy of USA Today. I can’t get enough of Heyward, please sign him. Please?

So there it is, all shiny and new and improved. Ryan’s Cardinals offseason blueprint 2.0. I hope it’s as exciting to you as it is to me. But my work really means nothing, John Mozeliak holds all the cards in his hand and he needs to deal them out and push his chips to the middle of the table.

Go make it happen, Mo.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

 

Spitfire: Cardinals Offseason Improvement Ideas