Mike vs Yadi: The Final Straw?

2 nights ago, I decided that I wanted to bring my mom to her first Cardinals game of the 2017 season. She doesn’t get to many, so I figured she would enjoy it. On the day of the game, I learned that Yadier Molina would be getting a night off and my first thought was disappointment that mom wouldn’t get to see Yadi play in what will probably be her only live game of the season.

But, when I thought about why Carson Kelly was starting instead, everything made sense from a baseball standpoint. The Cardinals need to get Kelly playing time in order to continue helping foster his growth; and with Luke Weaver getting a start – Kelly has worked routinely with Weaver at Triple-A over the course of the past season and a half – the fit was perfect.

I thought nothing more of it, went to the game, enjoyed it as much as I could when considering it was a long, boring shutout, and then went to sleep.

In case you haven’t heard, Yadier Molina resting last night was a much, much bigger deal than I just made it sound.

When asked about his decision to start Kelly, Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny pointed out that Carson Kelly needs playing time in St. Louis while he’s here, saying “we’re going to have to keep him engaged if he’s going to be able to contribute like he needs to.”

That reasoning makes perfect sense and should have been the end of Matheny’s answer. But, instead, the embattled St. Louis skipper foolishly took a presumably unintentional pot shot at one of the greatest servants in franchise history.

“Yadi’s caught a lot,” Matheny added. “Yesterday, just kind of watching him go around the bases too, you could tell that he’s, you know…”

I haven’t seen or heard Matheny’s comments, but I’m assuming that he realized what he’d done, tapered off his sentence and then went on his merry, mumbling way. Now, to his credit, Mike never actually said the word “tired” and he made sure to point that out today in his pregame comments. Matheny said something about how Yadi looked a little hurt while running the bases Wednesday and that was what he was talking about.

But what, exactly, had Mike Matheny just done? I’ll let Yadier Molina’s Instagram tell you.

 

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I don’t care what anyone says, shots have been fired. Public shots.

If you’re looking for a glimpse into the Cardinals’ clubhouse right now, this exchange pulls aside the 4th wall curtain and gives us a great feel for what’s going on with the struggling team.

What I see here is a clueless and ignorant manager pissing off the face of his franchise, who seems already fed up with the inconsistency and losing.

I completely understand the need to rest Yadier Molina. His health is imperative to the Cardinals being able to play winning baseball, and burning him out is reckless. But why would you come out to the media and broadcast the fact that one of your everyday players is tired? And then, the next day, why would you try and backtrack your comments and make it sound like he’s hurt?

I believe that Matheny tailed off his sentence halfway through it because he knew that he would be angering one of the most important players on his team. It’s a widely known fact that Yadier Molina prides himself on being able to play every day. He’s known to argue, scratch and claw his way into the lineup when his manager tries to give him a night off. If I know these things, Mike Matheny surely knows them. So why even insinuate that Yadi is tired or hurt if you know it’ll tick him off? And, even further, this begs a bigger question.

Why doesn’t Mike Matheny know?

Switching your story, talking about how your catcher is tired and hurt, reacting to what he thinks he sees by taking Yadi out of the lineup without consulting Molina first; all of these things are reasons why I believe Matheny is ignorant and clueless.

As a Major League manager, Mike Matheny has 25 players to keep track of. Yes, there are minor leaguers that he certainly cares about, but the 25 players that put on a big league uniform every night have to be Matheny’s priority. Yadier Molina, as I’ve harped on, is the face of your franchise and arguably the most important position player on the team.

How in the blue hell do you not know his fatigue or health level?

Watching Yadi over the past month or so, he has looked tired at times. During the series against the Rockies, there were several times that Molina, looking noticeably slower than usual, had to be held up on the base baths. From the stands, it appeared to me that Molina was struggling.

But I’m in the stands and have no access to the players. Mike Matheny spends nearly 8-9 hours each day with his players and can talk to them whenever he wants. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t know the daily health and fatigue level of every single member of the 25 man St. Louis roster.

Mike Matheny has done a lot of questionable things during his time in charge of the Cardinals. Bullpen mismanagement, player overuse, other miscellaneous poor decision making, the list goes on and on; but this should be the final straw.

Clubhouse dissension is something that the public often never sees. Beef between teammates is usually handled within the clubhouse confines and never sees the light of day. Thus, it’s easy for us to forget the fact that our favorite baseball teams spend nearly 7 months together and need to have an element of respect and love or else they’ll kill each other.

The tone of a clubhouse atmosphere begins with the manager and is carried out by the players. By my estimation, somewhere around the end of 2015, Mike Matheny ‘lost’ his clubhouse.

What I mean by ‘lost’ is that, for one reason or another, the players lost respect for Matheny and his leadership began falling on deaf ears. A lack of respect for the supposed leader of the team quickly generates tension and creates an atmosphere that feels like “walking on eggshells,” as Stephen Piscotty said during 2017 Spring Training.

Having to spend 8-9 hours in an atmosphere full of tension and annoyance every day is toxic and I believe it’s the reason why the Cardinals have significantly underachieved over the past two seasons. However, we have never truly had any evidence of Cardinal clubhouse dissension.

Until now, that is.

Yadier Molina’s comments, no matter how he tries to walk them back or clarify, peeled back the facade of respect that has been put up during Mike Matheny’s time as manager in St. Louis. What I read from Molina today showed a player who is completely fed up with his manager. Should this have been a big deal? No, but it’s just another example of Matheny’s ineptitude and someone is finally showing some anger.

To further the situation, Dexter Fowler, Kolten Wong, and Tommy Pham all ‘liked’ Molina’s post this morning, clearly showing how the other players feel.

Molina’s jab and frustration at Matheny wasn’t subtle, and the front office now has a serious situation on their hands. Fans have been calling for Matheny to be fired since for years, and for years the front office has been able to talk their way around and give the manager their support.

With the players publicly making their feelings known, how long will Cardinals’ brass continue to stick with a manager that is clearly unfit for the job? How much more will it take for the most obvious deadline move to finally be made?

That deadline move being Mike Matheny’s, you know…

 

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan

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Mike vs Yadi: The Final Straw?

Appreciating the 2015 Cardinal Bullpen

Recently I’ve been sifting through a lot of numbers related to bullpens, and last night I discovered something that really caught my attention. The Cardinals bullpen had an absolutely remarkable season in spite of their almost insane manager.

If you take a quick look at the numbers like many of the major television networks – @ESPN, MLB Network etc. – the Cardinals didn’t field the best bullpen in baseball in 2015. The Pirates and Royals both sported lower ERA’s at 2.67 and 2.73 respectively. St. Louis tied for 10th best in baseball with 20 bullpen losses and ranked 15th in both BAA and strikeouts at .242 and 466.

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Photo by Jeff Curry for USA Today Sports

They don’t have the lowest ERA, they don’t have the stockpile of power arms that can strike out everyone in sight, and to the naked eye they look like a middling bullpen that was placed in favorable situations by a historically good starting staff. But oh my lord would you be wrong to assume that last statement was correct.

Was the Cardinals starting staff historically good in 2015? Absolutely, and not just when you consider what they were working with. But that doesn’t mean the Cardinal bullpen was constantly inheriting monster leads and being tasked with simply not screwing up too bad. In fact, the case was almost the exact opposite.

Recently I’ve started studying LI and WPA. Leverage Index and Win Probability Added both study the idea of how every play impacts the overall game as a whole. Leverage Index applies one single number to every given situation to determine how important it is in the overall context of a game. 1 is the average LI of every situation; anything below 1 is less important, and anything over 1 is more important. ‘High leverage’ situations are any LI of 1.5 or over, while ‘low leverage’ situations are any LI of 0.7 or under. ‘Medium leverage’ situations range in between those two numbers, obviously with a situation of 1.49 LI being more important than a situation of 0.71 LI.

This is where the brilliance of the Cardinal bullpen starts to shine through. As I said, 1 is the average Leverage Index in any given situation and the Cardinal bullpen’s LI when entering a game was 1.101, which lead the league over second place Pittsburgh, which finished at 1.069 average LI.

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Photo by Dilip Vishwanet for Getty Images

Basically, any time a Cardinal reliever entered the game the situation was of above average importance. It’s impossible to quantify with a number, but I can guarantee you that having to pitch knowing any one mistake is going to be magnified and could potentially lose a game is much harder than having to pitch knowing your mistakes probably won’t matter in the overall scheme of the game.

And the Cardinal relievers still thrived.

Bear with me for a second here, I need to explain more statistics. ‘Clutch’ is a stat that comes up with one number to attempt to encapsulate how clutch a player is; pretty simple, right? It takes a player’s WPA – explained above – and divides it by that same player’s pLI – the average leverage index when a player is batting or pitching.

In the words of Fangraphs’ David Appleman, ‘clutch’ defines “…how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.” It also compares a player against himself, so a player who hits .300 in high leverage situations when he’s an overall .300 hitter is not considered clutch.”

Also, shutdowns and meltdowns are a stat designed to replace saves and blown saves. It utilizes WPA to measure how well a pitcher performed. Any outing of +0.6 WPA or more is considered a shutdown, and any outing of -0.6 WPA or less is considered a meltdown. Again, pretty simple. Moving along…

Among their top 5 relievers – which I identified via IP as Kevin Siegrist, Trever Rosenthal, Miguel Socolovich, Carlos Villanueva and almighty Seth Maness – the Cardinals thrived in pressure situations. Between the 5 of them, the average ‘clutch’ factor was 0.776. A clutch factor of 0.6 is considered great, and the Cardinals had 5 guys averaging more than that. Leading the charge in the clutch department is Mr. Double Play himself, Seth Maness, with a mind blowing 2.54 clutch factor.

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Photo courtesy of Getty Images

And if you’re a person who relies upon the eye test to tell you how good relievers are, answer me this. How many times did you see Seth Maness enter a tight ball game with men on base and wiggle his way out of that jam with no harm done?

These same five Cardinal relievers combined for 117 shutdowns and only 29 meltdowns. Comparatively, the top 5 relievers determined by IP from the immortal Royals’ bullpen – Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Franklin Morales, and Ryan Madson – combined for 115 shutdowns and 38 meltdowns.

The Royals’ average LI was 1.003 and they only faced 172 high leverage situations (LI of over 1.5) to the Cardinals 189 high leverage situations. Overall, the Cardinals’ bullpen led all of baseball with an average of 3.24 runs allowed per game. The Royals sit all the way down in 9th on that list, allowing 3.96 runs per game.

Huh…so according to these numbers the Royals’ bullpen allows more runs per game in lower leverage situations than the Cardinals’ bullpen does in higher leverage situations. I don’t really want to get into mindsets or anything like that, but all I’m trying to do here is just show how freaking good the Cardinals’ bullpen was in 2015, and the credit that is not given them.

MLB: Spring Training-Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals
Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Lastly, in my opening paragraph I mentioned that the St. Louis bullpen had a brilliant 2015 in spite of a near madman manager and you’ve waited long enough; it’s time to touch on that teaser. The number that got my attention most was something that all Cardinal fans inherently knew, but can now point to as numeric proof that Mike Matheny overworks his bullpen.

The Cardinals had 146 relief appearances where the pitcher was entering on zero days’ rest, a number that no other team came within 10 of. Kevin Siegrist led the league in relief appearances with 81, and all the wear and tear showed through down the stretch as he gave up monster home runs to Anthony Rizzo – on more than one occasion – and Kyle Schwarber to essentially lose St. Louis the NLDS against Chicago.

And there is absolutely no way that both Kansas City and the New York Mets being below the league average of 111 zero days’ rest appearances is a coincidence. Both Ned Yost and Terry Collins kept very good bullpens fresh throughout the regular season whenever they could, and it paid off in October as their fire departments were stronger than all the others and carried both teams to the Fall Classic.

You can look at that last number one of two ways. You can either hang your hat on the fact that Mike Matheny needs to lay off the gas pedal with his top relievers way more often or you can further appreciate the feats that the Cardinal bullpen was able to accomplish whilst being under both enormous stress and somewhat extreme fatigue.

The Cardinal bullpen was a truly remarkable and vastly underappreciated asset in 2015 that only got stronger this offseason.

Missing from that list of top 5 relievers was super set-up man Jordan Walden, who went down in May of 2015 with a biceps injury and never returned. He is set to return at the beginning of spring training and will provide a massive boost should he stay healthy. Combined with Walden is the acquisition of Korean import Seung-hwan Oh, a dominant closer in his native country that will presumably provide set-up help to spell Kevin Siegrist and ‘Matheny-proof’ the bullpen.

A dominant bullpen only got better this offseason, which it actually needed to do, contrary to the primary message delivered through this article. Oh, but the Cardinals are only worth 84 wins as a team in 2016 according to Fangraphs.

We’ll see about that.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

All numbers are credit of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference

 

 

Appreciating the 2015 Cardinal Bullpen

The Cardinals: How to Fix 1st Base

This past weekend, at the Cardinals’ annual ‘Winter Warm-Up’, most of the talk that I heard surrounded the Chicago Cubs. How will the Cardinals react to being underdogs? Is this finally the year Chicago wins it all? In what new way can the Cubs destroy St. Louis next?

The rivalry with Chicago is, without a doubt, the most interesting storyline entering the 2016 season for St. Louis, but as I was thinking about how the Cardinals match up with Chicago the other day I realized something.

First base is a confusing black hole in St. Louis.

There are two types of positional solutions in modern baseball; conventional wisdom would claim that every position needs a primary starter that will receive between 90 and 95% of the at-bats while teams like Oakland and Tampa Bay have revolutionized the platoon, a system in which two players almost evenly split at bats to highlight the specific strengths of each player.

The Cardinals have neither of those

What St. Louis does have is a pair of left handed sluggers who play average defense, have big power potential and are more fit to be platoon first basemen. Therein lies the issue…both of them are left handed.

How are you supposed to platoon two left handed first baseman?

Both Brandon Moss and Matt Adams have shown that they are capable of handling a starting job at 1st base; and not just starting, but being above average players.

Over 563 PA as the primary Cardinals’ 1st baseman during the 2014 campaign, Adams produced a 129 OPS+, mashed 17 dingers and drove home 68 en route to a 3.4 WAR. During the 3 seasons he spent as Oakland’s starting 1B, Moss delivered an .844 OPS, 135 OPS+, hammered 76 HR’s and accumulated 6.5 WAR. Both guys are capable of being above average starting 1st basemen, but both guys come with their share of uncertainty.

Adams
The epic 2014 NLCS bat flip. Photo courtesy of Cut4

After his breakout 2014 season, Adams entered 2015 looking to solidify himself as the Cardinals’ 1st baseman of the future when a devastating May quad injury robbed him of just about all of his season. His knee injury forced Mark Reynolds into primary duty, and when Reynolds – not really suited for a full time starting job – started to falter, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was forced to deal for Brandon Moss.

Moss came to the Cardinals following a disappointing half season in Cleveland in which his power was sapped by an offseason back surgery. After hitting 30 homers in only 505 PA during the 2014 season, Moss was only able to hit 15 homers in 526 PA during 2015.

So take your pick between the guy coming off the serious leg injury or the guy coming off the serious back injury as your primary first baseman. In true baseball fashion, the Cardinals current 1st base situation is unpredictable and uncertain.

The question is pretty obvious, but unfortunately the answer is far from obvious. As I brought up earlier, how in the world are you supposed to platoon two left handed 1st basemen? But let’s say we were to try and do it, how would it work?

The point of a platoon is to highlight each player’s splits vs. a left handed or right handed pitcher. So if player A can hit lefties but not righties, while player B can hit righties but not lefties, player A and player B would naturally form an ideal platoon. So let’s check the splits.

Adams – in a pretty small sample size – slashes .197/.230/.317 with 6 HR, 26 RBI and a 30.9% strikeout percentage in 230 PA. If my years in baseball have taught me anything, that’s not anything to be real proud of.

Moss – in a much larger sample size – slashes .246/.322/.399 with 16 HR, 71 RBI and a 28.1% strikeout percentage in 559 PA, nearly a full season’s worth of PA to base these numbers. Again, not particularly outstanding but certainly respectable.

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Photo Courtesy of FoxSports.com

Against right handed pitchers over his brief career, Adams has accrued a much larger sample size of 929 PA; and in those 929 PA he slashes .296/.337/.485 with 33 HR, 130 RBI and a 20.2% strikeout percentage.

Moss – in 2,097 PA vs right handers – slashes .243/.322/.463 with 94 HR, 285 RBI and a surprisingly robust 25.8% strikeout percentage. While he strikes out less vs. righties, Adams’ walk rate is a paltry 5.9% while Moss’ walk rate is a less paltry 10.5%.

These splits really only further complicate the problem. Both guys are bad against southpaws, but Moss is less bad than Adams. Both guys are pretty good against righties, but Adams is better than Moss. So do you start Adams vs. righties and start Moss’ vs. lefties? It’s a possibility, but facing right handers would give Adams the majority of the at bats and would be not only irresponsible, but would defeat the purpose of a platoon.

Knowing Mike Matheny and his penchant for simple positional solutions, the Cardinals will probably give both guys equal opportunity over the course of the first few weeks of the season before riding the guy who plays the best over those few weeks as the primary starter. Matheny did this in 2014 when he split at-bats in CF between Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay before giving the full time job – whether it was fair or unfair is up for debate – to Jay when Bourjos went ice cold at the plate.

So what do I believe? I believe that Adams’ 2014 season was his ceiling and that he really doesn’t have much more to offer the Cardinals, while Moss’ massive power potential combined with a full offseason spent gaining back his lost strength from the aforementioned back surgery make him the best option.

As has been well chronicled, the Cardinals lack a truly transcendent power bat in the middle of their lineup. While Moss won’t ever really be a Ryan Howard-esque superstar, he can still deliver the power that has been missing from the Cardinals lineup since Albert Pujols left town.

It’s a fascinating conundrum that has plagued the Cardinals all offseason, but for St. Louis to take the next step in the postseason, 1st base must be solidified. If either guy can take control of the position to the full extent of his abilities, the Cardinals will be solidified and ready to challenge the Cubs for the division title that has seemingly already been presented to them.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

Credit to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference for all data used in this post

 

The Cardinals: How to Fix 1st Base

St. Louis Cardinals 2015-16 Offseason Blueprint

Cardinals Loss
Jon Jay slams his helmet following Stephen Piscotty’s series ending strikeout, while Cubs fans celebrate

Until Hector Rondón’s 0-2 slider caused Stephen Piscotty’s wild swing and miss to officially send the Cubs to the National League Championship Series, I didn’t really believe what was happening. The Cubs couldn’t actually be about to defeat the big-brother Cardinals…could they? I was in shock, disbelief, embarrassment, and complete and utter disappointment. This really just happened, and now I was lift to wonder, what now?

So much had gone wrong in 2015, injuries had consistently hammered the club, yet they had somehow pushed through just about every single one of them to accrue an improbable and magnificent 100 win season. But it finally caught up to them against Chicago, as a worn down bunch of Cardinals slogged their way to another premature playoff exit.

My first thought was, “Damn, this is some St. Louis Blues type stuff here. The Cardinals aren’t supposed to be like this.” But, alas, the injuries caught up to them, particularly the ones to Carlos Martinez and Yadier Molina. And now reality sets in. What comes next?

As has been well documented, this is the fourth straight season that the Cardinals have exited the playoffs on the heels of three consecutive losses. The Mike Matheny burner, at least among fans, has had the heat significantly turned up. Unfairly? Probably, but if Ken Hitchcock gets so much hate for premature playoff exits four straight years in a row, why doesn’t Matheny deserve it?

So now the Cardinals appear to be stuck. In my own estimation, this year could have been the Cardinals’ fifth consecutive World Series Title. They have had five straight teams that should have – in my own mind – gotten the job done. Yet only one of those teams has.

Moving forward, there isn’t an obvious answer to the question, “what is keeping the Cardinals from the World Series?” Is it Mike Matheny’s managerial inexperience/ineptitude? Is it poor luck at the worst times? Is it an inconsistent offense? Is it an inconsistent bullpen? I don’t think anybody really knows the concrete answer, but here’s my two cents on how the Cardinals can finally get over the hump in 2015.

Step 1: Fire John Mabry

In his end of season press conference, General Manager John Mozeliak made it evident that every member of the coaching staff would be returning in 2016. When I read the comments I was incredibly frustrated. Come the hell on, Mo. You can’t be serious. These comments are a heavy part of the reason why the Cardinals can’t get it done.

Complacency. It’s everywhere with this team. “We had a great regular season but just couldn’t get it done.” “We have to take the good from this season and appreciate everything we accomplished.” WHEN IS FAILURE GOING TO STOP BEING ACCEPTABLE?! Make some changes, this isn’t the goddamn Boy Scouts.

The offense has been unbelievably inconsistent, so start by making a simple change here. Does John Mabry deserve the full blame for the offensive ineptitude? Absolutely not, but this is a simple change that could possibly lead to much greater offensive dividends.

Step 2: Sign Jason Heyward

How much will it cost? I have no idea, only Jason Heyward and his agent know. But what I do know is that the Cardinals need to pay the man. Whatever he’s asking for, give it to him. I could throw all the numbers in the world at you, but I’m sure you’ve already seen just about all of them. Heyward clearly proved his astronomical value to the club day in and day out in 2015 and deserves whatever sum he’s asking for. If it’s 8 years for $180 million, what are you waiting for? Go get it done.

Step 3: Have a Heyward Back-Up Plan

Has having a back-up plan ever hurt anyone? No, and if the Cardinals can’t get the Heyward deal done they need to be able to have one in place. If you’re satisfied with just moving Stephen Piscotty over to RF and rolling with an outfield of Holliday-Grichuk-Piscotty then that’s fine. But whatever money you were planning on using to re-sign Heyward should still be used. Yoenis Cespedes is a viable corner outfield option if Mozeliak views that as a pressing need. Chris Davis is definitely worth a long look. Regardless of any of this, the Cardinals need to have a back-up plan that will keep them from panicking – example: last trade deadline’s acquisition of Brandon Moss – and making a poor move.

Step 4: Put Some Money Into the Bullpen

The Cardinal bullpen has always been a hot button topic in St. Louis. In 2011 it was an incredible strength that Tony La Russa rode to a World Series title. In 2014 it imploded and gave the Giants an NLCS victory. And in between Mike Matheny’s bullpen management has been consistently scrutinized. But one thing that John Mozeliak has not really done is put money into the bullpen and really go get some quality arms.

Ever since Marc Rzepczynski left, the Cardinals haven’t had a truly consistent weapon to shut down opposing left handed hitters. Go get one. Antonio Bastardo, Tony Sipp, and Brian Matusz are three names that should be heavily looked at by the Cardinals. Preferably, I would like either Sipp or Bastardo – or both – signed, but either way, address the left side of the bullpen.

Also in the bullpen, just go get more weapons for Mike Matheny. Consistently, he burns out Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal until their effectiveness is all but naught. So go get him more weapons that he trusts. Go pay Darren O’Day, Ryan Madsen, Shawn Kelley, Tyler Clippard, Joakim Soria. Stop shying away from spending money on the bullpen and pretending that what you have back there is good enough to get it done. It’s clearly not and your approach of taking low-risk gambles and letting homegrown guys fill in roles isn’t working. So change the approach and go spend some money.

Next year’s opening day bullpen should be dramatically different and more effective. I’m not trying to bash on the homegrown guys or the low-risk guys, but those guys should be the bullpen depth, not having to come in and fill high-pressure roles.

Step 5: Give Yadier Molina a 1st Basemen’s Glove

Huh? This one really makes no sense. Except that it does. This offseason the Cardinals need to tell Yadier Molina to put his pride aside and learn how to play an adequate 1st base. Go look at what San Francisco has done with Buster Posey. Posey is consistently excellent in the second half and postseason. Why? Because the Giants give him about 40 starts at 1st base every year to rest his legs. He’s still playing 150-155 games a year, but he’s only catching about 105 of those games. That makes a huge difference and, if done to Yadier Molina, will keep his bat fresh down the stretch and hopefully prevent the injuries that have plagued him the past few seasons.

Step 6: Explore the Trade Market for Jurickson Profar

Yeah, bet you didn’t think you were going to hear that name during this column, did you? Profar has all but gone missing the past two seasons due to a very serious shoulder injury and has been mostly forgotten about. But just three years ago he was Baseball America’s #1 overall prospect. That type of transcendent talent doesn’t just go away, and being 23 years old, at the start of next season, it’s reasonable to believe that Profar can still become the player he was projected as just two to three years ago.

Now, why should the Cardinals be looking at him? During the 2nd half, Jhonny Peralta looked alarmingly old, and the Cardinals do not have an immediate answer at SS for when Peralta suddenly becomes ineffective. Profar can be that answer. Granted, it might take a year or two, but Profar can be the answer at SS very quickly.

And on top of all that, this is a classic buy low scenario. In Texas, Profar is currently blocked by Elvis Andrus, under contract until 2022, and Rougned Odor, who emerged as a viable franchise 2nd baseman this season and is only going to get better, and Joey Gallo, the franchise’s top prospect who is currently being blocked by Adrian Beltre. So Profar’s pretty far down on the franchise depth chart and could potentially be had for fairly cheap.

Assuming this is so, the Cardinals can deal from their positions of depth and strength – pitching and outfielders – and cut a deal with Texas for their former all world prospect. Profar would immediately become the heir to Peralta’s SS throne and could impact the club immediately in 2016. This could be a low-risk, high-reward deal that could pay off in a massive way down the road.

Step 7: Sign Trevor Rosenthal to an Extension

Out of the Cardinals’ arbitration eligible players, Rosenthal is really the only one that warrants a long term extension. Something along the lines of Andrew Miller’s recently inked 4 year $36 million deal should be the blueprint. Also speaking of arbitration, only Steve Cishek and Brandon Moss should be non-tendered. I believe Tony Cruz can be a viable back-up for Molina if the club plays him at 1st base, as I have suggested. Matt Adams should not be given up on yet, and should be given every opportunity to win the everyday 1st base job. As for Peter Bourjos, he should be signed looked to be dealt.

Pick up Jaime Garcia’s Option and Let John Lackey Walk

In my mind, the 2016 rotation is all but set. Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Jaime Garcia should be the five trotted out there in April, with Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney, and Tyler Lyons waiting in the wings. In order to achieve this, Garcia’s option needs to be picked up, and John Lackey – who has made it clear that he will go where the money is – should be let go. This is the most sensible thing to do and the path that the Cardinals need to take.

This, obviously, is not the only blueprint to offseason success for John Mozeliak and the Cardinals. But it’s certainly a start. The bullpen needs re-working, Jason Heyward needs to be re-signed, and the Cardinals must be creative in order to push the 2016 team over the edge and towards the World Series trophy that has eluded them since the magical 2011 run.

St. Louis Cardinals 2015-16 Offseason Blueprint