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

Mike vs Yadi: The Final Straw?

It is Officially Time for the Cardinals to Sell

It is July 6th, and the St. Louis Cardinals are 43-41. That record places them 9.5 games back of the 52-32 Chicago Cubs and sitting in 3rd place in the National League Central division. Normally, still being 3 months away from the playoffs, Cardinals fans would have reason to be patient and optimistic – particularly considering that St. Louis is only 3 games shy of the second wild card spot.

This year is very different.

Following a dreadful 7-5 home loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight, St. Louis sits in a very precarious position. With the trade deadline coming up, General Manager John Mozeliak has a potentially franchise altering decision to make. Do the Cardinals buy or sell?

In this writer’s opinion, for the first time in my recent memory, the Cardinals should sell.

There are a lot of factors to this decision, but let’s start with the things that tonight’s 7-5 loss to Pittsburgh taught us.

The Pirates, despite their underwhelming start, are still very good and will only get better. Having won 6 straight games, Pittsburgh has now surpassed St. Louis for 2nd place in the division. Gerrit Cole just made his first start of an injury rehab assignment on Tuesday, striking out 6 in 3 innings of work for Triple-A Indianapolis, and is due back very soon. His return, combined with the arrival of top pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow and the impending returns of Francisco Cervelli and, eventually, Jameson Taillon can lead Pittsburgh to believe that they will only get stronger in the second half.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, are trending in the very opposite direction. The team’s leading home run hitter, Brandon Moss, was put on the 15 day disabled list on Tuesday with a sprained left ankle, and that news came following the news that ace reliever Kevin Siegrist would be placed on the disabled list with mononucleosis – basically, extreme fatigue.

And, if that wasn’t enough, the Cardinals’ only All-Star, Matt Carpenter, left tonight’s game in the 2nd inning with what the club called, “a strained right oblique.” Carpenter – 1.001 OPS / 164 WRC+ / 3.5 WAR – has dealt with said injury before, and we could be looking at possibly a month long stay on the shelf. Carpenter potentially being out for a month would be a devastating blow to St. Louis, and the fact that the Cardinals haven’t been able to win with Carpenter doesn’t remotely give me any belief that they can win without him.

Following Carpenter’s exit, the Cardinals took a 5-1 lead and looked poised to snatch a crucial win from Pittsburgh. That was all before Jaime Garcia and the sieve-like Cardinal bullpen decided to have another breakdown and change the script. With no Siegrist, Jonathan Broxton inherited the 7th inning tonight, and promptly gave up the 3 runs which would give Pittsburgh a lead that their lights out bullpen would not relinquish.

The Cardinals’ bullpen has been a problem all season long, and there isn’t a reason to believe that improvement will occur. The Cardinals’ collective 3.73 bullpen ERA ranks 10th in baseball, and the 9 losses surrendered is tied for 4th best in baseball. So the fact that the Cardinal bullpen has still felt extremely inconsistent and vulnerable despite the seemingly solid numbers is worrisome.

Yeah, I know, how brilliant to base my opinion on a bullpen off of a gut feeling that I get while watching them every night, but it’s true. No team can win in the playoffs with a bullpen like the Cardinals have. With Siegrist’s injury being as unpredictable as it is, Trevor Rosenthal’s meltdown – 5.28 ERA, 22 walks in 29 innings – and Jonathan Broxton’s inconsistency – 1.80 ERA in April, 9.31 ERA in May, 0.77 ERA in June – the Cardinal bullpen doesn’t really point towards improvement.

But, let’s assume that the Cardinals decide to become buyers at the July trade deadline, they would presumably be shopping for bullpen arms and/or a position player. So what kind of bullpen help is out there on the market?

Looking to New York, the names of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman have been thrown all over the trade rumor mill. Miller is likely out of the Cardinals price range, as the Yankees’ have reportedly asked for Kyle Schwarber in return for Miller from the Cubs; the Cardinals do not have a player comparable to Schwarber that should be dealt for two and a half years of an 8th inning reliever, that’s completely unreasonable for a transitioning club like St. Louis.

Moving along to Chapman – who will be a free agent at the end of the season – his asking price will likely be in the range of either a young, MLB ready position player – a la Kolten Wong or Randal Grichuk – or a B+ position player prospect – a la Carson Kelly or Harrison Bader. Neither of those scenarios should be attractive to St. Louis, as Chapman’s price tag at the end of the season will be too high to re-sign him, and giving up any of those four names for three months of Aroldis Chapman should be a big red light.

In an almost identical scenario to Chapman is Arizona closer Brad Ziegler. He is a free agent at the end of the 2016 season, and would likely carry a high price tag due to his sparkling 1.85 ERA and 18/19 save record. Milwaukee closer Jeremy Jeffress – he of a 2.45 ERA and a 23/24 save record – will carry a heavy price tag due to the 3 years of control a club will have over him following the 2016 season, and it’s highly unlikely that Milwaukee would be willing to part ways with their top reliever to a team in the same division.

In looking at the possible bullpen trade market, none of the Cardinals’ options really make sense at this point in the season, and ever since the 2nd wild card was added into the mix by Major League Baseball, the trade deadline has become a sellers’ market.

The injury to Matt Carpenter – on top of the already existing injuries to Brandon Moss, Kevin Siegrist, and now Jhonny Peralta – combined with an inconsistent bullpen and the recent and expected continual resurgence of the Pirates put the Cardinals in a position to sell; a position they must take advantage of…

…which brings us to a different question. If the Cardinals are to sell, who do they put out on the market?

In no particular order, here are the players that St. Louis should look to sell before the July 31st trade deadline.

Matt Adams – With the injury to Brandon Moss, Adams should get the bulk of the playing time over at 1st base for the next few weeks. But, with Mike Matheny being the manager that he is, Jedd Gyorko has started both of the games that Moss has been unavailable for. As Adams showed earlier in the season, he is a very productive first baseman when he gets consistent playing time. When given 22 starts during the month of May, Adams posted a 1.064 OPS and drove in 19 runs. He will have two years of arbitration control beyond this one, so to a team looking to buy, such as the New York Mets, Chicago White Sox, or Houston Astros, Adams could present very good value.

Seung-hwan Oh – By far, Oh has been the Cardinals best reliever. Sporting a 1.67 FIP, 12.2 K/9 rate and racking up 1.4 WAR so far this season, Oh represents a very dependable and very versatile reliever, as he has pitched anywhere from the 6th to the 9th inning for the Cardinals this year. In a reliever market that seems very top-heavy, Oh could be a mid-level option for any team looking for reliever help. Being on a one year deal, the Cardinals’ asking price couldn’t necessarily be particularly high, but Oh is still a valuable piece that could fetch a solid return in a somewhat sparse reliever market.

Brandon Moss – Depending on how long his DL stint is, Moss could be unavailable at the July deadline due to nobody wanting to trade for an injured player. But, with a .566 slugging percentage, a .910 OPS, 17 home runs, and the ability to play both corner outfield positions and first base, Moss presents tremendous value. He is a free agent at the end of the season, but plenty of teams could use a player like Moss, and if the Cardinals decide to sell him, he would be in high demand among relatively offensively challenged teams such as Cleveland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Jaime Garcia – This is the Cardinals’ big ticket to a truly successful trade deadline, in my eyes. The starting pitching market at this year’s trade deadline is pretty low on talent, with the biggest potential names out there being Rich Hill and Hector Santiago. Julio Teheran’s name has been thrown around, but the Braves are adamant that they will hang onto their ace and keep him around through their rebuild. With many contending teams in dire need of starting pitching – Kansas City, Boston, Baltimore, Texas – Garcia would be in high demand. He has proven his health over the past season and a half, and his 162 ERA+ and 4.1 WAR during the 2015 season show that Garcia can be a frontline left-handed starter. On top of that, Garcia has a very reasonably priced $12 million team option in 2017, so there is control beyond this season. For a pitching-needy club making a postseason push, the Cardinals could really pull in some pieces for Garcia.

This article could be interpreted as Ryan panicking and giving up on the Cardinals after just one frustrating July game, but I don’t view it that way. I viewed tonight, July 6th, 2016, as a reality check.

The Cardinals are in a very precarious position. The team’s core is finally showing signs of slowing down and breaking down. Yadier Molina got off to hot start, but has since struggled his way to a .671 OPS and a startling -1 defensive runs saved. Adam Wainwright has somewhat turned things around following his dreadful start, but still sits with a 4.70 ERA and a career low 6.1 K/9 rate, suggesting that his stuff just simply isn’t fooling hitters like it normally has. And while Matt Holliday has hit 15 home runs, his OBP is a career low .319 and his defensive metrics are atrocious.

The 2012 Phillies are often used as an example of how not to deal with an aging core, as that front office simply held on too long and the team’s core aged and sent the team into a rebuilding abyss. If the Cardinals decide to be patient and make one last run with this core, they will have to give up valuable young pieces to do so and thus could be looking at a similar situation; a gutted farm system, a bunch of aging veterans, and no success to show for it.

The Cardinals have plenty of young talent spread throughout their minor league system and are not far away from being a very good team. But this is just not their year, and giving up valuable young farm system talent for short term rentals would only set them back further.

This one month could decide the future of one of the greatest franchises that baseball has ever known. Let us all hope and pray that John Mozeliak makes the moves that help us look back upon this month as the time that the Cardinals began their next great dynasty, not the time that the Cardinals began their descent into baseball hell.

It is Officially Time for the Cardinals to Sell

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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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