For the second consecutive season, the St. Louis Cardinals have failed to reach the playoffs – they’d previously done it in ever year from 2011-2015 – and things aren’t looking brighter next season.
Their anchors, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, are each on the wrong side of 35, they traded away starter Mike Leake at the deadline, they’ll be losing Lance Lynn to free agency, and their closer, Trevor Rosenthal, will miss most of 2018 thank to elbow surgery.
Meanwhile, the Cubs remain a force in the NL Central while the Brewers were surprisingly competitive for most of the year.
“We’re trying to do this without losing our stride,” said Mozeliak. “We’re going to try to get this right by not having that year of a timeout.… We’re not trying to copy someone. We’re unique …. I’m not using the phrase ‘rebuild’ or ‘redo the organization.’ I hope you don’t either.”
Alright, then, the Cardinals will not be rebuilding. Everyone clear on that? So what will they do to compete? Or, rather, what do they need to add to make 2018 better than 2017 despite the aging of/injuries to several key players?
Well, according to GM Michael Girsch, the Cardinals need just some simple things like a shutdown closer, a starting pitcher, and a middle-of-the-order bat. Lulz. To be fair, it sounds like he said these things with a dry smile on his face, but, frankly, his self-awareness doesn’t change the fact that it’s such a daunting task.
Even still the Cardinals *clearly* have money to spend after whiffing on some big free agents in recent years, and definitely have the top prospects (including very interesting young pitchers) to pull off a massive trade. With guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson both on their radar over the winter as well as back-to-back loaded free agent classes, they might actually be able to pull it off.
Whether they should, however, is a different story.
If I were the Cardinals, I’d do, at least, a mini 1-year rebuild, while keeping my eyes and pocketbook ready for the 2019 class (not unlike the Yankees in 2015-2016). Then, you can build around whichever remaining prospects pan out – they have so many right on the cusp or better – and try to tackle the Cubs at the tail end of their competitive window.
Sure, the Cubs will lose Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, and Wade Davis, among others, this winter, but I find it hard to believe they won’t be better in 2018 than they were this season. To go after the division next season, then, when the Brewers figure to be even better too, seems like a very aggressive goal.
But hey, it’s the Cardinals … they’re unique.