Home Baseball St. Louis Cardinals – Off-Season at a Glance (2018-2019 Edition)

St. Louis Cardinals – Off-Season at a Glance (2018-2019 Edition)

by Aaron Mullins

Well, despite an admirable effort from the Cardinals in the second half, it seems that the Postseason is just out of reach. The Cardinals are a good team, but simply could not finish in September after having such a spectacular August. You can sit and dwell on it, or you can begin mapping out a plan for the 2019 season. I’ll pick the latter.

So what do the Cardinals do? What are their needs? Where can they improve?

Hey, one at a time.

First, let’s take a look at some positives from this past season. It’s easy to dwell on the fact that the Cardinals missed out on the postseason, but there are good things about this team moving forward.

1. Miles Mikolas – SP | 18-4 | 2.83 ERA | 200.2 IP | 146 SO | 29 BB | 1.07 WHIP |

I don’t want to say that I called it… But I kinda called it. I was optimistic of Mikolas after researching him and his statistics over in Japan. He ended up being one of the best pitchers in the National League. There is a good chance that Mikolas will receive some Cy Young votes. He was spectacular in the month of September with just a 2.17 ERA and hit the 200 innings mark. He ends 2018 tied for the National League Lead in Wins. Not many people could have predicted that. Looking forward to see Mikolas return in 2019.

2. Harrison Bader – CF | .263 AVG | .333 OBP | .424 SLG | .757 OPS | 12 HR | 37 RBI |

What can we say about Harrison Bader? This kid is talented, despite what you may have recently heard from Keith Olbermann on Twitter… He has 20 DRS from the outfield this season and oh.. he’s pretty quick. If not for a solid rookie class, he could get more consideration for Rookie of the Year in the NL. He should get consideration for a Gold Glove and could be an early favorite next year too under a full time role.

3. Jack Flaherty – SP | 8-9 | 3.34 ERA | 151 IP | 182 SO | 59 BB | 1.08 WHIP |

Early injuries in the rotation gave Jack Flaherty his opportunity and he took it and ran with it. He was effective all season and was terrific at getting outs via the strikeout. He showed poise on the mound in the likeness of Chris Carpenter, and we noticed. Don’t let the record fool you… Flaherty was terrific this season. Excited to see him improve over the course of his career.

There are even more guys I could list, but I found these three in particular give me something extra to look forward to in 2019. Speaking of 2019, will any of the Cardinals free agents be coming back next season? Short answer… Maybe? Long Answer… Keep on reading.

1. Adam Wainwright – SP | 2-4 | 4.46 ERA | 40.1 IP | 40 SO | 18 BB | 1.46 WHIP |

Adam Wainwright has had a remarkable career with St. Louis. He paid his dues this season in order to earn his spot back into the rotation. His season was full of injuries, but he pitched well down the stretch showing the fans that he still has some in the tank. All that being said, I don’t see the Cardinals being interested in re-signing the veteran to anything more than an affordable one year deal. It was fitting that in his final outing of the season he struck out Javier Baez on an amazing curveball.

2. Matt Adams – 1B | .239 BA | .309 OBP | .478 SLG | .786 OPS | 21 HR | 57 RBI |

I was pretty excited when I found out that the Cardinals had picked up Matt Adams from Washington via waiver claim, but unfortunately for the Cardinals, Adams has struggled. Since re-joining the team, Adams has a .161/.203/.339 slash line with 3 home runs. With Matt Carpenter likely to assume the starting first baseman role in 2019, signing Adams would provide nothing more than a bat off the bench. I’d be fine seeing it happen, but more than likely Adams will find a home elsewhere.

3. Bud Norris – RP | 3-6 | 3.59 ERA | 57.2 IP | 67 SO | 20 BB | 1.21 WHIP | 28 SV |

Bud Norris was not the first choice when it came to the closer position in St. Louis, but with the ineffectiveness shown by Greg Holland, Norris assumed the role. He was serviceable over the course of the year, but as the year went on, he seems to have wore down. With all of the young arms in the bullpen, I can’t see a reason why the Cardinals would attempt to re-sign Norris.

4. Tyson Ross – SP/RP | 8-9 | 4.15 ERA | 149.2 IP | 122 SO | 62 BB | 1.30 WHIP |

Don’t let the line fool you. Ross was incredibly effective during his time with the Cardinals in the bullpen. He sported a 2.73 ERA across 9 appearances. His ERA + with San Diego was 88 and it was 146 for St. Louis. I think this could be a good sign for the Cardinals if you use him in the same role. Could also benefit having a good veteran presence who can make a spot start if necessary.

5. Edward Mujica – RP (AAA) | 3-2 | 3.68 ERA | 51.1 IP | 35 SO | 6 BB | 1.25 WHIP |

I am a little surprised Mujica never got a call up over the course of the season. If anything just to see if you can get anything out of the guy, but I guess he could get re-signed to another minor league deal. I don’t really have a strong opinion on him moving forward because we didn’t get to really see what he could do this season.

Rundown

In reality, the only guy I don’t want to see go is Waino, but that’s simply for personal reasons. I have no doubt that if he wants to continue pitching, he will get an offer somewhere, but I’m afraid it won’t be with the Cardinals with all the young pitching. Ross could be a valuable piece in your bullpen if you decide to re-sign him, but nobody on this list is a “must re-sign” in my opinion.

Biggest Needs

The team obviously needs to work on some things, but where do their troubles lie exactly. Let’s address them one by one and then discuss free agency and the trade market to find out some solutions.

Aaron Mullins on Twitter

If you all don’t mind, I’ll most likely be using some of these tweets in my post! Also, feel free to mention their biggest need here. #STLCards

I ran a poll on my twitter account @AaronArchCity and got some solid feedback. I’ll address our needs based on what the fans think. So let’s dive in.

Big Bat/Difference Maker

The Cardinals have a big bat and a difference maker in Matt Carpenter. But for whatever reason, Carpenter can’t hit outside of the lead-off role, and can’t sustain it for a full season. He was one of the best players in baseball for 3 months, while he was below average the other 3 months. So I completely understand most fans here.

I was hoping that Marcell Ozuna could be that guy. And looking back on it, Christian Yelich should have been the play. But nobody could have foreseen this. Yelich is likely to win the MVP in the National League, while Ozuna is being cast out by some in the fanbase. His shoulder clearly plagued him this season, and you can only hope that he recovers next season. Even so, that doesn’t mean that Ozuna will return to his 2017 form.

Paul DeJong has some pop in his bat, but he strikes out a lot and his average has dropped in his sophomore season. I can see him blossoming into a .250-.260 hitter over time with 25-30 home runs. Serviceable, but certainly not a “difference maker” from an offensive standpoint.

Jose Martinez is a wonderful hitter, but as time goes on, his plate discipline seems to be fading, and his defense certainly makes it difficult to play him on a daily basis. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him traded to an AL team in the off-season, but he could still hold value off the bench in 2018 for the Cardinals.

Bullpen

I don’t think this is as big of an issue as most fans do. The bullpen certainly struggled over the course of the season, but I think most… “most” of the problem has been removed. The young guys in the bullpen could still compete for rotation spots, but odds are a majority of them will be in the bullpen. I’m optimistic about this group moving forward. A lot of these guys were solid rotation arms in AAA Memphis and could continue growing in the bullpen for St. Louis

But there is still some work to do.

Brett Cecil… Brett freakin Cecil… I’m okay. I’m okay.  Look buddy, I wanted you to succeed. You were genuinely a force while you were in Toronto, but for some reason, it just hasn’t translated well in St. Louis. If I was in the Cardinals Front Office, I’m looking to cut ties with Cecil at this point. Last season he wasn’t terrible, but his 2018 has been… rough… to say the very least. He has a 4.86 ERA over his time in St. Louis with a WHIP of 1.47. He hasn’t been effective. Move on.

I still don’t quite understand why John Brebbia didn’t spend as much time with the big club this year. He was passed over in the beginning of the year for Mike Mayers, who has been decent this year, but Brebbia has a track record. He had a terrific 2017 for the Cardinals sporting a 2.44 ERA over 51.2 IP, and followed it up with a solid 2018 as well with a 3.24 ERA over 50 innings. He has been tough against opposing hitters down the stretch and I hope that he gets more recognition going into 2019.

The Cardinals need another flamethrower to compliment Jordan Hicks and here’s why. HE IS BEING OVERWORKED. Sorry. This is his first season in the big leagues as a reliever and he leads your bullpen in innings. It’s not really close. If you want to save his arm, he needs a complimentary arm that can do similar things. Where’s Trevor Rosenthal? Hmm…

There are plenty of arms available in the free agent market, but are any of them worth it? Does Greg Holland ring a bell? What makes it worst is that I was incredibly high on signing Holland last year. It just didn’t work out for the Cardinals. Holland did turn it around once he reached Washington, which just makes the signing that much more frustrating.

Defense

This team was bad defensively. Not just bad… the worst actually. The Cardinals lead the Major Leagues in errors with 128. The next worst is Philadelphia with 117. This is not where the Cardinals should be leading the Major Leagues and it needs to be addressed.

I’ve been pretty harsh on Yairo Munoz this season for his defense… But I do think there is a point behind it. He leads the team in errors, despite considerably less playing time in the field. Chalk it up to rookie nerves, having to play multiple positions, or what have you… but it needs to be addressed.

We all know this… Jose Martinez can hit… but defensively he is a liability. Like I mentioned above, he might end up being traded to an AL team in order for him to DH. Whether he is at First or in the outfield… It scares me when a ball goes his way.

But there are some positives you should look at. Harrison Bader and Kolten Wong are legitimate Gold Glove candidates this season. Paul DeJong held his own at SS as well. I’m really optimistic that these guys can build on their solid defensive seasons.

Marcell Ozuna cannot throw. I understand he had shoulder issues, but I wish he would have had them addressed sooner. It was evident once he got it looked at he was able to improve with the bat, but the defense never did come. You hope that he can figure it out next season and spend the off-season trying to get healthy.

Left Handed Rotation Arm

Thankfully for the Cardinals, this isn’t really a “need” as much as a want. The Cardinals do have Austin Gomber who made 11 starts this season in the Bigs. Does Austin Gomber have a shot at the rotation moving forward? Maybe? Unfortunately for Gomber, The Cardinals are loaded with potential rotation pieces, and if they want to have a lefty in the rotation, they can get one via free agency. Recently, Gomber has struggled, allowing 7 ER against LA and 5 more ER against Milwaukee just a week and a half later. Struggling down the stretch certainly doesn’t help his chances of becoming a starter in 2019. I mentioned Gomber as a potential trade piece and I still think this could be the case. I don’t see him breaking into the rotation.

Can he benefit you in the bullpen? Absolutely. He made 17 relief appearances this season and had some success. He sported a 3.38 ERA over 16 innings of work from the bullpen. If the Cardinals would be serious about having a lefty in the rotation, I don’t think it will come from Gomber.

Top Free Agents for Cardinals (My Opinion)

1. Bryce Harper – OF | .244 BA | .391 OBP | .494 SLG | .886 OPS | 34 HR | 100 RBI |

If you’ve read anything I’ve said on social media, this might surprise you a little. I like what Harper can bring as a player, but I’ve never been a fan of his attitude. Over the course of his career, it seems like he has cooled down a little bit however, and the Cardinals have a glaring need in right field. Dexter Fowler is not the answer. Jose Martinez is not the answer. Sorry everybody, but Tyler O’Neill is not the answer.

Harper will be brought in for offense more than anything. He has never been considered a plus defender and this past season he saw he worst season defensively. He owned a -3.3 dWAR this season playing in the outfield. Looking across his career, you would think this is an anomaly. He has shown that he can be an elite hitter, but there is a level of inconsistency in his play. I’d be interested in the young slugger, but I do think it will be a bidding war… Something the Cardinals aren’t exactly comfortable with. They have a number in mind, and if it surpasses that number, count them out.

2. Andrew Miller – RP | 2-3 | 3.24 ERA | 33.1 IP | 44 SO | 15 BB | 1.23 WHIP |

The Cardinals need a lefty in the bullpen that can get out lefties. Miller has been one of the best. Seriously, take a look at who the Cardinals have thrown out there as “lefty specialists.”  For the players who have longer track records, stats will be shown from 2015-2017, and then 2018. I’ll even include Austin Gomber in this to show how he is against lefties.

a. Tyler Lyons vs Lefties

2015-2017 | 193 AB | .187 AVG | .272 OBP | .316 SLG | .588 OPS |

2018 | 42 AB | .333 AVG | .429 OBP | .476 SLG | .905 OPS |

b. Tyler Webb vs Lefties

2018 | 40 AB | .250 AVG | .286 OBP | .475 SLG | .761 OPS |

c. Brett Cecil vs Lefties

2015-2017 | 245 AB | .273 AVG | .330 OBP | .412 SLG | .742 OPS |

2018 | 58 AB | .310 AVG | .379 OBP | .483 SLG | .862 OPS |

d. Austin Gomber vs Lefties

2018 | 87 AB | .287 AVG | .333 OBP | .402 SLG | .862 OPS |

Yeah… so the Cardinals currently don’t have a lefty who can get out lefties. I was hoping that Tyler Lyons could be that guy, but he struggled mightily this year for the Cardinals, but on the bright side you have him moving forward after passing through waiver earlier this season. Hopefully he can regain his form and become a weapon for the Cardinals in 2019.

But on to Miller

First, he is devastating against righties. Second, he is devastating against lefties. Yup, I’m in.

a. Andrew Miller vs Righties

2015-2017 | 519 AB | .141 AVG | .214 OBP | .235 SLG | .449 OPS |

2018 | 86 AB | .209 AVG | .327 OBP | .407 SLG | .734 OPS |

b. Andrew Miller vs Lefties

2015-2017 | .176 AVG | .240 OBP | .290 SLG | .529 OPS |

2018 | 40 AB | .200 AVG | .289 OBP | .225 SLG | .514 OPS |

As you can see, Miller did regress in 2018. He owns a 3.24 ERA in 2018, which is still serviceable. A down year from Miller is still better than everything the Cardinals attempted this year. I think he can be a valuable piece for the Cardinals if they decide to make an offer.

3. Patrick Corbin – SP | 11-7 | 3.15 ERA | 200.0 IP | 246 SO | 48 BB | 1.05 WHIP | 2.47 FIP |

Not too long ago, I wrote a piece about why I think the Cardinals should pursue Corbin during the off-season. I still stick by this. Corbin has been nothing short of spectacular for the Diamondbacks this season. After his last outing, Corbin reached 200 Innings on the season. He has a strikeout rate of 11.1 K/9, with only 2.2 BB/9. Could you imagine adding a guy like that to your rotation?

Miles Mikolas

Carlos Martinez

Jack Flaherty

Patrick Corbin

Alex Reyes? Michael Wacha? John Gant? Luke Weaver? Austin Gomber?

Your rotation gets a boost for sure leaving you only one spot with questions. I think it is an “under the radar” pick for the Cardinals given their strength when it comes to viable rotation options. But you saw how quickly that can get out of hand this past season when most of your starting rotation was on the DL at some point. In fact, only 2 of your starters made over 30 starts this season, Miles Mikolas (32), and Jack Flaherty (32 between AAA and MLB). Corbin also brings value as a left handed starter. While Austin Gomber was serviceable for the Cardinals this season, Corbin was considerably better at getting out lefties. Opposing left handed batters only managed a .239 AVG and a .692 OPS against Corbin this past season.

4. Craig Kimbrel – CP | 5-1 | 2.79 ERA | 61.1 IP | 93 SO | 31 BB | 1.01 WHIP | 42 SV |

The Cardinals have an issue in the 9th inning. Carlos Martinez filled the void admirably near the end of the season, but he has more value as a starter. The Cardinals went out and signed Greg Holland, but you saw how bad that worked out for the Cardinals. The thing with Kimbrel is that he has had more success for a longer period of time. He has a career ERA of just 1.91 and a career FIP of just 1.97.  He has been a shut down closer for a number of years now, and the Cardinals need that desperately. His walk rate is concerning, but he gets results.

The thing that could get tough for the Cardinals is the amount of young arms they have available. Will they try to be players for not one but two relievers in the off-season? Only time will tell… but I imagine they will only make a play towards one. Personally I’m interested more in Miller for his ability to be a lefty specialist. In reality he could also take over a closer role for the Cardinals. I do not think that Jordan Hicks is ready to assume that role quite yet, and having a couple solid veteran arms could do the trick.

5. Manny Machado – 3B/SS | .296 BA | .366 OBP | .539 SLG | .905 OPS | 37 HR | 106 RBI |

Listen, I have Manny Machado lower than what most would, but hear me out. I agree that Machado is a fantastic hitter, and he definitely fits the build of a difference maker at the plate, but I don’t see the Cardinals targeting both Harper and Machado, and I think that Harper fixes more of a need for the Cardinals. If the Cardinals signed Machado would I be upset? Absolutely not, but I do think that if the Cardinals were to address a need at SS or 3B, there is a better option out there. Some of you may already know where I am getting at, but you will read a condensed version of this below.

Machado moved to SS this past season after expressing his interest in returning there, but in reality he should have probably stuck to 3B. Defensively he was “ok” but honestly I think Paul DeJong was better than him. Now I’m not saying that Paul DeJong is better than Manny Machado, but from the defensive standpoint DeJong was better this season. DeJong is not a terrible hitter either. Many players experience a sophomore slump so to speak, and it doesn’t help that DeJong missed some time earlier this season. If the Cardinals made a move on Machado, DeJong easily slides over to 3B which was his natural position before getting called up. Funny enough it seems that Machado should stick to 3B while DeJong plays SS. This just gets all too confusing. Regardless, if the Cardinals acquired Machado, they would have some reshuffling to do, having Gyorko, Munoz, and potentially Wisdom battling for playing time.

6. Trevor Rosenthal – Did not pitch in 2018

I’m sure I lost a few of you there but thats’s okay.  He is a talented pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery, and he looks good. See for yourself.

Trevor Rosenthal on Twitter

Getting work in with @BaseballMU today. Really enjoying the competition. These guys are going to be good. @HumesPer4mance @D_Renns24 https://t.co/xwIFwWXpOx

I’m down to give Rosenthal a chance if the price is right. He has pitched effectively in the organization before, has closing experience, and brings a veteran presence into a bullpen full of youngsters. Again the issue is that it’s unlikely the Cardinals will pursue multiple relievers, but Rosenthal is a solid choice if the price for Kimbrel or even Miller is too high.

Trades

Unlike last years off-season post, I won’t be naming the players I would deal, but instead just naming the players I would deal for. If it was easy as us fans and writers try to make it, we would have no problem getting back into the postseason.

1. Andrelton Simmons – SS | .292 BA | .337 OBP | .417 SLG | .754 OPS | 11 HR | 75 RBI | 19 DRS |

In a recent piece, I wrote that Andrelton Simmons would be a wonderful fit for the Cardinals. He has been one of if not the best defensive shortstop of the past 20 years. And what’s better is that over his career, he has improved offensively every season. If you compare him to Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, Simmons actually has a higher WAR over his career.

It would give you arguably the best middle infield group in the Majors. DeJong is also a solid SS, but moving him back to his natural position of 3B could make your team stronger defensively. If you would like more of an in depth look as to why I think Simmons could benefit the team read more here!

The Cardinals Need to Trade for…

2. Paul Goldschmidt – 1B | .290 BA | .389 OBP | .534 SLG | .923 OPS | 33 HR | 83 RBI |

If the Cardinals can’t make a trade for Simmons work, I think they should go all in on trying to get Goldschmidt. He is a legitimate 1B who has been undervalued in his career. How he doesn’t have an MVP award in the NL will forever surprise me. If the Cardinals were to make this work, Carpenter moves to 3B and your infield is set. It fills the need for the Cardinals to get a difference maker and you can still keep arguably your most productive hitter this past year in the regular lineup.

Wrap-Up

This season stings because of how close we were to the post-season. In many years, 88 wins gets you at least a wild card spot, but unfortunately it wasn’t this year for the Cardinals. Mike Shildt has done a tremendous job in his limited time with the club, but I’m hoping a full year with him as the Manager will benefit this club tremendously. There are good pieces here, but the Cardinals do need to make a splash this off-season. Will it be for Harper or Machado? Time will tell. I’m looking forward to what the Cardinals can do in 2019. I genuinely am.

What are your thoughts?

Tweet @AaronArchCity

Thanks for Reading

Aaron M.

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