2018 was quite the rollercoaster season for the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans. At the time of Manager Mike Matheny’s removal, the Cardinals were spiraling downward with a 47-46 record. Enter former Bench Coach and current Cardinals Manager Mike Shildt. The Cardinals started back up that next hill of the 2018 season on fire, which helped Shildt get a three year contract extension and ended the season on a 41-28 run. Take out the last week of the season, and the Cardinals are a playoff team with a 40-23 2nd half record. Unfortunately for Cardinals Nation, we can’t remove one week from a season. We all know what happened.
One offseason acquisition can change the Cardinals fortunes for 2019. I know, you’re thinking “Can one player really fix all of the Cardinals 2018 issues? Is it really possible?” Yes, I believe it is. I’ve got Eric Church’s new album Desperate Man on in the background, so let’s dig into how one player acquisition can fix the 2019 St. Louis Cardinals (hint it’s not Bryce Harper or Manny Machado).
“Some of it you learn the hard way, Some of it you read on a page, Some of it comes from heartbreak, Most of it comes from age, And none of it ever comes easy…” Some of It by Eric Church
The last three seasons the Cardinals have learned the hard way on missing the playoffs. Their analytic and baseball smarts combined approach has served the organization well, but three years without postseason baseball in St. Louis seems like an eternity in this part of the country. We all have taken for granted how lucky we have been to watch this franchise and it’s consistent postseason success, but it has never come easy.
The Cardinals have lacked a consistent year in and year out real threat in the 3 hole since the departure of Albert Pujols (Yeah, Beltran was good but didn’t last long). In 2018, the Cardinals 3rd hitter for the season batted .243/.317/.399 with 22 HR, 94 RBI, and 80 Runs. In comparison, the Cardinals 5th hitter batted .256/.324/.426 with 26 HR, 106 RBI, and 81 Runs and their 7th place hitter batted .278/.352/.446 with 21 HR, 76 RBI, and 70 Runs. One could make the argument that the Cardinals 7th place hitters produced more in less total AB (639 vs 579). In 2017, the Cardinals 3rd hitter batted .246/.338/.425 with 26 HR, 90 RBI, 84 Runs.
USA Today’s MLB Columnist Bob Nightengale tweeted the following earlier today about a possible rebuild in Arizona.
The Arizona #Dbacks could be the most popular team this winter among GMs with the Dbacks expect to strip down the team and rebuild, with virtually everyone on the trade block. They’d love to move Zack Greinke, and will even listen on franchise icon Paull Goldschmidt.
“Yeah hey, what can I say? I’m a desperate man.” Desperate Man by Eric Church
If this news is indeed true, then the Cardinals front office needs to get Arizona on speed dial. The Cardinals are in desperate need for a player that is the caliber of Paul Goldschmidt. Acquiring Diamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt would solve the Cardinals revolving 3 hole problem for the 2019 season, while showcasing the Cardinals organization to Goldschmidt in his final year of his current contract. The humidor in Arizona appeared to have an effect early (3 HR and a .144/.252/.278 line in May), but Goldschmidt responded with 10 HR and a .364/.460/.738 line in June. Goldschmidt finished the year with a .290/.389/.533 slash line with 33 HR, 83 RBI, and 95 Runs.
But what about Matt Carpenter? That’s simple, Carpenter moves over to 3B. Defensively, Carpenter was 6 defensive runs saved above the average 3B last season. Paul Goldschmidt was 6 defensive runs saved above the average 1B last season, while Cardinals 1B were -4 defensive runs saved. That does not equate to a 10 run difference in actual scoring, but it shows there is a considerable difference in a potential Goldschmidt upgrade at 1B.
So realistically what would it take to get Goldschmidt? If the Diamondbacks are serious about a rebuild, a young catcher who is regarded as one of the top catchers in the Minor Leagues would be a good start. Carson Kelly would be a nice start for a rebuilding Diamondbacks team, and is a potential foundation piece to build a young staff around. After Kelly, a combination of 2-3 additional prospects would most likely get the Diamondbacks attention. With the depth of the Cardinals pitching pipeline, I could see at least two of those prospects coming from that pipeline. At this point though, it really would be like throwing darts blindfolded to determine who those prospects would be. Do the Diamondbacks value Dakota Hudson/ Austin Gomber/ Daniel Poncedeleon as SP or RP? Would they prefer a lower level prospect with higher potential rather than one at AAA or the MLB level? When do they feel their next “window” will open?
Prospect capital and cash flow are two areas the Cardinals currently have plenty available. Milwaukee and Chicago have put St. Louis on notice, and it’s fair to say that we’ve “learned that the Monsters (in the NL) aren’t the ones beneath the bed.” But “In a great big world, spinnin’ around, People walkin’ around on shaky ground…” the Cardinals foundation’s solid. Adding Paul Goldschmidt could be that final piece to bring this franchise back to the postseason.
Lastly, if you get the chance I highly recommend seeing Eric Church live in concert and his new album Desperate Man. St. Louis will have two opportunities to see him live at the Enterprise Center on January 25th and 26th 2019. His full concert list can be see at https://www.ericchurch.com/events .