A topic that I have seen discussed quite a bit among Cardinals fans is the issue of the amount of depth the Cardinals have both in pitching and in the outfield. On the surface, having plenty of depth appears to be a good thing. But is it? I have seen arguments both pro and con regarding the desirability of maintaining the depth at these positions. Where and when will all of these players get playing time? Is it necessary to trade some of the depth at these positions in order to shore up a lack of depth elsewhere? These are all good questions to ponder.
As of now, the Cardinals have the following pitchers either in the starting rotation or competing for a spot. Adam Wainwright (a lock), Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, and Joe Kelly. Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal were the 8th and 9th inning guys at the end of last season, but both came up through the minors as starters and would like to start. Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness were also predominantly starters in the minors but are likely to remain in the bullpen for the foreseeable future along with Jason Motte and lefty specialist Randy Choate and possibly new bullpen acquisition Pat Neshek. On the fringes are guys like Tyler Lyons and John Gast, though Gast’s health is still an issue. Hovering in Memphis are guys like Keith Butler, Angel Castro, Sam Freeman, Jose Almarante and Lee Stoppelman, all relief pitchers looking for a bullpen spot. Boone Whiting is a starter who has shown some promise, as has Tim Cooney. Behind all these pitchers are potential major league pitchers in Springfield and Palm Beach who will come knocking on the door in a year or two. With only 12 major league pitching spots available, where are all these pitchers going to park themselves?
Of course injuries, especially with pitchers, are always an issue, and can create opportunities for some of the depth to be utilized. But even with injuries, there is still a logjam of pitching talent in the Cardinals organization. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak has more than once commented in interviews that he is not inclined to trade from the pitching depth. With a lack of major league caliber depth at other positions in the infield and behind the plate, is it wise to take this tack if talent for those positions is available in trade? There are major league teams who have excess at certain positions where the Cardinals lack depth, but who need pitching. The Cardinals’ emphasis on player development to fill needs is indeed laudable, but at certain positions that player development has not produced major league caliber results. Shortstop is a position where the minor league system has been woefully inadequate in producing major league talent, so much so that the Cardinals were forced to sign free agent Jhonny Peralta to a four year contract as a band aid for the problem. Peralta, soon to be 32 years old, is not a long term solution. There is certainly an argument to be made that trading some pitching talent for a young, cost controlled shortstop for the future is not an unreasonable notion.
And then there is the issue of outfield depth. Currently the major league roster is sporting Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Peter Bourjos, Jon Jay, and Shane Robinson in the outfield. Behind them lurks uber prospect Oscar Taveras, likely to appear in St. Louis sometime in 2014. Behind Taveras is Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, James Ramsey, Joey Butler, Mike O’Neill and Thomas Pham. Matt Holliday and Allen Craig are signed to long term contracts and are not going anywhere anytime soon. That leaves only 2 or possibly 3 roster spots in the outfield in the immediate future and Taveras is sure to get one of them. Again, injuries are always a possibility, but there are even less open spots for an outfielder than there are for a pitcher. So, I ask again, isn’t there an argument to be made that some of this outfield depth could be put to good use in a trade for an infielder or a catching prospect?
There are those who will say you can’t have too much depth. Perhaps that is an adage due for a reappraisal. The Cardinals’ depth is one of the things other organizations rave about, but is there a limit to be reached? What do you think?