Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals: Prioritize Future Core

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It’s that crazy interlude in town once again in which the St. Louis Cardinals are contending in the National League Central, there are no games going on, and they MAY have pressing needs around the diamond. We’ve surveyed the Giancarlo Stanton moment, and passed through the David Price wavelet. Now many go cuckoo for Tulo, which is a perennial occurrence here. Who wouldn’t want Troy Tulowitzki?

The St. Louis Cardinals have a high-end talent core of Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Oscar Taveras, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez. All of them would be cheap and 27 or under in 2016. Getting just one of the targets–Tulowitzki, for instance–would effectively decimate that homegrown core. Tulo and Price both? You’re talking about a completely different direction from the blueprint that John Mozeliak has been following since he took over as general manager in 2007.

First, we don’t know today if Michael Wacha will be there in 2016. Adams offers top-shelf production at bargain prices. Wong was a first-round pick who fills a need. Martinez and Taveras have tantalized, and there’re reasons to believe they can be a good deal better when they are 24, in 2016.

The problem for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014 has been the offense. The Cardinals are 12th in the league in slugging, 14th in runs per game, and last in home runs. Tulo would help the attack, sure, but remember the context: the Cardinals are without an effective Wacha, and since he left the scene, the starters’ ERA is 4.43. Their once staunch run prevention is slipping fast, from first to tenth in the National League.

The Cardinals need both Price and Tulowitzki to go all the way, which is how they conceive of things. You would not be doing this to squeak by in the Central; that’s for the Brewers. This would be an out-of-nowhere, go-for-broke to blow the doors off of 2014 that doesn’t characterize this regime at all. What would be left by next spring? The older guys, who aren’t hitting.

Consider the Pujols Dividend, named for Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels. The Cardinals had an inkling during the 2011 season that he would leave afterwards, thus saving the team a huge investment in one player. They took that money and got two years of Carlos Beltran, and they gave extensions to long-time core members Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. Also, many like to point out, the Cardinals selected Michael Wacha with a compensation pick for the Cardinals losing Pujols.

The model here is grow-your-own, preferably impact players. Complement with veterans, such as a Jhonny Peralta. Making moves for the Rockies’ shortstop and the Rays’ ace would be a detonation of the Pujols Dividend, and what it represents to this organization.

They have a shot right now to get into the tournament. They’ve done well in recent history. They have the money to support these deals. They don’t have the players, not to be viable in 2016. Molina, Wainwright, Matt Holliday, and Allen Craig will be around then. Adams, or Wong and Taveras, or all three, would likely not. Your team would be quite old. What would you do?

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