St. Louis Cardinals: Reviewing the Offseason and Previewing 2017

Feb 17, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) goes through stretching drills before spring training workouts at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 17, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) goes through stretching drills before spring training workouts at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Let’s review and preview the moves made this offseason by the St. Louis Cardinals and how they could impact the 2017 season.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished the 2016 season with 86 wins and 76 losses and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010. They entered the offseason with a number of questions surrounding their rotation, defense, and overall ability to compete in the National League Central. Their biggest rival, the Chicago Cubs, also happened to win the World Series in dramatic fashion. To avoid all of that happening again, things had to change.

Key Additions:

  • Dexter Fowler – Center Fielder – Signed a 5-year, 82.5 million dollar contract.
  • Brett Cecil – Relief Pitcher – Signed a 4-year, 30.5 million dollar contract.
  • John Gant – Starting Pitcher – Acquired via trade from the Atlanta Braves (Jaime Garcia)

Key Departures:

  • Matt Holliday – Left Fielder – Signed with the New York Yankees
  • Brandon Moss – 1st base/Outfielder – Signed with the Kansas City Royals
  • Jaime Garcia – Starting Pitcher – Traded to the Atlanta Braves
  • Seth Maness – Relief Pitcher – Signed with the Kansas City Royals
  • Jeremy Hazelbaker – Outfielder – Claimed off of waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks

With those key changes the team is coming into 2017 with a bit of a different look and feel. They no longer will rely on Randal Grichuk in center field or Matt Holliday batting in the three-hole. The St. Louis Cardinals will also no longer have Moss or Hazelbaker as depth pieces that accounted for 40 home runs.

While adding skilled veterans like Fowler and Cecil will surely help the team there are three questions to consider:

1. Is signing Fowler enough to bridge the gap between the Cardinals and the Cubs?

The Cubs and Cardinals had a 17.5 game gap between them by the time the 2016 season was over. In an offseason where free agents like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista ended up taking cheaper contracts than expected, was signing Fowler enough to catch Chicago? Also, can Fowler reproduce his 2016 season at age 31?

2. Will the St. Louis Cardinals miss their power?

Losing Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss, and Jeremy Hazelbaker shows that the Cardinals not only want a more athletic lineup but that their lineup may have a power shortage. Granted, Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Matt Carpenter, and Aledmys Diaz all have 20+ home run power but this lineup is now focused on more of a methodical approach.

In 2016, the team relied heavily on the long ball but didn’t see that as something that could be continued consistently. Now, they may miss it. And let’s not forget Jedd Gyorko will somehow need to find at-bats if he wants to showcase his 30-home run power again.

3. What pitching staff do the St. Louis Cardinals have in 2017?

After being the best pitching staff in all of baseball in 2015, the St. Louis Cardinals were the epitome of average in 2016. Out of the 5 main starters in 2016, only one had an ERA under 4.00 (Carlos Martinez). In 2016, almost everything that could have gone wrong did.

There were endless amounts of injuries which contributed to severe underperformance of the staff as a whole. Unfortunately, 2017 has started with an injury to Alex Reyes which puts pressure on the veterans to regain form more than ever. So who will we see in 2017…the 2015 or the 2016 staff?

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With those questions in mind, let’s consider a few possible outcomes:

1. Best Case Scenario:

Last year’s pitching staff struggled due to a mix of injuries, frustrations, and poor defense. That will be fixed considering the defense is now better and the staff (for the most part) is coming into spring training healthy. Furthermore, the offense will be a well-oiled machine with Fowler leading off and Carpenter now in a position to produce at an elite level.

Grichuk will be a consistent power threat while Kolten Wong plays good defense and is annoying on the base paths. Add in the mixture of Gyorko and Jhonny Peralta at third base and the lineup will be deep and tough for any pitcher to work through.

2. Worst Case Scenario:

The St. Louis Cardinals lack the offense to compete the in the Central. The addition of Fowler proves to be too little while the starting pitching experiences a number of issues. Fans begin to realize how old Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina are while injuries continue to plague Michael Wacha and some of the other pitchers.

Also, Grichuk and Wong don’t seem to find the success needed to remain MLB players for the full season. All of this together would amount to the team selling off pending free agents Lance Lynn, Jhonny Peralta and Seung-hwan Oh.

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3. Prediction

St. Louis improves slightly on their win total from one year ago. They’ll get 88 wins or so and make the National League Wild Card game. The lineup does perform consistently but there will be games where there is a clear lack of a true middle of the order bat. The starting pitching relies on Carlos Martinez again while the rest of the staff performs adequately.

What are your thoughts Cardinals Nation? Can you answer the three questions with certainty and predict them to do any better or worse than I have? Let us know in the comments below.