As the season continues to roll on and the St. Louis Cardinals continue to show increased success, looking ahead to potential moves to keep that success moving forward is a key to staving off the teams in the rearview.
May is officially in full swing and the St. Louis Cardinals find themselves in a familiar position: first place. Being two games over .500 and leading the NL Central was not how things were meant to go, but here we are and I don’t think anyone should be complaining. After winning sixteen of their last twenty-one, it is safe to say the Cardinals have had a complete 180 degree turn.
Improved play has been a key ingredient to their rise through the standings: the bullpen is keeping the ball in the yard, the lineup is hitting the ball with reckless abandon, and Kolten Wong has rediscovered his confidence and with it, his swing.
Building on the success the club has seen is paramount for the rest of the season. The Cardinals have been given a gift, the team up north hasn’t run away with the division like they did to start last year (Cardinals were back eight games at this point last season).
The St. Louis Cardinals need to figure out who to target come midseason to cover their weak spots in order to stay atop the division and make their push to the playoffs. Over the years John Mozeliak has made many deals to improve the state of the club around the trade deadline. However, this season could be his most important test yet.
Going two years without playing in the playoffs would be a shot to the heart for the city of St. Louis and you can be assured fans will start to really turn on him, much like they did Mike Matheny after not making the playoffs last year.
Mo has built himself a cushion, but that can go up in flames just as quickly as he earned it. You and I both know that Mo has a list of players he is monitoring but these guys should be on the list:
First, Yangervis Solarte, no he is not a sexy name. Guys like Josh Donaldson and Evan Longoria have been mentioned, but thinking more economical may be the way to go. Solarte is not going to be flashy and he is not going to sell jerseys, but what he can do is defend and hit at a reasonable rate.
The Padres are nowhere close to competing and Solarte assuredly is not part of their future plans being that he is almost 30 years old and they won’t be playoff contenders while he is under contract.
He’s signed through 2018 and won’t break the bank: $2.625 million in 2017, $4.12 million in 2018 with team options in 2019 and 2020 for $5.5 million and $8 million respectively, with a $750 thousand dollar buyouts each season.
What did Mo preach all offseason? Defense, defense, defense. Solarte is an improvement over each third base option the Cardinals have at this point in time when specifically looking at defense. He finished 2016 with a top-3 range factor at third and has thus far this year has the top fielding percentage of all second basemen in the National League.
Solarte’s bat will get you double-digit home runs and somewhere around a .270 average. It’s solid, not Donaldson good, but still very serviceable. The resurgence of Wong has made trading for a guy like Solarte more unlikely, while Gyroko and Wong hit you want both in the lineup. At the same time Mo should keep Solarte in mind for the multiple benefits he would bring.
We’re going to combine two guys into this one, Mike Moustakas and Kelvin Herrera. The reasoning here is obvious, the Royals are not good, and they appear to be a prime candidate for a team that blows it all up and starts over. They are not a team full of youth and upside and most of their guys have hit the ages where you start to expect them to not break out if they haven’t already.
Much like Solarte, the Royals’ need for Moustakas has skidded to a halt. Two weeks ago no one would have thought this would be the case but this is best case scenario for the Cardinals because Jedd Gyorko and Wong are both fairly low cost guys and retaining them won’t cost any prospects.
Herrera on the other hand is intriguing. We all know the bullpen has seen improvement lately but what kind of teams make the playoffs and win the World Series? Teams that have bullpens that can close out games.
The Cubs and Indians both had great bullpen performances last year and we all saw it on display in the World Series. Kelvin Herrera can be a staple in the back of that bullpen with Trevor Rosenthal and Seung-hwan Oh, and going forward if the Cardinals or Oh decides to move on from one another.
Herrera could also be a huge piece for the future; he can’t hit the market until at least 2019 and his career 9 Ks per 9 innings would be a solid boost to the back end.
Starting pitching is something that hasn’t really been a giant concern for the team lately. Lance Lynn looks like he’s deserving of a new contract. Michael Wacha looks like pre-shoulder-injury Michael Wacha. Mike Leake is making the contract we gave him only look kind-of-bad. And Carlos Martinez finally got rid of the braids.
Things are good, except for Adam Wainwright. It is time to temper any expectations of Wainwright bouncing back. As St. Louis Cardinals fans, that one hurts. Wainwright has been a staple for the team for years, but he has shown to be nowhere near the man we once knew.
The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t likely to turn their backs on Wainwright, and they shouldn’t, but reassigning him to the bullpen wouldn’t be the worst idea. With Wainwright throwing some long relief in the bullpen a starting spot opens up, the team could look to Memphis at Luke Weaver who has looked solid thus far or they could look out east.
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Matt Harvey’s relationship with the Big Apple is looking like it is ever closer to ending and that may be the best thing that could happen to Harvey. Taking Matt Harvey out of New York and putting him in St. Louis immediately takes away a lot of the distractions that have been facing him since his career began. You won’t see him partying until four in the morning or court side at NBA games with models constantly because let’s be honest; St. Louis is not New York.
A focused Matt Harvey could be a dominant force and he could potentially be gotten for a steal. Coming off an injury and seemingly losing respect of the clubhouse, the Mets could be looking to get Harvey out of the picture and his trade value is at an all-time low. It is hard to say what the Mets may be looking for, but they can’t be looking for too much in return for the former ace.
More than likely none of these are going to happen and Mo will surprise us all with a pre-deadline deal but these are the types of deals Mo needs to keep in his back pocket. The Cubs aren’t going to go away and they have the prospects to make their own big time deals around the deadline.
This season could come down to who makes that one deal to push their team over the top, much like last year when the Indians added Andrew Miller and the Cubs added Aroldis Chapman. A deadline deal can go a long way in getting a team to that ultimate achievement.