There is a strong indication that the St. Louis Cardinals will sign the former Royals’ and Rockies’ closer this offseason. I’m not so high on the idea and the reason why centers around what the Cardinals already have, not what they don’t have.
Hop in the St. Louis Cardinals time machine with me for a second because I want to take you back in time for a little bit.
September 4th, 2017. The St. Louis Cardinals are in San Francisco to play the Giants in a crucial playoff-chase game. Luke Weaver had just finished firing seven wonderful innings of two-run baseball and now turned the game over to the bullpen.
Out of the AT&T Park bullpen came trotting an unfamiliar face. Sandy Alcantara, wearing #56, headed out to the San Francisco mound to make his Major League debut against the 2, 3, and 4 spots in the Giants’ order.
The 21-year-old and his 102 MPH fastball had mostly ridden under the national prospect radar up to this point, but anyone who had paid attention to the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league system knews how special this kid could be. Now began his time to shine.
Alcantara didn’t get out of the inning and only managed two outs while giving up an earned run and two hits. His debut wasn’t clean or sparkling like I certainly imagined, but it did include one key moment.
The first pitch to Posey was 101 on the outside corner, absolutely painted for a looking strike. The next pitch, an 85 MPH slider, saw Posey well out in front and put the count at 0-2. Alcantara’s 0-2 pitch was a 92 MPH changeup that Posey swing right over the top of for a strikeout.
Sandy Alcantara’s first Major League out and strikeout was Buster Posey. I’m no prognosticator or fortune teller, but I can tell that striking out Buster Posey is a hard thing to do, completely setting aside the fact that it was done by a 21-year-old making his MLB debut.
That has to bode well for what hopefully turns out to be a long upcoming career.
Now, cast your mind forward a little bit from September 4th to September 15th. The St. Louis Cardinals are in Chicago for a crucial three-game weekend series against the Cubs. In a disappointing game that featured a 7-run 7th inning for the Cubs, Alcantara came in to clean up the mess of a now blowout in the 8th inning.
And, just for good measure, let’s throw in a couple more Sandy Alcantara highlights on our time traveling excursion, shall we?
Here’s him punching out Adam Duvall:
Here’s 101 MPH with a stupid amount of movement on it to Phillip Ervin:
I think we all get the point here. Sandy Alcantara is a very good pitcher with superpower stuff and he’s barely 22 years old. The St. Louis Cardinals have themselves a special talent so let’s come on back to present day and I’ll explain why I decided to take you all time traveling.
As of this writing, there is clear indication from multiple sources that the Cardinals “plan to pounce” on free agent closer Greg Holland in an effort to fix some of the bullpen woes that hamstrung the 2017 team.
Several days ago, my colleague Christian May-Suzuki wrote about how Holland is exactly what the St. Louis Cardinals need in their bullpen. I’m here to tell you that the former Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies player is exactly the kind of player and contract that the St. Louis Cardinals want to avoid.
Sandy Alcantara is part of the reason why.
I won’t deny that Holland is a good relief pitcher. He’s a better relief pitcher than many of the relief pitchers that the St. Louis Cardinals employ. However, considering the current topography of the St. Louis bullpen right now, signing Holland would essentially block several young pitchers, like Alcantara, from reaching the Major League level.
Holland turns 32 in November, coming off of a year in which he saved 41 games and pitched to a very good 3.68 FIP while playing 81 home games at Coors Field, and now two years removed from a 2015 Tommy John procedure. All of that to say that he’ll be looking for a significant contract in likely his only chance to receive one via free agency.
And Holland won’t be alone in looking for that significant contract because he’s represented by the notorious Scott Boras.
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Boras has made it widely known that one of his offseason objectives is to get Eric Hosmer – he of just two seasons with three or more fWAR – a contract worth $200 million or more. Considering the very real penchant of Boras to often get exactly what he and his clients want and also considering the super-inflated value of relief pitching in the current market, Boras and Holland will likely want a contract in the range of 4-5 years and $60-$70 million.
Use Mark Melancon’s 4-year, $62 million contract from last offseason as a template as what I believe Holland will look for.
Now, while keeping that contract in mind, think about all of the young pitching talent that the St. Louis Cardinals currently employ in their minor league system. Just off the top of my head, here are a few names.
I could keep going, but I think you get the point. There is an expansive collection of young, talented pitching in the Cardinals’ minor league system and several of them are right on the verge of the Major Leagues.
St. Louis’ current situation is comparable to that of the 2012-13 offseason. Following the 2012 season, the Cardinals had Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha all waiting in the minor league wings. Miller, Martinez, and Rosenthal had all each made very brief big league cameos during 2012 and Wacha wasn’t far behind.
With Rafael Soriano, Jason Grilli, Koji Uehara and Ryan Madson all available in free agency, it would have been respectable and reasonable for the Cardinals to go out and buy themselves some bullpen help. However, John Mozeliak and co. stayed the course, held onto their money and let that quartet play.
The rest is history.
Martinez and Rosenthal both played crucial roles in the Cardinals’ bullpen during the 2013 season, while Wacha and Miller both came up and were important cogs in a pennant winning St. Louis team.
Compare that situation to the one the Cardinals are currently in and you have my reasoning against a potential Greg Holland signing.
The quartet of Reyes, Flaherty, Alcantara and Hudson are all either MLB-ready or incredibly close. Instead of signing an aging relief pitcher to a monster contract, the Cardinals need to trust their kids and keep the payroll flexible going into 2018.
The St. Louis Cardinals are about to undergo a significant youth renaissance, with the minor league system about to burst. The last thing they need to do right now is tie down $60+ million to a player entering his age-32 season. So, with all respect to CMS, I say “no, thank you” to Greg Holland. Let the kids play, instead.