St. Louis Cardinals: Half-way off-season grade for the Cardinals

John Mozeliak looks on from the stands during a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on July 28, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
John Mozeliak looks on from the stands during a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on July 28, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

With the holidays now over, what would you grade the St. Louis Cardinals’ front office half-way through the off-season?

It’s hard to believe, but we are just a mere forty-four days till pitchers and catchers report in Jupiter, Florida. But until then, the St. Louis Cardinals’ front office is still busy trying to improve the club in every way they can. We all know the moves they’ve made so far, but how would you grade the off-season so far?

I am going to approach this in three sections. The first section will be the non-pitcher positions, and the second section will be the pitching. The last section will be an overall team grade.

Non-pitcher position players

Coming into the off-season, the St. Louis Cardinals had a multitude of questions facing their every day lineup. Questions like:

  • Who will be the three hitter?
  • Will the team target more than one bat?
  • Will the team upgrade at the corner infield spots?
  • Who will the club give up in terms of trades

I’m sure I could list more questions, but the fact of the matter is the Cardinals came into the off-season with possibly the most questions of any National League team, perhaps in MLB. So far, I think the Cardinals have done a pretty good job of answering those questions.

While the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes did not tip towards the St. Louis Cardinals, I think the addition of Marcell Ozuna is just as good, and maybe even better than we think. Ozuna adds the type of bat the Cardinals are looking for, and the cost of acquisition wasn’t bad either. The Cardinals barely scratched the surface of their prospect depth by trading Sandy Alcantara and Magneuris Sierra to the Marlins.

Another benefit to the Ozuna acquisition is amount of money Ozuna costs the Cardinals over the next two seasons, and possibly beyond. Ozuna’s contract is peanuts compared to Stanton’s contract, allowing the St. Louis Cardinals to be more flexible with their spending on other positions in the future.

Another trade the Cardinals made was the one sending Stephen Piscotty to Oakland. While it is sad to see a promising player like Piscotty go, the acquisition of Ozuna, coupled with Piscotty’s mother’s ailments, certainly meant his time in St. Louis was at an end. However, that didn’t stop the Cardinals from making a heck of a trade.

While many hoped the return for Piscotty would be some pitching, the Cardinals still pulled off a heck of a trade. If there was an area the Cardinals needed prospect depth in, it was infield, particularly in the middle. The Cardinals acquired shortstop Yairo Munoz and second baseman Max Schrock in the deal to bolster that area.

Related Story: All in on Hosmer

If you need an idea of just how badly the Cardinals needed depth, both Munoz and Schrock are the highest rated infielders outside of Carson Kelly and Delvin Perez. Munoz sits tenth overall in the organization, while Schrock sits eleventh overall.

Even with those trades, there are still more questions to answer. Over the last couple of weeks, many of the writers at Redbird Rants have wondered who would be the newest Cardinal. Unfortunately, the team has not given any inclination as to who would be joining. Although Mozeliak said pitching was more of the priority, the lineup shouldn’t be ignored if someone is available for the right price.

I think for the Cardinals to have an A+ off-season, they have to be willing to find another bat to anchor the lineup. The Cardinals cannot bank on Paul DeJong having a repeat of his rookie season (see Aledmys Diaz). The lineup will require more protection in the middle of the order than just Yadier Molina and Jedd Gyorko if they are to take a big step in the playoffs.

Perhaps the questions are starting to weigh more heavily with the recent trade of Evan Longoria to the Giants, but the Cardinals still find themselves in a good position to add to the team com February 13th.

Grade: B

Pitching, including rotation and bullpen

The top priority for the St. Louis Cardinals this off-season in regards to pitching was the bullpen. More specifically, the search for a new closer was the biggest question to answer. However, the staring rotation also faced some serious questions too. The departure of Lance Lynn certainly put into question how the starting rotation would look in 2018.

The front office signed reliever Luke Gregerson to a two-year deal to help lead the bullpen. His veteran presence is surely needed, but there are some questions about how effective he can be in 2018. While he is not expected to be the closer for the Cardinals in 2018, he certainly could be a guy to step in should the full-time closer need a day off.

Even with the acquisition of Gregerson, the Cardinals are still in need of a closer. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to who it will be, but with the recent signing of Wade Davis to the Rockies, the relief market should heat up rather quickly. I fully expect this to be resolved come Spring Training, but until then, keep speculating on who you think it will be.

As for the rotation, I believe this is more concerning than the bullpen at this point. Next season, we are looking at a starting rotation of Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Luke Weaver, and Miles Mikolas. It doesn’t scream awful, but it doesn’t scream great either. If the bar is the Chicago Cubs, then the only thing the Cardinals have on their rival’s rotation is depth.

With Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes, possibly Dakota Hudson, all within in sniffing distance of regular time in the rotation, the Cardinals still have the best depth in the NL Central. Should one of the regulars get hurt, expect one of the names just mentioned to transition into the rotation.

More from Redbird Rants

However, the larger problem for the rotation is experience and quality. Weaver and Mikolas will be heavily relied upon this season, especially if Wainwright cannot find form this season.

It just begs the questions as to why the Cardinals aren’t serious about adding another top-tier or even middle tier starter.

The one problem some are overlooking when it comes to a starter is figuring out who sits. Adding a pitcher like Mikolas doesn’t mean he was brought to the team as insurance.

He will be in the rotation. But, do you think the Cardinals are even going to sit Wainwright his $19.5 million contract on the bench or release him?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

It would makes sense for the Cardinals to see if they could package Wacha in a  deal somewhere. It may make sense in a deal with Tampa Bay. If the Cardinals look to acquire Chris Archer and Alex Colome, Wacha may be a part of the deal to open up space for a guy like Archer.

However, until there is clarity regarding the pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals, I can’t give them higher than a C. An addition of a closer, like Greg Holland or Alex Colome, automatically jumps the grade to a B. If the Cardinals want to get an B+ or higher, then another quality starter is needed.

Grade: C

Overall grade

With half of the off-season left, the St. Louis Cardinals obviously still have some work cut out for them. If the Cardinals decided not to bolster the lineup after the Ozuna trade, it isn’t the end of the world. However, if you expect them to be able to win you 90+ games, think again. The same goes for the pitching.

If you expect this rotation to keep you in games, think again. You might want to believe the rotation can keep you in the race till the trade deadline, but why take that risk now? The closer addition is the only thing I am sure will happen, but again, if the rotation struggles to win games, there won’t be much closing to do.

Grade: B-

Next: A look at the NL Central starters

What grade would you give the St. Louis Cardinals so far? Let me know in the comments below!