St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals off-season conundrum

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: Matt Carpenter /

Free agency has continued to putter on and this leaves the St. Louis Cardinals with some potentially tough questions.

This winter has been boring. Outside of the Stanton saga, which ate up a month of our time and interests, and the much quicker Marcell Ozuna deal, this winter has been a dud. Most of the hot stove has centered around the dumpster fire that is the Miami Marlins. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, this offseason has seen a real lack of excitement. This has led to some big names still available and the St. Louis Cardinals seem to be connected.

With a vast majority of the top free agents still available, you have to believe some of these players are rethinking their approach to free agency. After coming out with their initial numbers to teams, no one seemed to bite. This offseason, in a way, seems to be the leagues attempt to fight back against exorbitant contracts (this will last until next offseason, i.e Bryce Harper).  Players like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, J.D Martinez and Eric Hosmer are still on the market and don’t seem to have a deal imminent. This leads to an interesting conundrum for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The St. Louis Cardinals and their front office know they don’t exactly have an obvious place of need in their lineup. The bullpen is a completely different story. After trading for Ozuna the Cardinals filled a hole. They got a banger for the middle of their lineup and improved a weak spot that was a clear need. The rest of the roster though, doesn’t seem to have a gaping hole in need of a fix.

There are obvious spots not even worth considering. The outfield is set, and we have a mainstay at catcher. Kolten Wong solidified himself at second, and Paul Dejong became a welcome surprise at shortstop. This leaves just two positions and there are already two capable players for both of those spots.

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Matt Carpenter is a lock, but where? Currently, he is locked in at first base, the position on the field he can do the least damage defensively.

In this current set up, Jedd Gyorko is the everyday third basemen, that be without a very impressive potential backup.

The problem comes into play if the Cardinals decide to take advantage of the slow market and make a move for a guy like Eric Hosmer or even Mike Moustakas.

In a scenario where the St. Louis Cardinals sign Eric Hosmer to a potentially short-term deal, so he can continue to build value for a run at a larger contract, Carpenter has to slide to third base.

This is a bothersome potential outcome considering Carpenter’s lack of strength when it comes to his defense, especially at such a vital position. The team would have an uptick defensively at first base, but a severe downturn at third.

The problem then moves to Jedd Gyorko, who in his own right has been a more than serviceable defender at third and has been a solid bat. His final stats compare favorably to other potential options. Moving Gyorko to the “super utility” role would allow him to continue to see at bats at third, second and most likely first base, but at the expense of others. The team would be able to find him reps and to get his bat into the lineup but not enough to make him as valuable as he could be.

A similar scenario comes into play if the team decides to make a move for Mike Moustakas. In this scenario Matt Carpenter gets to stay at first base, the best case scenario, but again Gyorko will find himself in the “super utility” role.

In 2017, Moustakas made a significant leap in his power stats, hitting 38 home runs over 148 games. This was an impressive step up from his career average of 23 per 162 games played. If the St. Louis Cardinals could 100% know this is the bat they would be signing (they can’t) it would be a clear improvement to the lineup. Gyorko has a 162 game average of 26 home runs, better than Moustakas but he maxed out at 30 home runs, eight less than Moustakas’ season high.

The Cardinals clearly lacked of middle of the order power, adding Ozuna relieved some of that problem. Taking a risk on Moustakas and hoping he can repeat his 2017 would put that issue to bed. Unfortunately with no guarantee Moustakas can keep it up, the risk is just too high. Gyorko may not be a sexy answer, like a Manny Machado or a Josh Donaldson, both of whom are free agents next year, but he is more than serviceable. Trying to force a signing isn’t what this team needs, unless the deal is too good to be true.

Next: A look at the NL Central starters

John Mozeliak and Mike Girsch have a lot of questions still to answer. At this time though, the answer may just be to let the lineup be and focus on the pen. There are still holes in the bullpen that need to be fixed. Believing that you have the lineup to get it done and surrounding them with better pitching may be the answer to this team’s success in 2018. It may not be the answer fans are looking for but it may be the one that makes this team the most successful.