St. Louis Cardinals: Milwaukee turns the heat up on Cards

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 23: General manager John Mozeliak on the field before Game One of the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on October 23, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 23: General manager John Mozeliak on the field before Game One of the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on October 23, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Many in Cardinal Nation are left wondering how the St. Louis Cardinals will respond to yesterday’s Hot Stove action and the Milwaukee Brewers.

With how slow everything is moving in the off-season, it was only a matter of time before the Hot Stove’s dial would turn up to max. In what felt like a matter of minutes, the Milwaukee Brewers cemented their efforts in the NL Central. All of a sudden what was a two-team race for the central division in 2018 is now a three-team race between the Cubs, Brewers, and St. Louis Cardinals for the next several years.

First came the news of the trade sending Christian Yelich to the Brewers. While the speculation of a move for Yelich and the Brewers intensified over the last week or so, there was no indication it would come about so quickly. But as swift as the Yelich news came, outfielder Lorenzo Cain signed a 5-year/$80 million dollar contract, capping a remarkable day for the Brew Crew. Both Yelich and Cain will be in the Brewers’ outfield for the next five years.

What will the Brewers do next?

The obvious answer for them is starting pitching. If the Brewers hope to truly contend in the NL Central and ultimately the playoffs, they need a starting pitcher badly. You would have to guess free agent names like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn are all on the table. However, speculation on trading for starting pitcher like Chris Archer picked up heavily after yesterday’s splash.

I’m sure you can imagine the reaction of Cardinal fans upon hearing the Brewers’ news. However, let me say this. The St. Louis Cardinals are still a better team than the Brewers, at least on paper. The Brewers outfield certainly can make its case as to being the best outfield in the NL Central, but they fall just slightly short of what the Cardinals have to offer.

Another aspect to consider is just how much better the Cardinals’ starting rotation is than the Brewers. Even if the Brewers land a top free agent or someone via trade, they are still working with the likes Yovanni Gallardo and Jhoulys Chacin in the back-end of their rotation. In other words, they don’t scare me.

However, noticed how I said at least on paper. While the Brewers definitely overachieved in 2017, they were still better than the Cardinals. They played consistently and made it tough on the Cubs to win the division. That’s something the Cardinals shouldn’t take for granted coming into 2018, especially after finishing the season with a division record of 34-42 (8-11 against MIL).

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With all that said, how the St. Louis Cardinals respond to Brewers move over the next couple of weeks heading into Spring Training says a lot about where the front office truly thinks this team is.

As for me, I’m not willing to wait a couple of weeks to say what the Cardinals should do in response to the Brewers.

Yesterday on the Official Redbird Rants podcast, alongside Jake from Cubbies Crib, we talked about how the Brewers’ moves put pressure on the St. Louis Cardinals, and Cubs for that matter, to shore up any loose ends they may still have heading into Spring Training.

The best move still left for the St. Louis Cardinals is getting a closer. Yes, I know John Mozeliak stated Luke Gregerson would enter the season as closer, but are you really convinced that is the answer, especially after the moves the Brewers made? Maybe I am wrong about Gregerson, and I hope I am, but the Cardinals are taking a big time risk by not signing or trading for a big time closer.

Unfortunately, I just don’t see that tune changing any time soon. The Cardinals received Dominic Leone in the Randal Grichuk trade, but at most I expect him to be a 7th-inning guy. The interest for Greg Holland and Alex Colome seemingly vanished in a matter of a month as well. It very well looks like Gregerson will be the Cardinals’ closer.

With how the Brewers and Cubs’ lineups look, it is imperative the Cardinals have one of the best bullpens in the National League. As I have said before, you can’t make the playoffs without going through your division. If you expect to win, you will have to reverse the records you had against the Cubs and Brewers dramatically. Having a star closer certainly closes that gap.

The next best move the St. Louis Cardinals can make would be to sign the best starting pitcher through free agency or find an ace through trade. You already know the Brewers will be looking down that road, so why not stop up the game to acquire a better arm than what your rotation has right now? Obviously, it’s not that easy. However, the Cardinals have the flexibility to pull this off.

If it’s me, you pretty much have to hang your hat on Jake Arrieta. The likelihood of Darvish going to the Cubs is pretty high. If the Brewers aren’t able to acquire Archer from Tampa Bay, Arrieta is their next best option. If the St. Louis Cardinals want to keep the Brewers and Cubs in check, they must make the move for Arrieta sooner rather than later.

The only problem will be how much money Arrieta will cost and years on the contract.

He will likely wait until Darvish signs so he can get the best deal possible, but you have to expect somewhere in the range of a 4 or 5-year deal/$100million. I’m sure the Cardinals don’t want to spend that kind of money, but if they want to compete as they say they do, then there isn’t much of a choice.

But then again, Mozeliak and Co. will tell you there is always a choice.

I don’t believe the front office will do anything before Spring Training. I am convinced they believe they have a good team in front of them capable of winning the division. Yes, the Cardinals are a good team and have the pieces to be competitive. But if they are just going for the division, then more has to be done. Otherwise, there is a serious disconnection between them and the fan base.

Up until yesterday, the Cardinals had plenty of distance between themselves and the Brewers. With that gap as close as it has been in quite some time, one can only wonder what exactly the St. Louis front office is thinking. We know John Mozeliak and Co. have publicly stated the team was good as is. However, many of us were skeptical of Mozeliak’s comments then. Would you blame anyone for being even more skeptical now?

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What do you think? Will the front office respond? Or are you skeptical like me? Let me know in the comments below!