The St. Louis Cardinals have revamped their roster for the 2019 season, but that doesn’t mean the general struggles of the past several years will be forgotten. In fact, there’s another team that will look eerily similar to the previous iteration of the Cardinals.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, St. Louis Cardinals fans. The Diamondbacks have a lot of complimentary pieces, but not that one guy that the team can anchor around. They have a solid set of starters, but their bullpen is still up in the air. Yep, these are all things that we were saying about the St. Louis Cardinals just last season.
While they have a some decent supporting relievers in Andrew Chafin and Yoshihisa Hirano, the Arizona bullpen struggled in part due to a less talented veteran in Brad Boxberger being the closer because the team felt a young reliever needed more time to acclimate to the league.
While Boxberger was serviceable for a period as Bud Norris was, it was clear by the end of the year that he wasn’t the closer the D’Backs needed.
Just as the St. Louis Cardinals allowed Norris to close to bring Jordan Hicks along steadily, the Diamondbacks are taking their time with Archie Bradley. His numbers understandably declined from a pristine 2017, but he still showed he is a talented pitcher who has a lot of time to grow.
But it isn’t just these bullpen similarities that makes these two teams so reminiscent of each other. The Cardinals have an elite defender who has had offensive struggles, and so do the D’Backs in Nick Ahmed. David Peralta emerged in 2019 as a power hitting leadoff hitter reminiscent of Matt Carpenter.
They have young players who serve as great compliments in Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, and Jake Lamb. Now, they gave up their solid outfielder in A.J. Pollock, who was still relatively young, but injury prone, just as the Cards did with Tommy Pham.
Finally, what might be the most important point of all is that the void that Paul Goldschmidt leaves in Arizona is as apparent as the one he will fill for the Cardinals. The team may seem like it has the talent to compete on the surface, but Cardinals fans know that without those anchors on offense and in the bullpen, it is hard to compete when it really matters most.
This is where the Diamondbacks seem to be, especially following the loss of Pollock to the Dodgers. Just as the St. Louis Cardinals lacked a true offensive star to attach all of the team’s solid complimentary pieces to, the D’Backs now find themselves without an anchor of their own.
I for one will be a bit more invested in the Diamondbacks next year because I am curious as to how they proceed with this situation. While the Cardinals went a route that will allow them to compete now, it seems the Diamondbacks are moving towards a longer rebuild.
Of course, that is just one man’s opinion based on what we have seen this offseason. The Diamondbacks haven’t done much to improve themselves in the immediate future, and have a core of guys under the age of 30 in Lamb, Marte, Ahmed, and Escobar. While none of these guys sticks out as a name that will carry a team over the hump, it does show that the D’Backs still have time to find that guy who will.
The fact that the D’Backs haven’t been particularly successful in recent years actually lends itself usefully here. It is a situation unlike that with the St. Louis Cardinals, fans were genuinely upset with the lack of success, and feelings as strong as anger arose after 3 consecutive missed postseasons.
On the other hand, the D’Backs have made the postseason just twice in the past 10 seasons, and haven’t made it past the divisional round since 2007. With expectations much lower than in St. Louis, the Diamondbacks are going to take it slow, building up a new core of players, just as many others have done in the past.
It will be interesting to see how the Diamonbacks grow over the next few seasons, and could be a representation of what the St. Louis Cardinals could have been if they had decided a different route in the 2019 offseason.