With the recent signings of Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, it’s now obvious the St. Louis Cardinals will attempt to tread water until the Trade Deadline before bringing in any outside help. If so, will it be too late?
Many felt that Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel were two options available for the St. Louis Cardinals which could have addressed two glaring needs, the starting rotation, and the bullpen. The left-handed starter, Keuchel is now a member of the Atlanta Braves, and the right-handed closer, Kimbrel, is now a Chicago Cub.
With these two off the table, it is now apparent the Cardinals are trying to tread water, so to speak, until the July 31st Trade Deadline, or at least close to it. Until then, internal options to address any needs, shortcomings, or weaknesses, will be exhausted by the front office.
Which leads to the question, can the Cardinals stay in the NL Central race until the Trade Deadline by using their internal options? Then, will they be willing to make a major move to help this team going into the final two months of the season?
The needs seem to change from series to series. One series it’s the starting rotation, the next it seems to be the bullpen. Now in recent weeks, the offense has struggled to produce runs. First, let’s look at the pitching.
The Pitching Conundrum
We have seen a starting rotation that is struggling to find any member who can keep their ERA below 4.00. The rotation’s current 4.44 ERA is 16th in baseball. To add to the problem, Adam Wainwright is now on the IL, Alex Reyes continues to struggle at AAA Memphis, and Miles Mikolas is only a shadow of his 2018 self. Jack Flaherty hasn’t yet risen to his anticipated ace status and Michael Wacha has been, at best, erratic and at worse, terrible.
The Bullpen has been better, with John Gant, Carlos Martinez, and Jordan Hicks being reliable options for Mike Shildt to call upon. But at times it hasn’t been able to hold a lead handed over to them. It’s ERA ranks eighth in baseball at 4.05, not terrible, but not what a contender needs.
In spite of the addition of Andrew Miller, the main concern of the 2019 bullpen is the reliability of the left-handed side. Miller currently sports a 3.86 ERA, while Tyler Webb has a 4.18 ERA and Genesis Cabrera‘s ERA stands at 10.80.
The Offensive Paradox
Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ offense has been surprisingly anemic since early May. The team’s current BA is .245, which is 19th in all of baseball. Their team .732 OPS is 20th, team slugging is 21st at .408, and they currently are 19th in RBI with 309.
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Paul Goldschmidt‘s offensive production still lags in the categories he was expected to help in 2019. As of writing, the 31-year-old first baseman has a .261 BA and an OPS of .767, with 12 HR and 27 RBI. The only category he leads the team in is strikeouts with 72.
Goldschmidt’s struggles seem to reflect what is going on with the St. Louis Cardinals offensively thus far in 2019, high expectations that haven’t yet been met. The same could be said of the offensive struggles of Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong.
The paradox is that two members in the middle of the everyday lineup, Marcell Ozuna and Paul Dejong, are having career years. Ozuna’s 18 HR and 56 RBI are on pace to excel or match his 2017 Silver Slugger season of 37 HR and 124 RBI.
DeJong is on pace to have the best year of his short career in 2019. He currently has 13 HR, 34 RBI, and a .872 OPS, easily career bests. In addition, his WAR is seventh in the NL at 3.1 and his offensive WAR is sixth at 2.6.
Trade Deadline Options
We already know names like Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman will likely be available for the Trade Deadline. Another name that has recently been rumored as possibly becoming available is Jacob deGrom.
Bumgarner and Stroman are both in the last year of their contracts and their current teams are expected to have an interest in moving them before the end of the season. Bumgarner’s left-handed arm and his current 3.87 ERA would be a welcomed addition to the Cardinals rotation. Additionally, he has said he is willing to waive his no-trade contract for the right team.
Stroman’s 3.18 ERA and the fact he’s only 28, should draw interest from the Cardinals. The Blue Jays are expected to go younger, and willing to move some pieces before the Trade Deadline. Stroman doesn’t have a no-trade clause, so acquiring him would be less complicated for the Cardinals.
The soon-to-be 31-year-old deGrom would be a real catch for the Cardinals if he should become available. The Mets are struggling to stay in the NL East race against the Phillies and the Braves, so they may decide to trade deGrom to ‘go young’. The right-handed deGrom currently holds a 3.38 ERA and the Cardinals would control him until 2023.
Whether the Cardinals make a run at Bumgarner, Stroman, or deGrom, the price will be expensive, and the franchise will be expected to let loose of some key prospects. The St. Louis Cardinals minor league system is deep in corner infield, outfield, and some pitching prospects. Consequently, they could draw interest from the Giants, Blue Jays or the Mets.
We have to trust the offense
I don’t believe the St. Louis Cardinals will address their offensive shortcomings at the Trade Deadline. The focus will be and should be on upgrading the rotation, and possibly tweaking the bullpen by bringing in another arm.
The offense will just have to get better and that means Paul Goldschmidt needs to get better. Goldy should be the team leader in home runs, RBI, and OPS, after all, that’s why the Cardinals traded for him.
It also means the Cardinals need to find someone who can hit leadoff. If Carpenter doesn’t do it, then they must try other options, such as Bader or Munoz. Maybe the answer is ‘lead off by committee’ approach. Just try something.
I believe, if we can get more out of Paul Goldschmidt and the leadoff spot, most of the Cardinals offensive woes will be solved. Therefore, the focus at the Trade Deadline should be the rotation.
The Cardinals have enough to offer the Giants, Blue Jays, or the Mets in order to acquire the services of either Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman, or even Jacob deGrom. If they can make a trade and bring one of these guys in, it could make all the difference in the world.
Having a Bumgarner, Stroman, or deGrom to start every five days would give the Cardinals a ‘stopper’ in the rotation. It would be like the best days of Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright, knowing one of those guys would give you a strong outing when you need it.
I don’t mind the St. Louis Cardinals treading water until the Trade Deadline, as long as they make a significant move on or before July 31st. I believe they can tread water until the Trade Deadline, and I believe the significant move should be made in the rotation.