St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals need to rather go “all-in” or rebuild

ST LOUIS, MO - JUNE 19: Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after striking out against the Miami Marlins in the fifth inning at Busch Stadium on June 19, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - JUNE 19: Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after striking out against the Miami Marlins in the fifth inning at Busch Stadium on June 19, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Over the past four seasons, the St. Louis Cardinals have heavily underperformed. Is it now time for the Cardinals to tear everything down and rebuild?

Things have not been ideal for St. Louis Cardinals fans as of late; after the Cardinals decided to not improve the team at the Trade Deadline, the Cardinals have gone 1-6 since; including getting swept against the Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Dodgers on a California road trip. Now, they are in danger of missing their fourth postseason in a row; and if the season ended today, they would be out of the Wild Card and third place in the NL Central yet again.

Over the past four seasons, the Cardinals have had plenty of talented players on their team, but have still underperformed and can’t seem to get back into October baseball.

Back in the early 2010s, the Cardinals had what it took to cement themselves as a dynasty in baseball. They had an insane amount of talent in the Majors; as well as arguably the best farm system in all of baseball. Seemed like a much better time, right? Well, things went south for the Cardinals quickly.

Let’s start with the farm system; the Cardinals farm oozed out talent like it was nobody’s business. It included absolute studs such as Oscar Tavares, Shelby Miller, and Carlos Martinez. When players on the actual major league roster would get injured, the prospects would come up and pick up where the big guys left off; and it would make it hard to send them back down to the Minors.

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Sports Illustrated even dedicated one of their issues to the Cardinals, on the cover it said “Injuries? Superstar losses? Losses? Nothing slows. Baseball’s model organization…past, present, and future.” This was made only five years ago, crazy right? How quickly this organization came crashing down and are now close to rock bottom.

The spiral started with the sudden passing of uber-prospect Oscar Taveras, Taveras was considered the number one prospect in all of baseball; and had what it took to be the next Major League superstar, but weeks after the 2014 season concluded; it was announced that the 22-year-old had passed away in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

Over the offseason, the Cardinals shipped young stud Shelby Miller off to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for young stud OF Jason Heyward. He did a solid job with St. Louis, but he was only considered a rental. Over the offseason, Heyward left St. Louis and joined the bitter rival Chicago Cubs. That was a brutal loss for St. Louis, and they even offered Heyward more money than Chicago did; but it wasn’t enough to convince Heyward to stay a Cardinal for the next eight years.

Little by little, the Cardinals prospects began to fizzle out; whether it was being traded or simply underperforming. Only two prospects from the Cardinals seriously panned out, and those were Carlos Martinez and Kolten Wong.

Now, the Cardinals farm is pretty much mediocre; in the latest MLB Prospect rankings, the Cardinals checked in at No. 17. In my opinion, the Cardinals farm is top-heavy but other than that there is not as much talent as previous years. Headlined by Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson; both former first-round picks, the farm isn’t as exciting, and it makes it more crucial that the Cardinals Major League guys perform as expected.

Let’s shift our focus to major leaguers. There has been some talent on the big league roster; and if you look back to the preseason, almost every analyst had this Cardinals squad tabbed as a playoff team. Didn’t seem like a much of a reach either, the Cardinals won 88 games last season and then added the perennial All-Star Paul Goldschmidt to their lineup.

The squad had plenty of talent, including top 10 MVP finishing Matt Carpenter, All-Star Miles Mikolas, and young studs Jack Flaherty and Harrison Bader who were primed to break out this season.

The team has been highly disappointing once again though, Matt Carpenter has been completely lost at the plate and has battled injury by injury. Paul Goldschmidt has not lived up to his sky-high expectations and has regressed in almost every stat from previous years. Miles Mikolas has faced some regression, even though he is starting to come back around. Harrison Bader is currently not even on the Major League roster as he got demoted to AAA after a terrible season at the plate.

Even with the Cardinals struggling, the team started to show signs of life after the All-Star Break. The team was hovering around the .500 mark, and the front office publicly said that if the Cardinals started to perform, they would buy at the deadline.

The Cardinals did just that, roaring into the division lead and putting themselves in playoff position. The front office did not live up to their part of the deal though as they did not make a single move to improve the team at the deadline. The team has started to spiral out of control since, and are currently on a five-game losing stream; getting swept in back-to-back series.

The offense has been brutal for St. Louis, only three players on the team have a wRC+ of over 100, which is league average. They have had serious trouble finding a consistent leadoff guy.

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The rotation has been decent, but if the offense can’t produce runs for the starters, then a good start is all for nothing; like what we saw with Jack Flaherty against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Wednesday’s matinee game. The bullpen has been solid, but there are far too many liabilities taking up spots, and staying loyal to these guys are hurting the team

These next two months will signal what is to come for St. Louis. They could heat back up and get back into the playoffs, which the fans have been yearning for since missing it for the first time in a while in 2016. If not, it could honestly be time to tear it down and rebuild.

Plenty of teams have rebuilt through the draft and tearing their Major League roster down for solid prospects. The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros are the latest teams to reap the benefits of an all-out rebuild, both winning World Series championships and are consistently the top teams in baseball.

The San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox are both teams that are almost finished with their rebuild and are expected to contend soon. With the Cardinals heavily underperforming and also having a weak farm system, this would not be the worst idea ever.

The Cardinals do have a lot of money tied into next year, as they are already top 6 in payroll for the 2020 season. With the Cardinals having a lot of long-term contracts it could be harder to move some players without eating a ton of money. This could make the Cardinals reluctant to rebuild, but if they do decide to compete next year; they have to go all in.

As an MLB team, your end-goal should be to win championships. The Cardinals would need to open up the checkbooks make a splash in the free-agent market; like Astros ace Gerrit Cole who is expected to hit the free-agent market next season. As well as making the bullpen a power; especially with the lack of bats hitting the free-agent market next season.

Being stuck in constant mediocrity gets frustrating; especially when your front office does the bare minimum to improve the team, over both the offseason and Trade Deadline period. If the Cardinals do miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, they need to make a decision.

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Will they go all-in? Like, actually all in; not just making 1 or 2 moves to improve a consistently mediocre ballclub. Or will they decide it’s time to tear it down and start preparing to compete in 2022 when the top prospects in the Cardinals farm system are ready to contribute? I think we are all tired of the Cardinals middling and barely competing, and it’s time for a change.