St. Louis Cardinals: What is the best way to view the 2020 season?

The St. Louis Cardinals are facing a new set of challenges for 2020. What plan should they take for this year?

Many of you may feel the same as I do. You want the St. Louis Cardinals to win even in spring training games, but for the first time in my life, I don’t agree with it for the 2020 season. This is mostly because the World Series winner will have made it by playing only 37% of a normal season, with any player who records extraordinary numbers being marked with an asterisk for being in an irregular season.

I see this season as a great opportunity to develop the young players of the Cardinals in official games where they will be developing their skills and playing under pressure to earn a place for the 2021 season and fight to play in the playoffs and hopefully a World Series.

We know it’s a completely atypical baseball season, with veteran players such as Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Yadier Molina trying to improve their numbers as those who will surely enter the Hall of Fame, as well as players such like Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto, Marcell Ozuna, Joc Pederson, George Springer, Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman and Jake Odorizzi who will be hitting free agency in 2021 will be trying to put up big numbers to get a big deal.

Players such as Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, and Mike Trout will be trying to justify the huge salaries that their teams invested in them, and the players who return after having spent time on the injured list will try to regain their positions.

That’s why I suggest that the Cardinals opt for an apparent rebuild season. The team has to visualize the near future (2021) without players like Yadier Molina (possibly), Adam Wainwright, and Brett Cecil and plan on replacing Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler’s spots in the starting lineup. Aside from Molina and perhaps Carpenter, the Cardinals can survive without counting on these players in their lineup.

This would be a huge opportunity to measure the skills of many young players or those who have had a lack of chances. When the 2020 roster drops down to 26 men, including the designated hitter, the Cardinals could present the following roster:

Starting pitchers (6) – Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Kwang Hyun Kim, Dakota Hudson, Adam Wainwright and Austin Gomber or Daniel Ponce de Leon

It suggests six starting pitchers as to not overload their work, as there will be very few days off. They utilize only five starting pitchers, but none who throw more than 65/70 pitches in a game. I include Adam Wainwright in the rotation hoping he will not suffer any injuries as has happened in recent years, and that is why I considered Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon as replacements for Wainwright and/or the sixth starting pitcher.

Right-handed relief pitchers (3) – John Gant, Giovanny Gallegos, and Ryan Helsley                                   Left-handed relief pitchers (2) – Andrew Miller and Tyler Webb                                                                   Closing pitcher (1) – Carlos Martinez (I recommend not using pitcher Jordan Hicks in this season so he can further recover.)

In case of injuries, it would be best to use Kodi Whitley, Jake Woodford, Alex Reyes (last chance) and/or Genesis Cabrera

Catchers (2) – Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters

Infielders (4) – Paul Goldschmidt (1B), Kolten Wong (2B), Tommy Edman (3B) and Paul DeJong (SS)

Outfielders (3) – Lane Thomas (LF), Harrison Bader (CF) and Dylan Carlson (RF)

Bench (4) – Tyler O’Neill, Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, and Brad Miller, as well as Rangel Ravelo to replace any injured players.

As you can see, these are the same players that St. Louis Cardinals have now. Now I’ll try to assemble a lineup for the 2020 season.

Lineup vs RHP:

Tommy Edman 3B

Kolten Wong 2B

Paul Goldschmidt 1B

Matt Carpenter DH

Paul DeJong SS

Dylan Carlson RF

Yadier Molina C

Justin Williams LF

Harrison Bader CF

Lineup vs LHP:

Tommy Edman 3B

Lane Thomas LF

Paul Goldschmidt 1B

Paul DeJong SS

Dylan Carlson RF

Tyler O’Neill DH

Yadier Molina C

Kolten Wong 2B

Harrison Bader CF

Andrew Knizner must be alternated with Yadier Molina, and Dexter Fowler, Brad Miller, and Matt Wieters can be used as pinch hitters or replacements for the starting players on their days of rest. This would give rookies Dylan Carlson and Justin Williams, sophomores such as Tommy Edman, Lane Thomas and Andrew Knizner, and young players with stagnant development like Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader the opportunity to play frequently and also improve the defense in all their areas.

The 2020 season can also be used to get something out of players who have not been performing according to their salaries and expectations, such as Brett Cecil, Dexter Fowler, and Matt Carpenter, which would allow the team to save money.

Here are some possible trades for these players:
1: Matt Carpenter to the New York Yankees for Mike Tauchman or Clint Frazier plus pitcher Luis Gil.

The Yankees would like a left-handed power hitter at Yankee Stadium who plays first and third base, where they’ve had problems recently. On the other hand, Tauchman and Frazier are currently the fourth and fifth choices in the Yankees’ outfield, where they have Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and replacement Brett Gardner, so they would have a greater development opportunity in St. Louis being under team control for the next three years.

Gil is a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher born in the Dominican Republic who has played up to A-ball and is characterized by having a fastball that reaches 98 MPH. (He had 112 SO in 83 innings.) However, he still has control problems (34 BB).

2. – Dexter Fowler to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Caleb Ferguson or Tony Gonsolslin: both of them with a minimum of three years under team control.

Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock and Chris Taylor could limit their participation in the 2021 season. Dexter Fowler, being a switch hitter, gives the Dodgers more depth.

3 – Brett Cecil for any prospect players

So far we are talking about a reduction in wages of $41 million, which would allow the Cardinals to mitigate the losses in the 2020 season caused by COVID-19 as well as have a reserve for the renewal of Kolten Wong’s contract and offer a new contract to Jack Flaherty while also having more flexibility.

Next: Power Rankings: The St. Louis Cardinals grade out favorably

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As you have seen, it is a soft rebuild of the team rather than a restructuring, because the team is not giving up fighting for the playoffs, but we know that some changes are needed to release the financial burden and invest it in players at key positions (starting pitchers, a closer or a catcher like J.T. Realmuto).