Cardinals Offseason Questions: Round 1

Wondering about the Cardinals offseason? I answer six questions from the UCB right here.

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What needs to happen to the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason? Every winter, the United Cardinal Bloggers get together and ask questions for the group to answer. I will be bringing those questions and answers here.

Question via Kevin Reynolds-How, specifically, would you solve and resolve the Cardinals offensive woes for next season? By “specifically,” I mean identify the problem(s) you want to fix and tell us how you would fix it/them.

Answer-I don’t mean to disappoint the Mabry critics, but I don’t put too much weight into the hitting coach category. I don’t put much stock there. Unlike the pitching coach, the hitting coach effect doesn’t show up on the field as often as fans would like. When they get to the big leagues, their approach is pretty much locked in. There may be a few notable exceptions, but when I look at John Mabry, I don’t think about a savior. Did Big Mac do a better job than Mabry? Sure, but how can we actually quantify the worth of a hitting coach? And is it accurate? Nobody wanted to give Mabry credit for 2013 due to the high RISP average but they pounded him for the next two seasons. I don’t. I actually think Mabry or whoever is down there should just get out of the way. These are big boys. Once they make it through three farm systems, a hitting coach just doesn’t have much to teach. It may be the unpopular take, but it’s mine.

Resolving this offense isn’t like sending your car to the shop for an oil change and tire alignment. The contract status of players and the fact that all the positions are full if Mr. Jason Heyward returns throws a wrench into any plans John Mozeliak would like to make. As I wrote for STLSM this morning, Mo will have to get creative in order to shake this ship. Here are a few truths.

*Matt Holliday will play and it won’t be first base. Sorry folks, the 1B idea is unfortunately fiction. Holliday is here for at least another season and will play. He also deserves the spot. While he isn’t a power threat anymore, Holliday is an OBP machine and can deliver. I’ll take a slice of the 2014 season with an extra order of doubles, something that was missing from 2015.

*Stephen Piscotty will play and isn’t going anywhere. If JH returns, he plays first base. Sorry Matt Adams revival lovers.

*Randal Grichuk is an everyday player when healthy. He is the only Cardinal capable of hitting 30 HR and does a number of things well.

So, unless Mo wants to trade Kolten Wong or re-sign Jaime Garcia and package him into a deal with Adams, I don’t see a major change. Like the coaching staff, the offense may look the same. That doesn’t mean Mo can’t find some middle infield depth or catching help.

I don’t particularly want Brandon Moss back. I’d take Adams at 650-700K instead. Tommy Pham will fight Jon Jay for starts in the 4th OF spot.

Mozeliak needs to find a player who can backup Jhonny Peralta and Wong so the two starters don’t get driven into a brick wall with playing time. Peralta’s 2014-15 durability caught up with him in the second half and Wong’s power and OBP disappeared. They need help. While I won’t sit here and dream about Brian Dozier of Minnesota, I do think someone like Ben Zobrist could help. If KC doesn’t retain him, the Cards could look to him. He can play so many spots and help a team in a number of ways. There will be injuries and there will need to be help. You will a flexible guy to help and Zobrist, will expensive, can help and give you some pop as well.

This could be a year Aledmys Diaz and Mike Ohlman play big roles. Mo could try to sign Mike Wieters to back up Yadier Molina and maybe play some first even though that’s unlikely.

With the flexibility restricted due to contracts like Holliday and Peralta, Mo will have have to be incredibly crafty to make a big impact signing like Yoenis Cespedes.

The payroll may be going up but Cespedes could command similar money as Heyward, so how do you sign both? Now, if Yoenis wants to accept that 2015 salary of 3.73 million, I’ll go pick him up at the airport. You can only have one and I’ll take Heyward even though Cespedes is a KO artist. I’d wait until next offseason to make your big financial push. Holliday’s option may not get picked up, and that gives you options.

The 2016 offseason should see the end of Pete Kozma and Peter Bourjos along with the see ya nod to Mark Reynolds. Moss isn’t an exciting option esp if Adams returns. Piscotty and Grichuk become full time players(each could easily give you 20-25 HR) and there has to be better middle infield depth.

Question via Josey Curtis-Is there anyone that you think could be a Seth Maness or Kevin Siegrist in 2016? By that, I mean someone who could pitch his fair share and hinder Mike Matheny’s urge to bring in Maness or Siegrist a bit. If you do think there is someone that’s capable, who is that guy?

For me, it’s a restructuring of the entire bullpen that could help Matheny’s urge to prove to the world that Seth’s arm is actually rubber and not flesh and bone. First part of this is finally claiming that Tyler Lyons could be a valuable asset out of the bullpen. His splits are better out of the pen and could help the team in a number of ways. Here is a guy who can do it all. Relieve in the first, sixth or eighth inning. When Mike called on Kevin “Seabreeze” Siegrist in Game 4, I screamed at my television, WHERE IS LYONS? If you don’t want to see Siegrist’s arm fall off this year, make Lyons a bullpen guy. There is enough starting depth in this system so it’s time to close up the Tyler Lyons is a starter shop.

A healthy Jordan Walden fills a gap. When he went down, Siegrist’s arm went into overcook mode as setup man, fill in closer and whatever else. Walden can setup, close and provide Mike the 7th inning arm needed to get to Siegrist.

In 2016, I want to see Sam Tuivailala unleashed. Here is a kid who came up in 2014 with a straight heater and was asked to add another pitch. Which he did. Sam added a slider and a curve to his high 90’s fastball and it was a huge lift on his game. I remember his big innings in the pre All Star break series against Pittsburgh. This is a guy with closer stuff(he was finishing games in Memphis all season) and someone who can alleviate some late inning pain for the team.

You can yank Steve Cishek and Jonathan Broxton out and throw in Walden and Tuivailala. The late innings would receive a healthy boost.

Lyons takes over for Carlos Villanueva or you bring back both and tell Matt Belisle no thanks. Either way, another LHP guy who isn’t a Loogy is needed to help Siegrist.

Furthermore,

Marco Gonzales could definitely use a season or half season to figure out where his arm is after a lost 2015 season. Lyons has simply proven to be a guy who can come out of that pen whenever.

Tim Cooney could be your new Lyons and be that I-55 starter in need.

Another swing and miss LHP pitcher is an option, but I think with the load of starters, a guy like Lyons or Gonzo could fill that other LHP spot. Since Siegrist can get the swings and misses when his arm isn’t grated, I think they can be efficient. Walden has swing and miss stuff when he is right and is especially hard on LHP. Since 2012, Walden has struck out 70 LH hitters in 185 at bats with a .188 average. He is as good as anybody lefthanded down there.

Question via Joshua Gilliam, Cards Conclave

Consider these trade proposals: Both involving Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk.

Trade Offer # 1

Chris Sale from the White Sox?

Trade Offer # 2

Sonny Gray from the A’s?

Trade Offer # 3

Chris Archer and Evan Longoria from the Rays?

Answer-Scenario #1-Chris Sale is not happening. No. First, the White Sox aren’t stupid enough to trade their best pitcher by a mile. That would be like Seattle making King Felix available. If Mo made that call, the other end would hang up in laughter. Not happening.

Scenario #2-Sonny Gray. A 25 year old who isn’t a free agent until 2020!? No. Again, Billy Beane is ballsy and likes to rock the boat and go against convention, but there isn’t enough dirty water in the Pacific to make him ponder this deal. Not for Piscotty or Grichuk.

Those two scenarios are dream boats.

Why the need to trade Randal Grichuk? John Mozeliak likes this kid more than his red set of bow ties and why not. The kid had 47 extra base hits in 323 at bats in 2015. He was riding towards a rookie of the year battle before he got hurt. He’s 24 years old and can’t even talk arbitration for three years. My son Vinny will be doing Bautista bat flips in little league when he is a free agent. You don’t trade your legit power threat for a starter when the past year saw your team put up historically efficient pitching. Grichuk strikes too much but so do a few others on this team. The one thing he can do is change a game with one swing. Piscotty, Grichuk and Heyward the young rock of this team.

If the Cards are going to acquire starting pitching, they will sign it. Jordan Zimmerman looks tasty. David Price is a steak. Why trade controllable assets for pitching when your payroll is rising every year? If we are going to extend an olive branch, let Kolten Wong carry it.

Trade #3 is also a no go but not as insanely “Jimi Hendrix may still be alive” as the others. I like Longoria and Chris Archer. Archer had a fantastic FIP and K total in 2015 and signed through 2019 which I doubt TB gives up. Longoria is nice but where does he play? Who goes? Longoria has an affordable long term contract through 2022 but do you trade Wong to them and move Carpenter to second base? Will Mo take on the cash for a guy who put up Jhonny Peralta type numbers this year and is moving to a pitcher’s ballpark in St. Louis? Is Longoria on the down slope power wise? Last two years slugging is .404 and .434. Nah.

Trading for starting pitching is not in the best interesting of this team. They can sign them or stick with their five already in house. Offense is the elusive catch but you have to be sure what you are getting is better than what you got. Such as Chris Davis. He may seem like a turkey leg at Six Flags on first glance, but take him away from the AL East ballpark happy playgrounds and he may be a richer looking Mark Reynolds. After the 2016 season things get interesting. For now, Mo will have to be crafty. If he is going to make a big trade, it should be offense. That is the leaking wheel the past few seasons.

Maybe health could help out. In April, when the band was together, team averaged 4.38 runs per game, good for 10th in the league. Just saying.

Question via Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball

I’m giving you a blank check as my fantasy General Manager. Who do you sign and what do you think the contract would have to look like in order for it to happen?

Answer-Since the offense is locked up if Jason Heyward is signed, all Mo can really do this offseason is beef up the already stout starting pitching. If you acquire a guy like Chris Davis, where does Stephen Piscotty play? Does Matt Adams even get any at bats because he is LH? Can Davis hit away from the AL East? Complicated. Adding offense takes creativity that Mo probably won’t tap this winter. Maybe next year.

While David Price is nice, I like Jordan Zimmerman. He just completed a two year, 24 million dollar deal. He went 27-15 in that time with a 3.00 ERA(3.75 FIP in 2015, 2.68 in 2014). He has a filthy strikeouts to walks ratio. 4 K’s for every walk in 2015 and 6-1 in 2014. He is a great #2 to settle in behind Adam Wainwright and in front of the young combo of Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha. You’d decline Jaime Garcia’s option, get off the injury watch train and install a guy who can win a lot of games and fit nicely into Busch Stadium. He would complement the Cards staff and not cost you an arm and a leg like Price. I think Price is going to break the Scherzer type bank and I don’t think Mo wants to go there. Zim is a good move and adds some meat to your rotation as it gets a year older.

Question via Nate and Ben @talkaboutbirds

My question is simple. Which rookie player are you most excited about seeing in 2016, and who do you think will make the most impact? 

Answer-The player I am most excited about seeing is Michael Ohlman, a player who could finally remove Tony Cruz from the equation at Busch Stadium, eventually. Ohlman has the youth, size and pop in his bat to be a credible backup and maybe successor down the road to Yadier Molina. He should start the year at Memphis and get a shot in St. Louis eventually.

The player I think will make the biggest impact is Aledmys Diaz. The player who came to the team with a big contract and much promise was DFA’d last season and made it through waivers. He made a huge impact at Memphis in August, hitting for power and average. He could be the middle infield depth the Cards have coveted the past two seasons. An ineffective or hurt Mark Ellis hurt in 2014 and Pete Kozma soaked up too much real estate in 2015. Hopefully, 2016 is where Diaz is unleashed.

Question via Jon Doble-Certain players up for arbitration this winter. What do you do with the following players?

Answer-The first real taste of offseason action!!!

Matt Adams-One year deal. They will settle this early. While I call the big guy trade bait, they will go the one year route to see if Adams finally puts it all together.

Peter Bourjos-Non tender. Yes, they could sign and trade but I don’t think they will go through the hassle. Free both Petes!

Steve Cishek-Non tender. Thanks for the mildly decent efforts, but see you later. Take that side arm thing somewhere else.

Tony Cruz-One year deal. Unless the team signs a true backup or suddenly invests loads of trust in Mike Ohlman, Lil Yadi gets one more year before Ohlman is ready.

Seth Maness-One year deal. By and large, Maness’ 2015 season was worse than his 2014 season. His WHIP went up, but he stranded several runners and was a workhorse again. However, I don’t see them going more than one year with Seth. First time hitting arbitration, so bump that 530K up to an even million to satisfy the workhorse.

Brandon Moss-Non tender. Just call this one a Mo misfire. If Adams returns, non tender Moss. I know we gave up Kaminsky, but if you bring back Adams and most likely have Heyward in right field and Jon Jay and Tommy Pham waiting behind them, how much will Moss really play? Is his power gone? I can see them possibly throwing him a one year deal. Moss made 6 million last year, but saw his stats take a hit in 2015. He will still want 5 million. Not sure I do that for a backup bench bat.

Trevor Rosenthal-Buy out rest of arb years. If Scott Boras acts like a less of a shark, I’d get in talks to lock up Rosenthal, who may have just put together the best season by a Cardinals closer ever. He’s young, mastered the WHIP and was very good in his second full year as a closer. I’d say buy up the rest of his arbitration years(three year deal up until 2019). That is all Boras will allow but it would be a solid investment. 3-5 million per season. Maybe that’s too rich or weak. I am not sure. I don’t own any bow ties.

That’s it for Round 1 of Offseason St. Louis Cardinals questions. Come back next week for more.

Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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