At this very moment, the St. Louis Cardinals have made more subtractions than additions to their 2021 roster. Imagine someone shopping at their grocery store with an empty cart for three months, and that’s where the Cardinals are at.
In a nutshell, the local team has done next to nothing to improve their porous offense from last year. Ladies and gentlemen, it wasn’t an enigmatic lineup attack. That is reserved for teams that either hit home runs or spray the ball around the field, but can’t decide on which method to employ? This team is like Harrison Bader at the plate: Good intentions are being carried, but is there an actual plan if one thing doesn’t go right? What if the ball doesn’t reach the plate spinning straight across the middle?
Right now, here are the proposed starters, and let’s begin with that robust outfield:
Dylan Carlson, Bader, and Dexter Fowler manning the outfield with Tyler “I have power occasionally” O’Neill and Lane “Lost and Found” Thomas in reserve. Collectively, that WAR is about as promising as a Christian Slater pilot on network television. Carlson has the most promise of the group, but he also has 110 Major League at-bats to his name, so the expectations need to be kept to a dull roar. Bader was the best outfielder at the plate last season, which speaks more to the weak nature of this team’s lineup than the player’s actual ability and consistency. Everyone hopes Fowler performs well enough to avoid criticism, because attack this player’s performance and you will be speared quickly.
What about the infield? Minus two-time Gold Glove winner Kolten Wong, this group won’t be as sharp, at least in the field. Matt Carpenter saves runs remarkably at third base, but he still gives you ulcers watching him throw. Paul DeJong is solid, if not Gold Glove worthy, on defense. He will probably end up starting 95% of the games this year, wearing out into a slash line that won’t produce an OPS of .750 or better in the second half. Tommy Edman sure was really good back in 2019, but what about when he’s carrying a full time job?
No, D.J. LeMahieu isn’t coming to town. Only a large World Series trophy ornament that is parked over on the Ballpark Village 2.0. LaMahieu signing here is a little more likely than Nolan Arenado finding a job at Busch Stadium, as in a 5% chance. It’s Edman hour over at second base, and he won’t be giving you a gold glove. Hopefully he gives the team an OPS over .700.
Paul Goldschmidt looked great last year, except for the small batch of power. Here’s the thing: No one should complain about a .317/.417/466 slash line, but you expect more pop from your big bat. The six home runs in 58 games is a little small, but the man showed he can still hit. As far as producing, that will have to wait until the grass is green and the lumber is hot. Just don’t expect Goldschmidt to be who he was 2-3 years ago.
Will it be Yadier Molina behind home plate next year, or Andrew Knizner? The weight of Cardinal Nation’s wrath, one way or the other, awaits that decision. Let’s just say the offensive output, or expectation relating to it, won’t move the needle this coming season no matter who is catching baseballs.
The bench looks as strong as it did last year, which is not that strong at all. We’re talking about real experience here. Thomas and even O’Neill don’t have enough of it to dismiss their projections, but you also can’t place a lot of chips on their production in 2021 either. Same goes for Austin Dean, Justin “he won’t go away” Williams, and the scrappy John Nogowski. This Cardinal team is acquiring “who is that guy?” status on their roster these days, and not in a fun way.
It needs to be freshened up. Big time. Put aside the pandemic and the struggle to define a clear payroll this season due to the allowed seating capacity for a second, and just think about simple improvement. Here’s something to be said. Other teams are doing things. Other teams are making moves to get better. The Cardinals are sitting on their hands with a division sitting up for grabs.
There’s big hope for next winter when big salaries fall by the wayside and more spending is possible, but will 2021 be a wash without any offensive upgrades? Right now, this team isn’t giving fans much to be excited for by treading ever so lightly. It’s nearly mid-January, and this team has to be losing feeling in their hands after sitting on them for so long.
Bottom Line: Wakey-wakey, Cardinals (pokes them with a stick). Do something.