It was pretty clear after the 2017 season that changes needed to be made to the coaching staff and roster in St. Louis after missing the postseason for the second straight year. Unfortunately, despite some effort, the Cardinals still have a roster problem and are in jeopardy of extending their missed playoffs streak to three seasons.
The Cardinals’ roster problem is that they have too many of the same players. Guys like Matt Carpenter, Tommy Pham, Dexter Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, Jose Martinez and Jedd Gyorko are all very good middle-of-the-roster guys. All of them are great complimentary players.
Unfortunately, they have no one to compliment. None of those guys or anyone else on the roster is a legit perennial All-Star that you can put down for at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs every year.
That is the type of offensive player the Redbirds have been missing for three years now. The last guy to hit 30 homers for St. Louis was Gyorko in 2016, and he only drove in 59 runs. Yadier Molina led the team in RBIs last season, and the last player to even drive home 90 runs was Matt Holliday in 2014. RBIs may not be the most prolific stat, but it is a testament to the type of hitter a guy is, and they do equal runs scored.
In the bullpen
They also have the same roster problem in the bullpen. They found a diamond in the rough with Bud Norris, who has 13 saves. Jordan Hicks has also done a very good job, but it is going to be difficult to count on these guys for the rest of the year. They don’t have the sort of guy they can absolutely count on out of the bullpen either.
The same problem appears in the starting rotation.
Miles Mikolas has been the best starter in 2018. Carlos Martinez looked like he was on pace to be an All-Star until he got hurt, but he has not been the same since. Michael Wacha is having a decent year, but is coming off a rough outing against the Cubs. Jack Flaherty is pitching better than anyone could ask, but he is likely going to run out of innings.
They just don’t have a guy that is going to take the ball every fifth day and give you six, seven or eight solid innings every time out like vintage Adam Wainwright or Chris Carpenter did for so many of the playoff seasons last decade and early on in this one.
Not only do the Cardinals have a whole lot of position players who don’t hit like superstars. None of them, aside from Yadier Molina, play defense like superstars either.
Tommy Pham, Kolten Wong, Marcell Ozuna and even Jedd Gyorko have Gold Glove potential, but none of them are locks to be finalists. Also, none of them play shortstop. The Cardinals are counting on Paul DeJong, when he returns, to lead a defense at short. He is a fine player, but if you look at the shortstops for the best teams in the league, he does not stack up well. Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Didi Gregorius, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner and even Addison Russell are all far superior defensively.
This is not a new problem
This roster problem is not something that came to light just this season. The Cardinals’ knew they had a problem after 2016 and did not solve it. Their lack of spending on good players, overspending on bad ones and reluctancy to part ways with prospects has cost them for two years, and they are working towards a third.
St. Louis media and fans thought these issues would be addressed this offseason, but they weren’t. John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch both talked a lot, but did as little as possible to improve the team.
They did acquire Ozuna, because he was the cheapest guy that was the closest to what they were missing, but he still is not “the guy” for the offense. Going from hitting behind Giancarlo Stanton to being the centerpiece is a whole different situation, and it has showed early in the season. Ozuna has been hitting well lately, but still has only 10 home runs and an OPS under .800.
On the pitching side, the front office took a chance on Mikolas and Norris. Both of those guys have panned out so far and look like good signings, though they still did not solve the problem. They also threw $14 million at Greg Holland, which is going horribly. Luke Gregerson has not exactly worked out well either, and neither has Dominic Leone.
Mozeliak and company did nothing to improve the defense. Ozuna is coming off winning a Gold Glove, but he has not shown how this year. There was no attempt at a defensive upgrade in the infield at all.
The bottom line is, the Cardinals have not done anything to fix an obvious and ongoing problem for three years. The front office and ownership seem content to be somewhat competitive, as long as they keep drawing 3 million fans. It is time for them to be held accountable for not making the team any better.
They have been let off the hook the past two seasons. Big talk and an optimistic fan base have given them the free pass, but the results remain the same. Something has to give. If not, the Cardinals will be packed up at the end of September for the third straight season.
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