The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t that far from the top

St. Louis Cardinals fans went to bed Wednesday with the knowledge that their arch-rivals, who stole two of their top players an off-season ago, secured their first World Series title in 108 years.

Thursday morning they learned that embattled and oft-injured southpaw Jaime Garcia’s option has been picked up for the 2017 season. The Chicago Cubs must be shaking in their spikes, he said sarcastically.

Hopefully this isn’t the sort of move Redbird rooters are going to have to be satisfied with over the long winter.Cardinals fans are itching for the front office to make some bold moves as a statement that their displacement from the top of the National League Central Division standings will not be tolerated. So I’m crossing my fingers that Garcia was kept under control because the Cardinals are hoping to make him part of a package deal to add a significant bat and/or a top of the rotation starter.

After all, while a lot of the national media and local doomsayers like to lament the near future, let’s not forget the Birds are a team that won 100 games only a year ago. Yes, they’re a little bit older. But injuries and growing pains also played a factor in a sub par 2016. And while the Wee Bears have a lot of young talent, it’s not as if the Busch Stadium cupboards are bare. St. Louis boasts significant young players Carlos Martinez, Stephen Piscotty, Aledmys Diaz, Randal Grichuk, Kolten Wong and Trevor Rosenthal, all in their mid twenties. Meanwhile dynamic pitching prospects Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver as well as catching prospect Carson Kelly are seemingly ready to stick in the big leagues.

I know GM John Mozeliak says a top priority is finding a centerfielder and moving Randal Grichuk to left. But, rather than make a subtle chance to incrementally improve the outfield defense, I’d like to see the Birds add an impact bat and a top pitcher. The free agent market isn’t great. But there are some players who could be had.

What if the Cardinals signed Yoenis Cespedis to a contract and stuck a .280 batting average with 30 home run power in left in the field and the cleanup spot in the batting order? It would be an obvious fit to spend the money saved from letting Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss go to find someone who filled a similar role in the field and in the batting order.

He’d cover more ground than Holliday and has a much better arm. So Grichuk would have less ground to have to cover and the outfield would STILL be that much better by adding Cespedes as opposed to a centerfielder. And Cespedes would be the fearsome slugger that Holliday hasn’t been for two or three years.

Step Two: The Birds could try to make a play for Chicago White Sox hurler Chris Sale who seems to have worn out his welcome with that team. The Cardinals could send a ton of controllable pitching to the White Sox. If Sale, Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake and Reyes are the starting rotation, that leaves Garcia, Michael Wacha (I still like Wacha better than Leake, but the latter has a lousy contract and a no-trade clause) Luke Weaver, Marco Gonzales, Rosenthal, Tyler Lyons, Lance Lynn, Sam Tuivailala and others as potential trade chips. St. Louis also could offer from a position player group that includes Jedd Gyorko, who is probably at his peak value after a 30 homer season, Kolten Wong, Matt Adams and a host of minor leaguers.

The Cardinals get a new ace to take pressure off of Martinez to be The Man while allowing an aging Wainwright to settle into the number three slot in the rotation. Chicago gets controllable young talent that is ready to play at the MLB level.

As currently configured, the Redbirds have plenty of pitching depth. But they don’t have dominating pitching beyond Martinez. If they would have had a legit ace or number two starter in 2016 as opposed to Leake, they probably would have made the playoffs and had a much better chance when they got there to move on.

1B Carpenter, SS Diaz, RF Piscotty, LF Cespedes, C Molina, CF Grichuk, 3B Perralta or Gyorko, 2B Wong or Gyorko

With that lineup, the previously mentioned rotation and some serious work and improvements to the defense that come from replacing Holliday with the younger, faster and more athletic Cespedes, moving Carpenter from third to first and Diaz settling in after a rough start in MLB with his glove, I’d like this team a lot better.

 

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