This is going to sound a bit petulant, but I’m tired of waiting around.
Surprisingly (he said sarcastically), the St. Louis Cardinals accomplished exactly nothing at baseball’s Winter Meetings. And according to reports, GM John Mozeliak is not terribly close to any sort of deal to add a defensive improvement in center field, a leadoff and/or middle-of-order bat, and — I STILL believe in the need for this — a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.
Yet there he sat, calmly talking in broad strokes about getting “more athletic,” more dynamic, that these things take time to develop. He exudes confidence, dare I say smugness, that he will get his man.
I can tell you this: Cards fans are not so sure he has a reason to be smug. If the team truly were in the hunt for David Price last year, or Jason Heyward, whey didn’t they sign? Don’t you, at a certain point, have to go out and WIN a bidding war? Make a huge splash in a trade? Have the Redbirds ever done that under Mo’s leadership?
And where, exactly, is the “dry powder,” one of Mo’s favorite terms to use when making excuses for not improving the team?
Is it in prospects? I don’t think so. After seeing the White Sox haul in five or six of the top minor leaguers in the game for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, it is clear the Cards don’t have that kind of bargaining chip.
So then, the dry powder must be payroll flexibility.
As I watched Ian Desmond come off the free agent board for what I told a friend was “crazy” money … I reconsidered. Was it really crazy money? Why not spend a bit more in the short term on two accomplished veterans (and playoff leaders) if they help your core of Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, etc., reclaim a spot in the playoffs?
St. Louis has puh-lenty of money now. By parting ways with Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss and Jaime Garcia, among others, the Cards’ payroll as it stands now (including likely arbitration awards), will be about $104 million on Opening Day.
The Cards SHOULD be able to carry a $150 million payroll. And with all the penny pinching of the past several years … umm … why not $170 million? You know that certain contracts are up after 2017 or 2018, so there could be a natural drop back to the $150 million level by 2019 with younger players coming up to take their place.
I’m serious. Why not? Think what an additional $65 million could do for the Cardinals. Lure Dexter Fowler and Justin Turner. They would cost no more than $45 million a year together. And that’s IF you paid them a bit more annual value for shorter-term deals. Fowler wants 4 years and $72M? How about a three-year, $60M deal with a $5M buyout for Year 4? Turner wants 4/$80M? How about 3/$69M with a $6M buyout in Year 4?
So say you move up to $150M with those deals. You wouldn’t have to be done.
Then you can package a few players (including some salary in Matt Adams, Jhonny Peralta/Jedd Gyorko, and/or even Mike Leake, plus possibly Michael Wacha or Jonathan Broxton) for a big-money pitcher like Price, Justin Verlander, or Zach Greinke.
By unloading a shorter-term (but still pricey) contract like Leake’s and another contract like Adams’, you could add Greinke’s $30M per year and still only be at $165M overall.
Need to package a young, promising starter like Luke Weaver or Marco Gonzales? Not the end of the world.
You would then have an ace, a leadoff-hitting center fielder, and a cleanup-hitting third baseman, completely remaking the ballclub with better starting pitching and defense while gaining a better average-hitting team with slightly less power.
Imagine the rotation: Greinke, Martinez, Wainwright, Lynn, Reyes
The bullpen: Oh, Siegrist, Rosenthal, Cecil, Bowman, Gant, Wacha/Broxton
The lineup: Fowler CF, Diaz SS, Carpenter 1B, Turner 3B, Piscotty RF, Molina C, Grichuk LF, Wong 2B
The bench: Gyorko/Peralta IF, Garcia IF, Pham OF, Martinez/Garcia/ANYONE?? OF, Rosario/Ohlman/Fryer (would love to see him back) C
Traded: Adams, Peralta/Gyorko, Leake, Broxton/Wacha
Memphis pitchers (0ne or two would go in trades, but still a combo remains): Weaver, Gonzales, Mayers, Tuivailala, Socolovich, Flores, Wick, Phillips
Memphis position players (one or two might go in trades): Kelly, Alvarez, Huffman, Sosa, Valera, Bader, Cunningham, Garcia/Martinez, Sierra
OK, I threw this together in about 20 minutes. And clearly deals take time. But I really have to wonder what the deal is.