I am one of the most patient Cardinal fans out there. I don’t want them to spend just to spend; I’m very particular about who they add and the contracts they add to the payroll. But after this weekend, the Cardinals need to start making moves.
With the Brewers trading for Christian Yelich on Thursday and signing Lorenzo Cain hours later, they are showing they aren’t messing around for 2018. Both of the teams above the Cardinals in the 2017 standings are attempting to make moves; while the Cardinals have been too, it’s time to step up the game.
The Cardinals have added 1.1 WAR to their existing WAR; that’s the 2017 roster, minus the players that left, plus the 3-year average of the guys they added. That might be adding low on Marcell Ozuna, Luke Gregerson, and Dominic Leone, but it’s also hard to sell them based on their 2017 numbers (both Ozuna and Leone were high end, while Gregerson was low end for his Houston tenure).
The Cubs this season have added Tyler Chatwood (3 yr, $38M), Brandon Morrow (2, $21M), Drew Smyly (2, $10M) Steve Cishek (2, $13M), and Brian Duensing (2, $7M). They are still looking at adding a starting pitcher to replace Jake Arrieta (top candidate is Yu Darvish, but Arrieta is still in consideration). They also have to replace Wade Davis, Hector Rondon, Leonys Martin, John Lackey, Koji Uehara, and Alex Avila.
The Brewers added Boone Logan (1, $2.5M, Jhoulys Chacin (2, $15M), Yovani Gallardo (1, $2M), and Eric Sogard (1, $2.4M) in addition to signing Cain and trading for Yelich. They lost Anthony Swarzak, Jered Hughes, Wily Peralta, Neil Walker, Matt Garza, and Carlos Torres. They are also in on Darvish and other rotation upgrades.
The neither team had many hitting upgrades to make (although the Brewers did make some), so they both added pitching. Their depth is much deeper than the Cardinals in the bullpen, but they also have a better starting 5 than the Cardinals.
So what can the Cardinals do?
They have the money to spend, so why not look at the available options for an upgrade.
The rotation should be a spot to look at; Adam Wainwright is a shell of himself and Luke Weaver started to struggle after teams saw him multiple times last year. The team was tied to Chris Archer earlier in the off-season; while Archer was told he probably won’t be dealt, the Cardinals have the depth to make the deal for him and Alex Colome. Even if they have to deal Jack Flaherty (which they have the depth in the minors to absorb the loss), the Cardinals have the players to continue to fill in the Major League Roster as needed.
J.D. Martinez should be out of the question for hitters; he’s got a great bat, but he’s quickly declining on defense. He’s also wanting much more than he’s worth to a National League club.
The other 2 top options in free agency are Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. While Hosmer is a nice player, he’s not better than Matt Carpenter overall (he’s better defensively, but he’s not going to put the Cardinals over the other 2 clubs in the division). Adding him also blocks the ability to play Jose Martinez, who’s considered a breakout player for 2018.
That leaves Moustakas. He’s a definite upgrade for the team; his defense is right there with Jedd Gyorko while his bat is more of an everyday option. He provides a much different role than Carpenter too; Carpenter has proved he’s only valuable in the lead off spot. In 2017, Carpenter was batted .221/.353/.429 as a #3 hitter with a -.119 WPA; once he moved to the lead off spot, he hit .267/.415/.498 while having a WPA of 1.973. His bat is the classic #3 profile, but mentally he can’t hit outside of the lead off spot.
If the team could sign a Moustakas to something in a 3 year deal, they could try to move Carpenter and go with Gyorko and Martinez as their first base tandem.
That would give the Cardinals the additions they need to compete with Chicago and Milwaukee, which gives them a really good shot of making the playoffs for the first time since 2015.