It is July 1st, and the St Louis Cardinals sit in last place in the NL Central and 10 games out and 14 games under the .500 mark. Now they are 6-4 over their last 10 games, Which sounds like it is trending well, but in the previous two games, they gave away to the Astros. Now the Astros are a good team. But when you have a two-run lead after seven innings, then in the 8th, give up five runs and lose by three. Then start the next game by giving the Astros a 6-run lead in the 2nd innings; that is giving games away in my book. And that was after a solid 4-2 win in the series' first game.
St. Louis ranks in the top half of MLB in many offensive categories and the top 5 in HRs, Slugging, and OPS. That is despite Arenado having a horrible April and significant slumps by Contreras, Dejong, Gorman, and now Tommy Edman. The first three seem to be coming out of their slumps, and hopefully, Edman will bust out of his soon. You have rookie Jordan Walker who had a 12-game hitting streak early in the year and is currently on a 17-game hitting streak.
The pitching has not been a complete mess, but it has been WILDLY inconsistent. I mean that the rotation outside of Montgomery and Mikolas has been a Jekyll and Hyde scenario. Flaherty has had his moments but again not very consistent. Steven Matz was relegated to the bullpen after 10 games of total ineptitude and an 0-6 record 5.72 ERA giving up 32 runs in 50 innings. Now out of the bullpen, he has been excellent in 6 games. He has a 1.63 ERA giving up only two runs in 11 innings. That includes back-to-back 3+ scoreless inning stints against the Cubs and Astros. Adam Wainwright has struggled all season. He has given up 13 runs in five and one-third innings in his last two games. That is after only giving up 12 runs in the previous 26 and one-third innings.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
Steven Matz by Morry Gash via AP, Adam Wainwright by Ron Vesely via Getty Images, Jack Flaherty by Norm Hall via Getty Images
If you are looking at where to point the finger, look no further than the front office, John Mozelaik has been ignoring the one glaring weakness, which is the starting rotation. In 2014 Wainwright, Lance Lynn, and Shelby Miller Those three had half of the team's wins. In 2015 The rotation boasted all five pitchers with double-digit wins, and that was without Adam Wainwright! 2016 you started to see a decline. 2017 wasn't a bad rotation, but it wasn't dominant.
In 2018 they added Miles Mikolas, who was great, but the rest of the rotation was so-so. The Next year Dakota Hudson shined, but there were still issues. Instead of making moves for proven pitching, they kept trying to plug holes with mid-level arms or prospects. They made a move for Steven Matz last year, which I did think at the time was a good move, but it hasn't panned out that way.
Going into the last three seasons, there have been injury issues in 2021 and 2022. We started the season with at least two pitchers on the IL. It wasn't just spring training issues. They knew there could be injury issues during the off-season instead of getting some insurance help with a veteran arm. They decided to use internal options that, quite frankly, were unproven, like Dakota Hudson and Daniel PonceDeLeone, trying to make Hicks a starter, and rushing guys like Johan Oviedo and Jake Woodford.
Even going into this season, You knew Matz was coming off of injury. There were questions about Flaherty and Dakota Hudson. Now in the spring, Matz and Jake Woodford looked really good, but once the season started, they struggled. But why didn't the Front Office hedge their bets? Mo touted in the off-season that payroll would go up and that they would get the best all-around catcher and help for the pitching staff. He did neither, and while payroll did go up, it was not because of off-season moves. Some of the top pitchers this off-season have not fared well. So some would say he may have dodged a bullet, but the other side of that is, did he even try?
WHAT CAN THEY DO AT THE DEADLINE?
Shane Bieber by Sue Ogrocki AP Dlyan Cease by Quin Harris via Getty Images Kevin Gauseman by Vaugh Ridley via Getty Images
Big moves are going to have to be made to make ANY appreciable difference. You WILL have to part with players like Dylan Carlson, Brendan Donovan, and Tommy Edman. You may have to unload a Micheal McGreavy or a Conner Hejpe, possibly an Ivan Herrera. I am confident that at least one or two Outfielders and a middle infielder will be gone by the deadline.
They will have to get a front-end starter because we will unlikely retain Jordan Montgomery. They have not, as of yet, offered him a contract. They will try to get him to accept a Qualifying Offer. That would be almost double his current salary and give the Cardinals at least two solid starters for next season, but they also need rotation help now. I know a lot of people say they want Shane Bieber. While Bieber has a good record, his metrics have declined, and he is only 28! Plus, what this rotation lacks is a swing-and-miss strikeout pitcher. Someone like Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito from the White Sox, Pablo Lopez from the Twins, George Kirby from Seattle, or Kevin Gausman from Toronto.
WHAT ABOUT MORE OFFENSE?
Some people want to add another bat, and they could, but that is not a priority to me. St Louis has the bats, and quite frankly, where would you put one? I mean, your not going to replace Arenado or Goldschmidt. Maybe DeJong, but he seems to be trending up again; plus, it will be Winn at SS next year. Walker is hitting well; you are not going to dump Contreras. Maybe an Outfielder to replace Carlson, but that seems unlikely. Now can they trade an Outfielder and get one in return? Perhaps you are still in the boat of having a surplus number of Outfielders.
WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET THE FRONT OFFICE TO MOVE?
Quite frankly, it would take John Mozeliak to swallow his pride. Mo must admit that many of his moves these past two seasons have been failures. He must realize that his version of Moneyball 2.0 is flawed and outdated. In short, he must admit he is wrong and change direction. If not, Bill Dewitt might make that decision for him.
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