Fans like their team when they compete and win. The ultimate prize is the World Series, of course. Some look at winning as a process. Win the Division, the league, the World Series, the trifecta! So that leads me to this question What is missing for the Cardinals to take over the Central Divison and run away from the Cubs, Pirates, and Reds, then make the ultimate run to the top title?
Now, like any team sport, no ONE player or position is THE one that makes or breaks you. Teams need to have all areas performing at least at a competitive level. But when there is a piece missing, you know it. So what is the missing piece for the Cardinals?
Again as last year it is, pitching depth is a big issue. Like last year, the front office ignored the warning of the iceberg and sailed directly into it. You have two reliable starters in the rotation, Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas. Mikolas has been a pleasant surprise. Hudson has been inconsistent, Jack Flaherty is MIA, and off-season addition Steven Matz is on the IL for the second time this season and out for the year. Efforts to turn Jordan Hicks into a starter at the Major league level have been a Major League FAIL. According to one report, Andre Pallante has been a breath of fresh air but is nearing an innings limit. Matthew Liberatore has had a handful of opportunities but has not yet made the best of them.
Now to be fair, the offense has had its ups and downs. Since there have been injuries all over the field, Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader, Yadier Molina, Corey Dickerson, and Juan Yepez. Then add the lackluster play of Paul DeJong (now in Memphis), and the hot and cold play of Edmundo Sosa and Andrew Knizner has also struggled.
So NO ONE piece will fix the roster. The Cardinals will have to make decisions before or at the trading deadline IF they want to capture their 15th divisional title.
Bat or Arm?
Right now, the debate is With The National's young slugger Juan Soto likely available for trade, do the Cardinals take a chance. At first glance, some would say it is a no-brainer. Of course, you take a shot at a phenom like that. However, the Nationals are aware of this, AND Soto is still under team control for TWO more seasons after this one. Now he did turn down a 15-year 440 million dollar contract. So the Nats could ride him out, but that would pay them no gain unless they get a few GOOD pieces to surround Soto, and I don't see that happening. So what would the Nats want? That seems to change the closer the deadline comes. At first, it was a combo of prospects and MLB talent. Then it was 4 top prospects, and now it has become, according to one report, the entire six options!
So we are talking names like Jordan Walker, Mathew Liberatore, Ivan Herrera, Masyn Wynn, Gordon Graceffo, and Joshua BaezThose are the top 6 minor league players for the Redbirds currently listed by MLB Pipeline. The talk is that Washington would like to add struggling pitcher Pat Corbin and his 70 million dollar contract. If any deal included Corbin, The Cardinals should get very stingy and walk away. We may need pitching, but Corbin is not the answer. The Nationals are 27 1/2 games out in the NL East. So their focus will be on the future. So they will get as many young pieces as they can. As I mentioned, Soto has two years of team control after this year. And has turned down an astronomical offer. In two years, what will he want ten years at $500Million?
Chances are very good that the Cardinals will not be open to that kind of contract. The reports of so much young talent being used in a trade with little longevity for St Louis. It brings back shades of trading Sandy Alcantara and Zac Gallen for Marcell Ozuna. Two years later, we have no Ozuna, and Miami and Arizona have young arms to build around. Taking Soto this year in a trade will not monetarily cause much disruption as he is arb eligible and currently under contract for $17.1 million. It would create a murder's row with Goldy, Nado, and if they manage to hang onto Gorman, Yepez, or O'Neill. The Nats could also want young pitching or, say, a Brendan Donovan or Dylan Carlson, maybe a Nolan Gorman so as not to take so many prospects. But if you also want to make a deal for pitching, you can't give away the farm on one player.
Cardinal pitching, as I explained earlier, there are only two dependable arms Adam Wainwright the ageless wonder, and 2022 All-Star Mikle Mikolas.
While going out and getting a lockdown, Stud would be what most fans want even if a team is rebuilding, and if they have one with any control, they are not letting go. At least not without a price. Quite frankly, what is needed is a solid number of two or three starters. There are a few arms that fit that bill.
Jon Gray, a right-hander from the Texas Rangers Gray, is 30 years old, and he is 7-4 with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.148 WHIP. He has 105 Strikeouts in 95 innings. He has appeared in 17 games and given up 10 Hrs. Gray just signed a 4-year deal worth 56 Million dollars and is a free agent in 2026
Martin Perez, a 31-year-old left-hander from the Texas Rangers, is 7-2 with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.19WHIP in 118 innings, with 101 strikeouts to 39 walks.
Perez is under contract for 4 Million dollars and is a free agent in 2023
Now Texas is in 3rd place, 18 games back. They could use help in the outfield, particularly at the corner spots. And they would at least want a serviceable arm in return, or an arm with a future. Now Perez would be a rental which could make him cheaper.
I think Alec Burleson could be the outfield answer, and pitching prospects such as Jake Walsh or even Andre Pallante could be possible. Gray might take an MLB position-ready player like Brendan Donovan, Juan Yepez, or a top prospect like Masyn Winn or Joshua Baez.
Another option is Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox, a 26-year-old right-hander who is 9-4 and has appeared in 19 games covering 110 innings, a 3-1 Strikeout to walk ratio, and a 1.19WHIP sporting a 2.03ERA. He is currently arb-eligible and will be a FreeAgent in 2026.
The White Sox are still somewhat in contention, so the asking price here might be a little high. Again corner OF, 2B, and 3B, Jose Abreu is a Free Agent in 2023. so possibly a 1B/DH like Yepez or a jack of all trades like Brendan Donovan or Tommy Edman. As well as a pitching prospect, possibly Jake Woodford or Andre Pallante.
Zach Gallen - Arizona Diamondbacks, Yes, former Cardinal Farmhand Zach Gallen. It has taken him a while since being traded to Miami, but the 26-year-old right-hander looks to be hitting his stride for a less than mediocre Diamondback ballclub. He is 5-2 with a 3.31ERA and a 1.023WHIP. He constantly gets into the 6th inning. He has a respectable 3.4 -1 Strikeout to Walk ratio, arguably the second-best pitcher, For Arizona. He is arb eligible and not a Free Agent until 2026. Gallen would cost a pitching prospect like Pallante or Woodford or even Liberatore, plus possibly Masyn Winn or Juan Yepez
Then there is the next tier down, in my opinion.
Madison Bumgarner - Arizona Diamondbacks, I say he is the next step down because he is not the dominant mound force he used to be, BUT he is still more reliable than what the Cardinals have going for them right now. The 32-year-old Lefty is 6-9 with a 3.71ERA and a 1.33WHIP, not the strikeout artist he once was but still respectable at almost 2.5 Ks vs. BBs. He is in the middle of a 5-year 85 million, dollar contract, so reasonably affordable.
Arizona could use help at 1B, SS, RF, and DH, so Yepez or Winn plus a lower-tier pitcher like Jake Walsh or Freddy Pacheco.
Noah Syndergaard - Los Angeles Angles, Syndergaard was one that I wanted SAt Louis to acquire in the off-season. "Thor" is a 29-year-old Right-Hander who, like Bumgarner, is not the pitcher he once was, but I believe he still has some miles left. He is 5-7 with a 4.00ERA and a 1.197WHIP he is shy of a 3-1 Strikeout to Walk ratio at 2.90. I think Syndergaard would respond well to be back in the National League and with the Cardinal defense. Now he does become a free agent in 2023 and his contract this year was $21 MIllion. So he would be a higher-priced rental, but it wouldn't cost you much in terms of players. The Angles are going nowhere but could use help at SS and 3rd. Maybe you could deal with a Paul DeJong or a Delvin Perez coupled with a pitcher like Walsh.
Now whether the Cardinals add a bat like Soto or choose to avoid the oncoming iceberg and make real upgrades to the rotation, sitting on their hands at the deadline and picking up retreads and then waiting for a 17-game winning streak is just not going to "cut the mustard" as the old country saying goes.
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