By: Noah Wright
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
The St. Louis Cardinals are a team that had a good season this year, but not good enough to win the division. They’ll likely settle for a wild card spot, but there’s plenty for them to build off of throughout the off season. So how exactly could The Cardinals regain the division title in 2018? Well that’s what I’m here to talk about today in Making The Good, Great
One of the first things The Cards have to do is find a permanent closer. At the closing role, Bud Norris has done a solid job at the 9th, recording a 3.49 ERA, and high 10.5 K/9, but the ERA estimator of FIP pins him at 3.93. Plus next season he’ll be entering his age 34 season. The easiest option for them to go after to get a long term permanent closer would be flamethrowing right hander Jordan Hicks. Hicks may own a 3.32 ERA, his FIP is a touch higher at 3.62. However I think The Cardinals would like to see either improved contro (5.0 BB/9), or better strike out numbers (8.2 K/9) before they make the decision to give him the ball in the 9th. The biggest option on the free agent market is current Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, but that might be a bit of an expensive option. The next best option would probably be Jeurys Familia. Familia has pitched well with both The NY Mets and after the trade to The Oakland A’s. All in total this season, Familia has a 3.17 ERA, 2.66 FIP, and 1.239 WHIP. In 71 innings, the righty has only allowed 3 home runs, has only walked batters to a 3.5 BB/9 rate, and struck them out at a 10.4 K/9 rate. However one problem is acquiring Familia is there will likely be a bidding war for him. After all, he will be only 29 next year, and hitting the market with all-star potential, but I still think The Cardinals should be in on acquiring him. After Familia would be Cody Allen, which I think fits The Cardinals perfectly. Though he’s had a down year, Allen has shown that he can be consistently good. From the time he became one of The Indians best bullpen pieces in 2013 to last season, Allen posted a 2.59 ERA, 2.86 FIP, and 1.129 WHIP. His strikeout numbers were also pretty good at 11.9, and kept walks to a minimum (3.3 BB/9). Kelvin Herrera is another closer option The Cardinals could pursue. Herrera got of to an amazing start with The Royals, and was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball at the time of the trade. He had a 1.05 ERA, 2.69 FIP, and .818 WHIP in 25 and two thirds on an inning. Most impressively, he only walked 2 batters in 25 and two thirds of an inning with The Royals. He was then traded to The Nationals early in the season. After arriving in DC, Herrera was not nearly as effective, with a 4.34 ERA, 5.67 FIP, and 1.714 WHIP. Then The Nats placed him on The DL in late August, and he is to miss the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his foot. Even though this season has been one to forget for Herrera, he will be hitting the open market as a 29 year old with multiple years of very good relief pitching innings. On the trade market, The Orioles are all but confirmed to sell off some players, but most notably Mychal Givens. Even though Givens, like Allen, is having a bad season, he’s coming off a very successful run of consecutive very good season. Between 2015 and 2017, Givens has given The Orioles a 2.75 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and 1.107 WHIP. Plus his strikeout per walk rate was 3.31 in 183.1 innings. To add to his value Givens is controllable through 2021. The Cardinals should be able to throw together a package good enough for The Orioles to accept it.
The next thing The Cardinals need to figure out is what Jose Martinez. Martinez keeps getting playing time because of his big bat. He’s currently batting .306/.364/.461 with 17 home runs, 83 RBI’s, and has 126 wRC+ in 572 plate appearances. He’s even a good with RISP, with a .315/.356/.479 line. While his offensive output has been worth 2.6 WAR, his defense has been worth -2.0 WAR. That mainly stems from his -5 DRS at first base, and -6 DRS in right field. In a crowded infield with guys who can play defense, and hit like Jedd Gyorko, Kolten Wong, Paul DeJong and especially Matt Carpenter (who can also play first), The Cardinals should make the decision to try and trade Jose Martinez, preferably to an American League team where he can DH. One spot I could see them trying to trade J-Mart to, along with a few other prospects to The Orioles for Mychal Givens.
While it may be a small move, the last thing that The Cards should do to find more success is to get rid of Greg Garcia. Whether that’s by him being a throw in piece in a trade, or being flatout released is up to the team, but they have a much better version of Garcia Yairo Munoz. Munoz not only provides a greater amount of utility than Garcia, but he also younger (23 to 28 yrs. old), faster (28.1 F/PS compared to 27.3 F/PS), and has better clutch numbers (.291 avg and .914 OPS with RISP compared to a .196 avg, and .582 OPS with RISP).
The Cardinals should be right there in the division race next season, however their competition will more than likely upgrade themselves, so they must keep up. They easily have the current roster resources to do it, and enough resources to acquire a few players that could really boost their playoff chances.