I’m on the record saying that I believe the St. Louis Cardinals ought to keep the changes to their roster to a minimum if they want to be a force in 2016.
Re-sign Jayson Heyward, add a relief pitcher here and a bench bat there, have a full season with Stephen Piscotty in the mix, hopefully at first base, and hope for better health from Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Randal Grichuk.
General manager John Mozeliak likes to rearrange the furniture every once in a while to make sure the club doesn’t become too complacent. But I don’t see the need in 2016. The club didn’t quit in 2015. It played hard until the end but ran out of gas because of a bunch of injuries. I believe these guys are plenty hungry to win. They ought to be extremely hungry after watching the Chicago Cubs celebrate in front for their depleted team.
But if the team can’t re-sign Heyward, a revamping of the offense is likely in order. And the Cardinals may have to part with some other pieces of the roster in order to add what they need.
I could see starting pitcher Lance Lynn being an attractive part of a trade package. He’s been a consistent winner with an earned run average in the 3.30s in his four years as a starter. With two years of control at a total of $14.5 million, he’d be an affordable number two or three starter for a lot of clubs.
With top prospect Alex Reyes nearing the big leagues, Wainwright returning to starting duty and the ability to pick up Jaime Garcia’s affordable option, the Cardinals have plenty of depth in the rotation. Let’s not forget that Tyler Lyons and Tim Cooney are still in the mix and Marco Gonzales ought to be ready to return from his injury woes.
That being said... as much as I can’t see it happening in general and the more obvious need being offensive help, rumors persist that the Cardinals will take a run at free agent starting pitcher David Price.
Price in the past has expressed interest in pitching for the Redbirds who are close to his Tennessee home. And while the Cardinals have plenty of pitching depth, they could use an heir apparent as ace as Wainwright enters the last few seasons of his career.
A trio of Waino, Price and Michael Wacha could be incredible in the 2016 playoffs, should the Cardinals make it that far. And if those three guys are in the house along with Carlos Martinez and whomever the team chooses to be the fifth starter, I don’t see how they could miss.
As I wrote repeatedly last off-season, the Cardinals were vulnerable in 2015 counting on Wainwright to stay healthy. He ended the 2014 campaign with an elbow issue and took a while to get back up to speed in 2012 after missing all of 2011 with a torn ligament in his elbow. If the Cardinals would have had a guy like Price or Max Scherzer, I think they very well might have had the horsepower to beat the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs and they might still be playing tonight.
Top tier pitchers come at a premium. A price the Cardinals haven’t been willing to pay in the past. But I’d sure prefer to see Price dressed in red and navy the next time the Cardinals lock horns with the Cubs than blue pinstripes.
The lone player the Birds signed as a premium free agent was Matt Holliday. He probably got a little bit more than half what Price will command. The market forces that were in effect when Holliday was able to be obtained for a relatively reasonable sum won’t limit Price.
Sure, there are several high quality arms on the market. But is there a question that Price is the best by far. Dodgers hurler Zack Grienke is three years older than Price.
When the bidding is over, Price is likely to get a contract in the realm of $200 million for eight or so years. As much as I would love to see him take the ball every fifth day for the next four years or so, I don’t see the Cardinals jumping into that deep water.
If the Birds feel the need to add another pitcher I see former White Sox, Marlins and Blue Jays hurler Mark Buehrle as an option.
Buhrle’s, of St. Charles, has made it clear he’s a huge Cardinals fan and that he’d love to pitch for the home town team. The problem has been that he was too expensive for the Redbirds’ need at the time. But, now that he’s made his money, would he be willing to take a low dollar one-year deal to make his dream come true?
The Cardinals might be able to facilitate a trade of some of their pitching depth for offensive help if they had the reliable if not flashy Buehrle filling the John Lackey fourth starter role.
Buehrle said in the past that he’d retire when his current contract was up. But he’s seemingly backtracked on those statements telling his teammates in front of a USA Today reporter after the Jays exited the playoffs that he’d see the guys in spring training. An unidentified Toronto player asked in reply “Where, in the Cardinals camp?”