It’s great that the St. Louis Cardinals acknowledged the one thing that most people who watch the team have known for a couple of years — that the team is desperately in need of at least one imposing, middle-of-the-order hitter.
But it’s very odd that the team at the same time announced the firing of its pitching coach and bullpen coach while announcing its hitting coach will be retained.
The club’s pitching seemed to be the one thing that kept it afloat late through a long and uneven season. Its hitters broke the club record for the third year in a row for strikeouts, showed no indications that its batters understood the concept of situational hitting and went on long, unexplained production lulls.
I want to believe the Redbirds will make changes to their personnel to make the club much more competitive next season against the Chicago Cubs. But it’s hard to have a lot of faith when a club that said it would cure its defensive, hitting and baserunning last off-season through coaching, then failed, will do what it needs to do when it refuses to improve the coaches that handle the offense.
Not only is it difficult to expect different results from players who continued to be guided in the same way. But it’s also hard to believe free agents and players who have no-trade clauses are going to want to come into a situation where there is no clear path to reversing St. Louis’ playoff drought.
The Redbirds like to be known for their restraint. But they have to think outside the box this year because they can’t afford to pass on opportunities to improve this club when the asking price is 10 percent more than they wanted to spend on a key player.
The abundance of youth on the St. Louis roster doesn’t only benefit the team because of the talent the up and coming players bring. It also helps that the Cardinals are populating several key roster spots, including two starting pitchers and a starting shortstop, with guys who are making the major-league minimum salary.
The team easily could pay $30 million to $40 million to fill those spots with middle-of-the-road veterans. Take those savings and plow them into a player who is a difference-maker.
St. Louis also doesn’t have the luxury of waiting around for glamorous free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado to hit the market after next year. If they do, what happens if the Cardinals whiff when the bidding gets too high for their comfort level?
While I would love to see Machado man the hot corner in Cardinals red, the odds of that happening are slim. However, if that’s the end goal, the Birds at least need to make a play for a short-term slugger like Toronto’s Josh Donaldson to get them through 2018.
There is too much young talent on the Cardinals roster to waste two or three years trying to hunt down that man in the middle of the batting order. And it’s not going to be good for the team’s drawing power to miss out on the playoffs for another year or two.
But would it be worth it to trade away young talent to land Donaldson in a rental deal or a more efficient way to handle the team’s resources to go out and sign Kansas City Royals free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas?
It’s great that the Birds are committed to developing young players. But that’s only one of several avenues to improve a team. The Cardinals are tying their own hands behind their backs by ignoring the opportunity to improve this team by making a significant trade or by fishing in the deep end of the free-agent pool.
On another note, I feel bad for the members of the Cardinals coaching staff who were let go. But I hope the team makes an effort to improve in this area as opposed to simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I know one of the two jobs — pitching coach and bullpen coach — is likely to go to Class AAA Memphis pitching coach Bryan Eversgerd. But this would be a great opportunity to bring former Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter back into the fold.
Carpenter late last season expressed interest in getting back into the mix with St. Louis. The Cardinals front office ought to make every effort to bring him back into the organization before some other team adopts him.