St. Louis Cardinals off-season to-do list:
1) Get an experienced bench coach. Mike Matheny has been the St. Louis skipper for three years. But he had no previous professional coaching experience when he was hired. It showed during the National League Championship even more clearly than during the regular season that Matheny still struggles with strategic game management. A guy like Red Schoendienst or Don Zimmer who has seen all the battles but who has no designs on taking the big office away from the guy in charge would be an ideal assistant for Matheny. How much difference could it make if someone was there to ask occasionally "Are you sure you want to do that? Because if you do, they're going to do this..."
As much as some people say they'd like to see it happen, I sincerely doubt the front office is going to fire Matheny after three consecutive NLCS appearances. A more reasonable move would be to get the skipper some help.
2) Fix the bullpen. The Cardinals might have WON the NLCS four games to one if they had a couple of more decent relievers in the bullpen. It's almost a given that Pat Neshek is going to go elsewhere to earn big money, potentially as a closer. So the Birds are going to have to find a new set up man. And it would be helpful if they could find a guy to serve the seventh inning role that Edward Mujica filled upon arrival in St. Louis before getting kicked up the ladder.
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St. Louis has saved a ton of payroll by populating its roster with guys like Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha, Seth Maness and others who fill large roles while making little money by MLB standards. So if they have to overpay for a couple of dominant bullpenners, so be it.
Teams used to pick up those sorts of guys at the trade deadline. But that doesn't seem to happen like it used to. And, even if it did, does a team want to give up its top prospects for a rental reliever? I'd rather see the club dole out a two or three-year contract to get their man and keep their own talented prospects. Look what the Cardinals had to give up to get Justin Masterson, a broken down pitcher who spent the last month of the season on the sidelines: A top 10 prospect.
3) Find a righty power bat. The Cardinals are entirely too left handed with Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong and possibly Oscar Taveras in the starting lineup on a regular basis. At the very least, the Birds have to find a righty with power who can play first base or a corner outfield spot.
4) Improve the bench. With all their lefty position players, the Cardinals are extremely vulnerable to southpaws. They may only face a lefty starter once every four or five games. But every team has a couple of guys lurking in the bullpen to deploy at key moments. It would help if the Cardinals had a righty power threat that would keep the opposition from being so quick to counter. Right now the decision is to easy because St. Louis regularly has three lefty batters in the first four spots of the order.