The St. Louis Cardinals have a wealth of young talent across the roster.
But if there is something I don't like about the way the team is constructed it's that, while it's pretty solid everywhere, there is no area of the club that I would consider to be dominant. This team really doesn't have an identity on which to hang its hat.
The defense, offense, starting pitching and bullpen can all be described as above average. But are any of those aspects of the Redbirds truly great?
That's why, as unlikely as it is, I wish the Cardinals could find a way to lure home town boy Max Scherzer into the fold.
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It's terribly unlikely because Scherzer is considered by many to be the top free agent available on the market this off-season. New York Post writer Joel Sherman predicts Scherzer will land a seven-year, $175-million contract. And Sherman readily admits that he might be a little bit light.
But if the Cardinals were able to add Scherzer, not only would their starting rotation suddenly be by far the best in the National League Central and better suited for potential playoff match-ups against the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Grienke and Madison Bumgarner. The Redbirds would also be in a better position to deal from some of their starting pitching depth to try to address other needs.
A rotation of Scherzer, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Marco Gonzalez would allow St. Louis to trade trade young starting pitcher Shelby Miller as part of a package to land a right handed first baseman or right fielder.
The pitching would be much better and the offense would be significantly improved, too.
A move for Scherzer could be financed, if he is reasonable with his demands. The Cardinals had a $111 million payroll last season because they had so many young and cheap players on the roster. But a $130 million payroll for St. Louis is not unrealistic. While the Redbirds will have to pay raises to guys like Lynn and centerfielder Jon Jay, they're going to save a lot of cash, too, on the expiring contracts of Jason Motte ($7.5 million) and Mark Ellis ($5.5 million.)
Scherzer is one of the most durable pitchers in baseball. At 30 years old he has never failed to make at least 30 starts in a complete season. Yet he's not been overworked, pitching more than 200 innings only twice in seven season. And that track record could be important to the Cardinals who saw ace Adam Wainwright have yet another arm surgery already this off-season. If Wainwright were to go down to an injury, who would be the stopper? Who would start Game 1 of a playoff series if not Wainwright.
I know the thought of Scherzer pitching for St. Louis is almost certainly a pipe dream. But he would make this team so much better both directly and indirectly that it's difficult not to at least consider the possibility. I believe where he lands is up to him. If he wants the highest dollar, he's going to end up elsewhere. But if Scherzer wants to pitch for the Cardinals, I think he could make that happen, too.
He told Rick Hummel in 2014 spring training that it would be "too cool" to pitch for the Cardinals because "I grew up there." He added that he's dreamed about putting on the St. Louis uniform. Eventually, Scherzer said the politically correct things about loving to pitch for the Tigers. But Detroit traded for David Price over the summer and it doesn't seem like going back to his current club is a realistic option.
If he deferred a small portion of his contract until after Busch Stadium is paid off ($3 million a year?) and took a six year deal at $25 million with a reasonable vesting option for the seventh year, wouldn't that be enough?