Cheap Seats

The Cardinals should be able to compete now and still plan for the future

Mozeliak says young arms give Cardinals bullpen flexibility

St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak left the door open to multiple possibilities for the team’s closer role.
Up Next
St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak left the door open to multiple possibilities for the team’s closer role.

It seems the St. Louis Cardinals are more concerned with 2019 than they are with competing in 2018.

But I don’t see why it isn’t possible to compete both now and later.

The Cardinals seemingly have passed on chances to acquire a top part of the rotation starter and a closer. The only reason I can imagine why is they want to make sure that there are plenty of innings available for the likes of Luke Weaver, Alex Reyes, Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty. Maybe even Jordan Hicks. The front office seemingly wants those youngsters to ready themselves to be the core of the future pitching staff.

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes says he’s ready for whatever opportunity he’s given as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, while catcher Carson Kelly talks about playing time as Yadier Molina’s backup.

But why hand them innings now? What’s the matter with a little old fashioned competition for playing time? I’d like to see with the previously mentioned prospects compete with Michael Wacha, who was nearly demoted to the bullpen last year; Adam Wainwright who, sadly, seems to be at the end of a fabulous career; and Miles Mikolas, who seems to have a lot to prove after previously washing out of the big leagues and spending the past several seasons trying to re-establish himself in the Japanese league.

If the Cardinals re-signed Lance Lynn or picked up Jake Arietta as a free agent, it wouldn’t prevent those kids from playing. If they’re asked to fill the first or second spot in the rotation, St. Louis is in big trouble. Where the kids have a chance to earn some playing time is in the bottom two slots of the rotation. But they could get useful experience in a bullpen role as well. It’s not fair to ask rookies to lead the way. It’s much better to have a veteran to handle that role and give the green players someone to emulate.

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright talks about the back injury that landed him on the disabled list.

I just can’t get on board with the idea of completely counting on the kids to succeed because the Cardinals have such a spotty track record of developing players. While Martinez has been spectacular, it’s safe to say that the results are more mixed when it comes to Kolten Wong, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Marco Gonzales, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and others. I think St. Louis would be doing pretty well if half its prospects panned out to be useful major leaguers. Some won’t cut it — and others, like Michael Wacha, will be kept from reaching their potential by unforeseen injuries.

Besides, it’s not good for kids who aren’t fully developed to be thrown into the fire too early. Randal Grichuk was called up too early when Oscar Taveras shuddered under the weight of major league pressure. I honestly believe, had he been allowed to mature with more at-bats against upper minor league hurlers, his pitch recognition would be better and his strikeout total would be lower. Then he’d still call St. Louis home because he’d probably be about a .270 hitter who threatened the 30 homer mark every season. Sure, he’d probably strike out somewhere between 100-150 times. But his on-base percentage would be better, his consistency would be better and he would handle the pressure better than he did. The Cardinals recognized the need for Piscotty to stay for another year and a half in the minors to develop. But Grichuk, who came from outside the organization, was treated less carefully and paid the price.

Miles Mikolas hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2014. But after a successful three-year run in Japan, he says he’s ready to try it again with the Cardinals.

We were told in the fall that the Birds were likely to go the trade route to fill its roster vacancies. But, while the club has plenty of young talent to deal even after parting with Sandy Alcantara and Magneuris Sierra in the swap for slugging outfielder Marcell Ozuna, if the front office folks are so sure about the future of their prospects, it could keep them and fill needs through free agency. I’d rather see the team part with dead presidents than live arms if it has a choice.

It would be awesome if, in two years the Cardinals turned Martinez, Reyes, Flaherty, Weaver and Hudson into a rotation to rival the 1990s Atlanta Braves with Hicks punching out hitters in the ninth. But, that’s a long way away and a lot of things can happen between now and then. No matter how many prospects there are in the pipeline, the baseball cliche that holds the most truth is the one that states there is no such thing as having too much pitching. Some always gets hurt. And, even if no one does, a team with too many good pitchers can always trade one or two for help in other areas of need.

Marcell Ozuna and Luke Weaver meet fans and sign autographs at the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Sunday.

Related stories from Belleville News-Democrat

  Comments