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Brewers show they care about competing in 2018. The Cardinals haven’t been as aggressive.

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

St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans beware, it seems that the Milwaukee Brewers are not yet finished in their bid to change the landscape of the National League Central Division.

According to a CBS report, the Brew Crew is still shopping for a top starting pitcher. They’ve been tied primarily to Yu Darvish, but Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Cardinals free agent Lance Lynn could still be available should Darvish fall through.

Some folks seem surprisingly unimpressed with the Brewers’ acquisition last week of both former Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and top free agent signee so far this winter, Lorenzo Cain. Those two will help the Brewers to improve the top of their batting order and their defense.

Milwaukee has a strong bullpen already, so the addition of an ace-quality starter could be a game changer in the NL Central.

Not only could Darvish or Arrieta lead the Brewers’ rotation in the short run, they would be half of a formidable one-two punch with Jimmy Nelson, who was 12-6 with a 3.49 earned run average and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched last season before he was sidelined with an injury that is expected to keep him out of action until June.

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has repeatedly said that his club has the financial means to hire a top starting pitcher. He told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal in a story published Monday that he believes adding that top starter is a way to “supercharge” a club that won 86 games last season to get it over the hump. It’s never a mistake, he added, to add more quality pitching to the mix.

It would be nice if the Cardinals showed the same sort of aggression. If you compared the Cardinals, Brewers and Chicago Cubs by the individual units that make up the team:

▪ Position players: On paper, all three teams have a pretty solid lineup. But, with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo anchoring the middle of their lineup, the Cubs are tough to beat when it comes to their everyday starting eight. The Cardinals and Brewers are battling for second place. Right now I would give St. Louis the edge because the addition of Marcell Ozuna helped to fill the need for a power source in the middle of the order. But, if Ryan Braun has a bounce back season at the plate, it could flip flop the second and third positions.

▪ Starting rotation: The Cubs have the edge right now. But this battle hasn’t been decided yet. It depends on who makes the biggest addition between now and spring training. The Cardinals, Brewers and Cubs have all been linked to Arrieta and Darvish — although St. Louis seems to have fallen out of the picture lately. They seem to be counting on youngsters Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty to carry the mail behind Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and free agent Miles Mikolas, who most recently pitched in Japan. That’s probably a better formula for winning in 2019 or 2020 than it is for competing this year.

▪ Bullpen: Milwaukee has the best back end of the bullpen options right now. The Cubs lost Wade Davis to free agency and will count on converted starter Brandon Morrow to pitch in the late innings. The Cardinals say longtime setup man and occasional closer Luke Gregerson is the tentative guy for the ninth inning. Others could factor in including Reyes and minor leaguer Jordan Hicks. Greg Holland, an established closer is available through free agency. But the Birds just don’t seem even remotely interested.