I really think the St. Louis Cardinals need to pick a plan.
Either they're rebuilding are they aren't. But as we reach Flag Day, this team doesn't seem like it's a legitimate contender. Yet it wastes money and playing time on middling players who don't really seem to have a future with the team. The Birds had the luxury of playing three of the worst teams in the National League in the past two weeks, the Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres, and they came out of it with a losing record. What's going to happen when they start playing the better teams? We're soon going to find out. And I fear it ain't gonna be pretty.
Why would the Cardinals fix some of their problems but seemingly intentionally do nothing about others?
I spent most of the offseason irritated that, beyond the bold trade to bring Marcell Ozuna into the middle of the batting order, the Birds stood pat. After all, Ozuna was a good get. But he wasn't going to fix the infield defense and he can only fill one spot in the batting order. St. Louis' problems ran much deeper than that. While they had a lot of young arms on their roster, they didn't have front end of the rotation pitchers who could lead a team to the playoffs and stack up in a postseason series against the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
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The Cardinals traded some prized prospects who would have been useful in the rebuilding effort for Ozuna. They got a guy who is under contract for only two years. So they're trying to win now, right?
Signing Greg Holland to a one-year contract for $14 million sure seems like a move a team that thinks it's one player away from contending makes. Refusing to upgrade on the worst corner infield defense in baseball does not.
So, here we sit in mid-June with the Redbirds hanging on by their fingernails to relevancy in the National League Central Division race, and the fans are hoping and praying the team is going to make a big trade to give their favorite team the extra grunt it needs to make a run to the World Series. But adding one stud player like Manny Machado isn't going to fix the fact that Dexter Fowler and Kolten Wong are struggling to hit their weight, the bullpen is awful with only a couple of exceptions, the base running is terrible and the rotation is starting to show cracks. These problems aren't temporary issues that might resolve themselves. They're the same problems this team has dealt with over the past three years.
Wouldn't it be a better idea at this point to sell players at the trade deadline to expedite the rebuilding process instead of lying to ourselves that this team, as it's currently configured, really has a chance to win? What are the Birds holding onto Jedd Gyorko for? What is the plan with Matt Carpenter? Wong? Is there any way the front office could convince another team to take Fowler and, if so, any way the club could get Fowler to waive his no-trade clause a year and a half into a five-year contract?
Let Harrison Bader, Tyler O'Neill and the several other outfield prospects the club has in the high minors get some playing time. Is Luke Voit a major league player or just a flash in the pan? See what you've got for the future and where you need some help. This team, as it stands, is full of decent players. But it doesn't have much greatness on its roster. The floor is high. But the ceiling isn't much above it.
If the Cardinals were interested in making a serious run, they would have done more than dip their toe in the free agent pool the past three years. I wish they had made a play for some impact talent. But, if they are going to insist on building from within, then just do it and see where it gets you. Trying to remain peripherally competitive and not committing to one plan or the other is the best way to guarantee this team doesn't get any better. And that's not good for anyone.