I’m starting to wonder if the St. Louis Blues are the best thing that ever happened to the St. Louis Cardinals — or the worst.
Congratulations to the Blue Notes for exorcizing their playoff demons, storming their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. I think a lot of us have come to expect the Cardinals to make the postseason more often than not. But, as a lifelong Blues fan, dating back to the days when we weren’t sure if the team was going to be in business the next year, seeing the Blues play for NHL supremacy seemed like too bold a dream to hope for. It still hasn’t sunk in that this is all real.
There is little doubt that the local hockey organization has distracted the St. Louis fan base from some truly awful baseball during the past two-and-a-half weeks. The Cardinals have likely avoided a lot of venom from fans who were too busy being giddy over the hockey team to complain about bad pitching and worse hitting.
But, suddenly, might the team that owns St Louis pay for missing the playoffs for a fourth season in a row while their kid brother plays in the Stanley Cup Finals? I was at the interleague games between the Cardinals and the Texas Rangers last weekend and, as bad as the Birds played, the numerous Cardinals fans never got down. About every 15 minutes, they randomly began to chant “Let’s go Blues.”
As I have said before, a little bit of friendly competition can be a wonderful way to make everyone better. Hopefully, the amazing play of the Blues will inspire the Redbirds front office to get its hunger for the postseason back.
Last week, I talked about the fact that the Cardinals are being linked to San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, speculation that made me nervous.
I live in fear of another Dan Haren for Mark Mulder trade that looked like a steal for about half a season — and then turned into a nightmare for the better part of a decade as Mulder declined just as steeply as Haren rose up the ranks of effective major league starting pitchers. I can’t bear to think about Jack Flaherty or Jordan Hicks racking up wins and saves by the bay as Bumgarner leaves St. Louis over the winter as a free agent.
But, a story that appeared in Bleacher Report on Tuesday speculates that the Redbirds could land the accomplished post-season pitcher for a package of three players: impressive but redundant outfielder Tyler O’Neill, minor league reliever Genesis Cabrera and Class AAA infielder Max Schrock. If that’s the package that would get the deal done, what is the St. Louis front office waiting for?
Cabrera is a promising, but wild, prospect. I’d hate to give him up. But when you’re talking about young pitchers the Cardinals should be unwilling to part with, he’s pretty far down the list. I think O’Neill could be a very good major league player if he got a chance to play every day. But will he ever get that chance in St. Louis with Dexter Fowler back in the outfield mix and Jose Martinez hitting too well to sit on the bench? Harrison Bader hasn’t done anything to cause his star to fade and you’ve still got a crop of talented outfielders banging on the door in Memphis. As far as Shrock goes, I mentioned last week that I would hate to see Tommy Edman go — but where would the shortstop play with Paul DeJong locked up for years to come, Kolten Wong under contract to play second base and Matt Carpenter extended for at least two more years? If the Giants are willing to look past him to Shrock, a guy I can’t see ever being more than a utility infielder in St. Louis, you can’t pass that up.
Bumgarner isn’t going to fix all the Cardinals’ problems, but he sure would help out. He’s the most logical move this team could make because there aren’t any obvious positions to upgrade in the field. The infield is set in stone and the outfield is overcrowded as it is. I believe if the rotation gets better it will take pressure off both the bullpen and the offense to allow the team to settle back into a groove. Does one starter make all the difference? Maybe not. But if you add a legitimate ace, it pushes everyone else back a spot and lightens their load. Miles Mikolas doesn’t have to be the guy, he just has to be a guy. Then you have about seven legitimate contenders for the other three spots in the rotation: Michael Wacha, Dakota Hudson, Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, John Gant, Austin Gomber and Alex Reyes. A move for an ace wouldn’t just improve one spot in the St. Louis rotation, it improves all the spots in the rotation by a notch.
That trade proposal is pure speculation, and if the Giants would go for it, we don’t know what it would take to get Bumgarner to drop his no-trade opposition, but if that’s the sort of package that would get the job done, it’s a no-brainer. That’s the sort of move that could not only get St. Louis back into the National League Central race. It could make them the clear-cut favorite. It would also prevent the Milwaukee Brewers from adding a vital piece they could use to bury the Birds.