The St. Louis Cardinals say that they’re committed to building their team through the draft.
The only problem is that they only seem to be attempting to build half a team.
As has been their custom in recent years, the Cardinals spent the bulk of their picks on pitchers. And that’s great. I love pitchers. But, at some point, this team is going to have to find its next star position player. That’s hard to do when you’re not taking one in the low rounds. I realize that 20 years ago St. Louis was able to find Albert Pujols in the 13th round but you’re going to have to spend a pick in the top two or three rounds if you’re going to have a decent chance of having an impact player pan out.
This isn’t a knock against the players the Cardinals have taken. Zack Thompson seems to have a lot of things going for him: he’s a hard throwing left-hander, he had success in a highly competitive conference and he’s got pretty good size. A lefty strikeout artist isn’t a bad thing to have. But if the Cardinals believe in their current crop of young hurlers, it doesn’t seem like there is a tremendous need for another member of the starting rotation. By drafting a player in the second half of his college career, you’d think he would move through the system and be ready in a couple of years. But aren’t Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Alex Reyes, Ryan Helsley and Austin Gomber or maybe Genesis Cabrera going to be holding down those spots then?
It’s true that the Cardinals took third baseman Nolan Gorman last year and he looks like he could be a starter in the major league some day. But, as a teenager, he’s in the low minors and a long way away from the majors. So far away that St. Louis felt comfortable locking in veteran Matt Carpenter at his position for another three years. I’d love to see the Cardinals seek out a player with a proven bat in a big time college program, preferably one who plays a premium defensive position.
The Cardinals can’t afford to skimp on the position players if they hope to get back to the playoffs someday. They got a deal they couldn’t refuse to acquire and then extend perennial all-star slugger Paul Goldschmidt. But it seems that big trades are becoming less frequent and teams are locking up their young talent before those players ever get a sniff of the free agent market — as if the Cardinals are going to win any bidding wars for key offense contributors today, tomorrow or 10 years from now.
Cardinals were smart to trade Luke Voit
As amazing as that Goldschmidt deal was, some St. Louis fans can’t get over the fact that the Cardinals misfired on local hero Luke Voit who was traded to the New York Yankees.
While it’s true that Voit has been a find for the Bronx Bombers, hitting 15 homers with a .268 batting average so far this year after assuming the role as New York’s starting first baseman, are we supposed to believe that the Birds would be better off with him than Goldschmidt whose average is climbing at .275 with 12 homers while playing Gold Glove quality defense? St. Louis didn’t give away Voit for nothing, either. They landed Giovanny Gallegos who, besides having one of the best names in the major leagues, has been a valuable piece out of the Cardinals bullpen this year. He’s got an incredible 38 strikeouts in just 24 innings pitched so far in 2019. He’s only given up 15 hits and six walks, allowing .875 base runners per inning of work.
I guess if you want to look at it as only a comparison of Voit to Gallagos, it might look like the deal favors New York. But, even if the Cardinals didn’t have Goldschmidt, I find it unlikely that Voit would have displaced Matt Carpenter from first base. So, sometimes you have to trade good players who represent a surplus to fill other places of need. Anyone who watched this team play knows it desperately needed relief help after a disastrous first half of the season last year.
The other controversial trade the Cardinals made was shipping away outfielder Tommy Pham for pitching prospect Genesis Cabrera. Pham has been an excellent player for his new team, the Tampa Bay Rays. But the Cardinals have a metric ton of outfielders these days with Harrison Bader ready to slide into center field, Lane Thomas ready to fall in behind him and Tyler O’Neill crushing the baseball in Class AAA because there is no room for him in The Show. Pham was obviously someone St. Louis could afford to let go of.
Cabrera is still pretty raw. But he has really interesting stuff — he just needs to learn how to control it a little bit better. He definitely seems like he has the talent and mental makeup to be an impact player in the big leagues whether as a member of the starting rotation or as an eventual lefty out of the bullpen. Maybe Andrew Miller can teach him how to be one of those two or three inning pitchers out of ‘pen who are going to be even more valuable next season when the new rules for relievers are put into place.