The Cardinal front office promised to be active this off season. They had specific targets of a another BIG bat, LH stability for the Bullpen, a back up catcher and a left hand bat off the bench and to address the closer situation.
So what have they done?
Trading young players Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver and Andy Young for an All-Star 1B in Paul Goldschmidt. Big Bat, Check
Signing one of the top LH relievers of the last 5 years in Andrew Miller. LH Bullpen stability, Check
Traded Patrick Wisdom for Drew Robinson LH utility IF/OF LH bench bat, ?
Re-signing Fransisco Pena and signing Joe Hudson, Back up catcher, ?
Now it does seem as we are in a holding pattern waiting for the next name that spikes interest in the fan base.
The "Rumor Mill" has been working overtime. We are still hearing that St Louis is the obvious landing spot for Bryce Harper. The Cardinals have been linked to other names such as; Britton, Kimbrell, Pollack, Allen, Kuechel, Machado, Markakis and Mustakas.
Some of those may or may not be true. The truth is we as fans don't know who the Cardinals have pursued or who they are thinking of pursuing. Until there is another announcement everything is speculation.
What should the fan base expect?
That is a real good question and I am not sure there is a good answer. Is it a top closer like Craig Kimbrell? Is there better back up catcher option than Fransisco Pena that is willing to play only 20 -25 games a year? Is Drew Robinson our best option for a LH bench bat?
Which do we address first?
If it were up to me I would address the closer issue first. The best available Free Agent out there?
Craig Kimbrell 31, RH. Since 2011 he has averaged 41.5 saves and 103 SOs and 64 IP per year. he is Career 1.91 ERA and a 7 time ALL-Star. The issue is he wants a six year deal The longest deal for any reliever so far was given to Jeurys Famillia 3 years ($30MIl) and And Joe Kelly 3 years ($25 mil). HOWEVER, Kimbrell is a STUD closer but, six years for a 31 year old is pushing the limits for most teams. I don't see anyone getting involved in serious discussions with him unless he cuts at least 2 years off his demands. After Kimbrell the talent pool falls off to names like Sergio Romo, Bud Norris, Kelvin Herrera and Brad Brach. All who have closed but are not predominately a closer.
On the roster currently the options that have experience are:
Of the above group Hicks and Martinez Seem like the most obvious after last year. However it is a common thought that Hicks is not ready for the full time closer role. As for Martinez he will be back in the rotation.
Miller who has closed in the past has been more of a set up man the last two years although he did save 36 of 38 games in 2015.
Wainwright came up as a closer but not sure that would be the role for him.
If we do not get Kimbrell, having a dual closer system say Hicks and Miller could be one option. Of course there are those who have suggested bringing back Bud Norris since he said last year he would like to resign with the team. He did do well in the role (28 saves). but faded at the end. A Norris/ Hudson team up as closer I think could work as well.
Then there is Anthony Reyes all reports have indicated they want him as a starter but with rotation looking at least 8 deep, the Bull pen and a closer role could be the best option for him.
LH bench bat
LH bats are limited with the only ones being Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, Drew Robinson, Justin Williams and switch-hitter Dexter Fowler.
Unless the Birds play Jedd Gyorko at 3B and Carp off the bench or put someone else in RF and have Dex come off the bench, the only options we have as LH bats are:
Drew Robinson 26 IF/OF. Career BA .204 with limited MLB ABs He can play almost all field positions except catcher. His minor league numbers total .251/.360/.439/.799 with limited power. In 5 seasons of AAA he posted .272/.366/.502/.867
Justin Williams 23 LF. a .296/.340/.432/.722 minor league totals He fell off those numbers a little in his 1 season at AAA going .252/.307/.379/.685. He is light on the power scale I think he starts out in the minors due to the glut of OF we have.
On the Free Agent market
Ryan Flaherty 32, 3B only a 216 lifetime BA and a 346 slg PCT.
Neil Walker 33 listed as a 1B but has played 2B also. a career .268 hitter Injuries in 2016 and 2017 limited his playing time Last year with the Mets he posted a .219/.309/.354/.664.
Jose Reyes 36 3B mostly a SS during his career he has shown versatility playing 2B, SS and 3B last year. he is a switch hitter and career-wise has hit equally well from both sides Career wise a .283 hitter and a 334 OBP Averaging less than 10 HRs and 60 RBIs as a full time player but known as a competent base stealer swiping 238 between 2005 to 2008. Injuries have been a damper to his career since 2011. his 2018 numbers were less than adequate Actually downright horrid .189/.260/.320/.580 in 251PAs.
Logan Morrison 31 1B After a outlier 2017 38HRs 85 RBIs. He ended the 2018 season on the 60 day DL with a hip impingement. Career wise he is a .239/.325/.427/.752 prior to the 2017 season he was mid to low teens in HRs and around the 40 RBI zone.
The point here is there is not much available that makes sense. I might take a flier on say Reyes or Walker for a 1 year deal or maybe as a non-roster invite to camp but the options just are not there. I think Robinson will get the job because of his versatility.
Right now the 40 man roster lists 1 catcher Yadier Molina. We have signed 2 catchers this off season Joe Hudson and Fransisco Pena.
Hudson 27 a former Cincinnati farm hand had 12 AB for the LAA in 2018 collecting 2 hits and 1 RBI. His minor league numbers are very pedestrian .224/.315/.336/.651
Pena 28 last years back up .203/.239/.271/.510. He played in 58
games mostly due to the freak injury to Yadi last year. Defensively he was adequate but that was about it.
In the Free agent pool there are a few intriguing names Such as:
Nick Hundley 35 career .238/.300/.406/.706 Defensively he has been average most of his career. He has playoff experience and would be more than an adequate back up for Yadi.
Matt Wieters 32 Career .251/.315/.410/.725 Not much of a falloff defensively either he sported better numbers in Total Zone Total Fielding Runs (Rtot) and Rtot/yr),Total Zone catcher runs above average (Rctch) than Yadi did.
AJ Ellis 38 career .239/.340/.352/.693 While not as good defensively as either Hundley or Wieters he is better than Pena or Hudson. He is 38 so a1 year deal would probably be the max I would go.
Devin Mesoraco 30, Career .232/.309/.406/.715 and average defensively mostly in a back up role so that is a role he is accustomed to
It is not clear what the Cardinals will do here. We are only talking maybe 25 to 30 starts and maybe another 15 games as a double switch and another 5 as a pinch hitter. While Hundley or Wieters would be great I don't see them taking a back up role for two years. In the interest of offense I also can't see going with Hudson or Pena unless the show up with a killer Spring.
To sum it up;
CLOSER, This role will be decided internally. Unless Kimbrell comes down to reasonable terms. I don't see them taking a chance on Brach or someone unproven. Norris could still be a low cost option to help bring Hicks along.
LH Bench BAT, I think Robinson is the choice here given his versatility.
BACK UP CATCHER, Althouigh it may come down to Hudson or Pena. I do think they might still be looking even during Spring Training.
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