Understanding Where The Cardinals Are At Heading Into 2018

Winning championships is always the end goal when teams arrive for Spring Training in February. Winning in St. Louis is even more important. It’s a tradition many have become accustomed to.

After missing the postseason for the second straight year some have started questioning the strategies Bill DeWitt III and John Mozeliak have in place to build a contender that can compete with the Chicago Cubs.

When the Cardinals missed on top free agent acquisition Giancarlo Stanton, the team went a different direction in signing Marcell Ozuna. In that deal with the Miami Marlins, the team dealt speedster Magneuris Sierra. The team then traded away Stephen Piscotty followed by a move to send Randal Grichuk to Toronto.

The active moves to free up a crowded outfield and commit to three everyday starters in Ozuna, Dexter Fowler, and Tommy Pham needed to happen.

In terms of pitching, St. Louis added Miles Mikolas and Luke Gregerson to the bullpen, while losing Trevor Rosenthal and Seung-hwan Oh. Lance Lynn decided to test the waters in free agency, but Alex Reyes returns following Tommy-John surgery that prematurely ended his 2017 season.

If the season started today the Cardinals starting rotation would include Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, and Michael Wacha. There’s certainly room for improvement as Wainwright nears the end of his career and question marks remain about the amount of experience of the other names listed.

When asked about his role on the team, Wainwright said he wanted to approach 2018 like he’s the ace of the staff and wants to back that up.

“I’m not ready to be mediocre again, I want to be great again. I’ve done it before. I know I can do it again. My mind is sharp and I feel like it might happen soon,” Wainwright said.

A dominant rotation is just one of the things St. Louis lacks heading into Spring Training. The Cardinals also lack a true closer.

The absence of Oh and Rosenthal leaves manager Mike Matheny in a tough spot. Greg Holland of Kansas City looked like an ideal option at the start of the offseason, but doesn’t work into the front office philosophy.

St. Louis received an interesting piece in the Grichuk trade from Toronto in Dominic Leone, who may have some upside, but he’s also had his fair share of struggles.

Then there’s the issue of the infield. Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong will man the middle infield spots. Matt Carpenter figures to start the year at first base with Jedd Gyorko starting the year at third, but how consistent will either of those guys be in 2018?

If the Cardinals were to add another bat, Carpenter provides the flexibility of playing either first or third depending on who St. Louis might pursue.

Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas from Kansas City are both intriguing options that would add power to the lineup, but with so little action on the free agent market, historically frugal teams like St. Louis don’t want to make that first move.

While St. Louis made a splash in trading for Ozuna, they haven’t done enough to upgrade the team to a World Series contender. DeWitt and Mozeliak don’t like to spend a ton in free agency, even with the money to do so. The Cardinals have built their success on generating talent from within and prefer to focus on the long-term instead of the short-term.

Yet, with so many teams willing to spend the big money to get free agents to help them win now, at what point do the Cardinals have to think about altering their approach?

For now it looks like Mozeliak and DeWitt are going to stick to their ways and see how competitive the team is in 2018 before deciding on any more major moves. Though, sometimes taking a risk is what you need to do to win championships, but finding the right risk is tough to do.