The baseball season has come and gone, and for the fourth time in 15 years, the Boston Red Sox have won the World Series. Built upon the acquisition of free agent stars, as well as the development of promising young players, the Red Sox won 105 games to win the AL East, beating the Yankees in the AL divisional series and the Astros in the AL championship series. As the Cardinals watched the postseason from home for three consecutive years, it’s time for them to make the right moves to begin a position to compete with the National League heavyweights. Here are some wishes that the Cardinals should ask Santa for Christmas:
1. A big free agent splash
This one sounds blatantly obvious, but it is hard to ignore the truth. In order to become a top team in the National League, the Cardinals need to look for an impactful free agent. In previous years there were big names on the market with hefty price tags, and the Cardinals showed that they were willing to commit a large portion of money to a free agent, as they were in the David Price sweepstakes and they were active in trying to acquire Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins. But ultimately failed to acquire either. They managed to acquire Marcell Ozuna in a trade with the Marlins. With the rarity of superstar controllable talent on the market, now is the chance for the Cardinals to sign a big name free agent. Combine that with the frustration from fans over three straight postseason misses, and you have a fanbase going restless over the amount of changes that haven’t happened. Look for the Cardinals to go all in on Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, and if they miss, expect them to go for Paul Goldschmidt, as the Diamondbacks look to trade high-salary players. As of Dec. 3, Goldschmidt was traded to the Cardinals for Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, minor leaguer Andrew Young and a 2019 competitive-balance Round-B draft pick. Goldschmidt is be a tremendous lineup addition, more than likely moving in as the 3-hole and shifting Carpenter to third base, as it seems the Cardinals are willing to take another year to decide if they want to keep Kolten Wong indefinitely. If the Cardinals can’t make that trade, look for them to sign Mike Moustakas to a one-year deal, which would keep Carpenter at first base.
2. The continuing development of the Cardinals’ promising young stars
If the 2018 regular season proved anything for the Cardinals, it proved that their future seasons will be bright, as our promising young talent from AAA Memphis stepped up in the majors. Harrison Bader and Jack Flaherty filled in while others were injured, and by the end of the year, Bader became our starting center fielder, while Flaherty has the looks of a top-of-the-rotation starter. With 182 strikeouts in 151 innings pitched and a respectable 3.34 ERA (stands for earned run average, measures the amount of runs given per nine innings pitched), Flaherty could be the ace that the Cardinals haven’t had in awhile, since the dominant days of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Bader accumulated 3.8 WAR (a measurement of how many wins an individual player contributes to their overall team win total) and is one of the fastest players in the MLB while playing gold-glove defense. Other prospects who helped contribute and have proved themselves to be useful next season are Austin Gomber, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, Patrick Wisdom, and Tyler O’ Neill, respectively.
3. Wise spending
The moves that Mike Girsch (and previously John Mozeliak), the general manager of the Cardinals, has raised concern over the intention and reasoning behind some of his deals. While the Cardinals haven’t spent big bucks on premier talent in free agency, they have made moves to try to solidify the holes that exist on the team. But while some of the past free agent deals have largely been disappointing (Dexter Fowler’s four-year, $60 million deal and Brett Cecil’s four-year, $30.5 million catastrophic deal come to mind), the front office is reluctant to not commit a decent amount of money to aging players and having it ultimately not pay off. Commiting over $7 million to a player coming off a fine season, Cecil, 31 imploded out of the bullpen in 2018, accumulating -1.0 WAR. With a 6.89 ERA and a 1.96 WHIP (average walks and hits allowed per inning), the Cardinals made a poor decision in signing the veteran, but pressure developing with the bullpen enticed the front office to make moves. There is high-priced free agent relief pitching on the market, which would prove quite useful, as the Cardinals blew 21 saves last season. In order to become a top team in the NL once again, the Cardinals need to spend wisely to ensure that they plug the holes present in the bullpen, acquire a middle-of-the-order hitter and continue to supply our team with fresh, young talent to ensure that the Cardinals can make a postseason run for the first time since 2015.