Morning, folks. Good game last night, eh? Anytime you can take a matchup of Joe Kelly vs. Mat Latos, you have to consider that a pretty good day. No offense to the bespectacled menace, of course; he's been a godsend for the Cards' rotation. But, hey, Latos has an FIP of 2.85. Kelly, a 4.26. It's not exactly knife-to-a-gunfight territory, but it isn't as far from it as we would probably like.
The reason for Kelly's poor FIP is two-pronged: one, a walk rate that isn't particularly great at 3.41, and two, an almost shockingly low strikeout rate of 5.92 batters per nine innings. Personally, I have absolutely no clue how a pitcher whose fastball regularly ranges into the 97 mph range with pretty solid movement manages to strike out less than six hitters per nine. If he literally threw nothing but fastballs, I would still think he should be able to get more swings and misses than that. It's just baffling. The groundball rate is very nice, though.
So El Birdos will go for the sweep tonight, hoping to put some distance between themselves and the still ever so dangerous Redlegs. They've certainly got the man on the mound for it; A.D.A.M. has a chance to put yet another mark on the season, though I have to admit I'm kind of hoping not to see him throw 120+ pitches again this time out. Maybe a nice six run lead by the fifth inning, and Waino can just take the night off at about 70 pitches, guys?
Anyhow, as excited as I am about the way the Cards have played lately, that's not what I wanted to talk about today. Rather, I wanted to talk about the future. It's a big word, future, because that means forever and that's a mighty long time. Or something like that.
See, the offseason has been on my mind lately, mostly because of a conversation a friend of mine and I had not too long ago, about which pitchers I projected into the starting rotation (I believe it was during the awfulness of Jake Westbrook's last start, actually), and what I saw the Redbirds doing with the various hurlers on the roster, etc. And as much as I love watching baseball, I have to admit I enjoy playing armchair General Manager just as much, if not more.
So I started really thinking about the depth the Cards have on the roster in certain spots, most notably in the pitching category, but also corner bat guys as well, and sort of looking ahead to this offseason. Maybe that's a foolish thing to do in the middle of one of the most exciting pennant races in a long, long time, but I can't help it. Just the way I'm wired.
Side note: is anyone else bothered by calling it a 'pennant race'? I know that made sense in the old days, when the regular season winner of the league won the pennant and went on to the World Series, but nowadays it's just not at all accurate. Then again, I don't really know what else to call it; 'pennant race' has a certain evocative mouthfeel and sound I would hate to lose. But September baseball doesn't determine who wins the pennant. I don't know how to reconcile this in my mind so that I don't have to make such a tedious point every time I use the phrase in conversation. I'm afraid everyone I know is getting really, really tired of hearing about it. And now you are too. So it's like we're friends! Hooray!
Back to the point at hand: I was thinking about what the Cardinals might be looking to do this offseason, and taking stock of their assets. And my friends, they are pretty much loaded with assets at the moment.
As far as needs, we all know where the club is going to be looking to upgrade. It's the shortest position on the team, and the poor play there needs to stop immediately. What hope we had last autumn has largely petered out, and I can't think of a semi-funny italicized way to use the word Kozma.
Beyond the obvious gaping hole at short, though, there's also the matter of center field, and while I will admit Jon Jay has managed to turn his season around and achieve a degree of respectability, I'm also hoping the club might do better in the future than league average. If not, hey, he's not killing the team, by any means, but if you're for upgrades to the team, center is an option. There's also the matter of third base, possibly, but I think there's a very good chance the Cards will choose to simply reshuffle the deck a bit and make the Wong-to-second, Carpenter-to-third move more permanent, most likely attempting to move David Freese this offseason. Sad to see him go, surely, but sometimes things just work out that way.
But really, the needs aren't the interesting part of this. The interesting part is on the other side, on the supply side. The assets the Cards can move, if you will. And I have to say, looking at the group of pieces they could possibly move, it's rather exciting to consider the hypothetical return.
First up is Matt Adams. I know, I know, it sucks to move a guy with his kind of talent, but I think it almost has to happen. Sure, it's nice to have a big bat like that off the bench, and I'll never be one to denigrate the impact of bench depth, but the fact is, Matt Adams is likely just too valuable to keep on the bench. I have to believe what he could bring in a trade would be worth much, much more than you're going to get out of him in the ~250 at-bats per year you can find room for. Now, could I see a situation in which Allen Craig would slide to right field, thus opening up first base for the big man from Pennsylvania? Sure, I could see it, but only if the club were committed to the idea of Oscar Taveras in center field, which I'm just not sold on. If this season had gone as we had all hoped for Taveras, maybe I would feel differently. But as it stands right now, I don't see him playing center. On the other hand, I also don't see the club committing to move Craig to the outfield with the idea of allowing Taveras more time to develop in the minors as a right fielder; to me that just smacks of delaying the inevitable. Matt Adams' value is very high right now by virtue of his hitting this year and vast amounts of cheap time left on the arbitration clock; I believe the time to strike is now and move him to a team looking for a big first base bat.
Second, the pitching. Actually, second and third, the pitching, because I feel like there's really two issues on the table when it comes to the pitching the Cards have right now. As I see it, there is a group at the very top of the value rankings for the Redbirds, with five names in it. They are:
- Shelby Miller
- Lance Lynn
- Carlos Martinez
- Michael Wacha
- Trevor Rosenthal
- Joe Kelly
- Seth Maness
- Kevin Siegrist
- Sam Freeman
- Tyler Lyons
- Keith Butler
- Mike Blazek