Exhaustion Turns to Hope as the Postseason Becomes the Offseason

Well, that was exhausting.

Watching this team every step of the way was exciting -- how often do you get to see a team dominate its opponents so much that it can win 100 games while featuring a depleted lineup? Strong pitching was king this season, which is why it's no surprise that our season ended when the pitching began to fail. Sad, but not surprising.

With the way this team limped into the playoffs, though, I'll be the first (and maybe the only) to say it: I'm also exhausted.

Pulling and praying for this team over and over again wasn't easy during the season's last month and a half, when a clearly overworked Jhonny Peralta stopped hitting, a mostly listless Tony Cruz replaced Yadi, and an injured Randal Grichuk had to use Jason Heyward as his cutoff man.

Don't get me wrong. It was a very fun team to watch, and one that I hoped would be able to win the Series, particularly because of their resiliency. But if I'm tired from stressing over simply watching them play, imagine how those guys must feel. And it certainly looked that way in September and, sadly, through our NLDS loss.

It was a frustrating end, to be sure. Watching Siegrist give up the same HR to the same batter on the same pitch less than 24 hours later was mind-boggling and deflating. And though I have tended to be a staunch supporter of all things Matheny, there is no doubt that allowing Michael Wacha to bat for himself and remain on the mound drastically shaped Monday's game.

After sleeping on the result, though, I'm at peace with the way things happened. For one, this will be the first time since 2009 that an NL team not named the Cardinals or Giants will have a shot at the NL pennant (altruistic, I know, but I'm a Cards fan first and a baseball fan second).

Second, and more importantly, John Mozeliak and the rest of the front office now have a nice cushion to formulate an offseason game plan, more than just a few days before free agency actually begins. This could be crucial in retaining Heyward - which is an absolute must, if you ask me. This is a young guy who can be a core piece of this team for a long time, and we need one of those on offense.

In my opinion, though, there are a variety of other things the Cardinals have to sort out prior to next season, and now have ample time to do so. They are, in no particular order:

  • What to do at first base. This is largely contingent on what happens with Jason Heyward, one would assume. I think the Cardinals will be able to re-sign him, though, leaving Piscotty to play RF (with Holliday written into stone in left and Heyward in center), or will force a decision on Matt Adams by being the regular first baseman. And with the way Piscotty hit down the stretch and played in the field, I don't see how he couldn't be in the lineup. Personally, I prefer Piscotty at first base (I've never been as high on Adams as the front office has seemed to be). And with Brandon Moss under contract next season, either Moss or Adams becomes a bench/platoon bat while Piscotty occasionally plays corner OF, or one of the two is traded to replenish another area of the team.
  • What to do in the outfield. This year, I fell of the Jon Jay wagon. Nothing I saw this year convinced me that he deserves a spot on the 25-man roster - and especially not on that playoff roster. But Matheny has clearly been opposed to starting Bourjos in Jay's place, and my personal opinion is that an upset Bourjos will try to get out of town and show that he can start somewhere else. Grichuk or Tommy Pham seem likeliest to me to start in center, though Grich probably has the edge. Pham certainly should compete for a bench spot next season, leaving Jay or Bourjos as an odd man out. Personally, I hope Bourjos stays.
  • What to do with the bullpen. I was never a huge fan of Steve Cishek, as he looked pretty wild - and very lucky - to me (and what his 2.31 ERA/4.33 FIP in St. Louis would seem to back up), and I sort of hope he won't be brought back, despite having another season of team control. Jonathan Broxton has a large option sure to be declined, and several guys are set to leave via free agency. This should be a big area of concentration, and could be achieved through trade.
  • What to do about that bench. Pham and Moss were nice pieces off of the bench, but c'mon. Pete Kozma was on the roster all year. In my opinion, that's a wasted roster spot. I don't know what this entails,
  • Anything to do about Lance Lynn? Personally, I like Lynn, and this point is purely speculative. He's a guy who's going to stay healthy and give you a lot of productive innings - his late season slide this year aside. And though he's under team control through the 2017 season, he seems thoroughly pissed with Matheny -- first after protesting the few days of extra rest he got in September, and now after being slotted to pitch Game 4, and ultimately being skipped, in the NLDS. Sure, we don't have the pitching depth we once had, but with Adam Wainwright, Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Jaime Garcia (provided he can remain healthy again) all coming back, maybe we could spin him off for some nice pieces. Teams would pay handsomely for a guy like Lynn in their rotation. Plus, with Marco Gonzales or Tim Cooney both flashing something nice the past two seasons, maybe Lynn wouldn't be so sorely missed. I also wouldn't mind seeing John Lackey come back on a short deal, and he seems to like it here. Again, purely speculative. Aside from not having any sources, I also have no idea how Lance Lynn is feeling. But it seems like we could get a very nice return for a guy like that.
Anyhow, these are the questions that will dominate my thoughts now that we have no more Cardinals baseball to watch. And it helps - I'm already excited about the offseason and what it will entail. This is still a team built to contend, with a GM who is one of the savviest in the game. It's hard not to feel confident heading into the offseason.

Besides, for any baseball fan, would it actually be that bad to see the Cubs win the World Series?

Yes. Yes it would.