The St. Louis Cardinals have lost John Lackey and Jason Heyward to free agency this offseason already; not only that, but both to the Chicago Cubs. Ugh. Let that digest a bit.
Or better yet, don’t. Read this instead. This is the optimistic version of the current roster to combat all of the UH OH, WE’RE DOOMED going around the internet currently.
As of right now, I really think the offense could be as good or better than last year, offensively.
At catcher, Yadier Molina and Brayan Pena (as always, assuming a healthy Yadi) should be better than the Molina/Tony Cruz combo from 2015. Pena should play more than Cruz did, as Matheny will have more faith in the bat - and that means Molina should be more rested behind the plate and thus hopefully play better.
At first base, the black hole will be filled by either Matt Adams or Brandon Moss unless it’s filled by newly acquired Jedd Gyorko or still a rookie Stephen Piscotty. In any case, the team should put up better than a hitting line 9% below league average - at .236/.309/.384 with just 22 homers, 66 runs, and 89 RBI and an ISO under .150.
At second base, Kolten Wong is a year older and hopefully a year wiser and better. His defense was mostly great last year and his bat was good against righties. He’ll either get better against lefties or Gyorko will be the RH option against LHP for the year and the team will be better for it.
At shortstop, Jhonny Peralta should be the man yet again. He might fall off a bit due to age, but he’s still going to be Peralta. Hopefully Greg Garcia gets a bit of time in the field to give Peralta days off and help prolong his strong play throughout the year.
Same thing a third base with Matt Carpenter. Hopefully Garcia or Gyorko can play 3B adequately once every 2 weeks so Carpenter gets a bit of rest.
In left field a healthy Matt Holliday is better than one that misses over half a season. Not only that but Piscotty and Moss can very adequately back him up out there once or twice a week to make sure he lasts the season at age 36.
In center field, again a full season of Randall Grichuk and Tommy Pham should be better than the injury filled slot last year. Peter Bourjos was hurt part of the year, Jon Jay was hurt most of the year, Pham was hurt part of the year, and Grichuk also was hurt part of the year. Blech.
In right field, either Moss or Piscotty or Pham could take the reigns there. Depending on who it is, the offensive production could match or exceed Heyward’s 2015.
For serious, the offense looks better than the 2015 version that finished 10th in the NL in runs and 7th in the NL in wRC+.
The starting pitching should have Adam Wainwright at #1 instead of Lackey. They could have a full season of Jaime Garcia rather than just 20 starts. They could have a full season of Michael Wacha rather than just 30 starts. They could have a full season of Carlos Martinez rather than just 29 starts. Oh, and those two are both just in their age 24 season, so they should be getting better! While Lance Lynn will not be in the rotation due to injury, they, at the moment, have the choice between Marco Gonzales and Tim Cooney for the 5th spot. I would likely choose Cooney at the moment. As a starter in the majors, he held opponents to a .235/.307/.397 line and a .302 wOBA. He had a 3.58 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, and 2.90 K:BB. An outside shot - mid-season - would be Luke Weaver coming out of the minors...or coming off of a 50-game suspension from the minors, Alex Reyes - a larger possibility. While the starters may not be able to have the luck from last year keeping their ERA down...they should still be quite good at getting outs.
The bullpen could be just as good. With Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness, and Jonathan Broxton returning the back end of the bullpen looks great. Tyler Lyons was ridiculously good out of the pen last year and should be the second lefty. I trust any of those five in the 7th or later. To have 5 guys like that reminds me of what the Royals have tried to do the last few years and been quite successful. If Jordan Walden can come back strong, then I really hope the Cardinals keep a 6th starter type as their 7th reliever so that those 6 names pitchers above can go ahead and buckle down the 7th-9th nearly every night.
There you go. OPTIMISM ABOUNDS, people! Have a great night Cardinals fans.