Yesterday Bernie Miklasz published an article advocating for the Cardinals to add another outfielder. Bernie of course is a long-time respected beat writer for the Cardinals who is now on the air for ESPN and writes for his station's site online at 101sports.com. I enjoy Bernie's writing but I have to say I disagree with him that the Cardinals need another outfielder.
As I wrote about yesterday, the Cardinals currently have Matt Holliday entrenched in Left, with Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Brandon Moss, Tommy Pham, and Matt Adams competing between Center, Right, and First. While each of those players have their own downside, they also have their own upside. And while there is some legitimate risk of more than one of those players being injured at the same time, it's a bit harder to imagine three of them out at the same time.
In which case, the Cardinals would likely turn to Anthony Garcia or Charlie Tilson. It's not an ideal situation of course, but we are talking about a scenario in which three of our six outfielders and/or first basemen are hurt at the same time. The standards wouldn't be very high for a 6th outfielder/3rd first baseman.
Last year, the Cardinals had both a large amount of outfield injuries and a high amount of outfield depth. But most teams' seasons don't play out like that. Just being above replacement level is a success for a player as low as Tilson and Garcia on the depth charts, and it seems reasonable that by the time the Cardinals lose three outfielders, we could probably expect one of those two to be above replacement level.
It's also the case that if the Cardinals have three outfielders out at the same time, it probably won't be for very long. Let's say the Cardinals have to endure a two-month stretch where we have to use Tilson or Garcia, theoretically worth just half a win over a full season. If he's replacing a two win player for those two months, that's really just a gap of a half a win for those two months. The fact that those five players are mostly average means that when they get hurt it's a lower drop than if a star gets hurt.
Depth is important and all, but is it worth investing significant funds, and perhaps sacrificing a draft pick in order to avoid that scenario? Some will say that the Cardinals just did something like that with signing Mike Leake. But there's two big differences there: (1) pitchers are more fragile than position players and (2) I personally have more faith in our current group of outfielders than in Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales.
Cooney has never really been good even at the Triple-A level, with an FIP in the fours both of his years there. He had much better success at the MLB level than Triple-A, but considering it was just 31 innings that's not enough for me to forget that he's been at best average among Triple-A competition over a much larger sample. Marco has more upside of course, but is dealing with some serious shoulder issues, and when he did pitch last year it wasn't pretty. I like Lyons, but he's struggled to go longer than five innings and I think he is a better value in the pen.
One valid point Bernie had was that there very well could be an open starting spot on the 2017 team, with Moss departing and Holliday also possibly departing. But, that is something the Cardinals can deal with when it happens. Give the guys you have now the every day playing time against major league pitching, and find out what you got for 2017.
And while next year's market isn't as good as this one, there are still options out there: Josh Reddick, Carlos Gomez, Gregor Blanco, Jose Bautista. Or the Cardinals pick up Holliday's option, or retain Moss. Or a reunion with Carlos Beltran. Or the Cardinals pursue the trade market, which will probably be very active in a down free agency year. There's no reason to fill this hypothetically open position a year in advance, before we even know if we'll actually need one.
While the team could be very marginally improved with the addition of another outfielder, it doesn't seem worth the expected cost. Any moves aren't drastically changing our odds of winning the division at this point, and while the Cardinals right in the middle of the Wild Card race right now, the team is already are running a $138M payroll next year and it's hard to want to push payroll passed the $150M mark just to marginally increase those chances a little bit. That is why I think Mo should stand pat with what he's got.