That Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Jhonny Peralta are getting older is not new. That is how time works. Also not a new concept for the Cardinals is a sens of their core. The concept of a core player has been a malleable one over the years. Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Yadier Molina have been called core players, but so has Jon Jay. That is not a knock on Jon Jay, but a core player is not always synonymous with best player. It often is, but it is not necessarily the case, and so it is with the Cardinals this year. They have an aging core, but those players are not necessarily the best the Cardinals have to offer.
Back in 2011, after the Cardinals lost out on Albert Pujols, Derrick Goold wrote on the concept of a Cardinals' coreplayer as the team searched for players to step up in place of the departing Pujols. He noted the concept's ability to change depending on the situation:
Manager Tony La Russa would not throw the term "core" around lightly. To him, the "core" was the tight nucleus of players that the team and the clubhouse orbited around and was held together by La Russa. Some days, La Russa would use the word "core" to describe the players invited to join his leadership counsel. Other times, La Russa would use "core" to describe players who received preferential treatment â whether that meant days off, spot in the lineup, or, say, the ability to call hit-and-runs from the batter's box. Just saying. At times, the "core" that La Russa referred to also included players who had the benefit of a multi-year contract.
When the term core has been discussed this season, I think we would put the following five players in that core:
- Yadier Molina
- Matt Holliday
- Adam Wainwright
- Jhonny Peralta
- Matt Carpenter
Prospect rankings are considered. The most important component to the young talent/aging axis, though, has to do with the major league core. The Cardinals, for example, have young outfielders, a young second baseman, and several young pitchers.
But Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina are all old or getting there, and those three have been really, really important to everything the Cardinals have accomplished over the last few years. So they're bumped up into the top-right quadrant.
- Adam Wainwright (2, 5)
- Yadier Molina (4, 5)
- Jhonny Peralta (6, 7)
- Matt Holliday (14 ,9)
- Matt Carpenter, Age-30 (1, 2)
- Carlos Martinez, Age-24 (3, 1)
- Michael Wacha, Age-25 (5, 6)
Since then, the principal modification has come in the form of signing Mike Leake, but that does not make the team any older. The Cardinals do indeed have an aging core of players how have been incredibly important to the Cardinals' success, and hopefully they can be important to the Cardinals' success again this season. However, they do not need to be the Cardinals' star players. Something closer to average is expected of this aging core. A younger group is already present and ready for major contributions.
The decline in production from Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina along with injury concerns for Adam Wainwright make it seem like the team is aging with a closing window, but that ignores the rest of the team. For those aging players, their window is closing. The same can't be said for the Cardinals. The future is wide open.