As the Cardinals seek to improve their team, they have looked to make upgrades to its different facets. They started with the outfield, trading for Ozuna. They also improved on that front by sending away Piscotty—a player with value, but a player who needed to be closer to his family—for two younger prospects. From there, they moved on to the bullpen, signing Luke Gregerson to a two-year $11-million deal with a third year option. Admittedly, they are not done with moves that will affect the pitching staff. It would not be a surprise to see additions made to both the bullpen and the rotation.
What remains is the infield. The Cardinals have Matt Carpenter, who may not be praised for his defense or base running, but certainly provides positive value to the team and won’t be traded. Next is Kolten Wong, who has a club option for the 2021 season and showed glimpses he could be a good second baseman for years to come. Of course, who could forget about Paul Dejong--the almost Rookie of the Year in the National League and one of the most compelling storylines of the 2017 season.
Still, a player who has been overlooked is Jedd Gyorko. Aside from his name being tossed around in a trade for Machado, Donaldson, or Longoria, we have not really considered the value he brings to the team. Now, I am not suggesting he is a better option than any of the three aforementioned names. However, keeping him on the team is by no means a waving of the white flag to the Cubs or any other team fighting for the division or a playoff berth in 2018.
Jedd Gyorko has put up two consecutive years of production with a wRC+ of 112. Although he maddeningly only seems to hit home runs with no one on base, he does have 50 of them over the last two years with the Cardinals. That is tenth among all third basemen. Granted, all three of Machado, Donaldson, and Longoria are ahead of Gyorko, but are these players really that much more valuable?
Acquiring talent to improve a team isn't simply about getting the big name. Margins are extremely important to consider. According to wRC+, Gyorko has performed, on average, at a higher level than Longoria for the last two years. Machado’s wRC+ is 116, only four points higher than Gyorko’s. Notably, Donaldson’s wRC+ of 153 blows them all out of the water.
It is important to realize that wRC+ tells a different story than WAR. If we were to examine production in terms of WAR, Gyorko is the least productive player of the three, and it is not close. I would posit, however, that the margins for improvement are greater elsewhere. For instance, with the pitching staff.
If there is one we have learned here at Viva El Birdos over the offseason, I hope it is that throwing a lot of money, or prospects for that matter, at one or two relievers is not the answer to anything. As Craig Edwards noted yesterday, the Cardinals have a solid top-7 of the rotation. I would say that it is solid, but that it could also be greatly improved.
It seems more and more likely that Reyes will come out of the bullpen all season. Furthermore, until proven otherwise, how much confidence can the organization realistically have in Adam Wainwright? Flaherty is a great prospect, but I wouldn't trust him over the course of a long season, not yet.
Although acquiring one of the above third basemen is certainly enticing, it should not be the Cardinal’s first objective now. Gyorko is a solid enough player that he can start at third, on a good team, for the next few years. I am not suggesting that the Cardinals put the “untouchable” tag on Gyorko, he is expendable, but he is also an above average third baseman. A more worthwhile investment to pursue is to go after a starting pitcher. Has anyone heard of Chris Archer?