I came down with the flu this week so I wasn’t able to join the team on the most recent podcast.
JP takes the time to carefully write up a guide for us to follow behind the scenes, which includes a set of questions for each of us to answer. I don’t want his hard work to go to waste, and it’s also been some time since I’ve written.
This will be more of a free-response type to each prompt: nothing super analytical but I want to get some key points across to make up for what I missed. I’ll be releasing a longer article like I’ve done in the past shortly.
Reacting to the news from GM Meetings:
We knew we were going to have a bear market for pitching going into 2024, and it’s definitely going to affect the package John Mozeliak puts together to acquire a #2 or a #3 starter via trade.
It doesn’t change a thing. Even if the asking price is higher, this rotation is depleted and the Cardinals have the requisite hitting depth to outbid other teams.
Guys like Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, Tommy Edman, Masyn Winn, and Alec Burleson are my personal favorite trade chips. O’Neill is awesome... when healthy. Even so, he has a year left of team control and could be part of a larger package to acquire a team-controlled pitcher. I’d love to keep O’Neill unless they receive an unreasonable offer, banking on his 2021 season and raw ability to rhyme in 2024.
Dylan Carlson was once a prospect with high upside, but he’s yet to combine any barrel accuracy with any sort of power against right-handed pitching. The former first-rounder is a career 0.294 wOBA hitter in 1103 career PAs against RHP. If some other team wants to figure him out, let them do it. I say cut your losses and leverage whatever value he has to address the rotation or add depth in the bullpen.
Tommy Edman is another guy I wouldn’t mind keeping. He still has two years of team control and is arguably a top-5 utility player in the game. For that same reason, Tommy is also one of the Cardinals’ most valuable trade chips. Marmol already has the luxury of deploying two of the best Swiss Army Knives in the game, with Brendan Donovan being the other. To me, Donovan is off the table unless a really good #2 or #1 is coming back in trade, so Edman is the odd man out for me. The ascension of versatile Thomas Saggesse also makes the Stanford product more expendable.
You all know I’m not as high on Masyn Winn as others are. I think he’ll be a fantastic defender who may hit well enough to yield a league-average slash line, but I think that’s it. He’ll never hit for enough power to become a top-5 shortstop in the game. Even if his 50th percentile outcome is a 2-2.5 WAR player/season at peak throughout his first six years of team control, it would be done rather unspectacularly and I’d rather play Tommy Edman or roll the dice with Brendan Donovan at the six. Masyn has a lot of value and would be the foundation of any trade package for a cost-controlled #2 starter.
I think 2023 was as bad as Alec Burleson will ever be. He’s a good hitter in theory, but there’s not much else to his game other than league-average pop with plus barrel accuracy. He’s probably a 1-1.5 WAR player at peak/season, and, like Masyn Winn, his value can yield a more important arm instead.
Obviously, not everyone here will be dealt, but other teams can take their pick of two, maybe three of these guys. Some will also contend that the Cardinals would be willing to trade Ivan Herrera, Nolan Gorman, and Brendan Donovan. For me, these guys are too valuable and should be long-term Redbirds.
There’s too much risk involved with Willson Contreras and Andrew Knizner for me to simply trade away Herrera. He should be the everyday starter, splitting reps with Contreras while Willy is off the field as a DH. Gorman will eventually figure out how to play second base, and Donovan can play anywhere, so the list for the DH spot should be small enough in 2024 for Contreras to get enough reps there.
What’s your plan for the Cardinals this offseason?
Moving right along. I’m on record stating that the Cardinals really only need two #2s or better, acquiring one via free agency and another via the trade market. Personally, I’m anti-Glasnow since you can’t rely on him for more than 75 IP, but I’m pro-anyone else who is a capable 1 or 2 in a championship-caliber rotation.
Considering Shohei Ohtani is a DH-only for now, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the clear top pitching talent in this year’s free-agent pool. I don’t see DeWitt opening up his checkbook for a $30M/year+ salary and another $30M for a posting fee. Ultimately, I think Yamamoto will be wearing Dodger Blue, Giant Orange, Met Blue, Boston Red, or Yankee pinstripes next season.
In regards to the report linking him to a twelve-year deal, I was shocked that no one else called this out. No team in their right mind would offer a pitcher a twelve-year contract! Gerrit Cole’s nine-year deal is the longest ever for a pitcher, and even though Yoshinobu is younger and if we’re trying to mitigate for a smaller AAV, there’s still too much injury risk involved with pitchers to justify such a contract. This is likely just a negotiation tactic from his agent, and I’d go as far as saying that the jobs of any front office personnel who advocate for this type of contract structure should be in jeopardy.
Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, and Sonny Gray are the three pitchers I like the most. All of them are reliable for a full season and are #2-caliber starters or better. There have been plenty of reports of Aaron Nola loving St. Louis and wanting to play here, while Blake Snell has also expressed interest in pitching in the Gateway City. Sonny Gray isn’t a strikeout guy but he keeps the ball on the ground and should eat innings to provide relief to a taxed bullpen.
The rest of the rotation will consist of Miles Mikolas as the three and Steven Matz as the four, with the fifth spot likely being an aggregate of Matthew Liberatore, Zach Thompson, Drew Rom, etc. Statistically speaking, one of those guys will take the last spot and run with it.
I also want to address the lineup because while I think there’s good value balance throughout, St. Louis still lacks an impact bat, especially at shortstop. There aren’t a whole lot of options available this year; last offseason was the year of the SS.
I don’t think St. Louis is a target for Juan Soto or Shohei Ohtani, so the front office may just bite the bullet with the lineup, hoping that the young guys’ ascension to stardom is faster than the older guys’ decline from prime.
Change in Leadership Coming?
If the Cardinals have a second losing season, there will be riots on Clark Street calling for the heads of Mozeliak and Girsch.
Just kidding, but I do think that a second consecutive losing season leads to turnover in the coaching staff and front office. The team has only themselves to blame for the lack of starting pitching development, and if they continue to churn out 20% K% starters there will be fresh faces.
Mozeliak is a decent executive, carrying over the legacy of the previous Jocketty regime and doing a good job of building his own. However, I think the team could use better direction at the top, someone with a stronger sabermetric background.
Mike Girsch is a profoundly smart cookie who has spent his entire career at the nexus of big money and baseball front offices. He got his kicks after a career in valuations at Boston Consulting Group. It was his adaptation of creating financial models to evaluate prospects back in the early 2000s that got him the job in the first place. After almost two decades, I think he’s someone that could take the reins.
Randy Flores has done well as farm director so far, but how can he address the lack of pitching development? I think he deserves to keep his job but to take the next step as an executive, he needs to prove he can find and develop better swing-and-miss talent with his draft selections.
What Could A Mariners’ Trade Look Like?
A fan wrote in asking about how the Cardinals might swing a trade for two pitchers in one deal with the Mariners. They really only need one in my opinion, but even if they tried to acquire two pitchers via trade, it’s still difficult to build up the value for a legit #2 and a guy with the potential to ascend into that category. In other words, Jerry DiPoto’s asking price for Logan Gilbert and Bryan Woo, for example, would be too high for the Cardinals to deal for both. I think they should absolutely look into getting one of them, and that’s likely the blockbuster trade the Cardinals end up making.
Jordan Walker Extension?
Gabe pretty much nailed this on the pod. Unless the Cardinals are interested in buying low on the hope that his defense improves, I think both sides will want to wait to work out a long-term deal. The Cardinals may be more interested in doing this, but Walker’s camp benefits more from holding out. He’s someone who could sign for nine figures once he reaches free agency and isn’t exactly someone who needs financial security right now, so he wouldn’t want to leave money on the table and can afford to bet on himself.
Also, if we consider the pattern for those who sign long-term deals at a young age (between 0 and 1 years of service time), these guys are usually projectible, up-the-middle guys who can buoy their value with solid defense and baserunning if their bats falter. Julio Rodriguez, Fernando Tatis Jr., Ronald Acuna Jr., Luis Robert, Corbin Carroll, and Michael Harris Jr. are just some of the names that fit this profile and most others do too. Jordan isn’t the dynamic athlete that these other guys are, so I think STL will go year by year depending on how his swing decisions and defense improve.
My Sources of Information
Someone else asked about the best sources for Cardinals baseball. Twitter is the one-stop shop for everything breaking news. Personally, you can’t go wrong with Derrick Goold, who is the OG at the Post Dispatch and has been on the Cardinals beat since I was in pre-school. Katie Woo is newer with The Athletic and does a fantastic job telling a compelling story out of the facts she gathers.
Aside from the bigger guys, Blake puts in a lot of work and there are few even at the full-time professional level who can break down pitching as well as he does. Kareem is a comp-sci mind who uses this to his advantage when using advanced data to break down Cardinals’ prospects. Jacob is a top-tier shitposter and Twitter troll but also chimes in with really strong analysis and models that he creates himself. Kyle Reis makes prospect analysis fun in his Prospects After Dark podcast (PaD) while also being hilarious on Twitter.
The latter group of guys as well as others have been instrumental in my growth as a writer and in my first year covering the Cardinals, so props to them for their own work and for helping me out.
Comment any other thoughts and questions you might have, and I’ll do my best to answer them throughout the weekend.
Thanks for reading everyone!