Good afternoon. Thanks for joining our live chat this week. Now that the Cardinals failed to miss the playoffs, this should be an interesting week on here.
Mike Yeo was very excited about the depth heading into camp and the fact that several players could make strong cases for spots on the roster. The Blues had already braced to be without Patrik Berglund, but the injuries to Jay Bouwmeester and Alexander Steen added perhaps bigger blows. Moreover, Zach Sanford's injury has to be considered a minor blow compared to the season-ending injury that Robby Fabbri suffered to his surgically repaired knee. I had high hopes for the Blues entering preseason, but it's probably a good idea for Blues fans to have modest expectations this season.
This is a very good question. Actually, it's the most important question of the offseason for the Cardinals. By design, John Mozeliak, Michael Girsch and Mike Matheny were quite vague on Tuesday when they gave their state-of-the-Cardinals address. The status quo will not cut the gap on the Cubs or keep up with the Brewers, who have surpassed the Cardinals. I think it's wrong to assume the Cardinals are only one or two players away. To be considered a contender, they must plug a hole in the starting lineup, at least one hole in the bullpen and, I would argue, a hole in the rotation. My Friday column will be on the holes in the rotation. Considering the talent coming up in the farm system and what the young Cardinals showed this year, they are not far away from being legitimate wild-card contenders next year if everything goes as planned with Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Sandy Alcantara, Dakota Hudson, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. I don't know how anybody could see those options and not be at least a little concerned about the starting rotation. To your point, the Cardinals definitely must go out of their comfort zone.
Considering that the Cardinals' payroll was about $3 million lower than the Major League average and 16th in the majors at $149,454,185, according to spotrac.com, Bill DeWitt Jr.'s ownership group owes the loyal fan base way more than he invested in the payroll this year. The apologists for the Cardinals kept pointing out that they were among the biggest spenders last year, but who gives a rat's behind if you're still not spending enough to be a playoff contender or to at least have a payroll in the top third in baseball? The Cardinals got away with not adding the slugger they needed last offseason because there were too many apologists in this town claiming that the Cardinals had a long track record that earned them the benefit of the doubt. Well, how did that work out for the Cardinals? As I wrote last winter, the Cardinals cannot go about business the same way. This front office had never competed in the NL Central against a front office led by the brilliant Theo Epstein and the Brewers' David Stearns, who played a crucial role rebuilding the powerhouse Astros. What worked in the past for the Cardinals won't necessarily pass muster anymore. Anybody who tells you different clearly has not paid attention.
First of all, you have to consider that Mike Matheny was given an extension last November through 2020. Bill DeWitt Jr. decided that Matheny was his man a year ago. The Cardinals aren't going to eat three years of that contract after a season in which they didn't give him nearly enough talent to compete in the NL Central. Moreover, you must judge Matheny by his overall record and the talent at his disposal. He has never had a losing season. His teams have missed the playoffs only twice. The truth is that the Cardinals didn't have enough talent to compete in the NL Central this year. The more I think about it, the more I believe that they actually overachieved if you consider just how bad the bullpen was. If I had told you at the start of the season that Trevor Rosenthal, Seung-Hwan Oh, Brett Cecil and Kevin Siegrist would be major disappointments this year, there's no way in hell you'd expect this team to contend. The Cubs won the offseason when they traded for Wade Davis. If the Cardinals had acquired Davis from the Royals last winter, they would have reached the playoffs and perhaps even won the NL Central. Matheny isn't perfect, but even the legendary Tony La Russa couldn't have won with so many holes in the bullpen.
That is a very good question. I'm afraid that Mizzou might actually be worse than I initially expected. I don't expect the Tigers to win more than four games this season. As it turns out, I was right when I wrote after the embarrassing South Carolina game that the Tigers likely wouldn't win at home again until Idaho on Oct. 21. I expect them to lose to Kentucky, be embarrassed again by Georgia, beat Idaho, beat Connecticut, lose to Florida, play Tennessee tough, lose to Vanderbilt, play Arkansas tough. The key to this season will be Tennessee and Arkansas. If Barry Odom can beat those two SEC opponents and show some serious progress in the final three weeks, he might salvage some recruiting momentum and deserve to remain on the job. If Tennessee and Arkansas beat the Tigers, Odom should be fired.
You make some very good points, but if the Blues want to be good corporate citizens they should agree with Cara Spencer's proposal. As you state, the city owns Scottrade Center. The reason even teams that build arenas and stadiums opt to have the cities own them is because they want the tax breaks that go with that type of partnership. Remember, these are all businesses. I don't blame the Blues for wanting the sweetheart deals that they were able to sucker out of the Aldermen, but I also don't blame the city comptroller and Spencer for realizing that the awful deal for St. Louis puts St. Louis' credit rating in peril. I have a serious issue with taxing the city's poor for a venue primarily used by people from the county and St. Charles. The good and noble thing to do would be to have the folks who attend events at Scottrade Center pay for the upgrades through a tax on their tickets. I don't expect the Blues to do the right thing because they already got a sweetheart deal from the city. In the future, though, I hope that the city bars Aldermen from taking campaign money from groups associated with the team owners. If you took campaign money from lobbyists or folks tied to the Blues or Cardinals or MLS2STL, you should recuse yourself from voting on these stadium issues or bringing up any of these proposals.
John Mozeliak doesn't believe in untouchables. With all that said, I wouldn't give up a top prospect like Reyes in a package for Stanton. There won't be a big market for Stanton, who has a no-trade clause and $295 million remaining on a heavily backloaded deal. Stanton's contract is a huge gamble, and the Marlins must pick up some money from that deal before teams can even begin to consider a trade package. Because of Stanton's contract, I assume that the team that acquires him won't have to give up the types of pieces that you normally would expect to be necessary to complete a deal for such a superstar.
You might have to elaborate on your question because I don't understand it. If you mean that Mozeliak vows to fix a roster that wasn't playoff-worthy, I agree with you. You cannot blame Matheny for a roster that wasn't good enough to win. I feel bad that some folks were suckered into believing that this was a 90-win team. If you follow my chats or my twitter profile, you'd know that I consistently said that this roster would probably tap out at 84 or 86 victories. Even I was too optimistic.
I agree 100 percent that the Cardinals need to add a starter. Please check out my Friday column because I'll make that very case over 950 must-read words.
The Blues signed Upshall. I wouldn't expect any free agents to come through the Scottrade Center doors anymore this season.
They'll definitely have to improve the bullpen. I wouldn't be surprised if they add the bat through a trade. Donaldson of the Blue Jays is a prime target. You are correct about next winter's free agent class appearing much better than this upcoming weak class.
You are not being too negative. At this point, it's too early to know whether the Blues can survive the rash of injuries that will hamper them for the first half of the season. They're counting on players that they weren't expecting to need so early in the season. At this point, I can only say that I wouldn't be surprised if they miss the playoffs or squeak in as a wild card.
What if I told you that Martinez, 30, is only seven months older than Tommy Pham, who will be 30 in March? Donaldson will enter his final year of arbitration, so there's a chance to work out a multi-year extension with him if you acquire him via trade.
John Mozeliak has proven to be a very competitive man, so is Bill DeWitt Jr. I don't think fans appreciate just how difficult it is to win consistently in the majors when you're essentially always drafting in the 19-range, as Mozeliak noted yesterday after I asked him if I was too tough on the Cardinals. The fact is that the Cardinals haven't taken any shortcuts. They have continually tried to win while "keeping their stride," as Mozeliak noted, without taking steps back as the Cubs and Astros did. If I'm a fan of the Cardinals, I'd be grateful that DeWitt and Mozeliak have always delivered a competitive major-league team. Despite some rare blow ups, you have almost always been guaranteed a true major-league product at Busch Stadium. I covered the rebuilding Astros, including a team that lose 111 games and 15 in a row to end the 2013 season. I felt bad for Astros fans who were forced to pay major league prices for a minor-league product as the Astros tanked in 2011 through 2013 and were still struggling in 2014. The Astros had a plan, but they sacrificed three seasons in the process. The Cardinals never bailed on their fans like that. For that, I think DeWitt and Mozeliak deserve praise. It hasn't been fun or easy, but trust me when I tell you that I'm really sold on the health of the Cardinals' farm system and Mozeliak's commitment to get this team in the playoffs this season.
Grichuk is just one of the Cardinals outfielders who will be shopped this offseason. You can bet that the Cardinals will discuss Stephen Piscotty, Grichuk and Pham in trades this season, whether initiated by the Cardinals or another team. Do you sell high on Pham? Do you sell low on Piscotty and Grichuk? Do you package Bader or Sierra in a deal for a slugger or pitcher?
I think the Cubs will likely be the favorites next year again. The Cardinals will need another starter. I do think they can contend and even surpass the Cardinals if they add a starter, a legit All-Star bat and a closer.