The St. Louis Cardinals are coming off a season that left them and their fans disappointed, as they failed to earn a playoff birth. Despite finishing with am 86-76 record, good for second in the NL Central, the team was on the outside looking in when things mattered. They finished 17.5 games behind the World Series champs, the Chicago Cubs, and never really had a chance to win the division. They did have a crack at the Wild Card for a while, but ended up missing out by a single game.
As the Cards enter the winter, there is reason for optimism. The team has some solid pieces to build around, with pitchers Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes making up a pitching duo that could be one of the very best in MLB in a short period of time. But the team still has its holes, and will need to do some work this offseason if it wants to make it back to the postseason. Catching the Cubs will not be an easy task, and there needs to be some changes for that dream to become a reality.
Now with the Winter Meetings nearly upon us, let’s take a closer look at where the Cardinals stand moving forward.
Positions of Need
Second/Third base: As things stand, the Cardinals have three guys likely to rotate between two spots. Second and third base should be filled by two of Kolton Wong, Jedd Gyorko and Jhonny Peralta any given game with Matt Carpenter shifting to first full time. Peralta does not have much of a future with the club as he enters his final season, and could easily be dealt. Wong has yet to live up to his potential, and the team could feel they can improve. Gyorko emerged with 30 homers a season ago, but it remains to be seen if it was a one hit wonder type of scenario, given he poor batting average, or a true breakout. Now the team could very well stand pat with these three, but do not rule out the possibility of them jumping on a deal if they feel it would improve one of these two slots.
Outfield: Two outfielders are pretty well locked into starting slots in 2017: Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. But the last spot is wide open, with Tommy Pham currently set to start. Now technically they could pursue either a corner or a center fielder, but the most likely scenario will see them go after a center fielder, as the two guys listed are best served in the corners. Expect this to be the teams primary position discussed during the Winter Meetings.
Second/Third base: The markets for both positions are not great this winter. In regards to second base, there really is not anyone worthy of going hard after, given all three of the current guys on the roster could take this slot. Ian Kinsler is available in trade talks, and he could be an option, but not one I expect the club to pursue heavily. Third base is a little more interesting, as the team is said to have some interest in free agent Justin Turner. If the team wishes to go the trade route, there are three interesting possibilities as well: Evan Longoria, Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier.
Outfield: As we mentioned earlier, center field is the most likely path of pursuit. Luckily for St. Louis, there are a ton of options out there. They could go after a bigger name free agent, such as Dexter Fowler or Ian Desmond. Carlos Gomez could be another option on the open market who finds his way to St. Louis. But the team also could take the trade route, as they have pieces to deal. Marcell Ozuna of Miami is one option. Then there is Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies. Or if they prefer, Lorzenzo Cain of the Royals could be made available if the Royals want to sell a piece in their contract year.
Possible Trade Pieces
Michael Wacha: With the trade of Jaime Garcia to the Atlanta Braves, the team may be a little less likely to deal Wacha. But it is still not out of the realm of possibilities, as the team has solid depth in the rotation. There are four slots virtually locked down in the rotation, with the last spot likely to come down to Wacha or Alex Reyes. Given Reyes is set to be a star in the near future, and he has some seriously nasty stuff, I think it will be hard to leave him out, even as a huge Wacah fan. He is the type of guy who could thrive with a change of scenery, and I honestly hope he gets it. Miami, Kansas City, Colorado are all possible destinations, as he could very well be included in a deal for a center fielder.
Kolton Wong/Jhonny Peralta: Given how weak the infield markets are this winter, the Cardinals may find one of these two draw some interest. Peralta is in his contract year, and may draw the interest of a contending team who may want a utility man. He would fit in nicely with the Toronto Blue Jays or Los Angeles Dodgers. Wong is a soon to be 27 year old who has yet to reach his potential. Given his age and contract, teams could see him as an interesting option, even if they are not set to compete this season. An interesting scenario could come in the form of trade talks with the Chicago White Sox in a deal centered around Adam Eaton. Kansas City and the Dodgers could become possible destinations as well.
Matt Adams: With Matt Carpenter taking over first, Adams is without a spot this season. The team has plenty of guys who are capable of handling first base, so Adams is likely on his way out. Any American League team looking for a little extra DH help or first base depth could become a potential trade partner, with the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers representing two possibilities.
One Bold Prediction
The Cardinals will be part of one of the more interesting deals of the Winter Meetings, acquiring a center fielder in exchange for a package that includes Wong. If my idea works out, Wong will be wearing a White Sox uniform, and Adam Eaton will be roaming center for the Cards in 2017.
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So what do you think? What will the Cardinals do during the Winter Meetings? Tell us in the comments!