Mike Matheny's Top Action Items During New St. Louis Cardinals Deal

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Mike Matheny's Top Action Items During New St. Louis Cardinals Deal
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The St. Louis Cardinals signed manager Mike Matheny to a three-year extension on Wednesday, which will keep him as the team's skipper through the 2017 season.

It looks like the Cardinals were pretty happy with a season that saw them tie for the best record in baseball and win the NL Pennant.

Matheny brought the city of St. Louis quite a bit of success in just his second year as manager, and although the team lost in the World Series, he certainly proved his worth.

Tacking on three more years to his contract means that Matheny will be at the helm in St. Louis for at least the next four years.

Here are his top priorities during that time.

 

1. Keep the Young Arms Happy and Productive

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The Cardinals have one of the brightest futures among MLB teams in terms of pitching, thanks largely to their young stars.

Guys like Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha have a lot of potential and could possibly be aces for the team for years to come.

Miller was dominant this season, going 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. He finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting, and could've won in a year that was dominated by rookies like 2013. Having to compete against Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig bordered on unfair, and Miller might have been worthy of NL Rookie of the Year honors in just about any other year.

With great velocity (93.5 mph fastball that topped out at 97.9 mph, according to FanGraphs) and control, Miller looked like an ace despite turning just 23 years old in October.

Miller will be part of the team's success over the next four years, as will Wacha.

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As we saw during the end of September and throughout the postseason, Wacha has the stuff to be a dominant pitcher.

After no-hitting the Washington Nationals for 8.2 innings in his final start of the regular season, Wacha earned a spot in the starting rotation in the postseason.

He then took full advantage of his opportunity in October, going 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP in his first four starts of the playoffs. Those included two shutout starts against the formidable Los Angeles Dodgers offense, spanning 13.2 innings.

While his final start of the postseason wasn't great, Wacha showed the world just how good he can be. If he can come back in 2013 and look half as good as he did at the end of last year, the Cardinals will be tough to beat in terms of starting pitching.

So where does Matheny come into play in all of this?

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Miller and Wacha are young, immature players. Sure, they've proven that they can be stars. But that doesn't mean that they don't need serious attention from Matheny.

Over the next few years, Matheny needs to work with these guys and the rest of the young pitchers on the team to make sure that they are happy in St. Louis and continue to pitch well.

If he can do that, the Redbirds are going to have a lights-out pitching staff.

 

2. Prepare for the Departure of Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday

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Inevitably, the Cardinals will one day have to say goodbye to Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.

These two guys have been huge for the team's offense, but by the end of Matheny's four years, at least one of them will be gone.

The day that Beltran plays his final game in St. Louis may have already arrived. He is a free agent this offseason, and could potentially leave the Cardinals for another team.

Holliday, on the other hand, will turn 34 before the 2014 season begins, and he will likely be out of St. Louis by the time Matheny's four years are up.

So how can Matheny help the team prepare for the loss of its two best hitters?

It's not easy to make up for two outfielders who combined to hit 46 home runs and produce 360 runs (RBIs plus runs scored) in 2013. However, it's a job that Matheny has to do.

Matheny's top priority when it comes to this matter must be to develop young talent.

Jon Jay has already proven himself to be a solid player who will likely be in the outfield for Matheny for the next few years. However, the team needs more than just one guy.

One of the potential replacement options is top prospect Oscar Taveras, who we'll discuss in further detail in a minute. The problem Matheny has is finding another guy to play one of the corner outfield positions.

Prospects Stephen Piscotty, Charlie Tilson and James Ramsey are the best options right now, as they are all talented players.

Piscotty appears to lead those three, however, as he showed off great power and speed in the minors in 2013 to the tune of a .295 batting average with 15 HR, 59 RBI and a .819 OPS in 112 games. He also swiped 11 bases.

Piscotty could be seen in the majors as soon as next year, and Matheny needs to closely monitor his young outfielders to see who will be able to replace Beltran and Holliday.

 

3. Develop Oscar Taveras

As promised, Taveras makes his way onto this list.

As the No. 2 overall prospect in baseball (according to MLB.com), Taveras appears to be a budding star.

Unfortunately, 2013 was a rough year for Taveras. He still put up good numbers (.310 BA, 5 HR, 32 RBI, .819 OPS), but he only played in 47 games due to an ankle injury.

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Taveras' season was cut short when he had surgery on that ankle, but he will be healthy in 2014 and could even make the team's Opening Day roster.

Taveras is very possibly the future of the team's offense, and he will certainly help replace Beltran and Holliday when they are gone.

Matheny's job, when it comes to Taveras, is simply not to rush him back from injury and continue developing him.

Taveras has all the talent in the world, but he will still need to be helped by Matheny as he works his way into the big leagues and onto the national stage.

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