The Cardinals are in a bit of a pickle when it comes to their future.
Obviously, they aren’t thinking about that right now. They trail the Braves by 2.5 games in the wild card, so they are trying to make a mad dash for the playoffs. Yet there are storm clouds on the horizon, and Cardinals fans are looking to find cover.
Albert Pujols will be a free agent after the season. After a tough first couple of months, he has rebounded to bring his average back up to .300 and reach 100 RBIs for the 11th straight season.
If he continues to mash until the season ends, he has an outside chance of reaching 40 home runs, as well. This will all add up in the offseason.
Team Payroll: $105.3 million (11th)
Analysis Score: +0.3
John Mozeliak has been one of the more obscure general managers in baseball, but he will be a household name before too long. He had a plan all along to bulk up this season, and then let the chips fall where they may.
Lance Berkman came in and graciously agreed to play right field. He has been a revelation at the plate, even if he is a subpar outfielder these days. He would have been the National League MVP at the All-Star break, but he has slowed down considerably. Still, he hit more than 30 home runs and is creeping up on 100 RBIs.
Berkman joins Pujols and Matt Holliday to form one of the most dynamic of trios in the game today. Unfortunately, the Cardinals struggled to get all of them on the field at the same time.
The rest of the lineup is fairly pedestrian, but both Yadier Molina and Ryan Theriot have been solid contributors. Colby Rasmus was supposed to be the fourth wheel, but he ended up being a disappointment and has since been ushered out of town. There are virtually no holes on this team, but the offense gets a little ordinary after the Big Three.
This year was supposed to be a banner year for the pitching staff. Adam Wainright and Chris Carpenter were to lead a group of starters (including Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia) to the promised land.
Then Wainright went down in spring training. Jake Westbrook was also on hand, so they had a decent enough rotation, but the hammer was gone and that likely cost them the division championship.
Mozeliak acted at the deadline and added Edwin Jackson to that already impressive group. The end result has been a late-season burst that has them on the path to overtake the Braves. They may run out of time, but they will make it interesting.
This was the Achilles heel of the team, and it became more-so when Ryan Franklin suddenly turned back into a pumpkin. Fernando Salas held down the closer’s role admirably. However, the bullpen was thin and that needed to change. At the deadline, Mozeliak added Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski for much-needed depth.
Both have been effective in supportive roles while Salas has made it work as the closer. After the trade deadline, a huge weakness had been turned back into a strength through the trade. Now, they are a team with no holes.
Response to Crisis
The collective deals to bring in Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and Rafael Furcal were just what the doctor ordered. Furthermore, placing Jon Jay in the lineup in place of Rasmus greatly impacted the team’s defense. Overall, Jay is the best defensive outfielder in the National League, according to John Dewan’s Fielding Bible.
Adding another starter and two solid relievers came at exactly the right time as well. They only got rid of one player they hated to part with. Yet getting rid of Colby Rasmus might actually come back to haunt them in some respects. Rasmus has a lot of upside whereas Jay is limited. For 2011 though, it was a great deal.
Analysis Score: +0.3 (14th)
The Final Analysis
It’s going to be a brutal winter for Cardinals fans, but I love what this team did in the offseason and at the trade deadline.
It corrected a couple of weaknesses through addition and subtraction. They may not be the best team in the playoffs (should they make it), but they may be the most balanced team there.