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Cardinals could afford to unload some pitching talent

January 14, 2014

Josh Briggs

WIth the offseason rapidly coming to a close for Major League Baseball, some voids are still left to be filled for many teams. The free agent market still has some big names with big bats and teams are always looking for more pitching.
For the St. Louis Cardinals, the 2014 roster is shaping out to be one of the best in baseball if not the top one. But is it possible to have too many good players on a squad, more specific, on a pitching staff?
While most would probably laugh at that scenario, the Cardinals are in a situation where the talent is overflowing on the pitching side and could pose a couple of problems as the season goes on.
At the moment St. Louis has seven to eight starting pitchers and two closers on its roster, all of which will probably get the opening-day bid.
Manager Mike Matheny has already said that he is not going with more than a five-man rotation to begin the season, which leaves three really talented starters in limbo. The one through five spots at the moment look to be Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller. That leaves Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez and potentially Tyler Lyons looking for work.
Martinez proved to be one of the best setup guys late last season, but could be fighting for appearances with proven closer Jason Motte returning from Tommy John surgery. Thats another grey area as well — who is the closer?
The Cardinals moved youngster Trevor Rosenthal to the ninth inning late in the year after Edward Mujica did a great job in the first half before falling way off in the latter part of the season. Rosenthal possesses one of the best fast balls in the game, firing it by hitters at over 100 mile per hour consistently — perfect for the closing role.
Motte, too, launches a sweet four-seamer as well, but will be coming off of a procedure that has cost some pitchers much speed over the years. The 2011 World Series champion closer could be a good fit for the setup role or just bullpen help in general, but could also be decent trade bait if paired with one or two more arms.
The Cardinals have been noted as the team with the best farm system and plenty of pitching over the past couple of years. Having already proved they are not budging on Wacha or Miller, the Cardinals have to make a decision somewhere along the way. Probably not before opening day but at least by the All Star break.
Its easy for fans to say do this and that, but obviously a lot more goes into the actual process for a general manager. Here are some scenarios that could bring more help to a St. Louis team already full of extreme talent.
Package Lance Lynn or Jaime Garcia, Jason Motte and Pete Kozma in a team-to-team or multiple team deal for some corner infield backup help and bench power. Matt Carpenter proved to be possibly the best second baseman in the National League a season ago, but is now at third after an expected exit by David Freese. The Cardinals' bench still has Daniel Descalso which is a great fill-in at second and third. The signing of Mark Ellis also provides another glove at second base as well off the bench this year, assuming Kolten Wong can handle the spotlight as an MLB starter. Plus, his speed is crucial for the Cardinals this season.
There are many active teams vying for starting pitching and closer help. Cleveland let Chris Perez go to the Dodgers as a free agent, moving Cody Allen to the closing role. Though Allen's 2013 campaign was good the Indians could still use a closer and Motte could be that guy.
The Cardinals not only could afford to get rid a pitcher or two but the bench could use a John Mabry-esc bat. Not that the Indians would let him go already, but David Murphy could provide a spark off the bench and a fill-in in the outfield.
Garcia could be let for cash at this point if the Cardinals needed to unload someone.
If corner infield help is not a concern to the front office then a bench bat and speed would be a good addition. A little more power off the bench is always good. Currently the Cardinals don't have a big stick on the bench. Ellis has 105 dongs but hasn't hit more than seven since 2009 and hasn't hit one in the last two years. Newly acquired Peter Bourjos has some pop but it is not consistent, plus, the Cardinals have voiced that they want him to be the opening-day starter in center.
With Matt Adams at first base the Cardinals are in need of some help in the dugout and from the left side of the plate. Oscar Taveras has a power bat but will more than likely be the starting center fielder in the Memphis on opening day. Jon Jay's bat could be a key stick off the bench but still lacks the power needed for a good team.
The Cardinals are going to do big things this year, no doubt, but it never hurts to improve some of the lesser spots when you can afford to do so.

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