The offseason is over, so let’s look at what the Cardinals did
Spring training is right around the corner, and that means Cardinals baseball is almost here! If you’ve been hibernating the entire offseason, then let me recap up to this point. You can find more in-depth articles about the offseason on Cardsblog.com.
The Cardinals missed the wildcard by one game, mostly due to their weak defense, baserunning, and subpar pitching. When the offseason came, John Mozeliak promised to improve the outfield offensively and defensively as well as bolster the bench.
The offseason ended with the acquisition of three players, John Gant, Brett Cecil and Dexter Fowler. Fowler was the big signing, hopefully improving the shoddy defense and providing a spark at the top of the lineup. Let’s look at each acquisition and come up with a grade for the Cardinals offseason.
From an acquisition perspective, John Gant is a pretty minor pickup. The funky right handed pitcher has a little bit of major league experience, and he put up solid numbers in the Brave and Mets minor league systems. He’s got a 94 MPH fastball and a relatively developed changeup.
I could see him getting a role in the Cardinals bullpen, especially with the injuries to Alex Reyes possibly stretching the bullpen thin. The Cardinals already lost relievers Zach Duke and Tyler Lyons, so shuffling in the bullpen is not out of the question. Regardless, Gant is a pretty minor acquisition relative to the next couple of signings.
Speaking of the bullpen, Brett Cecil was another, albeit bigger, addition to the roster of pitching. Cecil is a lefty that excels at getting both left handed and right handed batters. Again, with the aforementioned injuries to Duke, Lyons and Reyes, Cecil adds much needed bullpen depth. He had a 3.93 ERA last year with the Blue Jays, but he only pitched 36.2 because of an injury.
He had a 4+ ERA before the injury but afterwards he had a 3.55 ERA. However, that’s not a great indication of his past performance. His average ERA and WHIP from 2013-2016 was 2.67 and 1.141. Cecil will definitely bolster the bullpen, which is especially important if the Cardinals are planning on making a deep postseason run.
The prize acquisition of the offseason, Fowler is tasked with solving a lot of the Cardinals problems. The question is, can one player improve the defense and baserunning enough to get the Cardinals into the playoffs?
Fowler comes from the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs after hitting .276/.393/.447. Fowler will be inserted at the top of the lineup, hopefully supplying a jolt to the offense. In addition to adding offensive pop, Fowler will replace a creaky Matt Holliday in center field, hopefully creating a defensive improvement.
However, there are some doubts about the Fowler signing. His defense hasn’t always been stellar, and last year was the best offensive season of his career by far. There are plenty of valid concerns of a decline. Plus, replacing just the center fielder isn’t a guarantee to improve the defense. Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty are both pretty weak outfielders as well. Regardless, Fowler is a solid addition the adds all around improvements to the Cardinals’ roster.
Last season, it often seemed like the Cardinals were just one player away from making the playoffs. After missing the postseason by one game, Mozeliak promised big changes, especially for the defense. It’s hard to know right now if the changes are sufficient, but on the surface it doesn’t quite look like the changes he made will be enough to fulfill the promises he made.
Fowler is assuredly an excellent player, but the problems the Cardinals have on defense and offense are too complex to be solved by one player. The bullpen additions are nice, but they don’t really cover a major weakness.
Overall, I’d giver their offseason a C+. The additions they made were nice, but I don’t think they’re covering their weakness as well as they should be.