How did the Cardinals Front Office fare in setting up the 2016 Roster?
Key Additions: Mike Leake, Jedd Gyorko, Seung-hwan Oh
Key Subtractions: Jason Heyward, John Lackey
Heading into the 2015-16 offseason, General Manager John Mozeliak knew that most offseason discussion centered around the Cardinals would involve OF Jason Heyward. Heyward was arguably the top outfielder in the free agent market, and clubs around the league were aggressively pursuing him. The Cardinals would have to decide whether they wanted to spend big money to retain Heyward’s productive offensive output, or save the money and build from within.
Well, Mozeliak made his decision to pursue Heyward, but up to a certain dollar amount. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Heyward ended up in the hands of a fierce rival and NL Central competitor, the Chicago Cubs. Mozeliak knew that the Cardinals have replaced players like Heyward before and gone on to have a lot of success, so hopefully this pattern will continue in 2016. Outfielders like Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, and Tommy Pham will have to produce for the Cardinals this season if the team wants to prove that over pursuing Heyward was indeed not necessary.
The other major departure that the Cardinals had to weather this offseason was John Lackey signing with the Cubs as well. Once again, it’s never a great sight to see one of the main pieces of your 2015 team jump ship for your most hated rival, but this loss does not really compare to losing Heyward. Lackey gave the Cardinals valuable innings in 2015, but he is a year older and the Cubs gave him a very generous offer considering how much of an anomaly that 2015 season was in comparison to his career from 2009-2014.
As far as additions go, the major acquisition for the Cardinals this offseason was signing Mike Leake to a 5-year, $80 million contract. With the departure of Lackey and the loss of Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals were forced to spend on starting pitching before the 2016 season began.
— Maurice Drummond (@MauriceDrummond) February 17, 2016
Looking at Leake’s career numbers, he projects as a middle of the rotation arm who can help replace Lynn/Lackey. His career ERA is 3.88, but he only pitched 55.1 innings for the San Francisco Giants in 2015. If Leake can stay healthy this year, he will prove to be a reliable arm on a 2016 pitching staff that is headlined by Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and the return of Adam Wainwright.
The Cardinals also acquired Jedd Gyorko in a trade with the San Diego Padres and signed relief pitcher Seung-hwan Oh to a one-year deal with a club option for $5 million guaranteed. The Gyorko trade is questionable, as it’s unclear how he will fit in the Cardinals infield, and the Oh signing has a lot of potential but no one really knows how right-hander will fare in the MLB. Oh projects to be a setup man for closer Trevor Rosenthal this year, but that is to be determined as well.
Although Mozeliak made some nice signings to improve the roster this offseason, I believe that they were not enough to counter-act the losses of Heyward and Lackey. Cardinals fans are hoping that Heyward has a down year and Lackey’s age catches up to him, but until that happens I still have to declare those departures as major losses for Mike Matheny‘s squad. I believe Leake and Gyorko will add quality depth to the organization, providing solid innings and more power, respectively. Oh could be a dominant set up man, or a complete wash, who knows. Working with what I have today, here’s how I grade the Cardinals’ offseason:
Cardinals Offseason Grade: C+