Holiday wish list: St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals’ 100-win season came to an abrupt end after losing the National League Division Series to their division-rival Chicago Cubs. So far, the club’s lack of luck during the offseason has left the Redbirds searching for answers to fill out their roster to compete with other building teams in the NL Central.
With the Cardinals looking to turn around the offseason and with the holidays here, what might their wish list be heading into the 2016 season?
Yadier Molina makes a healthy return
Just about two months removed from thumb surgery, it was discovered Molina’s first operation did not take, resulting in a second surgery. The Cardinals have said their Gold Glove catcher will miss most, if not all of spring training, but are optimistic he will return in time for Opening Day.
Despite the optimism from St. Louis’ front office, there must be some worry that Molina will not be quite himself when he returns. After all, one surgery was unsuccessful … what if the second was as well?
The Cardinals feel Molina will be able to play defense just fine in his return, but swinging the bat could be problematic if issues reoccur in his thumb.
"The biggest question will be: When will he swing a bat?" Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told MLB.com. "They don’t feel like any of this should affect how he catches or when he can catch, but to have him ready by Opening Day, [swinging] will really be the test."
Another bat for the lineup
Matt Holliday reportedly has been working out at first base for a potential move from the outfield, perhaps to make room for a top free-agent outfielder — such as Alex Gordon.
While Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton could potential be on the Cardinals’ radar, Gordon has emerged as the frontrunner for St. Louis.
After playing for the Kansas City Royals his entire nine-year major-league career, Gordon could bring his formable bat across Missouri to St. Louis, filling a major hole left by Jason Heyward, who signed with the Cubs earlier in the offseason.
In 2015, Gordon hit .271/.377/.432 with 13 home runs and 48 RBI in 104 games and helped lead the Royals to a World Series championship.
Pitching staff doesn’t let down
Lance Lynn is lost for the season after needing Tommy John surgery after the 2015 season. ANd 37-year-old John Lackey is gone to the rival Cubs after throwing 218 innings and posting a 13-10 record and a career-best 2.77 ERA.
Along with the missing names in the rotation for 2016, Adam Wainwright is schedule to return from an Achilles injury and could be a question mark for the season after coming out of the bullpen toward the end of the 2015 season.
To date, the Cardinals have signed Mike Leake to a five-year, $80 million deal to join Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Co., but will Leake’s services be enough to offset the losses of Lackey and Lynn? That remains to be determined.
Leake, 28, is a solid pitcher and has a career 3.88 ERA, but he wasn’t as affective as usual in 2015 while splitting time between the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants.
A little ‘Redbird magic’
Despite much of the roster from a 100-win season remaining intact for 2016, the Cardinals have quickly fallen in the ranks of the NL Central with the Cubs ramping up their roster during a successful offseason.
Even when the Cardinals are seemingly out, however, they find a way to remain a credible force in baseball. With 11 World Series titles, St. Louis always knows how to stay in the fight.
Will the Cardinals be able to do so in as the underdogs in their own division in 2016?