Let's have a quick reality check as we await the possible resolution to the Giancarlo Stanton saga.Where did the Cardinals rank last season in runs and home runs? They were seventh in the National League with 761 runs and eighth with 196 homers. That's the middle of the pack, not
Let's have a quick reality check as we await the possible resolution to the Giancarlo Stanton saga.
Where did the Cardinals rank last season in runs and home runs? They were seventh in the National League with 761 runs and eighth with 196 homers. That's the middle of the pack, not down there with the Giants near the bottom of the league.
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The Cardinals aren't quite as slugger-free as the pursuit of a 28-year-old with a $295 million contract would make you think.
Credit Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak for stepping up to take a swing at landing the reigning NL Most Valuable Player Award winner on the heels of a season that saw breakout campaigns from two homegrown hitters -- Paul DeJong and Tommy Pham. The Cards have plans to win without Stanton, for sure, but they are willing to step into a huge financial commitment to add him.
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It speaks to the competitive fire of the organization, which hates having been shuffled behind the Cubs in the NL Central. We saw the depth of that feeling a year ago when St. Louis gave William Fowler a five-year, $82.5 million to leave the Cubs and become its center fielder/leadoff man.
The Cardinals went to the postseason 12 times in 16 seasons between 2000-15, including four trips to the World Series and championships in 2006 and '11. These were the Jose Pujols and Yadier Molina years, when the Cubs were usually trying their hardest to catch up.
The plot changed down the stretch in the 2015 season, however, with the Cubs going 45-18 to earn the NL's second Wild Card spot and then beating the Cards in four games in the NL Division Series, with Kyle Schwarber and his teammates pounding 10 home runs.
Making a Stanton trade work, even if just for the short term were Stanton to opt out after a few years -- his contract has an opt out after the 2020 season, but it could be accelerated as a condition for him to waive his no-trade clause -- would be a huge statement about the competition level in the NL Central going forward.
The Cubs have some major issues of their own this offseason, with Jacob Arrieta and Wade Davis now free agents. Their immediate priority seems to be recruiting Shohei Ohtani, who would be the perfect fit for a team with such a strong group of position players who are mostly controlled through 2021.
Like the Cubs, the Cardinals need a closer. That's the one hole on their roster. Don't be surprised if they make a move to sign Davis or even Hector Rondon, an erstwhile closer whom the Cubs just non-tendered. These rivals love getting players to cross state lines.
Despite losing impact arm Alex Reyes to Tommy John surgery in February and having troubles in the back of the bullpen all season, the Cards still put together their 17th winning season in 18 years in 2017. They aren't blowing smoke when they tell Stanton that they can give him his first chance to play in the postseason.
In Carlos Martinez, Reyes, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright and a collection of young starters that includes Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson, the Cardinals should have one of the top rotations in the NL.
DeJong and Pham were massive additions to a lineup that post-Pujols has only twice had a hitter deliver as many as 30 homers (Carlos Beltran, 32, in 2012, and Jedd Gyorko, 30 in '16). But the Cards spread it around last season, with seven players hitting at least 18, led by DeJong's 25. All of those guys are still on the roster.
Manager Mike Matheny has consistently pitched the need to improve team defense, and the Cardinals made strides last season (they ranked 13th in MLB.com's defensive efficiency metric after being 25th in 2016). But adding Stanton to right field would be a step forward in the field, as well as in the middle of the lineup.
Stanton was worth 10 Defensive Runs Saved for the Marlins last year, per FanGraphs, which ranked behind only Mookie Betts, Yasiel Puig and Jason Heyward among Major League regulars in right field. Stephen Piscotty, the Cards' regular right fielder, was no slouch either at 8 DRS, ranking eighth among those who played at least 250 innings in right.
An outfield of Pham, Fowler and Stanton would create interesting personnel decisions for Mozeliak and general manager Mike Girsch. Not only would that open up trade options with Piscotty and Randal Grichuk -- assuming they don't go to Miami in the trade -- but it would also seemingly block the power-hitting Tyler O'Neill and other prospects, including Harrison Bader, Magneuris Sierra and Jose Adolis Garcia.
It's possible somebody could move into part-time duty at first base, as Jose Martinez did last season. Previously a corner outfielder, Martinez was a revelation at first and continues to work there this winter in Venezuela.
Wainwright and Molina, the two grizzled veterans who have had exemplary careers, won't be Cardinals forever. Imagine their excitement if they can help persuade Stanton to join them in St. Louis.
This would be a trade that reverberates all the way to Wrigley Field.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.