Inbox: Is Gregerson right fit at closer for Cards?

Beat reporter Jenifer Langosch fields questions from fans

January 25th, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- With the Cardinals' first spring workout less than three weeks away, the club's roster is taking shape as its winter work is nearly complete. But plenty of questions remain. Let's take a look at another handful in this week's Cardinals Inbox:
Along with most Cardinal fans, I was very frustrated with [John Mozeliak's] announcement that Luke Gregerson would likely be the closer. Why would the Cardinals settle (for lack of a better word) for Gregerson when players like Greg Holland and Alex Colome are available?
-- John B., St. Louis

The decision is ultimately a cost-based one -- not so much in terms of an inability or unwillingness to pay for a premium closer, but hesitancy to do so because of how volatile that role can be. Teams have still not mastered projecting year-to-year performance from closers, which is why you see clubs often regret making long-term commitments to relievers.
It's not known exactly what sort of contract Holland is seeking on the free-agent market, though his agent, Scott Boras, will likely use ' deal (three years, $52 million) as a benchmark. The contrast in Holland's first- and second-half splits -- he had a 1.62 ERA before the 2017 All-Star break and a 6.38 ERA after it -- also could be giving teams pause. As for Colome, the cost associated with that acquisition wouldn't be so much on the financial side as it would on the talent side. And thus far, the Cardinals haven't felt the return to be equal to the Rays' asking price.
So instead of going all-in on a surefire answer to the ninth inning, the Cardinals have tried to give themselves options. It does sound like Gregerson will get the first crack at closing. And if that doesn't work out, the Cardinals believe they could turn to someone else already in-house: , , , , or . Of course, there's risk involved in taking this approach, as well.
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With all the rumors of the Cardinals looking to add a corner infielder, what is holding them back from giving Patrick Wisdom a roster spot to see what he can do in the Majors?
-- Michael P., St. Peters, Mo.

If the Cardinals choose to add another corner infielder, it would be one who is a proven Major Leaguer and an upgrade over the club's current options. Wisdom, even after a strong Triple-A season in 2017, doesn't fit that criteria.
In fact, Wisdom has another uphill climb to make the big league team this year, even as a backup. In addition to Matt Carpenter, and , both and sit ahead of Wisdom on the depth chart. That's why Wisdom recently acknowledged feeling some disappointment at not being selected by another club in the Rule 5 Draft. As it is, he'll just have to keep producing until an opportunity arises and then seize it.
In the past, has stated that he would like to be a leadoff hitter. Although the likely choices for that spot are Carpenter and , is there any chance that Wong could be the Cardinals' everyday leadoff hitter?
-- Connor W., Illinois

Not at this time. The Cardinals have two of the game's most productive leadoff hitters, so the club already has an answer for that spot. Furthermore, it sounds like manager Mike Matheny is leaning toward an order of Fowler, Tommy Pham, Carpenter and in the top four spots.
Wong has expressed a desire to hit first before, but he has cooled on that subject. His on-base percentage did spike to .376 last season, but Wong is likely to open 2018 batting near the bottom of the order. It's worth noting that Wong provided his best production hitting seventh (.337/.420/.495) and eighth (.299/.414/.449) last season.

As the rotation stands today, it looks like we have basically replaced with . I am a big fan of Lynn, and really am having trouble with why we let him go. That being said, do you think we are in a better position today without Lance?
-- Jack T., Baton Rouge, La.

I still have questions about this rotation, as well. Though the Cardinals may have more upside with some of their young arms (Reyes, , , etc.) than they did with Lynn, they have lost the dependability factor. Lynn gave the Cardinals at least 175 innings annually from 2012-17 (except for the year he missed due to injury), and that's no small detail.

The last two years -- both of which the Cardinals did not make the postseason -- have featured lackluster defense and poor baserunning. The one "player" missing was [third-base coach] Jose Oquendo. What effect could he have on the overall play of the Cardinals this season?
-- Frank K., Chicago

I always hesitate to give too much credit or place too much blame on a manager or the coaching staff. Ultimately, it's the players who perform, and their in-the-moment decisions can distort how coaches are evaluated. That being said, the Cardinals are selling their coaching staff changes as some of their biggest offseason moves. Not only is Oquendo returning, but adding Willie McGee and Mike Maddux to Matheny's staff will bring new voices and opinions. And neither of those three will likely be shy in sharing theirs. How that translates into the win-loss column, we don't know yet.