Feldman: What changes could be ahead for Cardinals in 2015
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 23: General manager John Mozeliak on the field before Game One of the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on October 23, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) By Rob Carr
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BaseballStL) -- 2014 is in the books. For better or worse – it’s a little of both I suppose given what the Cardinals accomplished but also left on the table – it’s not coming back. You can micromanage and place blame all you want on what occurred, but the only thing that really matters at this point in time is what lies ahead next year.
Pitchers and catchers report to Jupiter in just under four months after all.
Well, the easiest changes are who will unquestionably be gone given their contract status. The Cardinals have three free agents. Pitchers Jason Motte and Pat Neshek along with infielder Mark Ellis.
Motte and Ellis are easy. They are extremely unlikely to be back given what they cost in 2014 (about $13 million combined) and what they gave the club. The Cards have more young pitching coming up the system like Sam Tuivailala to easily replace Motte. As for Ellis, he was brought in on a one year deal to be insurance in case Kolten Wong needed some help to get through his first full major league season.
I think we can all agree Wong doesn’t need someone cutting into his playing time.
Neshek is a little trickier. I’m sure the Cards would love to have him back after he made the All Star team amid a 1.87 ERA during the regular season and 25 holds (good for 6th in the National League). The problem is Neshek was so good he’ll command a little more money on the free agent market than the team would probably like to pay. Remember, there’s more pitching – younger and cheaper pitching – coming up the system to replace Neshek’s production.
In a perfect world the 8th inning man would remain in St. Louis. But the world’s not perfect. He’ll likely get a better deal elsewhere.
What else? Well, the rest is tricky. There aren’t any other free agents and while I’m sure GM John Mozeliak would love to make this team hit a little bit better next year, finding spots to upgrade is hard. Is he willing to give up on Oscar Taveras’ development? Kolten Wong? Matt Adams?
Those are the positions which held the Cards back the most offensively in 2014. To upgrade those positions you’d have to move one of those guys and risk them reaching their potential somewhere else. But therein lies the problem. If you don’t move them and the same thing happens in 2015 – the team doesn’t hit enough – all of a sudden you made the wrong non move.
The most important thing you can do as a GM is properly evaluate your own talent. Once you decide who should stay and who should go everything else becomes much easier. I’m not a scout. I didn’t play professional baseball – let alone at the big league level. Telling you who I think is going to become a star in the future and who will flame out would just be a guess.
Making those decisions – and being right about them more often than not – is what makes being a GM so tough. You have to basically predict the future.
Something tells me Mozeliak will ultimately stick with what he has for the first few months of 2015 and see where he’s at. If the offense is laboring into July next year, you could see a seismic move at the trade deadline. That’s my educated guess as to what he’ll do.
Pitching will likely stay largely the same aside for those free agent departures. Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller and John Lackey are all set to return. Marco Gonzales will likely be the 6th starter placed either in AAA or in the big league bullpen. Another free agent could be signed to compete with Sam Tuivailala in spring training for a roster spot. But other than that you’ll see a lot of Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, Sam Freeman and Kevin Siegrist again next year.
Offense is the big question though. Will John Mozeliak try and upgrade the offense after it struggled largely in 2014? Or will he stand pat because he saw enough flashes of greatness in the postseason? That’s probably the biggest thing to keep an eye on this winter.