Another Cardinals season has ended and the St. Louis club has once again fallen short of its goals and expectations. Throughout the 2017 season, the Cardinals roster felt like a bunch of jumbled puzzle pieces that didn’t quite fit together. In order for the Cardinals to return to prominence, changes must be made. JJ Bailey will have a comprehensive review of the state of the Cardinals in three parts—part one covering the starting rotation can be found here. Part two covering the bullpen can be found here
For our purposes, we look ahead. It’s evident the Cardinals will need to shake things up in order to compile a roster efficiently for success. Though the postseason is just beginning, it’s already time in St Louis to consider what ought to be a compelling off-season. With the need for upgrades clear but the precise positions for them less so, John Mozeliak and Co. have their work cut out for them over the next few months.
Considering the needs of the organization, let’s take a look add a few external options that could be potential fits for the 2018 Cardinals roster.
1.) Trade for Josh Donaldson
Donaldson is a name that has popped up on the rumors circuit with regard to the Cardinals numerous times in recent years. The former American League MVP finished the 2017 season on a tear at .276/.386/.606 for the second half, reiterating his value as a middle-of-the-order bat to a contender. The Blue Jays may decide to keep Donaldson and contend for 2018—though their 2017 campaign offers little evidence that such a turnaround should be anticipated.
Though he would fit the bill as the impact bat the Cardinals so desperately seek, Donaldson’s contract status could complicate matters as the Cardinals consider a pursuit. As he enters his final year of arbitration eligibility, Donaldson would be eligible for free agency following the 2018 season. Should the Cardinals surrender a package of cost controlled talent in exchange for his services next year, it could signal déjà vu for those who remember the Jason Heyward trade.
Heyward was a fine player for the Cardinals in 2015, but as the team was unable to retain him beyond that, the trade is viewed by some as a waste of assets on a one-year upgrade. Sure, Donaldson could transform the lineup for the Cardinals, but if he’s only here for a season, how much of a transformation would that represent for the organization on the whole? That’s the question Mozeliak must weigh with respect to Josh Donaldson.
2.) Sign J.D. Martinez
Acquired by the Diamondbacks before the trade deadline for a few prospects from the bottom of the barrel, J.D. Martinez has paid immeasurable dividends for Arizona. The D-backs are on their way to a postseason berth for the first time since 2011, and for the latter portion of the season, Martinez has carried the torch offensively toward that end. His 29 home runs and 65 RBIs over the past couple of months will likely earn him MVP votes in the National League, where he only played 62 games for the season. While it’s too late for the 2017 Cardinals to benefit from his power surge, adding him this winter could provide some necessary thump.
A below-average outfielder defensively, Martinez would present an interesting alternative to Matt Carpenter at first base. Though Carpenter serves as an adept leadoff bat, his ninth-ranked OPS among qualifying NL first basemen is concerning for a team intent upon contending. Plugging Martinez in at first base and the cleanup spot could go a long way toward rejuvenating an offense that has lacked a legitimate power threat in recent years.
3.) Trade for Chris Archer and Alex Colomé
There’s no doubt the Cardinals need to improve offensively. However, an alternative trade package could be available out of the Sunshine State—and I’m not referring to Giancarlo Stanton (though he would certainly change the look of the St. Louis lineup on his own).
To address a different area of need for St. Louis, a trade package involving Tampa Bay Rays pitchers Chris Archer and Alex Colomé would be an attractive fit for the Cardinals. With the impending departure of Lance Lynn and uncertainty surrounding the future capabilities of Adam Wainwright, Chris Archer would represent a dynamite innings-eater with wipeout stuff to lengthen the Cardinals pitching depth considerably.
2017 was Archer’s third consecutive year with more than 200 innings pitched and 230+ strikeouts. His contract sets up extremely favorably for the amount of innings he has the ability to fill on a consistent basis. A Martinez-Archer one-two punch atop the rotation with Michael Wacha, Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes potentially filling out the rest of the slots could be an imposing group for years to come.
And the benefits of such a trade for the pitching staff wouldn’t stop with Archer. Colomé—who led the league in saves this season with 47—would be an excellent fit to cover late-game situations out of the bullpen. Not eligible for free agency until 2021, Colomé fits the Cardinals’ desire to avoid overpaying for relief help in free agency.
Because both arms are talented and cost-controlled, the acquisition cost would be exorbitant. Still, such a move would set up the pitching staff with long-term security it currently lacks—and should therefore be considered.
With so many positions up in the air for the Cardinals, there’s no way to know which direction they’ll turn to upgrade the roster. Along with these suggestions, a multitude of possibilities are sure to emerge as the offseason progresses.