When one is assessing the St. Louis Cardinals’ offseason, you can definitely say it has been an intriguing one at that for sure. I decided to grab the opinions of an outsider who has their pulse on the league in general.
That outsider is one of the most popular members of the national baseball media this offseason, that is Craig Mish. With his coverage of the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes and the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna, he is as good as anyone in assessing the St. Louis Cardinals’ offseason.
Craig was kind enough to carve out over half an hour of his time to answer my questions. Due to the length of the interview, I decided it would be best to divide the interview into two separate pieces for brevity reasons.
The very first question that I had for Craig was his assessment of the Blue Jays reported unwillingness to trade their third baseman, Josh Donaldson.
SM: What is your opinion on the Blue Jays desire to not trade Josh Donaldson given the strength of the Yankees and Red Sox and Is there any chance he’s moved this offseason?
CM: If they do it would be at the Trade Deadline where they find themselves out of the race. The Blue Jays have been clear that they plan to compete with those two teams. But, that could change depending on what the results are in the first half.
The other part of this is that the free agency offseason has been so slow for a lot of players including at that position like Mike Moustakas right now who is still unsigned. In terms of the market for a Donaldson trade, rarely does that happen where he has more value at the deadline.
Usually, you want that full talent pool to open up in the offseason. But, as of right now they enter the season with him as the starter at third base and if they are out of it by July, I think they will move him because of his impending free agency.
Speaking in terms of the Blue Jays actually competing. Strange things happen every year, but I don’t think anybody expected the Brewers or Twins staying in it as long as they did last season and the Twins made the playoffs. It would seem on the outside even for me that they can’t compete with either of those two teams, but they still have one of the best starters in the league in Aaron Sanchez (not to mention Marcus Stroman).
They made a couple of trades to bolster their outfield; they’ve still got some viable players there. Is it better on paper than New York or Boston? Probably not, but paper doesn’t always win. They’ll (the Blue Jays) will put in a good effort from April to July, and if they find themselves 10 games out and 7 games out of a wild card, they will trade Donaldson. I just don’t think that is the message they want to send right now.
SM: What about Manny Machado?
CM: The Machado situation is a very different situation. The Orioles are a very difficult organization to make trades with because of their medicals and how they do things. Everything is still running through the owner Peter Angelos. In this case, I don’t think Angelos wants to trade Machado.
In a different organization, would it be a different scenario? Yes and I can see the Orioles actually doing the same as the Blue Jays. Once they get to the trade deadline and are out of it, Machado would be available. As of right now, I think the Orioles made it pretty clear that he’s going to be their opening day shortstop.
SM: Is what we saw in 2017 of Tommy Pham something that will be something that can be expected moving forward?
CM: I would say no, but Pham is very determined. The one key with him and some of the other players I am familiar with in this scenario is that when you want to get serious about fitness and health, you come down to South Florida and are working out at a place called the Bommarito Sports Academy.
It's the same place where Miguel Cabrera rehabbed a couple of years ago. A lot of the top players in baseball and football work out there. They work on things like agility, speed, and height. Pham has been there this offseason. That alone does give me a lot of hope that he is taking his offseason very seriously and you've seen some of his comments like wanting to be the fastest player in the big leagues.
Pham's issue has been health. He hasn't been able to stay healthy with the exception of last year. I thought last year was a phenomenal year for him. It would be really hard for him to repeat that and I don't know that the Cardinals need him to repeat that, they just need him to come close.
I wouldn't necessarily bet against him, but if you asked me "Does Pham reach his goal of 30/30?" I would say no and that would probably motivate him even more. My thought is just that everything worked together for him last year. This is similar to players that they've (the Cardinals) had in the past that have caught lightning in a bottle. They had Aledmys Diaz who did it, Randal Grichuk did it at one point, Stephen Piscotty looked great at one point, and Paul Dejong did too.
They seem to find these guys who put together that one great season and then they have a hard time matching it. Maybe Pham would be that guy, I definitely could see him hitting 20 home runs and stealing 20 bases, that would be perfectly fine. But, 30/30 is a lofty goal and it would be interesting to see if he gets there.
SM: One of the players that you have a little bit more experience with being in Miami is Marcell Ozuna. Is what he did in 2017 repeatable?
CM: Ozuna gets better every year, he's been an all-star two years in a row. Until last year, he hasn't been able to put together two great halves. He'll either have a poor first half and a good second half or the opposite and last year he put it all together in a place that's no so easy to hit home runs in (Marlins Park).
I think that this is a perfect spot for him, I think he'll embrace it. He doesn't have Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup that's for sure and he doesn't have Justin Bour either. The emphasis will be more on him, but I think he will be perfectly fine with it. I would expect that what you see is exactly what you would get this year.
It wouldn't surprise me to see a little more out of him this year. I think he's a player that finally everything clicked together. While there aren't many great things said about Barry Bonds and his tenure in Miami, but there's no doubt he did have an impact on Ozuna. Ozuna trusted Bonds as far as borrowing some of Barry's bats at one point in time. He's the one and only player that Bonds seemed to have an impact on.
I do expect similar numbers in Ozuna, but I do think it would help if he had a left-handed bat in that lineup that had 30-40 home run power that they could put behind him or in front of him. That would help any player in baseball and it would help him too.
Having Ozuna in left gives the Cardinals a significant upgrade in their outfield defense as well. This is the best outfield defense that they have maybe ever have. If not ever, it's been a long time since they have had as good of an outfield defense as this. Their infield is still a little shakey but their outfield is fantastic.
SM: What are your thoughts on the offseason's slow pace?
CM: It's pretty obvious this year that you just have smart guys running things. They're not just handing over money like they used to in the past. That's not happening, it's very hard to get a five-year deal. Lorenzo Cain found that out and took the first deal that gave him the security of five years in his $80 Million deal with the Brewers, which as of right now remains the number one contract on the board in terms of free agency.
Lorenzo Cain tells @JimBowdenGM it was the 5th year Brewers offered that got his deal done and it was done last Wednesday Night.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) January 29, 2018
Teams simply don't want to saddle themselves for years down the line. Especially when you look at the top-heavy teams in the American League (Yankees and Astros) and National League (Washington and LA). Those teams are just so far above everyone else that the talent pool that teams are dealing with is very small.
Yu Darvish is a big surprise to me, that's the one deal that I thought would be done already and it's not. It's a perfect storm this year of good free agent talent but not fantastic and that has kind of played itself out this year.
Next year will be a different story with at a minimum two $300 Million contracts being handed out with Bryce Harper, Machado, Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon all being free agents. Not only that but also the potential of a Clayton Kershaw opting out.
Cardinals' Rotation Issues
SM: What are your thoughts on the Cardinals' current rotation? Do they need more? Should they be leaning so heavily on the options of Reyes, Flaherty, and/or Hudson?
CM: I think Wainwright is going to be a big key. Where he stands in his career, I'm not really sure. They will need more if he's not viable anymore. Which is unfortunate because he's one of the best Cardinals' pitchers of all time.
He came into last year motivated, saying he was going to show everybody how good he was and it didn't work out. Sad for him, as he's one of my favorite guys, who's a very charitable guy as well. The reality is that you're talking about a rotation that is fine Carlos Martinez at the top. However, you're making a lot of assumptions about everyone else.
Is Luke Weaver going to take that next step? What are they going to get out of Miles Mikolas? Who is Michael Wacha at this stage? What about some of the young kids in the minors? Is Jack Flaherty ready? Is Alex Reyes going to be in the rotation at any point this season? I think two years from now he will, but I don't know if he will next year. I think it's (the rotation) perfectly fine to win 82 games.
To get to 90 they're going to need more than that. Wainwright is going to have to be at the very least a #2 or #3 starter in this rotation. If he's not or he gets hurt, they're going to have to go out and get somebody else. It's one thing to have two or three ifs in the rotation, but I think they really have four.
I really can't say that all four of the guys behind Martinez are going to be great. I think they can all be good, but odds are someone is not going to pitch well and that's the way it works. But, if Wainwright is good and we are talking a 3.50 ERA and 1.2/1.3 WHIP good, if he's that they're fine, but if not I think they will have to go out and get somebody else.
You think Weaver is going to be good, he looked great last year, but you just don't know. Mikolas is a mystery, that could turn out to be a huge signing for them or he could be a bust, but I don't know the answer to that. Wainwright is the one guy out of the four that's at least "proven". They have Austin Gomber, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, etc. They have a million kids who could step in at one point. But, that's not a World Series type winning team, that's a "we win 80 games and we see these kids in September" type.
I think they're ok for now. I would not go out and trade the farm for a starting pitcher. I'm not sure that they would consider bringing Lance Lynn back or even pursue a guy like Alex Cobb. It's crazy that we're still talking about that at this point.
They have a million kids who could step in at one point. But, that's not a World Series type winning team, that's a 'we win 80 gmes and we see these kids in September' type.Click To Tweet
If I was them, I would probably roll into the season with what I had. I would go into Spring Training knowing that you have a guy like Jack Flaherty in your back pocket. If it doesn't work out, then you go ahead and make your trade. I don't think that the rotation is a key issue for them right now.
Their more pressing needs right now are a corner infielder with power and a closer. I think that's very obvious at this point. Those two positions need to be filled before Spring Training. They're not going into the season without those two and if they do, I don't see them winning the division. They need more.
That will do it for part one. Part two will be available tomorrow. If you would like more from Craig Mish, you can follow him on Twitter. He is an excellent follow and loves to interact with fans. I am incredibly thankful for him giving me his time.
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