St. Louis Cardinals are a dark horse in the National League

Harrison Bader

Status: Eyeing playoff spot

The Cardinals have only finished below .500 once in this century. Their 88 wins in 2018 saw them fall a few games short of a playoff berth, making it a three year ‘drought’. There are high hopes in St. Louis after big winter moves.

Offseason moves

The trade to acquire perennial MVP contender Paul Goldschmidt came out of nowhere. The Cardinals sent Luke Weaver, infielder Andy Young and backup catcher Carson Kelly to Arizona for a year of Goldschmidt.

The price was reasonable and gives St. Louis a chance to convince Goldschmidt he should remain a Cardinal for the rest of his career. An extension is certainly possible. It’s the sort of trade that transforms a line-up and team. Goldschmidt is one of baseball’s most consistent performers.

Veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright was handed a one-year contract with incentives based on games started, games finished and relief appearances.

Andrew Miller was a very interesting pickup. Injury meant Miller threw just 34 Major League innings last season, and he wasn’t very good in that span. He’s been given two guaranteed years with an option for a third.

The bullpen should be relatively good – a healthy Miller could elevate it to the next level.

Versatile Patrick Wisdom was sent to the Rangers for fellow utility guy Drew Robinson. The Cardinals have a lot of depth as it is – Robinson’s addition makes the bench yet stronger.

With Kelly now a Diamondback, the Cardinals handed a Spring Training invite to switch-hitting catcher Matt Wieters.


What to watch

Carlos Martinez’s fitness is a concern after managing just 118.2 innings last season. Martinez was a reliever for a part of the campaign, notching five saves. He’s unlikely to be ready for the season opener. St. Louis have a lot of starters, but Martinez is the most reliable of the bunch, throwing over 179 innings with an ERA starting with three in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Whether starting or relieving, the Cardinals need him healthy.

Last season was a bit disappointing for Marcell Ozuna. After a breakout 2017, his OPS dropped to .758 in his first season as a Cardinal. He was streaky in 2018, but a very strong August and September will have the St. Louis faithful confident he can bounce back. Ozuna has everything to join the elite corner outfielders in baseball.

We all know about Jordan Hicks by now. Few pitchers in MLB can rival his stuff. The preposterous fastball and movement made very good GIFs, but the results were not quite as spectacular. If he can figure out and Miller can stay healthy, the Cardinals bullpen will be a lot of fun to watch.

Outlook

It’s a rule of Major League Baseball that the Cardinals are competitive. That rule won’t be getting broken this season.

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A deep line-up has had an almighty boost of star power. The corner infield pairing of Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter is as good as any in baseball.

The bullpen should be good, though there’s a bit of uncertainty in the rotation. The upside is there, but health is a concern. Signing a free agent like Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn or J.A. Happ would have been a nice reassurance.

There’s not much to pick between the Cardinals, Cubs and Brewers. Adding Goldschmidt went somewhat under the radar, but make no mistake, they will be a force to be reckoned with in 2019.

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About Sam Cox 367 Articles
Sam is a widely published freelance writer, covering basketball, baseball and a range of other sports. He's still trying to decide if he prefers a rundown shot block or a smooth double play.

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