The Cardinals Are Close to Competing for a Central Division Crown

2018 has arrived, and with it brings new promise for the St. Louis Cardinals. After missing the postseason in consecutive seasons, offseason splashes and hopes for more to come before spring training has the Cardinals poised for a return to October baseball.

The issues in 2017 were evident. Not enough offense. Not enough innings from the rotation. Holes in the defense. Instability in the bullpen. If president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and general manager Michael Girsch were serious about turning the tide of the team in one offseason, they would have work to do.

They got to work.

They traded Aledmys Diaz to free up roster space. They sought Giancarlo Stanton, and when he prefered New York, the Cardinals’ brass didn’t waver. They instead landed Stanton’s former teammate, Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna improves the offense and defense in St. Louis.

They searched the far east for a starting pitcher, and outbid multiple teams for the “Lizard King”, Miles Mikolas. A relatively unknown name, Mikolas is slated for a starting spot in the Cardinals’ 2018 rotation.

They sought a veteran arm to stabilize the bullpen, and signed free agent Luke Gregerson, whom the Cardinals drafted as a rookie more than a decade ago.

But if the Cardinals want to take down the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central Division, they have more work to do. And the front office knows it. That’s why management expects a big new year in terms of transactions, signings, and trades. The Cardinals aren’t done just yet.

They could use another bat. Corner infielders from the Kansas City Royals, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, are free agents. St. Louis could use a big bat at either corner position. A move like that would free up Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko to move around the diamond in super-utility roles rather than being relegated to a single position.

They could use another arm, or two, for the bullpen. Especially a closer. Both Trevor Rosenthal and Seung-Hwan Oh faltered last season in the ninth inning for St. Louis, and both are now free agents. The biggest two free agent names remaining at the closing pitching position are Greg Holland and Addison Reed. The Cardinals have the financial flexibility to sign either or both.

Although they have starting pitching depth at the minor-league level in Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty, and Dakota Hudson, the Cardinals might even entertain the idea of adding another starter to fortify the rotation. Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb remain free agents, although if the Cardinals were to pursue a veteran starting pitcher on the market, a trade would be more likely than a free-agent pickup.

With what the Cardinals have done this offseason, they still have ground to make up. Getting busy in the new year before February rolls around would help narrow the gap between them and first place contention even more.

Soon enough, the sun will begin to creep up over busy spring training facilities in Jupiter, Florida. Ozuna, Mikolas, and Gregerson will be new faces in Jupiter. But who will be joining them as newcomers? That will be decided in the next handful of weeks.

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