Despite winning out, the 2016 Cardinals did not make the playoffs due to the Giants success.
*Please Note this article is being written on Tuesday, September 27th as the Cardinals are one game back of the second National League Wild Card spot. Please consider this article to be reliant on the Cardinals to make the playoffs.
In October, only ten teams are left to answer one of the most difficult questions of the season. The question for general managers all around the league is "How do I handle my playoff roster?" In the past, the majority of teams have adopted a four man rotation for their playoff runs, this ideology requires a tremendous amount of thinking to decide how to handle this new type of pitching staff. Along with the starting rotation, teams must decide how to build their bullpen, lineup, and bench for these prominent playoff runs. For now I will play the role of John Mozeliak and build the Cardinals roster as if it were my own.
We will begin with the rotation. As aforementioned, The Cardinals pitching staff will consist of four starting pitchers. As you may imagine, Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, and Alex Reyes are the top three in this staff. The only spot up for debated is the fourth starting pitcher. The candidates for this key role are Luke Weaver, Jaime Garcia, and Mike Leake. Among much controversy, my bid for this starting spot is Mike Leake. I would choose Mike Leake because despite his regular season struggles, he is the guy the Cardinals need to be able to fulfill this role. Mike Leake was the guy the Cardinals gave a five year deal to in this past off season, therefore this contract is practically useless if he is not even pitching in the post season. I agree that contract is not nearly the most important factor, performance is. Although he hasn't pitched too well, Leake has significantly out-pitched any other contenders for the fourth spot in the rotation.
Now that we have an established rotation, we will continue with our pitching staff. This time we discuss the bullpen. It has now been established that the Cardinals will use a four man rotation. Does this mean a fifth starter is moved to bullpen? Does this mean the bullpen will consist of an additional reliever? Or does this mean the bench will gain an additional bat? Personally, I think our bench will need the additional support, rather than the bullpen getting the extra boost. In the postseason, "too tired to execute" is not an excuse relievers make. If a pitcher is needed to be called upon, he will be ready. Not to mention the Cardinals have a depleted bullpen anyway. You don't need depth for resting purposes. With this in mind, the Cardinals will use a twelve man pitching staff (typically thirteen) in October. Having eight relievers, I would consider seven of these spots to be "locks." These seven players are Seung Hwan Oh(closer), Kevin Siegrist, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Bowman, Zach Duke, Trevor Rosenthal, and Miguel Socolovich. These seven pitchers have had recent success and solidified themselves as key pieces to the bullpen. The eighth spot of the bullpen will provide much controversy among Cardinal nation. If you look at the stats, no one in particular has earned this spot. My bid for this spot is Jaime Garcia. Yes, you read that correctly. Jaime Garcia. After the loss of Seth Maness, the bullpen has consistently been depleted of someone to fulfill his void. I, controversially, chose Jaime Garcia for the bullpen because I simply believe he is the best pitcher we have not currently on our staff. Although he has been terrible lately, Jaime Garcia was widely considered to have the best "stuff" of the entire Cardinals pitching staff. Garcia is downright filthy. If he can somehow regain form, he could be a terrific force in the bullpen or maybe even a contender to take over in the rotation for Leake. Another factor of this decision is that it is always important to have a long reliever, just in case.
Now it is time for the fun part. The Offense. This offense consists of thirteen players. When building your offense for the playoffs, you do not necessarily always choose your best thirteen hitters. You must take the need for potential pinch runners and defensive replacements into consideration as well. In my opinion, the Cardinals roster should consist of your every day players: Holliday(LF), Grichuk(CF), Piscotty(RF), Peralta(3B), Diaz(SS), Carpenter(2B), Adams(1B), Molina(C). Real quickly, let's take a few notes: Holliday will be back for the playoffs, and despite their high level of power,Jedd Gyorko and Brandon Moss have not played well enough in September to earn a starting role. Don't worry, they will be on the roster so Mike Matheny can make that difficult decision himself, so we don't have to.
Let's go ahead and consider Moss and Gyorko as solidified lineup pieces as well. This leaves us with three more spots to fill in our offense. What do we need? First off, we need a backup catcher. As you will see, Greg Garcia isn't even on our roster so we don't even have an emergency catcher. Our backup catcher solution is found with Brayan Pena. All three of our backup catching options; Pena, Rosario, and Stanley, are batting below .200 so none of them have rightfully earned this role. I chose Pena because, of the three, Pena is the only hitter who has established himself in the major leagues. Pena is known for clutch hits, so having him available as a pinch hitter is a solid option. If he is ever needed to actually catch, we have bigger problems on our hands anyway. We are now left with two spots to fill in our roster. First of all, knowing Matheny, we are going to need a late game replacement for Matt Holliday. Who should this be? Our options are fairly limited, having Tommy Pham, Jeremy Hazelbaker, and rookie Jose Martinez at our disposal. Of the three, I choose Tommy Pham to serve this role. I choose Tommy Pham because he is a proven hitter and defender in the big leagues. Jose Martinez simply doesn't have the experience and he also has had a few defensive flounders already in his young career. You can make a fair argument for Jeremy Hazelbaker as well. But he has had minimal success since the start of the season and we are not in need of another left handed bat off the bench. The 25th roster spot for the Cardinals is pretty clear-cut for me. I choose Kolten Wong over Greg Garcia for this role. Wong is a better defender, base runner, and hitter than Garcia. Garcia has his OBP and ability to play SS going for him, but Kolten Wong has been a very clutch hitter in his career and the Cardinals have flexibility in Gyorko, Carpenter, and Peralta if a short stop is needed to replace Diaz.
In summary, John Mozeliak has a lot of tough decisions coming up in the near future. If I were him, my postseason roster would like this:
-Seung Hwan Oh
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