Sometimes, it takes a few looks at a question in order to completely round up an answer. Kicking off the latest United Cardinal Bloggers Offseason Roundtable on Monday was a question about fixing right field. A problem that presented itself before the untimely death of Oscar Taveras. Now that the mourning has at least cap sized around the city, the need to address a glaring problem heading into the 2015 season has grown to be larger than life. The Cards need a new right fielder and they have to decide if the answer is already in the house or currently circling the market. General Manager John Mozeliak must figure out if he wants to fill the hole with his young guns or does the outside help option seem to hard to resist. It’s an interesting question and one that fields a dozen different answers. It is the team’s biggest problem looking ahead, so a thorough investigation is required.
You have the in house options. Randal Grichuk, who grew into Mike Matheny’s favor late in the 2014 season. He has a cannon in right field, speed on the bases, power against lefties but he strikes out a ton. There’s a hole in the kid’s swing and who knows if more at bats will help seal it up. You can fix a crack in the foundation of your home with a thickening material called eboxy but another crack may happen. Grichuk swings hard and contact happens on occasion. He showed improvement but is it time to throw the kid into the starting role? I would say no. Stephen Piscotty has the makings of a solid producer. He doesn’t strike out a lot, collects hits and has great defensive instincts in the outfield. He also bats righthanded like Grichuk and fellow hopeful youngster Tommy Pham. Do you install a few kids in right field and see if something sticks? Does that sound like a power surge to you? A difference maker. Monday, I was fine with that idea but as I wrote about it then, the idea of a different solution comes to mind. A power bat.
Where do you find those? The free agent market. A possible trade. You don’t find those in house. One can tell me all day about the idea of Piscotty, Grichuk, Pham or Xavier Scruggs providing power because they did so well in the MINOR leagues but I will eventually start to sleep. Sure, minor league talent is important and can reap rewards if you spot it right, but the Cards need for power is apparent.
Take a look around. The Cards don’t have a known quantity right now that can suddenly project power into their lineup. Matt Holliday’s power is declining. Yadier Molina is an unknown after a troublesome season. Jhonny Peralta may crank 20 home runs and drive in 65 but it’s hard to project more. Center field will be shared by Jon Jay, who is an on base percentage guy, as is Matt Carpenter. Kolten Wong may blast 15-20 home runs but there is no guarantee. Matt Adams seems like a 30 home run guy but one would be lucky if he reaches 20 with his inability to hit consistently against lefthanders. Look around this team and there are a bunch of singles and doubles guys but no clear threat. Someone that strikes fear in the hearts of pitchers. I won’t hook them up to a power plant at the moment, but Mozeliak needs to be aggressive this offseason.
As fellow Cards blogger Kevin Reynolds said, this isn’t a one year fix but a multi-year arc refuel. The Cards lost a rightfielder for the future in Taveras and can’t just look at the next guy to fill that void. With no offense to the fine young talent on the team, I want a known quantity. Spare some of the current fleet and get a big piece. How exactly do you replace Oscar? You trade for Giancarlo Stanton and then you buy real estate in the clouds when you are done there. Stanton is a dreamy piece that is also unattainable. So let’s look at the other options. Who? Let’s take a quick look.
Michael Morse-First Base/Outfield
He won’t win a Gold Glove in his lifetime but he can swing the bat for power. He hit 16 home runs last year and 31 in 146 games in 2011. He strikes out a lot, but can give the Cards a power bat off the bench in addition to a bat to go with the current fleet. While he is initially appealing, Morse hits righthanded and didn’t rip the cover off the ball during the second half in 2014. Grichuk could produce what he did in 2014 as well if given the opportunity which doesn’t solve anything. Morse doesn’t quench my thirst.
He hit 40 home runs in Baltimore after coming back from a PED suspension. He had 166 hits in 159 games and hit .271. He isn’t a good outfielder and served as a DH in Baltimore, but he has six straight seasons of 22 home runs or more. That’s a known quantity. That’s a given. He can supply the power and probably use a little defensive help in right field. Cruz gives you that boost of good old fashioned ready or not here I come power swag. Cruz, like Morse, is a free agent. You would sacrifice defense but also give the team a boost of power. Piscotty can serve as a 4th outfielder, break into the big leagues and slowly start his maturation into this league. I like Cruz because he is power unfiltered. You’d overpay Cruz in order to cut down on years in the deal.
Gonzalez is NOT a defensive gem in the outfield but he can hold his own. He has talent and skill but comes with the injury prone tag that has scared off takers for his teammate Troy Tulowitzki. Gonzalez has played over 140 games once in his 7 years here. He is a risk and would require a trade. The Rockies would want a few players for him, because he is 29 years old and has power in his stick if the knees are right. He finished the 2014 season the 60 day DL so let’s focus on 2013. He hit 26 home runs in 110 games and had an average of .302. He cranked 34 home runs in 2010 and isn’t an old man. He could be plugged into his lineup and do damage. The problems are the injuries and a contract that has three expensive years left. Gonzalez is scheduled to make 16, 17 and 20 million through the 2017 season. It’s not ridiculous but it’s also a clear risk.
Evan Gattis-Catcher and Outfield
Gattis is a young Braves slugger who burst onto the scene in 2013 and has put together a pair of solid seasons with the Braves. He has cranked around 20 home runs and 60 RBI in under 110 games in each season. He is a bat who can back up Yadi behind the plate and supply some power in the outfield. I am sure he can find his way around first base if Scruggs doesn’t win that spot. He solves the Cards conundrum at catcher(no real scary backup if Yadi goes down) and gives the team outfield depth with proof. Hat tip to Ben Chambers for bringing this up on the UCB podcast on Wednesday.
Take your pick, Mo. Look outside the organization. Stanton and Tulo may be dream boats or carry heavy risk, but these four players could help, especially the last three. Looking internally is a nice in season option, but there is time to glance around right now and observe the options. The Cards have lacked serious power since Albert Pujols left, which makes Cruz desirable. They have lacked a solid hitting backup catcher since…forever, so Gattis is ideal as well. The Cards had a black hole in right field in 2014 and couldn’t crank a steady amount of bombs. It can be fixed if the risk is taken by Mo. Reach a little, extend one of your toys and find the Cards a threat. At the very least, the bench will be upgraded from ghostly to worthy.
Whichever route is taken, get it done this winter. Cast the bait into the river and go fishing for power.