Every year Daniel Shoptaw, our good friend from Cardsconclave, also known as C70 does a series called playing pepper. In this series he talks to bloggers/writers of all 30 MLB clubs. He asks a number of questions about the Dodgers and we answer him as best we can. He’s actually been doing this for over 10 years now and I’ve been a veteran of the series.
This is my sixth time doing this, (I think) and every time I have enjoyed it. It’s always great to hear what other writers think and have to say about the Dodgers. It’s also cool to get their opinions on their own clubs as well. Isn’t this what writing is all about? That would be great baseball discussions. I would say yes indeed. Anyways you can check out this year’s playing pepper where I join my sister Stacie Wheeler, and Alex Campos from Dodgersdigest.
I also reversed the process by asking Daniel some questions of my own about the Cardinals. You can read them by just scrolling down below. I hope you enjoy!
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The Ozuna trade was the real saving grace of the offseason. Going into the winter, there was a lot of hope that there would be big moves, activity, signings. And while the Cardinals have shored up some of their problems, most of the solutions were about as sexy as I am. Ozuna is a different beast, though. A young power hitter with a couple of years of control and, if 2017 is to be believed, an all-around game with power that he’s just now coming into.
Losing Sandy Alcantara and Magneuris Sierra stung a bit, but not a lot. Neither of those (nor the other two fungible prospects that went in the deal) were at the top of the Cardinal prospect lists and weren’t likely to make much of an impact on the ’18 squad. Alcantara, if he gets control, could be the big loss down the road, but the Cardinals have pitching. They needed the thumper that would sit in the four spot and they got it. I’d give that deal an A without hesitation.
- With Trevor Rosenthal and Seung-Hwan Oh gone, who is the Cardinals’ closer?
Going into camp, the expectation is that Luke Gregerson, signed in the offseason, will have that role but even Gregerson recognizes that it’s not set in stone. With the signing of Bud Norris, who had 19 saves last year, plus the emergence of Tyler Lyons (#PatronPitcher….oh, wait, not my normal audience. Here, read this.), the ninth may be a competition in spring. If I had more confidence in the flexibility and creativity of Mike Matheny, I’d say you’d see a bit of a rotation in that spot during the season as well, but Matheny seems to do better with set roles.
No. I mean, sure, there are few absolutes in this world and anything can happen, but I’d basically put money on that not happening. The Cardinals never engaged with Lynn last year even on preliminary talks about an extension and from all indications haven’t even checked in this winter. There’s a strong case to be made for Lynn on a short-term contract, but I imagine he wants a five year deal and there were just enough indicators that suggest a decline is coming that this front office, who seems to be overly leery about making a bad trade or signing a bad contract, isn’t going to go in that direction.
- I see the Cardinals have a lot of young pitchers on the staff. Can the Cardinals compete for a postseason spot with so many young pitchers on their roster?
Why shouldn’t they? They’ve been dealing with young pitchers for years with success. In fact, if anyone in the rotation worries folks now it’s the old veteran Adam Wainwright, who has had a couple of down years and dealt with a few injuries. And there aren’t really that many young ones in the projected rotation anyway.
Carlos Martinez is an established veteran and Michael Wacha‘s been around since 2013. Miles Mikolas is a bit of an unknown quantity, but he’s spent three years in Japan after a little MLB experience so he’s not as young as you might think. The Cardinals will need production from Luke Weaver and probably some contributions from Jack Flaherty and maybe a couple of others during the year. I don’t think they’ll be the ones keeping them out of October if it happens, though.
- What happened to Stephen Piscotty, Diaz and some of the other promising St. Louis position player prospects? Did the Cardinals give up on them too quickly?
Figuring out some of these things is a crazy job, but I don’t think they gave up on any of them too quickly. You could make an argument that they could have stuck with Piscotty, who was distracted all year with his mother being diagnosed with ALS. Now that he’s in Oakland and closer to her, I expect (and hope for) a bit of a rebound for him. That being said, you don’t know that if he’d stayed in St. Louis if he’d have had the same improvement.
Randal Grichuk and Aledmys Diaz went to Toronto in separate deals. I think everyone knows what you are going to get with Grichuk by now–good defense, solid power, ton of strikeouts, streaky hitter. He would have been fine as a fourth outfielder in St. Louis but he wasn’t going to crack the top three after the Ozuna deal and he’ll probably do OK as a Blue Jay, but I don’t think it’ll be a surprise or a regret that he’s gone. I like Grichuk but the Cards had him for long enough to realize he’s not going to be a superstar.
The jury is still out on whether Diaz was a complete flash in the pan. The Cards had him in the minors for three years and actually designated him for assignment during that span. Nobody claimed him and he stayed in the system. That seemed to wake him up and the last six weeks of 2015 were very good and you saw what he did in the bigs in 2016. Somewhere over the winter, though, his eye left him and he just couldn’t lay off pitches that he used to. He didn’t do much at Memphis last year either and I don’t think he’ll likely ever be more than a utility guy going forward unless he gets that patience back. Something to watch, I guess.
- Where do you see the Cardinals finishing this season and why?
I’m an optimistic guy (as this recent podcast will attest) and I still think that the gap between the Cards and the Cubs isn’t quite as great as many think. The Cubs are the favorite, true, but if things go right 90 wins or so isn’t out of reach for St. Louis. I think they’ll probably be in the wild card hunt all year long and grab one of them before it’s all said and done.