Aaron Finkel is a great guy with one big flaw: For whatever reason, he decided to be a Cardinals fan. He's also been a writer over at Viva El Birdos for a while now and certainly knows a lot about the team. He spent some time last year answering a few questions for us about the Cardinals prior to St. Louis/Milwaukee series, and he's back again to provide some additional insight on the team. Feel free to give him a follow on Twitter!
There's been a lot of chatter about whether the Cardinals might make a big move to fill first base with Matt Adams lost for the year; do you think any drastic measures need to be made? Was Adams really that crucial to the team's success?
The answer to both of those questions is no. Adams might not be a finished product, and it was fun to dream about there being a little Chris Davis to his game, but considering any upside beyond "solid but not special" was more about hope than reasonable projection. You all are familiar with Mark Reynolds, and he continues to be not particularly good but fun to root for if you can simply accept his limitations.
Many have asked about this, but it's clear that Matt Holliday will not be moving to first. The Cardinals don't have a great option in the minors right now, though Stephen Piscotty is an intriguing possibility. He's an outfielder by trade, but has a pretty polished bat and took some reps at first in spring, and also in college. All things considered, I do expect the Cardinals to make a move for another option at some point. I don't think it will be a "big" move, though that's a subjective term. Is Adam Lind "big"? Can we have him, please? He seems like a good fit, maybe the best fit of what's likely to be available. I think Mike Napoli would be fun, though Lind is probably better at this point.
Outside of two consecutive horrible starts at the beginning of May, Carlos Martinez has been amazing. Just how good can he be and what do you expect his future to hold?
If "how good can he be?" means "what is his perfect world ceiling?" then the answer is one of the best pitchers in baseball. His four-seam, two-seam, slider, change-up arsenal is complete, and each pitch can be elite, and already is elite at times. However, there are days when everything is flat and he can't command his off-speed offerings. Other days, he doesn't have great control of his fastballs and everything runs too far arm side. I think it was you all he hit two or three times last year, right? Arm side run. He's getting better in that regard.
Overall, I've been very happy with how this season has played out. There have only been two starts where he really didn't have much, and seeing his K% climb to match his electric stuff has been very heartening. He's not quite polished enough yet for me to say this is my expectation, but it would not surprise me if he is the best pitcher on the Cardinals next year. He got 18 swings and misses yesterday. 18! He's just 23 years old, and the sky is the limit.
If the Cardinals were to suffer (another) season-ending injury, who would be the player you'd least want to see go down? Is there any one player more crucial to the team's success than the others?
This is a tough call. The drop off from Matt Carpenter or Jhonny Peralta to Pete Kozma is staggering, and Yadier Molina remains a defensible answer. I'd probably go with Carpenter, however. He is one of the best pure hitters for someone without great power or speed I've ever seen. The lineup is deep, but he's the heart of it no matter where he's hitting. He has turned into Joey Votto lite while playing a solid third base.
Serious question: Do the Cardinals have a weakness?
Yes. Pitching depth. I don't expect Michael Wacha or Carlos Martinez to throw 200 innings this year, any Jaime Garcia start could be his last start of the year, and next man up Marco Gonzales is dealing with injuries. Tyler Lyons isn't a bad fill-in option, but he's not going to make anyone forget Adam Wainwright. The only reason I didn't say "Lance Lynn" to the question above is that I think John Mozeliak can add a solid pitching option via the trade market a lot more effectively than a third baseman or short stop.
The Cardinals are the ones who found a witch-doctor to curse Jean Segura, right? The same magic that allows them to turn John Lackey into a Cy Young candidate? Do you know the exact location of this magic man?
Well last year, yes. This year, they tried it on Andrew McCutchen, but it seems to be wearing off. Gosh, I love the John Lackey trade. The magic is this: Find a guy who has had an ERA, FIP, and xFIP in the 3's in the AL East for the last two years and who is set to make the league minimum next year. Go get him, ideally sending in exchange a pitcher without a swing and miss pitch and a hitter who used to be good but has chronic lower leg injuries.
With the draft coming up, is there a particular route you want to see St. Louis go? Any particular type of player that makes sense for them?
No. I don't know enough to have an opinion. People on VEB who know a lot more than I do about collegiate and high school prospects were underwhelmed by the Wacha and Wong selections, so I just embrace my agnosticism here. I expect a lot of pitchers.
Cardinals fans seemed to be awfully excited after the Jason Heyward/Shelby Miller trade. Looking back, do you (still?) think it was a good deal for St. Louis? Is there still a large desire among the fanbase to sign Heyward long-term?
The deal clearly doesn't *look* good for the Cardinals right now. Jason Heyward has been uneven, Jordan Walden is hurt, and Shelby is doing very well for the Braves. That said, I'm still pleased with the trade now for the same reasons I was happy with the trade when it happened. I think Heyward is a good baseball player with potential to be much better than good, and he fills a definite team need. I'm not convinced Shelby truly is what he has looked like he is so far this year, and even if he is, I'm not sure the Cardinals could have been the team to help him get there. If he gets there, I'll applaud him and the Braves' staff.
I'm not all that in touch with the broad Cardinals fanbase, but there definitely seems to be some discontent about Jason out there on twitter, facebook, and the local newspaper comments section. I'm more patient than that, and I still very much hope that Heyward patrols right field in Busch for many years to come, even at a fairly hefty price. His rough start has made him accepting a qualifying offer seem like a possibility, but there's a lot of road to travel before then.
A couple more notes for you all:
-Matt Holliday has reached base in every game this season, which is incredibly cool. He recently broke the Cardinals record for reaching base in consecutive games to start a season. This is an esoteric little record, but I'm glad such a good and often under-appreciated player is now in the team annals. He's dealing with the flu, so I'm not sure if he'll play today.
-I bet you'll see Randal Grichuk get two starts this series. I think he's pretty new to you all. Expect some bad whiffs, some hard contact, some poor routes in the outfield, and some athletic recovery on those bad routes. He's a fun player. My preference would be to see Bourjos out there every day, but I'm trying to embrace Grichuk-mania.
Cheers, Brew Crewers!