Column: Re-Imagining the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals roster

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha delivers a pitch to the Milwaukee Brewers in the second inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on June 15, 2017. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO- “You can’t blow the whole thing up,” Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said a few weeks ago after shaking up the team’s coaching staff and making a series of player moves that sent Randal Grichuk in search of his swing in the minors, and Jhonny Peralta packing.  Mozeliak said the next four to six weeks would go a long way toward laying out what his next moves would be in 2017, presumably to decide between buying or selling at the July 31 trade deadline.

On Sunday, after a new shuffle of player transactions that brough Grichuk back, along with Mike Mayers and Luke Voit, the GM admitted to the Post-Dispatch and others,  “We’re not on a great path right now…We certainly have to rethink things and continue to try and improve. When you look at this club right now, it’s sort of a work in progress. … The trend has not been helpful.”

The club beat the Pirates to avoid a sweep Sunday, and did win a makeup game against the Reds Monday, thanks in part to Grichuk homers in each game, and even six solid innings from Michael Wacha on the mound. But it will take more to convince fans and team leadership that the trend is going in the right direction.

So you can’t blow it up. But what if, knowing what you do now about this roster, you could rebuild it? You can’t rescind trades (sorry, Matt Adams fans), or make new ones, but you could pick a brand new 25? Here’s one look at a re-imagined roster. It may not get this team to the playoffs, but it might be more fun to watch, and would help answer questions about who should and shouldn’t be on this team in 2018.

Catcher: Yadier Molina, Carson Kelly

Comment: Molina is still very clearly the entrenched starter. And he will be next year too. But Kelly is ready to be here and could do worse in his learning curve than by watching Molina firsthand. Bring Kelly up, and give him at least a game a week behind the plate. Kelly came into the organization as a third baseman and I’d find time for him there, and time for Molina at first base too. There are also four more games in American League parks where the team will need a Designated Hitter.

St. Louis Cardinals Jedd Gyorko makes a backhand stab at a baseball off the bat of Philadelphia Phillies Cameron Rupp for an out to end the seventh inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on June 10, 2017. St. Louis won the game, 7-0. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Infield: M. Carpenter, J. Martinez, P. DeJong, K. Wong, A. Diaz, J. Gyorko

Comment: In this configuration, DeJong gets starter time at shortstop. Diaz gets some reps at third. Gyorko doesn’t get overexposed.  Carpenter should be ready to switch positions in the field, if not in the lineup.

Outfield: R. Grichuk, D. Fowler, S. Piscotty,  T. Pham.

St. Louis Cardinals (L to R) Tommy Pham, Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty celebrate a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on June 9, 2017. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Comment: Grichuk gets the rest of the season to prove if he can sink or swim at this level as a power hitter who can recognize the strike zone. This team wouldn’t even be where it is now if not for the hustle, speed and heart of Pham and Sierra. Matt Carpenter and Martinez would also factor in here. If the Cardinals pull the plug on Grichuk in season, then Sierra has to be here in the mix.

Starting Rotation: C. Martinez, M. Leake, L. Lynn, M. Wacha, A. Wainwright

Comment: It makes sense to trade Lynn at the deadline if there’s little or no sign of improvement in the club by late July. Luke Weaver gets the callup to replace him when/if the time comes. Wacha’s performance against the Reds gives him another shot to stay in the rotation. He swaps spots with Tyler Lyons in the bullpen if he reverts to the pitcher who can’t make it through a second pass at an opposing lineup.

Bullpen:  T. Lyons, M. Bowman, Cecil, T. Rosenthal, S. Oh, M. Gonzalez, J. Brebbia, S. Tuivailala

Comment: Mike Matheny has taken fan heat for carrying a 13 man bullpen, but in this setup, even I can see this group of 12 needing another arm. That’s especially true if Lynn gets dealt. Oh should be moved if the opportunity comes along. For people who think Rosenthal could be an attractive trade piece, who is your closer next year? Tuivailala seems to be in an important point in his development if he’s going to be a factor in future plans.

As was stated above, is this group of 25 guaranteed to put the team in the playoffs?  No. The pieces needed to do that aren’t likely available in season. But this grouping gives you a chance to answer questions about who should be on next year’s roster, while keeping fans coming out to Busch for the rest of the season.