By Neel Kale, from Cardsblog.com
At this point in the season, there are two statistics you can look at about this Cardinals team. The first is 30-33, their win-loss record. This stat is bad! Definitely bad. No team wants to be three games under .500 near the halfway point.
If I told you at the beginning of the season that the Cardinals would be three games under .500 on June 13th, you'd probably have figured the season was a lost cause. Now would be the time to blow it up and look toward 2018.
That's where the second number comes in. 2.5, the number of games behind first place in the NL central. That number is...okay! It's not great and you'd much rather be 2.5 games ahead, but if I told you at the beginning of the season that the Cards would be 2.5 games out of first on June 13th, you'd take it.
Now, you'd say, would be the time to make a couple of minor acquisitions at the deadline to push this team over the hump and get them into real contention.
Unfortunately for these Cardinals, both of these numbers are true. The Cardinals are three games below .500, but only 2.5 games out of first.
The recent roster moves makes me believe the Cardinals are focusing on the second number, but I think the first number, the win loss record, is more indicative of where this team is set up now and for the future. Simply put, I don't think this Cardinals team has the ability to contend now or in the future unless some big changes are made.
Small Moves = Small Changes
Right now, the front office's logic is just to make the playoffs. The logic is that once you make the playoffs, anything can happen. The only viable path to the playoffs right now is winning the NL Central, as the Red Birds are 8 games back from a wild card spot.
When a team is 2.5 games back, that leads you to believe it's a good team with some flaws that need to be patched. This is the approach the front office has taken. Promoting Tommy Pham and Paul DeJong, acquiring Sean Gilmartin and even adding Brett Cecil and Dexter Fowler in the offseason were all minor moves.
In the front office's eyes, these moves patch up the minor flaws in the Cards defense, bullpen and offense. In reality, these areas have massive flaws that are going to require a lot more than just small promotions and waiver signings. The Cardinals have one of the worst defenses and bullpens in the majors, and at this point it's nothing that a few singings will fix.
Let's say the Cardinals do make the playoffs somehow. Do we really see them beating the Dodgers? The Nats? even the Brewers? Right now, this Cardinals team is not playing like a team that's only 2.5 games out of first, it's playing like a sub .500 team.
The poor performance of the rest of the NL central has created standings that are actually fool's gold. Small moves will not make this a winning team, just like small moves can't make a sub .500 team suddenly good again.
Caught in No-Mans Land
The Cardinals are not a contender with weakness. They're a deeply flawed team with major issues that cannot be solved with roster acquisitions and minor leaguers. Right now, the front office is stuck between going all in with the pieces you have and making changes to push the team further.
They do not quite want to trade away their stars and beloved homegrown pieces. But they also don't entirely trust this team to get it done in the postseason as it is. Hence, the front office makes small moves, hoping to spark some sort of winning. However, ultimately, it won't be enough.
If they want to compete, they need to make some big changes on offense, defense and in the bullpen. And yes, that includes trading away some prospects. If they want to retool, they need to start trading any players, even beloved ones, before value decreases.
Look, blowing up a team and looking to next year is never a popular move, and I'm sure the fan base will riot. However, time is running out for the Cardinals to decide what type of team they want to be. If they want to win anytime in the future, this team is going to need a major overhaul soon.