The Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes is only getting warmed up, but St. Louis Cardinals fans must begin to consider the inevitable: what if the Cardinals do not secure the services of Stanton? What do the Birds do then? Cry a river, drown their sorrows in toasted ravioli at Lorenzo's Trattoria on The Hill, and watch a Nicholas Sparks flick?
They can't mope for long, and if baseball's version of Lebron James keeps his talent in South Beach or heads west, the Cardinals must have a plan.
As John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch weigh the options, here are a few from my end of South City cyberspace:
Option 1: Leave the Giancarlo, take the Darvish
If you can't have the big bat at your price, steer that money towards securing a big arm instead. The old adage still lives that pitching wins championships — and not exit velocity masterminds or OPS kings.
The Cards could sign Yu Darvish as a killer #2 behind Carlos Martinez, adding an innings guy (186+ last year) and someone who can get by without superb defense (Darvish's career fielding independent pitching mark is a sly 3.30). Signing the 31-year-old Darvish would go against the Cardinals public address statement after the Mike Leake trade last summer, but what general manager doesn't lie from time to time, or a lot?
If the Cardinals burned the Lance Lynn bridge, Darvish would be a great addition to a rotation in need.
Option 2: Fix the bullpen with Addison Reed and Juan Nicasio
There's a good narrative out there that a better bullpen would have saved the Cardinals season.
Imagine if Seung hwan Oh wouldn't have blown those saves and Trevor Rosenthal didn't get hurt midway through the season? The Cardinals sealed the valve late in the year with Nicasio in the ninth, but they need more than him to assure safe late-inning passage in 2018.
Add Reed along with a Nicasio reunion and the bullpen is fixed. The 28-year-old Reed has split his career between the American League and National League, but his NL numbers look a whole lot better.
A 2.96 FIP and 9.6 K/per 9 innings tells me all I need to know. You get these two guys and the starters won't feel the need to break their arms by June.
Option 3: Sign J.D. Martinez
The Martinez Hot Stove has been quiet due to Stanton watch, but the former Detroit Tiger and Arizona Diamondback is no scrub.
As I wrote last month, Martinez's stats post trade deadline in 2017 are what 99 percent of Major League players dream of, and he would give the Cardinals a Stanton-like effect in the lineup without the loss of Alex Reyes and/or Sandy Alcantara.
You'd pay him less money over fewer years to play in St. Louis as well. However, his defense is worse than Stanton and he doesn't run the bases well, so he'd hurt you there. But if the Marlins won't think realistically, Martinez isn't a bad option.
Mozeliak has dealt with Scott Boras before (Matt Holliday deal in 2010), so it's not like there isn't a dialogue set up there. Insert Martinez into the Cardinals lineup, and it packs a punch.
Option 4: Trade for Josh Donaldson
This one isn't a tasty option for one simple reason: Long-term security.
Fangraphs floated a trade idea that involved Donaldson, Matt Carpenter, and Jedd Gyorko, and I scoffed at it Monday night. Let me be clear: Donaldson is a very good baseball player, but is entering the final year of his contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto is believed to be hard pressed to let him walk, so it would cost the Cardinals.
If it takes Carpenter and Gyorko, I'd say no for one guaranteed (look that word up) year of Donaldson. If Toronto came down in demand, perhaps the Cards could work something out. Bringing in Donaldson for a year would mean the Cards are World Series ready in 2018, and even after adding him, they are not.
As much as I like Donaldson, I don't see Mozeliak and Girsch giving up much for just one year.
Option 5: Royal up, Sign Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas
Let's stretch the thinking here. Cain is a valuable player due to his mix of offense and defense, and could play center field for the Cardinals, moving Dexter Fowler to left field and Stephen Piscotty out of town.
Moustakas had a breakout year in 2017 and could play third base for the Cardinals, giving them the longevity that Donaldson couldn't provide. Matt Carpenter or Jedd Gyorko could be moved in a trade for pitching help. The only problem is that a Carpenter/Gyorko combo is just as valuable as Moustakas and Tommy Pham may be better than Cain.
Moustakas and Cain aren't spring chickens, and will probably get their best offers from Kansas City, or at least one of them will.
Option 6: Sign Todd Frazier and Carlos Santana
Frazier is going to be 32 in Feburary, but the man can simply mash. He has smashed home runs for the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees, and doesn't play a bad third base.
Frazier saved his employers ten runs in the field last year, according to Fangraphs. He would probably go for fewer years and more money, giving the Cardinals a legit middle of the lineup presence.
Santana would provide the Cards with gold-glove-caliber defense at first and a versatile bat in the lineup. The Cards would be going older here, with each player in their 30's, but would improve in the field and at the plate. This option is not that bad.
There are more options out there. The Cards could mend the bridge with Lynn or bring in Jake Arrieta, and an Eric Hosmer deal isn't off the table.
The main takeaway is simple: don't think that Stanton is the end-all and be-all of this offseason. As great as he seems — believe me, the man is pretty close to perfect — he is one man and doesn't bring the Cardinals relief in the rotation or pen.
If Miami wants to play shadow games or let their star slugger delay his decision, you turn away. As Paul Sorvino told a drugged up Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, at some point, "I have to turn my back on you."
At some point, the Cardinals have to think outside the Stanton box and get this team fixed.
What do you think? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter, @buffa82. Let's talk it out.