The World Series is upon us in a matter of days and the New York Mets can learn from both the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox in building their team.
Today, I’ll examine the Cardinals and see where there any familiarities. Tomorrow, I’ll look at the Red Sox.
Mets Could Learn From Cardinals
The Mets say they want to build with young pitching, which has always been the Cardinals’ way. A look at St. Louis’ rotation shows the rotation highlighted Adam Wainwright is entirely homegrown. Wainwright was drafted by Atlanta – another franchise that knows how to grow pitching – but was traded and never pitched an inning for the Braves. Wainwright pitched in the Cardinals’ minor league system before he pitched in the majors for them.. A testament to how deep the Cardinals are is rookie 15-game winner Shelby Miller didn’t even pitch in the NLCS.
The Cardinals have been highly protective of Michael Wacha (the compensatory draft pick received for losing Albert Pujols), whose innings limit began on spring training and lasted through the season to the point of where he is ready for the playoffs without reservation.
St. Louis did this by not starting the innings limit in spring training but by backdating his projected starts from the playoffs. This made it easier because the Cardinals had a clear idea of how many innings Wacha would throw from each start and held firm.
Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Miller, Wacha and Joe Kelly are all homegrown and developed in the same system.
With Matt Harvey out for the year, logically more would be demanded of Jon Niese – coming off a shoulder injury – and Zack Wheeler, who was scratched from his last start because of a stiff shoulder. But, the Mets must be careful as to not have another injury like Harvey’s. That Wheeler complained after his last start is alarming.
The Mets are also looking at prospects Rafael Montero, Jacab deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Presumably, they will all have innings limitations, which should include restrictions on the minor league level and the major league level after they are promoted following the deadine to protect their Super Two status.
The Mets’ plan emulates the Cardinals. When Harvey returns in 2015, he Wheeler, Niese, Dillon Gee will form the nucleus of the rotation, with either Jenrry Mejia or Montero being the fifth starter.
It could be this way in midway through 2014 when or if Montero joins the rotation and possibly deGrom. Wainwright didn’t become a starter until his third season, and was a reliever when he threw that dynamic curveball past Carlos Beltran. This might be something for the Mets to consider with Montero.
The Mets tried Mejia as both a starter and reliever. He underwent elbow surgery this year, but should be ready for spring training.
Whatever the Mets do with him, they should pick one role and stick with it, something they failed to do under Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel.
The Cardinals believe strongly in building up the middle, which is why they chose to keep Yadier Molina and say goodbye to Pujols. One might have though Pujols would stay after the Cardinals won the World Series after the 2011 season.
The Mets are attempting to do the same with Travis d’Arnaud, who is a long way of becoming another Molina – any of them.
St. Louis has a reputation of being a small market team, but it has a big market swagger in that it has won more World Series than any franchise other than the Yankees.
The Cardinals signed slugger Matt Holliday, which was a gesture to Pujols of their intent to keep him and protect him in the lineup.
The Cardinals built with prospects – a reflection of a strong scouting system and minor league system – with first baseman Allen Craig, who could be activated for the World Series; second baseman Matt Carpenter; third baseman David Freese; and outfielder Jon Jay.
This enabled them to add what they needed from the outside, notably right fielder Beltran and shortstop Rafael Furcal.
The difference between the Mets and Cardinals isn’t so much in philosophy as it is in talent. The Mets are hoping Ike Davis or Lucas Duda could be as productive as Craig. Life would be simpler for the Mets if that occurred.
Offensively, the Mets don’t have a Holliday, and there are no similar players currently in the projected free-agent market.
Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury is a proven outfielder, and could thrive in spacious Citi Field. Red flags are his health, potential salary and the reputation of production of Red Sox players after they leave Fenway Park. He also doesn’t have Holliday’s power.
Potential free-agent outfielders include Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson and Nate McLouth.
McLouth could come the cheapest; Granderson strikes out a lot and his power numbers must be carefully examined because of Yankee Stadium and the protection (outside of last year) he had in the lineup; Choo could be a one-year wonder and is a risk for a multi-year deal; and Cruz has the PED flag,
None, outside of Beltran, offer the stability of Holliday. If Beltran doesn’t stay in St. Louis, the Mets would have to consider his age and salary demands (he’ll want at least two years).
The Cardinals are an ideal blue print for any franchise and the Mets would do themselves good if they build that way.