It will only be the second time in most of our lifetimes that the Cubs will finish a second consecutive season above the St. Louis Cardinals. It happened in ’07 and ’08, and the last time it happened before that was ’89-’90. Cubs fans have certainly been salivating at the thought of making this a regular thing for the next decade. It certainly looks like it’s going to be that way. The Cardinals have an odd balance that their rotation looks set for the next four to five years, but their every day lineup has questions all over the place, and where there are answers there’s old.
In the rotation, the Cardinals have a chance to roll out one of the younger and more dynamic staffs in the league next year. While Carlos Martinez can go a little goofy from time to time, it’s hard to find a more live arm than his. And he’ll only be 26 at the start of next season. Behind him Luke Weaver has looked marvelous in his audition this year, after a rough go of it last year. But his numbers the past two seasons in the minors suggest this is not a mirage. John Gant could have a chance to round that out. While it’s hard to predict just how many innings they could get out of him after elbow surgery, Alex Reyes will return next year. Reyes bounced between the pen and rotation last year, and he might do that again in a season spent recovering from injury. With Martinez, Weaver, and Reyes that’s a pretty good start. While it seems like Wacha has been around for a decade, but he’ll only turn 27 next year. And while Wacha has never built off his rookie year success, if he’s a fifth starter that’s solid. Jack Flaherty could also join this discussion next year as well.
The problems begin when you look at what the every day lineup could feature next year. At the moment, the Cardinals have only one regular starter under 25. That’s Paul DeJong. Randal Grichuk will be 26 next year, turning 27. Kolten Wong is 27, but Mike Matheny has done a thorough job of screwing up his career. Matt Carpenter will be 32 next year and already appears on the decline. They’re old in center with Dexter Fowler, who might well be on a the decline as well. They can boast Tommy Pham all they want, but he’s going to be 30 and probably not going to replicate the .374 BABIP he’s got this year. We already know Yadier is turning to dust before our eyes. Maybe PIscotty can finally be anything, but he’ll be 27 already and looking for his first success in the majors. There are couple spots open in the outfield either side of Fowler for some prospects the Cardinals do have.
Also, the Cardinals aren’t alone in the race to run with the Cubs. The Brewers have a lineup full of kids who are already neck-and-neck with the Cardinals now. The Jimmy Nelson injury could be huge. Until then, the Brewers rotation looked at least the equal of the Cardinals next year. The lineup was certainly younger and had more potential. While we’re just about the only ones who still believe in the Pirates, they’ll have Cole, Taillon, and Glasnow in the rotation next year and at least Bell, Polanco, and Marte in the lineup. They need to make a really good McCutchen trade, which you shouldn’t trust them to do.
And don’t sleep on the Reds either, who already have a good offense and are piecing together a rotation through Romano, Castillo, Stephenson, and Stephens. The path isn’t clear.
The Cards have had the run of the division for a decade and a half. That looks to be over. Thank god.