Not the way I hoped St. Louis would rebuild this offseason, but it’s not necessarily a disaster on paper.
This offseason reminds me of last offseason in the sense that needs were met, although not in the ideal way. Last year they needed a catcher and the ideal was Sean Murphy. They could have acquired him, deemed the price too rich for their tastes, and acquired Contreras instead. Was Contreras a slam dunk? No. He’s a flawed player. But, he had a quality season, and last year’s team struggles were not his fault.
This offseason they needed pitching in the rotation and bullpen. The ideal (for many) was to sign a 1/2 level arm like Sonny Gray, trade for another like Cease or Luzardo, and sign a back end arm that could offer upside (Giolito, Mahle, or Montas) or innings (Gibson or Lynn, for example). Instead they signed a single TOR arm in Gray and added two back end innings eaters in Gibson and Lynn. They also added volume to the bullpen, but virtually every addition is an upside play with flaws as opposed to semi-established arms like Hector Neris etc.
Have they accomplished their goals the last two off-seasons? Technically, yes. Will the sub-optimal routes they took work out? The jury is still very much out on that question, but fan frustration is understandable. I don’t dislike Contreras (I’m actually glad the team has him…he can definitely swing it) but imagine how much better people would feel about this team with Murphy as the starting catcher on an extension like he has in Atlanta? Imagine if it wasn’t Gray by himself at the head of the rotation but with Cease or Luzardo in the 2 spot behind him? Or even a signing like Stroman? Imagine, instead of both Lynn and Gibson, you replaced one of them with Giolito or Manaea? Imagine they had traded for Kitteredge and still signed Maton, for example.
So yeah, the team has filled needs and even has some quality (Gray and Contreras and Kitteredge are indeed quality), but it could have been so much more over the last two years. One wonders what Arenado thinks of all of this given that he rejected his opt outs?
I do believe the team is better than it was last year, if only slightly, but the team can very much crash and burn again if the old players play old and the young players don’t make key strides. It also feels like a lot in the rotation is riding on Matz staying healthy and pitching like he did in the second half, pre injury. If that happens, he’s the solid, low-end #2 that the rotation needs after Sonny Gray. It’s such a big if, though.