Restoring the rosters: No. 17 – St. Louis

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
Producing the game’s best player and one of the top five pitchers only goes so far. The Cardnals’ lack of pitching depth leaves them right in the middle of these rankings.
Rotation
Dan Haren
Braden Looper
Anthony Reyes
Mitchell Boggs
Brad Thompson
Bullpen
Kyle McClellan
Luke Gregerson
Chris Perez
Jason Motte
Josh Kinney
Jess Todd
Blake Hawksworth
The Cardinals haven’t had a high first-round pick since taking J.D. Drew in 1998, but they’ve missed on an awful lot of pitchers with selections in the 20s and 30s. 12 of the 19 first- and supplemental first-round picks they’ve had since then have been pitchers, but only three have reached the majors: Perez, likely bust Chris Lambert and the recently traded Clayton Mortensen.
So what we’re left with here is Haren and not much else. Looper, the third overall pick in the 1996 draft, is a mediocre closer turned No. 4 starter. Reyes has No. 3-starter talent, but he may never be able to stay healthy. He’s out until late next year following Tommy John surgery. Boggs is a fringe fifth starter, and Thompson is most useful in middle relief. The bullpen is more promising. Both McClellan and Gregerson are shaping up as excellent setup men, and Perez and Motte still have a fair amount of promise. Todd might end up being better than all of them.
Lineup
3B Adam Kennedy
2B Placido Polanco
RF J.D. Drew
1B Albert Pujols
LF Rick Ankiel
C Yadier Molina
CF Colby Rasmus
SS Jack Wilson
Bench
2B/OF Skip Schumaker
CF Coco Crisp
INF Brendan Ryan
OF Terry Evans
C Mike DiFelice
Another star would be nice, but Tony La Russa would be happy with the flexibility provided by this lineup. Also, the excellent defense will help all of those starters who won’t be recording many strikeouts. Molina, Pujols, Wilson all rank among the game’s best at their positions, and Polanco is still a surehanded asset at second. The outfield defense is a little above average with this arrangement and significantly better when Crisp starts and Rasmus goes to a corner. Against lefties, Ryan should start over Kennedy, Crisp over Ankiel and perhaps Evans over one of the other two outfielders.
Summary
The Cardinals have struggled to keep pitching prospects healthy and are paying for it in these rankings. It’s worth wondering just how much better off they’d be if they concentrated more on producing hitters over these last 10 years. After all, in Dave Duncan, they have a pitching coach who excels at turning around veteran starters. They could have played to that strength a little better.
Of course, it’s not as though the Cardinals are struggling. It looked like they’re set to reach the playoffs for the seventh time in 10 years, and they won it all in 2006. While I generally give a lot more credit to general managers than field managers, in this case, La Russa and Duncan deserve the praise, probably more so than former GM Walt Jocketty.

Orioles are eying Welington Castillo as their primary catcher target

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 25: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up prior to taking an at bat against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.

Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.

For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.

Report: Phillies agree to minor league deal with Daniel Nava

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 12:  Daniel Nava #12 of the Kansas City Royals bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.

Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.