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.

Rob Manfred blames Bryce Harper for going unsigned

Bryce Harper
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Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with the media today. Naturally, he was asked various questions about the landscape of the sport, given that superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain unsigned as spring training begins. Per The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli, Manfred said that he thinks the free agent market will begin to move once spring training exhibition games begin. Manfred also said that Harper’s camp suggesting that he wants $400 million back in 2016 was “an impediment” to discussions throughout the offseason.

No word on why Machado is also as yet unsigned, as he did not have a reported $400 million ask.

Manfred’s job is to look out for ownership, so it’s not surprising to see him point the finger at Harper. Consider:

Manfred’s comment comes just months after the Red Sox won 108 regular season games and the World Series with baseball’s largest payroll. And ongoing evidence that there is indeed a positive correlation between dollars spent and team success. We often hear justification for tanking/rebuilding because the Cubs and Astros did it and won championships because of it. When the Red Sox use financial muscle to win a championship, it’s crickets.

Manfred didn’t stop there, however.

An easy way to get baseball’s “glow” back would be for two of the game’s best and most popular players to be in uniform playing games. The first spring training exhibition game will be played on February 22, so it’s not looking like that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Baseball’s “glow” would also come back if more teams were actively trying to win. Instead, one-third of the league is “rebuilding” or otherwise coasting on revenue-sharing. For fans of the Rangers, Orioles, Royals, and Marlins — to name a few — the outcomes of their favorite teams’ seasons have already been decided, so what is there to get excited about?