According to baseball's Pythagorean formula, the St. Louis Cardinals should have a better record than the 76-70 mark they sported going into Friday's game with the San Francisco Giants. They have nine players with at least 12 homers, a developing ace in Carlos Martinez and one of the best per-dollar values in the majors this season in closer Seung-hwan Oh, who is making $2.5 million and has more than twice as many strikeouts (97) than hits allowed (47) in 70 games.
But their collection of players is odd, mismatched, like a drawer of red dress shirts and green ties, and because of this, the Cardinals will have some extremely difficult decisions to make in the offseason.
Their offense has been prolific in its home run production, but their defense has been a problem all year. Matt Carpenter's best position is probably first base, but he has mostly played third base and second. Aledmys Diaz has been a good offensive player in his rookie season, but he tends to make defensive mistakes; he has 16 errors in 95 games. Jhonny Peralta looks heavier to evaluators, and since being displaced from shortstop by Diaz, some scouts think he just doesn't look comfortable at third. Brandon Moss, Matt Adams and Matt Holliday are all regarded as below average at first base.
So upgrading their defense is not a simple puzzle. Holliday has a club option and is greatly valued by the organization, but one rival evaluator looked at the combination of players for the Cardinals and doesn't think there's any way they will keep Moss and Holliday. Peralta has one more year on his $53 million deal, and his .684 OPS is his lowest since 2004; he could be expendable. Adams will be arbitration-eligible again this winter and with four-plus years of service time, he'll be due for a solid raise from his $1.65 million salary. The Cardinals' staff believes in the 25-year-old Randal Grichuk, who has an OPS of close to .800 right now, but Grichuk has been streaky, with 117 strikeouts and 25 walks in just 414 plate appearances, and some rival scouts think he's a much better corner outfielder than a center fielder.