Sports Opinion: What the Cardinals need to succeed in the National League

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The Cardinals are in the MLB’s second wild card spot, with over a 75% chance of continuing to the postseason. However, if they don’t adapt to threatening teams, their World Series chances could be dashed.

The Cardinals’ greatest weakness is lacking talent. They’ll recruit a big name every so often and hope that works, but this strategy isn’t consistent. The Cardinals need to sign Trevor Story. With Nolan Arenado on the Cardinals and likely to sign back with the team, signing the other half of that Rockies infield would help them tremendously.

The Cardinals also need more pitchers. Yes, they have Matthew Liberatore in the minors, but they have players like Alex Reyes who are good one day and horrible the next. An ace that was hurt most of the year and a 40-year-old backup ace aren’t going to work forever.

The Cardinals also need Kevin Gausman and Carlos Rodón. With Gausman, Story, Rodón and possibly Craig Stammen as well, the team will have a solid shot at playoffs.

However, becoming World Series champions doesn’t just mean signing good players; the Cardinals must also analyze potential threats.  One team that could send the Cardinals home early in the National League is the Atlanta Braves. As of Sept. 20, the Braves are 7 games above .500, or winning half of their games. The Cardinals are 10 games above .500.

The Braves have Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna, Jr., and Joc Pederson in their lineup, but they would also benefit from signing pitchers. Max Fried and Charlie Morton are a good 1-2 punch, and with players like Huascar Ynoa at the end of the rotation doing well, their starting rotation will excel. Signing Stammen before the Cardinals can do so would give them a solid long relief or set up relief pitcher.

The Philadelphia Phillies don’t need much to outpace the Cardinals, but like the Braves, they need pitching. A starter and a reliever would bring this Phillies team more easily into a playoff spot. Currently, the Mets, Phillies and Braves are neck and neck, but if the Phillies sign Gausman and Stammen, they’ll easily make the playoffs.

The biggest threat in the National League Central is the Milwaukee Brewers, who have a scary good pitching staff. However, they desperately need good hitters like Kyle Schwarber. Christian Yelich hasn’t been the same since his MVP season, Lorenzo Cain is getting older and hitting worse, and Avisaíl Garcia is carrying the outfield on his back.

The Cincinnati Reds are one of the most underrated teams in the MLB. As of Sept. 14, they’re half a game up on the Cardinals and Padres for the second wild card spot. Signing another starting pitcher and a shortstop might get them to the World Series in the next year or two.

The Reds are close to overthrowing the Brewers for the top of the NL Central. The Brewers’ superior pitching staff keeps them at bay, so Carlos Correa and Jonathan India as the middle infield would be solid counterpicks. Nick Castellanos and Winker are crazy on the corner outfield, and Joey Votto, the hitting machine at 1st, is on track for a ring if he plays for three more seasons.

Not every team is as fortunate as the Brewers. The Padres should’ve outranked the Dodgers and the Giants, but they’ll remain in third place for the rest of the season. They aren’t horrible, but their team hasn’t produced that World Series caliber that fans expected.

Fernando Tatis, Jr., has suffered several injuries, and the Padres’ pitching staff hasn’t been fully healthy in months. Dinelson Lamet is in the bullpen and Jake Cronenworth is having an off year, while Eric Hosmer and Will Myers are overpaid.

Adam Frazier was a great addition for the Padres, and Rizzo would be another solid pick. Perhaps both Rizzo and Kris Bryant would want to re-sign with the Cubs, but if the Padres can get Rizzo and keep their team healthy, they should move Tatis to the outfield for all games and put Cronenworth and Frazier on middle infield.

The Giants are a fan favorite to win the 2021 World Series. Signing Bryant was brilliant, Donovan Solano is underrated, and when healthy, Alex Wood is a stellar pitcher. Assuming they keep this lineup, the Giants could use Zack Greinke, an experienced player who could mentor younger pitchers. With Gausman, Greinke and Wood on one team, opponents wouldn’t want to go near San Francisco with a 100-foot pole.

The final National League team threatening the Cardinals’ postseason is the LA Dodgers, who have a stacked team, assuming their free agents stay. They don’t need to re-sign Albert Pujols, but they aren’t quite a World Series team. The Dodgers should add Stammen and keep Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw, their 1-2 punch of  free agent pitchers.

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Brian Rubin
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