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WHEELER: Three Strikes – Jay, Cards Struggles & Blues FA Pursuit

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Strike One

People need to be more patient with Jon Jay while he works through his offensive struggles. Coming into this year the guy was a career .300 hitter with a .359 on-base percentage in 381 Major League games. That’s no fluke.

Now, that doesn’t make him immune from criticism. If you want to say he’s not hitting well, or that he needs to be better in the second half, then you’re right on the money. I’m sure Jay would agree with you.

That said, to turn things around the guy needs to play. It’s ridiculous for people to call for a replacement, especially by demanding “Mo needs to make deal,” based on his track record and also the presence of top prospect Oscar Taveras.

If Jay continues to struggle you can bet that Oscar will get a chance to steal the job…once the latter is healthy. Taveras is on the DL with an ankle injury for the 2nd time so there is no immediate solution.

When a guy who has 381 games of being a .300 hitter is struggling you should give that player a chance to get things turned around, especially when that player now owns the longest errorless streak by an outfielder in franchise history.

I know the whiners will say “he’s an outfielder, he shouldn’t make errors” and there is some truth to that but it’s also important to note that some legendary outfielders haven’t pulled of a streak like this.

Another reason not to panic over Jay’s offense – or Pete Kozma’s for that matter – is that the Cards are getting elite offensive production from their catcher and their second baseman. If Jay had Matt Carpenter’s numbers and Kozma had Yadi’s, would we be all that concerned about the offense the team is getting from catcher and second base?

They’re the highest scoring team in the National League. The offense is fine. Offense, by nature, is streaky. Starting pitching has generally been the problem over the last 3-4 weeks. More on that in a moment.

Jay has his flaws – most notably his arm strength – but he also has three years of credit built up. Give him time, be patient. If he doesn’t get turned around Taveras will be up shortly to push for playing time.

Strike Two

I mentioned starting pitching above and that’s an area we’re going to need to really keep an eye on moving forward. Starters not named Adam Wainwright have posted a 5.39 ERA since June 1st. That’s a much bigger concern than anything going on with the league’s leading offense.

Shelby Miller showed signs of recovery in his start against the Angels, so that’s good, but the team needs Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook to level off here soon. Plus we’ll be getting a chance to see what Joe Kelly looks like in the 5th spot in the rotation. If he’s anything like he was last season in that role then that spot should stabilize.

With Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha both at Memphis as potential call-ups later on the depth is good, the Cards just need to get at least three SP’s clicking at the same time.

If that doesn’t happen then John Mozeliak has the ability to go get a veteran starter before the trade deadline…

Strike Three

Jeremy Rutherford had an interesting piece in the Post-Dispatch today detailing the Blues’ interest in Vincent Lecavalier, who has decided to sign with Philadelphia. The Blues made an aggressive push to get the playmaking centerman but fell just short.

I’ll be honest, that surprised me a bit. I completely get the need for a playmaking center – I’ve been arguing for that over a “sniper” for a couple of years now – but I was surprised by two things revealed through J.R.’s article:

1) This team might spend near the NHL salary cap this year

The Blues are currently $13 million under the cap and that’s without having Alex Pietrangelo, Chris Stewart or Jake Allen signed. By my calculations it seems like those three added up would be pretty close to $12-13 million this coming season so this could be a “cap team” in 2013-2014.

2) This team is prepared to move some money around

If my salary guesses on Pietrangelo, Stewart and Allen are close, that means they’re going to have to deal some salary to take on more. The article referenced a Top 6 center and another for either the 3rd or 4th line.

That would seem to mean some salary will be on the move for the Blues. We’ve all speculated about Jaroslav Halak’s contract being moved but that’s under $4 million so someone else might need to depart if this team is going to add two free agent centers to the fold.

I’m not going to speculate about who would be a candidate to go. That’s not fair. That said, it seems Doug Armstrong may have some wheeling and dealing going on in the coming days and weeks…

Thanks for reading. Have a good weekend.

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