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Know your enemy: St. Louis Cardinals

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The Cards might also still be seeking starting pitching help.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Just as I wrote about the Brewers yesterday, the Cardinals today sit in a position where any of the top free-agent starters remaining (Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb) could help them.

So the Cardinals staff that takes the field Opening Day could look different than they do now. Right now, it’s returning starters Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright. Of those, only Martinez had a good 2017, and Wainwright, now 36, might be nearing the end of the line.

The Cardinals’ depth chart shows a couple of promising young pitchers, Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty, ready to step into their rotation, along with Miles Mikolas, who is returning from three good years in NPB in Japan.

That probably doesn’t breed confidence in Cardinals fans. Neither does their bullpen, which currently lists Luke Gregerson as closer. Gregerson closed for the Astros for 2015 and part of 2016, but in general has been more successful in a setup role. The Cardinals did trade Randal Grichuk to the Blue Jays for Dominic Leone, a hard-throwing righthander who could be a future closer.

Greg Holland would be a good fit here, but for whatever reason the Cardinals haven’t yet done this. Actually, I’d rather they didn’t, as it would make St. Louis much more formidable in the N.L. Central. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are bringing back one of their former closers, who’s also an ex-Cub:

Jason Motte is 35 now and six years removed from his 42-save season in St. Louis. If nothing else, he can lead the Cardinals in clapping:

Last year’s Cardinals scored 761 runs, middle of the pack in the N.L. To that offense they’ve added Marcell Ozuna, who had an outstanding year for the Marlins in 2017 (.924 OPS, 37 HR, 124 RBI, 5.8 bWAR). That will make the St. Louis lineup more dangerous, although at some point you have to figure Yadier Molina, who will be 36 in July, will begin to decline.

After making the postseason 12 times in the 16 seasons from 2000-15, the Cardinals have now sat home in October two years in a row, and their 83 wins was their fewest since 2006 (though they squeaked out a N.L. Central title that year and won the World Series). It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cardinals have to “reload” soon.

The Cubs will face the Cardinals 19 times this season. The first series is April 16-18 at Wrigley Field. The others: May 4-6 in St. Louis, June 15-17 in St. Louis, July 19-22 at Wrigley Field (that series includes ESPN’s featured game July 19, the first MLB game back after the All-Star break and the only one played that day), July 27-29 in St. Louis and the final three games of the regular season, September 28-30 at Wrigley Field.