The MLB’s new rules for a hypothetical, shortened season due to the coronavirus would see many changes to the sport, but the Cardinals in particular could benefit greatly.
Besides the shortened schedule, the biggest change for the league would be a universal DH throughout the league. The addition of an extra bat into a Cardinal lineup that often struggles to get offensive production could be huge. The addition could keep offensive first players in the Cardinal lineup, like Matt Carpenter or Dexter Fowler while not sacrificing defense. That could also pave the way for younger players like Dylan Carlson or Lane Thomas to sneak into the lineup occasionally and potentially light a spark into the Cardinals offense.
Of course, with the laxed roster limitations, the Cardinals would ultimately face less roster crunch decisions. Relievers wouldn’t need to be taxied as much from AAA Memphis and back to St. Louis, and the deep amount of young position players won’t need to be sacrificed due to roster limitations. Relievers would get new opportunities, which could clear the way for younger pitchers to show their talent to the big club. Alex Reyes, Junior Fernandez, Genesis Cabrera and Austin Gomber could all be the beneficiaries of this. While, before, if a younger pitcher struggles, they get sent down to the minors. Now, with roster expanded by a large number, if younger relievers get knocked around, a few days on the taxi squad would be the result, not necessarily a trip to the minors.
Finally, one of the most important changes that could help the Cardinals would be the new divisions. The league split the six divisions into three, got rid of the AL and NL for the time being, and expanded the playoff field from 10 teams to 14. The Cardinals would face the weak AL Central, plus the current divisional rivals who are projected to have a worse record than St. Louis, like the Cubs and the Brewers. The biggest rivals to the Cardinals success within the new division layout would be the Braves, who take the Pirates place in the Central division for 2020, the Reds, who revamped their roster completely this offseason, and the Twins, who slugged a league record 307 homeruns in 2019 on their way to a AL Central division crown. The Cardinals could battle with the Brewers, White Sox, Indians and Cubs for the final playoff spot from the Central.
This, however, is all very hypothetical. The league’s team owners agreed on a plan on how the season would work, revenue sharing and other loose ends with the 2020 season on Monday. However, the ultimate deciding factor would be the Players Union, who ultimately have the final say if a season will be played in 2020.