One of the moves the Cardinals need to make is to put Jedd Gyorko into the lineup at third base and leave him alone. (Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports)

By Rob Rains

They have a term in football for people who watch games from a distance, either while sitting in the stands or on television, and believe they can make better decisions than those made on the field. It’s called being an armchair quarterback.

They exist in baseball too.

In a conversation earlier this season, Adam Wainwright said, “Everybody thinks they can pitch better, hit better and manage better. It’s a lot easier when you are watching on TV than it is doing it.”

Just as it is easier to spend somebody else’s money, offering advice and suggestions to the Cardinals’ management from afar is painless. The real-life consequences don’t apply. There probably are more facts involved than outsiders are privy too which impact every decision but we are free to offer our input without having to worry about those pesky details.

As the quarter pole in this season approaches, it seems the right time to offer the Cardinals some unsolicited advice. Here are nine moves the Cardinals should, or in one case should not, make in the next few weeks if not immediately:

1. Insert Jedd Gyorko at third base and Kolten Wong at second base and leave them alone.

Both Gyorko and Wong are seeing their playing time squeezed as the Cardinals continue to try to find a way to keep Matt Carpenter in the lineup and that plan isn’t working. Both Gyorko and Wong are far superior to Carpenter defensively and right now are better than Carpenter at the plate too.

Keeping players guessing about whether they will or won’t be in the lineup is never a good strategy. With Marcell Ozuna struggling to hit home runs, Gyorko should join Tommy Pham and Paul DeJong in the lineup as hitters who at least have that potential.
Wong has always been a player who thrives on confidence and showing that faith in him could go a long way toward making him a more consistent hitter. He already is playing Gold Glove caliber defense but regular playing time should only improve that part of his game as well.

2. Use Carpenter at first base only when Jose Martinez needs a day off.

This can’t be a strict platoon because Martinez needs to play the bulk of the time at first base even if he is below-average at the position defensively. Right now he is a much better hitter than Carpenter. It’s interesting to think back to spring training, when Carpenter was having trouble getting on the field, and he made a case that Martinez was one of the Cardinals’ best hitters and needed to be in the lineup. He just didn’t know that it would likely be at his expense.

3. When Carpenter does play, he can’t hit higher than sixth.

This is no longer a slump for Carpenter. Whatever the reason, he can’t, or at least isn’t, hitting. Continuing to force him into the lineup and especially into a top three spot in the batting order is hurting the team.

This has all of the feel to of it of Allen Craig’s rapid decline a few years ago and how the only way John Mozeliak finally kept Mike Matheny from writing his name on the lineup card was to trade him to Boston. In that case Craig’s decline could be traced at least partially to his foot injury. There is no such explanation available for what has happened to Carpenter this season as his average has dropped to .147. Craig actually had a .237 average when he was traded to the Red Sox in 2014.

4. Move Austin Gomber to the bullpen.

Even though he has never made a relief appearance in his professional career, there just doesn’t seem to be a spot available for Gomber in the Cardinals’ rotation either now or in the near future.

There is a need, and a big one, for a left-hander in the bullpen, however. Tyler Lyons has been ineffective all season, and now Is on the disabled list. Even after a couple of good outings in San Diego over the weekend, it still seems hard to put much faith in what the team is going to get from Brett Cecil.

Let Gomber make some relief appearances in Memphis to get used to that role and find out how long he needs to get warmed up to enter a game, and to get familiar with being able to pitch on consecutive days, then bring him up to the majors.

5. Find a way to get both Alex Reyes and Jack Flaherty a spot in the starting rotation.

This isn’t a question of Reyes and Flaherty being ready to pitch in the majors and it sounds as if the Cardinals are planning on Reyes starting as soon as he is eligible to come off the disabled list at the end of this month.

Flaherty will make his third start of the year on Tuesday night in Minnesota, this time taking the place of the injured Carlos Martinez. It sounds as if Martinez is going to come back this weekend, but Flaherty could well stay in the rotation – at least for now – as Wainwright’s replacement.

Reyes is due back from the 60-day DL on May 28 and he will have to bump a second starter from the rotation. The question is who. Some feelings might be bruised, and a few egos, but Reyes and Flaherty are future stars and will be anchors in this rotation for years to come. The time for them to take the next step forward in their careers is now, and the Cardinals will be the beneficiary of making this move – no matter who comes out of the rotation. It won’t be Miles Mikolas and it won’t be Martinez, when he comes back from the DL. It might be time for Luke Weaver and Michael Wacha to worry about their spots.

6. Give Harrison Bader more starts in right field than Dexter Fowler.

Bader could well be the Cardinals’ best defensive outfielder right now and he will get only better with experience. His best position is center field, but that’s also Pham’s best spot, and Bader has proven to be comfortable in right when he has played there.

Fowler really falls into the same category as Carpenter, without as much loyalty involved since this is only his second year as a Cardinal. Like Carpenter, however, he makes a lot of money and unfortunately – especially in real life and not fantasy land – that plays a big role in deciding who plays. It should not be the case, however, when a younger player such as Bader is outplaying Fowler and should only get better.

Like Carpenter, Fowler probably will be very hard to trade. Reducing his playing time, especially if it gets Bader into the lineup more often, however, would be a positive move.

7. Let Carson Kelly catch at least 75 percent of the games while Yadier Molina is out.

Kelly hasn’t been the same player since he was called up to be Molina’s backup for the second half of last season and saw his playing time severely limited. It was the right decision to have him start this year at Triple A, playing every day, but he still has not really bounced back to be the player he was at this time last year – when he was generally regarded as the best catching prospect in the minor leagues.

Showing that they have not lost faith in Kelly’s ability would go a long way toward restoring his confidence and returning him to that status. He admitted he is not Yadier Molina, but at least give him a chance to be Carson Kelly. He is still 23 years old. He still is the Cardinals’ catcher of the future. For now, let him be the catcher of the present.

8. Keep John Brebbia and Mike Mayers in the bullpen and stop their constant trips up and down from Memphis.

Because they have options, both Brebbia and Mayers have been abused by the Cardinals this season, with both knowing as soon as they are called on to pitch a couple of innings for the major-league team they will be heading back to Triple A the following day. The fact they have been as consistent, if not better, than others in the bullpen doesn’t seem to matter.

The two relievers who Brebbia and Mayers should replace are Matt Bowman and Sam Tuivailala. Bowman has been one of Matheny’s go-to guys, so much so that he appears headed for the Kevin Siegrist-Seth Maness breakdown category. Before that happens, use one of his options and let him get right in Memphis. Tuivailala is out of options, but he has had numerous chances. The Cardinals have two better options already on their staff.

9. Do not trade prospects for three months of Manny Machado.

Machado is a great player, a likely future Hall of Famer, who would be a major addition to any lineup. But at what cost? Is there anybody who really thinks trading two or three top prospects for a three-month rental is worth it? Is there anybody who honestly believes the Cardinals could re-sign Machado when he becomes a free agent after this season?

Mozeliak has emphasized time after time the Cardinals are built for sustained success, and that they are not a team that is going to go for broke one year and then go broke for the next three. The prospects are coming. In some cases, if not many, they are better than the players currently on the roster. Do not sacrifice the future on a rental, a move that can never guarantee a World Series title.

Without making any external moves, the 2019 Cardinals will be a better team than the current 2018 Cardinals, and this team, despite its flaws, has enough talent to chase a playoff berth all season. Mozeliak and company should not put that future in jeopardy with an ill-advised trade.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains