Catching up with the Cardinals’ off-season

by on November 19, 2008 · 25 comments

So I’ve been biding my time, waiting, watching, allowing the news to come to me. As I’m sure my loyal readers know (all three of you), it’s been eerily quiet.

Let’s catch up with the goings on…

  • The Gold Gloves were announced, and Yadier Molina finally got his due. No surprise, it comes in a year that was statistically deficient to his 2007 defensively, but far superior offensively. The Gold Gloves are getting to be a bit of a beauty contest in my opinion, a way to give an award to a guy for a good season that doesn’t really deserve any other award…almost like an All-Star nomination, but without the game. How else can you explain Albert Pujols finishing third in the voting for the NL First Base Gold Glove? Is Adrian Gonzalez really a better defender, or just had no shot at any other award but had a good season? I’ll let you decide.
  • Pujols came out on top this time in another widely debated NL MVP race. Basically, Albert and Ryan Howard found their roles reversed from the 2006 MVP vote. Many sportswriters across the country are proceeding to make themselves look foolish by writing drivel for anyone who cares to read it about how undeserving Pujols was, and how Howard or someone from another playoff team was more deserving of the award, but the writers have spoken. To Phil Sheridan, Tom Haudricourt, and others…you have to ask yourself this question. Where would the Cardinals have been this season without Pujols? Similarly, where would Pujols have been statistically with guys like Chase Utley, or Jose Reyes, or Rafael Furcal hitting in front of him (just to name a few)? Pujols was already heads and shoulders above all other candidates statistically. Nevermind Howard’s gaudy RBI total – look at the OPS numbers. Look at the on-base percentage. Look at the consistency. Then tell me who the Most Valuable Player in the National League was for 2008. I, for one, am looking forward to a few more in the next several years.
  • The ones who got away:
    • Scott Eyre, Jeremy Affeldt, Damaso Marte – So the left-handed relief market has already taken off…Affeldt to the Giants, Eyre re-upped with the Philles, Marte with the Yankees. It’s looking like the average market for a lefty is going to be around $4 million per season, with Will Ohman and Brian Fuentes likely to command much more than that as the ‘premier’ names. I’ve read lots saying the Cards and GM John Mozeliak are still in the hunt for Ohman, I’ve also seen a couple places indicating he figures to remain with the Braves. I don’t see the Cards ponying up for Fuentes, and probably for good reason. That leaves Mo with guys like Joe Beimel, Arthur Rhodes, Trever Miller, et al. Beimel seems the most likely candidate, not being terribly long in the tooth and probably falling into that $4m or less per season range.
    • The Jake Peavy Sweepstakes are supposedly still going on, although it seems increasingly likely that he might remain with the Padres. Despite comments indicating the “ship has sailed” on Peavy’s time with the Padres, San Diego GM Kevin Towers appears to be looking for a king’s ransom for the oft-injured righty, and perhaps with good reason. It will be interesting to see if Towers holds on, waiting for the AJ Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Ben Sheets’ of the world to be signed and drive the market before commanding a maximum price for Peavy. Mozeliak has indicated that there is little room for the Cards to make a Peavy deal, and I tend to agree with him. Plenty of Cardinal fans are clamoring for a deal to be made at any cost, but I don’t think they fully understand the parameters. I will gladly jump on the bandwagon that disagrees with the ‘wait and see’ approach Cardinal management is apparently prepared to take with Chris Carpenter before making a deal (and admittedly, it could all be an elaborate smokescreen). But jumping to make a deal for Peavy when you already have Adam Wainwright ready to assume the top slot in the rotation and could reasonably sign a 3-4 type starter seems reflexive. I say that because I believe, and I don’t have this on any sort of authority, that San Diego is looking for a package somewhere in the sorts of Colby Rasmus, Jess Todd, Jason Motte and say a Tyler Greene. I know, some folks would make that trade in a heartbeat. Fact is, that trade is just 100% counter-intuitive to the Cardinals’ team-building philosophy now. They have finally managed to build up a semblance of a farm system, and they’re not ready to start mortgaging that again for an older, more expensive, albeit proven commodity, at pitcher. Remember where that got them with Mark Mulder? Sure, the Padres are saying that Peavy is just a payroll trimming casualty, but with his already extensive injury history, don’t you think it’s possible that the Pads know something other teams don’t know about Peavy’s arm and continuing health?
    • Matt Holliday is another name that was floated where I could probably just copy and paste everything I just wrote about Peavy. In Holliday’s case, the price may not have been as high (especially when evaluating what the Rockies got from Oakland in the trade that was eventually made), but you also have to consider 2009’s roster makeup logically in this case. Supposedly the Cards could’ve gotten away with sending Ryan Ludwick and say a Jess Todd again in this case and maybe had enough for Holliday. And sure, there were a lot of underlying factors…Mozeliak’s disgust with what he perceived as unacceptable negotiating tactics from Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd (whatever that means…I think it was leaks, etc), they would have wanted to finalize an extension with Holliday before agreeing to a trade, not to mention some modicum of concern over Holliday’s home and away splits and how he would perform away from Coors Field – whether they would admit it or not. So take all of that as the reasons why a deal wasn’t made, but then also consider my point of view. So you trade Ludwick from a position of strength, outfield. Fine. But in doing so, you’re trading for ANOTHER OUTFIELDER. The Cardinals have glaring needs at both middle infield positions, in the bullpen, and probably another mid-range to back-end starting pitcher. They have, by Derrick Goold’s estimation, about $17m-$21m to spend this off-season on upgrading the roster. For arguments sake, let’s say Ludwick gets a raise to somewhere between $2m and $4m in arbitration after his career year in 2008. Holliday is due $13.5m in 2009. That takes $10m out of the coffers for 2009, and all of a sudden Mozeliak is trying to sign a second baseman, a shortstop, a reliever (or two), and a starting pitcher for $7m-$11m. Strangely enough (although it’s no real surprise to me), all of the same fans clamoring for making the Holliday trade are the same ones who are ‘fed up with all of the bargain bin signings.’ Well, picture trying to get an entire middle infield, a reliever, and a starter – all for an average salary of $2.75m. I’d bet you couldn’t even get Cesar Izturis back at that price. If Mo wants to go out and trade Luddy for a second baseman or a shortstop that makes sense, I’m all about it. Sure, Holliday is that big ‘protection bat’ that Tony LaRussa seeks, but I don’t think he’s worth it, with so many other holes needing a fill.
  • The Mariners hired Don Wakamatsu to be their new manager, leaving Jose Oquendo still with the Cardinals, for now. Expect Oquendo to continue to get looks for managerial openings throughout the league. I still have the Secret Weapon down as my top candidate to replace LaRussa when he decides to give it up, but for now, only Tony knows when that will be. Congratulations to Wakamatsu, the first Asian-American manager hired in MLB history.
  • Finally, I want to publicize another UCB event taking place this week.  The Second Annual Cardinal Blogger Awards vote is taking place, with ballots to be posted on a whole bunch of UCB blogs this Friday.  Go over to C70 at the Bat at the link above to check out the ballot.  Even if you’re not a blogger making a post, go post your own ballot at C70!
Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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