Who is left in free agency?

by on January 2, 2009 · 5 comments

Now that Tony LaRussa’s self-proclaimed primary focus in the free agent market has signed on for several millions with the Los Angeles of Anaheim, Orange County, California, USA Angels – where do the Cardinals turn next?

The Cardinals have, at least in the opinion of this humble scribe, several holes yet to fill as they emerge from the bitter cold of winter.  Let’s take a look at some of the remaining names on the market and see who might pique the interest of Mr. Mo.

Using ESPN.com’s list of remaining free agents, in their (albeit subjective) ranked order – we find that there are 64 of the top 100 free agents still unsigned.  Two, (Mike Mussina and Greg Maddux, have announced their retirement.  Inexplicably, players 22, 25, and 42 in their rankings are not listed.  So who’s left?

10.  SP Oliver Perez

Rumors have indicated Perez is looking to get a contract that is just ludicrous, something like 3 years, $50mm if I recall correctly.  If and when he ever comes off of that cloud, I’d hope Mo would take a look.  You’ll notice a distinct pattern in my list below, there are a lot of starting pitchers.

12.  2B Orlando Hudson

Hudson figured to be a top target of many teams heading into this winter.  The ice-cold market has changed everything.  While the O-Dog may have been sniffing around the $10mm per level at the end of the 2008 season, now I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go off the table for around $6mm per.  Obviously there’s the Adam Kennedy situation to deal with, but if this guy got into “too cheap to pass up” territory, I’d hope they give him a call.

20.  RP Brandon Lyon

Lyon is one of the few remaining relievers in the market with closing experience.  He posted 26 saves for Arizona last year, and might be persuaded to come on the 2 year or less contract that the Cardinals are insisting on.

23. SP Ben Sheets

Another guy who originally seemed to be out of the Cards’ reach, suddenly the market on Sheets is coming back to them, especially if reports that they were willing to go to around $10mm per on Brian Fuentes is true.  There are certainly some concerns about Sheets’ past health issues.

24. SP Randy Wolf

I’ve been stumping for a Wolf signing for a while.  Same as Sheets, it would seem as if Fuentes signing with the Angels leaves the Cards with a war chest to spend on something else.  Here’s hoping it’s starting pitching.

26.  SP Andy Pettitte

Pettitte seems almost destined to return to the Yankees, but surely he’d at least listen to offers elsewhere, right?  Pettitte still figures to be looking at a $10mm per salary, and that might push him out of the Cards’ range if they hope to fill other holes as well.  Pettitte is no spring chicken either.

36.  SP Jon Garland

All Garland does is take the ball every fifth day.  Garland has averaged over 200 innings pitched per season for the last seven seasons.  I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one who thinks the Cards could use a guy like that.

38.  SP Paul Byrd

Not much to say about Byrd here, other than he is a starting pitcher that is better than other options the Cardinals have (probably including Joel Pineiro who is currently holding a spot by default).

43.  SP Braden Looper

Has the ship sailed on this one?  Looper presents an interesting option, having both starting and bullpen experience.  Looper has expressed his desire to remain in a rotation, but in a pinch, would he setup or close games if the Cardinals asked him?  Likely looking for a three year deal, which again, might not be in the Cards’ plans.

51.  RP Will Ohman

Low on the ESPN list, but very high on my wish list for the Cardinals.  With Fuentes now in the rearview, the Cardinals would do well to lock up Ohman as a top-notch lefty out of the bullpen.  It was, and largely still is, one of the Cardinals’ most glaring weaknesses in 2008.

52.  SP/RP John Smoltz

Another guy like Looper who can provide maximum versatility and slot into multiple roles.  Hard to believe that it has been four seasons since Smoltz closed games for the Braves, but one would think he could slot back into that role pretty easily.  Cards could theoretically get him on a short-term contract, but what sort of dollars?

62.  RP Dennys Reyes

If Reyes could put up another season with an ERA under his weight**, he would represent an improvement for the Cardinal bullpen.

** Assuming he hasn’t gotten too deep into the Krispy Kreme’s this off-season.

67.  2B Ray Durham

Durham would likely have to accept a role as a backup, at least at the time of signing.  Could be worth it to handcuff Kennedy?

72.  RP Joe Beimel

Another left-handed relief specialist, Beimel makes the list because I’m not sold on Trever Miller, Charlie Manning, or the health of Tyler Johnson’s elbow.

73.  RP Trevor Hoffman

Another guy I jumped on the bandwagon with as soon as he became available.  If the Cardinals are looking for someone to bridge the gap to Chris Perez and/or Jason Motte, who better than one of the better closers of all time?  The kids could theoretically learn a lot from Hoffman, and he might well come cheaper than $5mm.

80.  SS Omar Vizquel

Would Omar accept a job as a backup in the twilight of his career?  Vizquel would be a valuable defensive tool in a LaRussa style musical chairs lineup, whether getting spot starts or coming into the late innings with a lead.

82.  2B/SS David Eckstein

Another guy where I don’t know if the ship has sailed?  Would Eckstein return to the Cardinals after they let him go?  Eckstein could be the new Aaron Miles, but obviously would depend on cost.  I don’t think there’s a need to spend a big pile of money to replace Miles.

88.  2B Mark Grudzielanek

See Eckstein above.  Many (myself included) would argue the Cardinals should’ve never let Grudz go to the Royals the first time around.

90.  SP Curt Schilling

Now, obviously Schilling is trying to come back from some health issues, and probably represents another pitcher that the Cardinals have steadfastly stayed far away from this off-season, but you may remember Curt’s post at his personal blog indicating a couple seasons ago that he would pitch for St Louis if the circumstances dictated.  I’m just saying it’s an option.

There you have it.  Obviously I’m just spouting off here, but the Cardinals have specific holes and there are players on this list to fill those holes.  Will they spend ANY money on free agency anymore?  Are there trades in the works that Mozeliak is keeping to himself?  Let’s hope the ice cracks soon…

Who’s on your list?

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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StLCards January 3, 2009

I’ve even heard that it is likely to take a 4 year deal to sign Perez, so he is almost certainly out of the picture. He’s also not a Duncan style pitcher in my mind.

Focus has almost got to be on starting pitching right now. If Carp is healthy and can start then great, bump whoever isn’t getting in done in ST to the pen as long relief.

Garland could be a good fit. Wolf has my interest as well, but his price still needs to fall a bit which means the ‘money’ teams in the hunt for a pitcher need to pass on him first.

I’d really like to see Sheets in the rotation if it were a two year deal and he was healthy to at least start the year.

Grudz would be a great addition if Kennedy could be sent packing in the process. Problem is that Grudz is great when he plays, but the last few years have seen lots of back issues among other injuries that severly limits his P/T.

I’d still take Hudson as the starting 2B and Durham would make a great backup to AK if we didn’t sign Hudson.

I’d really like to see Smoltz come here if he says he is healthy. He is a fierce competitor and likes to win. Tony would love his experience for sure.

Jeff January 4, 2009

If there are plans to bring in a free-agent starter, I think it would be easier to sign Sheets than Perez. Something’s got to be wrong with Sheets, though. We’ve scarcely heard his name during this offseason.

I’d as soon pay what had been allocated for Fuentes to get someone like Sheets, or even Smoltz, and cast your lot at 2B with Kennedy and Barden.

Great blog, btw. I especially dig your iPhone-friendly theme.

PHE January 4, 2009

I’m really starting to warm to Garland. Garland, Ohman, and Durham would all be great adds IMO.

PHE January 4, 2009

Hey Jeff – I’m with you…knowing the talent Sheets has, it seems telling that no one appears to be hot after him. Arm problems much?

Thanks for the kind words – looking forward to reading your site as well!

PHE February 3, 2009

The guys at Baseball Prospectus put up a list of their top nine remaining free agents:


Four of the guys on my list here match up – c’mon Mo, let’s make Hendry sweat!

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