Come spring of 2011, several of us Cardinals fans may be asking that very same question. Rather than wait for knowledgeable baseball oracles to purvey insider information to us in the form of #intrigue and #development, let’s do some pondering of our own. I’ll begin with a list of free agent second basemen that I compiled with the assistance of the vast research staff here at PH8. (Note: This same staff is also responsible for producing sophisticated charts and is especially good at stick figure drawings and MS Paint.) Names of former Cardinals are in bold. Statistics are for the 2010 season.
For the moment, I’m ignoring free agent status, but that does come into play later. At first blush, a few things stand out about this list and the stats that accompany the names. First, there are only 8 players on the list with batting averages higher than Skip’s 2010 average. Second, there are only 4 guys on the list who are approximately the same age or younger than Skip. One just happens to be Felipe “Leaving On A Jet Plane” Lopez, so he’s on the “Mentally Unable to Perform” list from the get-go. It took all of about 30 seconds to come up with a short list, and here it is:
- Willie Bloomquist – This is my value pick, because he can play all outfield positions as well as 1B, 2B, SS, and 3B. He’s an unrestricted free agent, and his value has a potential backup player and pinch hitter is really high. That said, he has expressed some interest in being an everyday player after only playing in 83 games in 2010. The Cardinals could offer him an upgrade in playing time and a significant raise over the $1.7m he made in 2010.
- Mark Ellis – I see Ellis as a slight offensive upgrade, but it’s unlikely that he’s really going to be available. The A’s have a club option that they are likely to decline, but Ellis both sides have expressed interest in a buyout and a new contract.
- Orlando Hudson – Hudson represents my “get what you pay for” pick. He’s probably a slight offensive upgrade over Skip, and he’s definitely a defensive upgrade in my opinion. Adding a switch hitter to the lineup wouldn’t hurt, either. The only downside is that he may not be willing to take a pay cut from the $5m he made in 2010.
- Omar Infante– Infante is almost certainly going nowhere, but it’s nice to dream. Just imagine having that .321 average at the top of the lineup. However, it would be sheer folly for the Braves not to exercise the $2.5m club option on him.
- Melvin Mora – Another possibly value pick, but age and durability are an obvious concern for someone who will be 39.
- Juan Uribe– I can’t imagine the Giants will let Uribe get away. If they do, then the Cardinals could use his power in the bottom half of the lineup. That power might not come cheap, but it would be fun to watch.
In the end, the final decision may not be much of a decision at all. It’s quite possible that signing Westbrook and completing an extension with Albert leaves the team with little left over for upgrading second base. Even if there is some left over, it might be wise to stand pat and wait to see who the sellers are next year. As a wise man once put it, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to talk away, know when to run.” (The Gambler, by Kenny Rogers)