We won’t mention any names here, because that would be just plain wrong Josh. Absolutely wrong. However, someone on the PH8 team mentioned Ryan Theriot right before the deal went down. I’m not going on record as saying that anybody Josh had inside knowledge about this deal, but it seems a bit peculiar to me that someone just happened to mention having a little brother who has been a Theriot fan for quite some time just hours before the Cardinals traded Blake Hawksworth for Ryan Theriot. Again, I’m not accusing anybody Josh of anything, but this person also suggested that Theriot could replace Brendan Ryan at shortstop. Right after the trade, many fans on Twitter were assuming that Theriot would play 2B. However, Mozeliak then went on 101ESPN and proclaimed that Theriot would be the starting SS for the Cardinals in 2011. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck, baby! Josh, we’re onto your game, and don’t think we haven’t noticed the similarities between “Josh” and “John”. Very sneaky indeed. Now, back to business.
At first blush, I liked the Hawksworth for Theriot deal on the premise that Theriot would be the starting 2B for the Cardinals. As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, Theriot hit .286 versus lefties and .264 versus righties last year, and we all know about the Cardinals well-documented struggles against LHPs. By comparison, Skip batted .211 versus lefties and .275 versus righties. I feel that Theriot is a defensive upgrade at 2B, so I felt like the Cardinals were gaining a pretty reasonably upgrade for what I expect to be around $3.5M a year after the dust settles. Some might say that Theriot is just a right-handed version of Skip, but I don’t think that the numbers really support that conclusion. The downside to the trade is giving up an innings-eater in Hawksworth who is still a few years from being arbitration-eligible. The only real issue I have with this deal is that I feel like Theriot was probably going to be non-tendered, so the Cardinals may have paid for something they could have basically had for free. For the Dodgers, the deal now looks like free money, because they already have slotted their middle IF with Furcal and Uribe. They just picked up a useful arm for someone who hit a whopping .242 in a Dodger uniform.
Of course, my oversimplified offense comparison above between Theriot and Schumaker assumed that Theriot would play 2B. Now that we’ve heard that Theriot is slotted to play SS instead of Brendan Ryan, the offensive discrepancy is even greater based solely on 2010 numbers. The concern I then have is on the defensive side. For 2010, Theriot posted a WAR of -0.1 with an oWAR of -0.1 and a dWAR of 0.0 while playing 119 games at 2B and 29 games at SS. If you go back to 2009 which is the last year he played as a full-time SS (151 games), Theriot had a range factor per 9 innings (RF/9) of 4.24 and a range factor per game (RF/G) of 4.09. During that same year, Brendo posted a RF/9 of 5.41 and a RF/G of 4.75. If you look at 2010, Ryan still managed a 0.9 WAR despite batting .223. His oWAR of -0.7 was offset by a dWAR of 1.6, so any rebound offensively this year combined with even an average defensive year for Ryan adds up to probably a WAR of 1.5. In my book, that’s pretty good for a player who may play for cheap again next season. I could see Brendo playing 2011 for around $800k, and he could be doing it in St. Louis as a really, really good bench player/defensive sub.
What does all of this mean? Well, it probably means that the Cardinals really are legitimately going for a deeper team for 2011, because they keep adding guys who cost more than the guys who are being replaced. At the current pace, opening day payroll is tracking somewhere just above $104M by my estimate, although McClellan is a bit of an unknown in that estimate as are any upgrades not yet made to 2B or the bullpen. An upgrade to 2B likely pushes the number closer to $108-110M unless someone is subtracted along the way.
The addition of Brian Tallet is an interesting move, and it’s one that I hope pans out. Tallet has some horrific numbers from 2010 (6.40 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 77.1 innings), but the numbers don’t do him justice. He’s a LHP who allowed a .176 average to left-handed hitters and a .320 average to right-handed hitters. Unfortunately, he was allowed to face lefties only 102 times and righties 206 times. I seriously doubt that he’ll see that kind of split in St. Louis, and I also expect him to benefit greatly from a move from the AL East.