The Cardinals? They’ve Gone To Plaid!

by on January 6, 2011 · 16 comments

Yes, I’m pretty sure the Cardinals have gone to plaid, but I’ll explain that later.  Focus on poker first, because I have a serious poker/baseball question to ask.

Are the Cardinals going “all in” for 2011?  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the phrase “all in”, it’s a poker term that refers to a player betting everything by pushing all his or her remaining chips into the center of the table or “pot”.  If all other players “fold”, then the hand is over, and the player who went “all in” wins the hand.  If one or more of the other players “calls”, then the hand continues.  If the “all in” player wins the hand, then he or she wins big and survives to play on.  If the player loses, then the player is eliminated from further play.  It’s basically all or nothing, go big or go home, boom or bust.  Now that I’ve provided a minimal explanation, I return to the original question.  Are the Cardinals going “all in” for 2011?

I’m inclined to say that the answer is “yes”, and I’ll give you several reasons why I think so.

  1. Lance Berkman signed for 1 yr at $8M, and John Mozeliak indicated that the team outbid everybody else.  There was a bidding war for Berkman and the Cardinals won?  Is there going to be a “Flat Puma” cardboard cutout day?  If so, then count me in.  Wait?  The Cardinals won a bidding war? 
  2. Ryan Theriot was anointed the team’s starting SS without competing for the job, but he’s only signed for 1 year.  What’s that?  He hasn’t played SS for a while.  No problem.  You say he’s never put up a dWAR over 1.0 for a single season.  No worries.  He’s signed for 1 year at $3.3M.  Bargain.  Sure, he does cover less ground than Brendan Ryan did and costs more, but that won’t be a problem.  All the balls will go right to him.  Nobody will notice a difference.  Look, the team consulted with “Peggy” from USA Prime Credit, and “she” likes this move.  “Peggy” considers Theriot to be “tenacious like bull” which is just another way of saying “scrappy”. 
  3. Chris Carpenter‘s last guaranteed contract year is 2011, and the team hasn’t stumbled all over itself yet to pick up his $15M option for 2012.  He’s probably a bit motivated.  Why not restructure that last year to bring him back at less than $15M and ensure that trade speculation doesn’t become a distraction?
  4. Albert Pujols still doesn’t have a contract extension yet, and a big run could convince him that the team is serious about competing.  Oceanfront property.  Arizona.  If he’s not convinced by now, then maybe he never will be. 
  5. Ryan Franklin is only signed through the 2011 season.  If he does return in 2012, I predict that he’ll no longer be the closer.  Actually, I think that when he enters the game, the PA system should play the “I’m A Random Wind Storm – Mayhem” commercial from Allstate.  You know, the one that starts out with the guy sitting on the limb repeating the word “shaky” over and over again. 
  6. The payroll monster is getting fed like never before.  The Cardinals started 2010 somewhere around $93M, and they will probably start 2011 just over $110M.  I haven’t done the research (and probably never will), but that might be the biggest year-over-year jump in franchise history. 

I’ve always been intrigued about the possibility of a team truly throwing caution to the wind and going “all in” for a single season.  My criteria for such a scenario are as follows:

  • The team must push payroll past the breaking point, past light speed, past ludicrous speed, and all the way to plaid.  (Click here for the scene from Spaceballs.  You know you wanna watch it. )
  • The team must repress young talented players in favor of over-the-hill players who are offering a “last-gasp” shot at recaptured glory.
  • The team must have an aging leader (Carp?) who inspires men to defend Greece against the invading Persians.  Yes, you are picturing Carp as Leonidas.  It’s true that you can’t unsee something.  You’re welcome.
  • The team must have some absolutely stupid nicknames.  Ryan Theriot“of Fire”?  Matt “Last” Holliday?  Jose Oquendo “Stick”?  “Chief Justice” Jon JaySkip Schumaker“s Mark”?  Now please everyone groan exactly 5 times in unison.  Okay, excellent.
  • The team must be scrappy.  (Isn’t Aaron Miles still available?)  NOTE:  I’m just joking.  Don’t do this.  Really.  Don’t.  He can get his first career strikeout somewhere else.
  • The team must receive significant contributions from inexpensive bench players.  (Looking at you Craig, Jay, Greene, and maybe Descalso)  This one could get interesting, especially after the weak bench performance of 2010.  Gone are Nick Stavinoha, Randy Winn, Felipe Lopez, and Aaron Miles.  How will TLR work to get at-bats for the bench players to keep them sharp?  Both TLR and Mo indicated that Allen Craig will get some time at 3B in spring training to give the team a viable option behind David Freese, and I think that he might be the key bench player to watch because of his power.  Jay makes sense as the defensive substitution for Berkman, but that won’t necessarily get him a lot of swings.  This teams needs to turn over the lineup a lot to keep everyone sharp, and that’s something it didn’t do well last year.  Oh where have you gone So Taguchi?
  • Finally, the team must pull off a ridiculous trade deadline deal that nobody saw coming.  If I knew the players involved, that would mean that I see it coming, so it wouldn’t count. 

What do you think?  Are the Cardinals going all-in?  Have they pushed all their chips to the center of the table yet?  Need more information to make up your mind?  Let’s take a look at what they are committed to spending for 2011 so far:

Yep, that’s $100,225,000 for 13 players.  That’s almost absurd.  Do you want to hear something even more absurd?  Way back on September 30th of 2010, I wrote “I’m A Lousy GM, but I’m Good At Adding Payroll“.  In that article, I envisioned a world in which Jake Westbrook returned to the Cardinals, and the team signed some expensive free agent.  The final payroll for opening day?  $109,075,000.  I thought that to be a ridiculous figure at the time.  Once all the pre-arbitration players (Jason Motte, Colby Rasmus, David Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Jaime Garcia, Mitchell Boggs) and the lone arbitration-eligible player (Kyle McClellan) deals are done, I’ll be most interested to see the final tally.

Like it?  Wish you were a random wind storm?  Find me on Twitter and make an absolutely ridiculous Spaceballs reference!

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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Andrew January 6, 2011

– What trade speculation regarding Carpenter?
– I think Franklin is planning on retiring after ’11, no?
– I would assume around a 7.5 mm salary average for the most expensive 13 contracts on a successful team is pretty normal.

Dennis January 6, 2011

The idea of a Carpenter trade to the Yankees has been raised many times, so I’m surprised you haven’t come across the idea at one site or two (bleacherreport, foxsports, i70baseball, ph8).

Franklin left the door open on baseball after 2011 by mentioning something about “serious money”. Sorry, but I don’t recall the entire quote. I believe that the context was that he was wanting to spend more time with his family, and that it would take a substantial amount of money for him to be convinced to continue pitching beyond 2011.

I guess your 3rd point comes down to what you consider “successful” and “normal”. I consider making the playoffs to be very successful, and the Rays made it with a payroll around $65M. The Rangers were just above $80M, and the Reds were just below $80M. I consider the Padres a success in 2010, and their payroll was a fraction of that. The Braves were in the low 90’s, I believe. Without actually looking up the numbers, I’d guess that the 2010 Cardinals were in the mid 90’s. The question is whether or not you would consider their season a success.

PH8 January 6, 2011

Dude, you said the b word.

Dennis January 6, 2011

I’m not sure that I even want to ask. I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that the “b” word was either “Brendan” or “Berkman”.

PH8 January 6, 2011

Nope. Bleacher Report. The same Bleacher Report that once had a stadium review piece on their site that stated, matter-of-factly, that “Progressive Field is a significant upgrade from Jacobs Field.”

PH8 January 16, 2011

Seems Franklin is waffling…

From @solomonsside on Twitter:

#stlcards closer Ryan Franklin says he wants to pitch beyond 2011 assuming this season goes well. #wwu

Dennis January 16, 2011

I had a gut feeling on this one. I think the stats showed that in 2010 he was still a good pitcher, but he wasn’t spectacular. Actually, I think his 2009 was an aberration, and I hope the Cardinals don’t sign him for 2012.

Dennis January 6, 2011

Ah, okay. I won’t judge. My sanity and ability to use reason and logic have been questioned enough that I know better than to throw stones. I just came across that site, because I was curious after the idea was mentioned on MLB Network about who else had suggested it.

Craig F. January 7, 2011

“The team must repress young talented players in favor of over-the-hill players who are offering a “last-gasp” shot at recaptured glory.”

Let me rewrite this:

“The team must repress young talented coaches in favor of over-the-hill managers who are offering a “last-gasp” shot at recaptured glory!”

See what I did there? hehe

Seriously though. If they truly want to move forward in the future they are going to have to get rid of Tony LaRussa. And I do not say that lightly. I am a huge LaRussa fan. However. LaRussa does not like young players. Even Albert Pujols only got his shot because Bobby B. got hurt. Thank god for that. Who would know what we have on this team because LaRussa doesn’t know how to talk to anyone under 25 it seems. I am still shocked that Colby Rasmus hasn’t been traded for a bag of balls and some sunflower seeds.

Dennis January 7, 2011

Very clever. I do think TLR has a bit of an issue with some younger players, but a lot of managers have trouble connecting with younger players as well. That’s why 2011 should be interesting, because he has no choice but to rely on some young players in potentially critical situations. If you look at the players named above and add up the number of pitchers, you can tell that the roster is nearly set for position players. They “may” have room for one more utility player, if they find one at the right price.

A Rasmus trade just makes no sense to me, no matter what the relationship is between Raz and Tony. As I basically mentioned in “All Your Dumb Trades Are Belong To Us” about a week ago, Rasmus is basically a much less expensive version of Justin Upton without quite the same power, defense, and speed. When the D-backs talked about making Upton available, they were asking for a boatload in return, and Upton is owed a lot of money through 2015. Rasmus isn’t even arbitration-eligible. Cheap talent is a wonderful thing. Unless something blows up, I’d expect him to outlast Tony in St. Louis.

Craig F. January 7, 2011

I completely agree with you. I hope he outlasts Tony. He is the kind of guy you need to be competitive and go out and sign big name free agents.

Andrew January 7, 2011

I’ve come across it, but the credibility is pretty dismissible, from my point of view at least.

I have a hard time seeing Bleacher Report becoming the source of “distraction” for Chris Carpenter — but okay.

I think you missed my point with the last comment, but that would take a while to explain. Essentially, is averaging a salary around 7 and a half million for your top players really that ludicrous if the players, you know, good? I don’t think so.

PH8 January 7, 2011

To be fair, depending on how the Cards perform between April and July could increase speculation about a trade of Carpenter – that’s kind of how I assumed it was intended.

I appear to be wrong on intent, but the possibility does exist that trade talk could increase given the right factors and no contract extension.

Dennis January 7, 2011

I’ve heard the trade idea mentioned a few other places (MLB Network’s Hot Stove show) as just an idea tossed into a discussion. If it had just been mentioned once or twice, I wouldn’t have thought much of it.

I did miss your point. Most expensive is definitely different than “top players”. If those two groups were one and the same, that would be a different story.

Andrew January 7, 2011


Dennis January 7, 2011

I don’t know how other intended the trade speculation. I based my idea primarily on the possibility that Carp may decide he wants to pitch in 2012, and that the Cardinals may not want to pick up the option. That leaves several possibilities which include a trade, a restructured deal, and retirement. As I mentioned in this piece, I’m in favor of a restructured deal that allows him to retire here.

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