Riverboat Gambler

by on March 7, 2011 · 11 comments

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away and know when to run” ~Kenny Rogers (The Gambler)

Those words of wisdom probably apply just as well to free agency as they do to poker, and there are certainly some parallels to be drawn.  You can’t win every single hand, but you want to be in on the “big one”.  You never play against someone named “Lefty”, “Doc”, or “Ace”.  Finally, you really do need to know when to hold, when to fold, and when it’s time to leave the table.  Free agency is the same way, and it’s never too early to start keeping an eye on players that MIGHT be free agents in the near future.  After all, each one has some potential to wear the Birds on the Bat.  Even though some have more potential than others, you still want to do your due diligence, because the practical definition of luck is the meeting of preparation and opportunity. 

Some players have a few years left on their contracts, but maybe they play for teams could be looking to dump a little salary soon.  Some may be set to become free agents after the 2011 season.  A few might simply be long shots that you yearn to see play in the Gateway City.  Then there are some that just make no sense at all, but they will be available anyway.  With that in mind, remember that this is simply a list and not necessarily a wishlist.

Hold ’em: 

  • Chris Carpenter – Sure, I mentioned that he could be traded off for prospects in 2011 only to return as a free agent in 2012.  Don’t do it, though. 
  • Pretty much all the prospects in the organization – Lance Lynn, PJ Walters, Zack Cox, Adron Chambers, Daniel Descalso, and Brandon Dickson are all included in this group.  Some can already play close to the major league level, and the rest are hopefully headed that direction.  Every success story one of these guys represents equals one expensive free agent that the team doesn’t need to sign.  Keep these guys.  Okay, thanks.

Fold ’em: 

  • Mark Buehrle – P, White Sox.  Avoid that $15M poison pill in his contract.  IF he doesn’t get traded during the 2011, he’ll become a free agent.  Considering the potential price, is he really a better alternative to what the Cardinals have in-house for 2012?
  • Jered Weaver – Pitcher, Angels.  Weaver isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season, but it’s worth keeping an eye on him.  He went 13-12 with a 3.01 ERA and 233 strikeouts in 224 1/3 innings in 2010, and he would be a nice compliment to Garcia, Wainwright, and a few current “Baby Birds” in 2013.  Just thinking ahead a bit for when Westbrook and Lohse are no longer on the payroll.  Unfortunately, Weaver is in this category, because I don’t think he’ll make it to free agency without a truckload of money being pushed his way. 

Walk away:

  • CJ Wilson – Pitcher, Texas Rangers.  2010 was Wilson’s first season as a starter, and he went 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA with 170 strikeouts in 204 innings with a 1.245 WHIP.  If he repeats that performance in 2011, the Rangers almost have to re-sign him to a long-term deal.  If they don’t, then plenty of teams will be waiting with big contracts for the 30 year-old to autograph.  Free agent after 2011 season.  I’m Wilson fan, but the price tag is going to be big.  We’re not talking “newest Jordans” big, either.  We’re talking “newest Louboutins” big.  We’re talking about the difference between a Kia Soul and a Ferrari “big”. 


  • Jose Reyes – SS, New York Mets.  Yes, he’s under contract for $11M this season.  Yes, he’s battled some injuries.  What if he’s available at the trade deadline, though?  What if the Cardinals don’t have to give up a lot to get him?  He’s a legitimate leadoff guy with speed.  It’s just a thought.  Just a thought.  Free agent after 2011 season.

…and then there’s….well, that’s about it.  Seriously, there are actually over 200 names on the list of potential free agents, but many of them will likely be removed by the end of the season.  Some will retire, many will sign contracts with their teams, and others will have their team options exercised.  Many of the rest are players that you probably don’t want to hear about like *cough* *cough* Randy Winn, or some you’d rather not see on the list (HINT: Plbert Aujols).  The harsh reality is that the pickings are slim.  That fact and the potential price tags that accompany the top-shelf free agents that are available combine to underscore the value of the homegrown talent

Just imagine a couple years from now looking down at the 25 man roster for the Cardinals and seeing that the projected starting pitchers for the Cardinals are named Wainwright, Garcia, Lynn, Walters, and Dickson.  Yeah, that’s a huge stretch, but that’s the ultimate payoff of the talent pipeline created by good drafting and keeping the minor league system intact.  Best of all, a team built around homegrown pitching can afford to spend lavishly on superstar talent to provide run support for those pitchers.  *hint* *hint*

You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealing’s done” ~Kenny Rogers (The Gambler)

Yeah, but what if you count it, and there’s enough to make a deadline deal?

TIDBIT:  Admittedly, I’m not much of a “riverboat gambler”.  I just go for the food, because I know how much THAT will cost me. 

MORE BITS OF TID:  A few good spring training outings do not a big leaguer make.  I’m excited about the future of the “Baby Birds”, but I’m not “ZOMG send them all to Stl excited” yet.  I want to see a much larger sampling, and then I’ll

Like it?  Can you picture Jose Reyes wearing the Birds on the Bat?  Follow gr33nazn on Twitter and let me know about it!

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 March 7, 2011

Why is Shelby Miller not mentioned in the potential rotation?

Dennis March 7, 2011

The point of mentioning any of the prospects was simply to suggest that I hope the team holds on to as many as possible and not to project the potential rotation. If the projection is that Lynn, Miller, Dickson, and Walters are all competing for starting jobs behind Garcia and Wainwright, then all the better in my mind. I’m not picky.

E,E. RIPPER March 7, 2011

I think the Cards should send Holliday, Carpenter, Garcia & $1B in cash to the Cubs for Soriano, Zambrano, Silva, a bucket of balls & the Cubs 2099 1433rd round draft pick.

Dennis March 7, 2011

With the luck of the Cubs, Soriano would retire, Zambrano would take baseball seriously, Silva would win a Cy Young, and the $1B would get spent on figuring out how to fit a football field into Wrigley. 😉

Andrew March 7, 2011

Sure, I was just wondering there was any reason Miller wasn’t in the imagined rotation over inferior prospects like Lynn, Dickson, Walters. The latter two I don’t consider to be “prospects” really.

JE March 7, 2011

I love this idea for a blog. Very creative. It’s always great when you can reference a song so complicated that it spawned five movies.

Rich March 7, 2011

I’ll kick your ass if the Mets trade Reyes to the Cards.

PH8 March 8, 2011

Big talker…

Dennis March 7, 2011

Yeah, tough guy? Not if I kick my ass first!

(Oh wait, I’m lousy at comebacks.)

Bill Miller March 8, 2011

I don’t see the Mets allowing Reyes to walk away from them if he remains reasonably healthy this season. He is just too vital to their offense for them to not make a serious attempt to re-sign him. On the other hand, if he spends most of the year on the D.L., it may be time to cut bait and let him sign elsewhere. Shortstop is not a deep position in the Majors these days, so he will not be easily replaced. The Mets will offer him another contract, but they won’t pay him whatever he wants.

Rich March 8, 2011

I agree Bill. But if he thinks he’s worth 100MM, why wouldn’t he walk? I think the Mets will make an attempt but I can’t see the Mets approaching anywhere close to that number. I could see 4/70.

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