If longtime Cardinals nemesis Roy Oswalt is in fact headed to St. Louis on a modest one-year deal, it not only gives the Cards three of the best players from the 2004 Astros team it beat in the NLCS, but also provides the team with a low-risk, high-reward bet. If Oswalt gets hurt or flames out, it wouldn’t cost much. If he stays relatively healthy and pitches like he has the past few years, he’s a clear upgrade.
This is the type of move a team in the Cardinals’ financial situation should be making. It’s shrewd bargain shopping for John Mozeliak, who must realize any small improvement could make the difference in a division that figures to be a tight race between the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers.
But just for fun, let’s step out of the realistic world for a moment. What if the Cardinals weren’t limited to the Roy Oswalts of the world? What if they could grab any player on any MLB team without giving up anything in return? In this scenario, whom should they choose?
Before we get into it, a few important stipulations: 1) The player comes attached to his current contract; 2) To make things more interesting, let’s say Bill DeWitt has agreed to let you take on any contract, regardless of length or financial commitment; but 3) That’s a one-shot deal and doesn’t mean your entire budget is unlimited. In other words, the more you spend on this player, the less you have to address other needs.
As I see it, here are the main issues to consider, in no particular order:
- Fit: Perhaps you’re of the mind to simply grab the best player, but you also might consider what the organization’s biggest needs are. If you need a refresher on the Cardinals’ current depth chart and minor league system, check out this handy roster matrix.
- Age: If the idea is a long-term asset, a player already in his 30s obviously makes little sense.
- Ability: In the case of a very young player, how do you think he will develop? In the case of an older one, how gracefully will he age?
- Contract: Ideally, you don’t want one that eventually will become an albatross or prevent you from signing other players. But it also wouldn’t be wise to select someone who is close to free agency.
For your convenience, I came up with a list of players who could fit. It’s a mix of big stars and young, cheap players with big potential. Some of them are definitely big stretches for a variety of reasons, but I tried to be comprehensive. Check it out.
Now that you know what we’re working with here, it’s time for some tough choices. Considering all factors, my personal preference is for a young player who either has several years of team control left or is signed to a team-friendly long-term contract. In this scenario, I would prefer a position player (less risk) and one who plays a premium defensive position.
But what do you prefer? Let’s put it to a vote. Remember, the player comes with his contract!
In this poll, I’ve included several of my top choices, plus some other high-profile names I think will make for good debate. Please explain your reasoning in the comments, particularly if you choose, “Other.” I’ll be back next week to look at and discuss the results.