Last week I asked the question, “If the Cardinals could add anyone, whom should they add?” I was curious to see which active player — with accompanying contract — Cards fans desire the most.
Big thanks to all of you who participated in the poll. We got more than 150 votes, and they were quite interesting. All 19 players I listed got at least one vote, plus there were three serious write-in votes — not counting my Cubs fan friend’s Kosuke Fukudome pick — so the totals were pretty well spread out.
Results (as of noon Friday):
29 VOTES (18.35%): Troy Tulowitzki
15 VOTES: Justin Verlander
14 VOTES: Matt Kemp
9 VOTES: Bryce Harper
8 VOTES: Andrew McCutchen
6 VOTES: Dustin Pedroia
5 VOTES: Buster Posey
2 VOTES: Felix Hernandez
1 VOTE: Madison Bumgarner
I didn’t really undertake this poll with a clear expectation of how it would turn out, but I was somewhat surprised to see Troy Tulowitzki earn about twice as many votes as his nearest competitor.
On one hand, I can see why. Tulo is one of the game’s best players, and as a shortstop, he plays a high-value position where the Cardinals have little organizational talent. On the other hand, his contract guarantees him another $148 million over the next nine years, going through his age 35 season. If you believe Tulo’s performance during the first half of the contract will make it worthwhile to take on or that he will age in an especially graceful manner, I can see the argument for choosing him.
But remember that in this hypothetical situation, your entire budget is not unlimited, so absorbing Tulo’s contract severely cripples your flexibility. For me, the $74 million he’s owed for his ages 32-35 seasons is too much to ignore.
Some other observations about the results:
- I found it odd that Justin Verlander, who finished second, outpaced Felix Hernandez, 15 votes to 2. Why? Their contracts going forward are both for three years, with virtually identical money. But while Verlander has been a little more valuable over the past three years, he’s also three years older. I think this result probably reflects Verlander’s outstanding 2011, but I would bet on King Felix being the better pitcher going forward.
- Albert Pujols got 11 votes, tying him for fourth. I find this fascinating. First, his 10-year, $240 million contract is insane. Second, I figured that if nothing else, fan resentment would prevent people from voting for Pujols. Is this sentimentality or a reflection of a belief that Pujols actually would be the team’s best bet over the next decade? If anyone who voted for El Hombre wants to explain in the comments, I’d be quite interested.
- The player I perhaps was most curious to gauge support for was Bryce Harper, the Nationals phenom who probably will make his MLB debut this year at the age of 19. One of the most hyped prospects of all time, Harper has incredibly high expectations and earned nine votes in our poll. I don’t think I would use my pick on someone who has played 37 games above the Class A level, but Harper is a special enough prospect that I think it’s at least defensible.
- No love for Justin Upton or Mike Stanton, who combined for seven votes? Maybe it’s a function of them being corner outfielders and the Cards already having Matt Holliday locked up long-term. But Upton is a proven star at age 24 and is signed for four more affordable seasons. Stanton has unreal power, crushed the ball last season at age 21 and is under team control for five more years. I’d include both guys among my top five choices.
- Nobody used a write-in vote on a relief pitcher. Thank you!
And now, my pick.
This was extremely tough. Obviously, all of these guys are tremendous assets, although some of their contracts make them less so. Some guys I love but ultimately decided against because of huge long-term contracts (Tulo, Matt Kemp). Some guys I love but decided against because I wasn’t sure they had enough time left on their contract to justify the pick under these circumstances (Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw).
In the end it came down to a pair of Tampa Bay Rays, who both fared pretty well in the poll. Third baseman Evan Longoria plays a valuable position, is only entering his age 26 season and is owed a staggeringly team-friendly $39 million over the next five seasons (including team options), a length that ensures good return on investment while ending before Longoria figures to begin his decline. Oh, and Fangraphs’ WAR has him as the second-most-valuable position player in baseball over the past three years, just a touch behind a certain Mr. Pujols.
Starting pitcher Matt Moore has all of 9 ⅓ regular season MLB innings under his belt, but the 23-year-old left-hander demolished minor league hitters – 13.5 K/9 in Triple-A last year — and is MLB.com’s No. 1 prospect. If that weren’t enough, Moore signed a contract so beautiful I imagine Andrew Friedman putting a copy of it under his pillow every night: 8 years — the last three of which are team options — for $37 million.
Between those two, you clearly can’t go wrong. But as tantalizing as Moore’s deal is, he’s still a pitching prospect, and pitching prospects will break your heart. With apologies to World Series Hero David Freese, I’ll take the safer bet and sign on for five years of Evan Longoria.