Rick Ankiel and His Pending Departure

Joel KochSenior Analyst IJanuary 12, 2009

As far as I know, there is nothing brewing on the stove for the St. Louis Cardinals. They aren't trying to pry Michael Young loose from the Texas Rangers, or talking to the Chicago White Sox about Bobby Jenks. Heck, they haven't even talked to the Baltimore Orioles about Brian Roberts or George Sherrill (or both) since the end of November.

What I do know is that Rick Ankiel needs to be traded.

I'll be the first to admit that Ankiel is one of my favorite players (I wore my socks up to my knees in 2000 because Ankiel did it that way) and it would be a sad day for me if he is traded; however, he needs to go.

Ankiel is primed to take a $3 to $4 million payday in his final year of arbitration, and with Scott Boras as his agent, he can expect a larger payday after 2009. Boras will talk Ankiel out of renegotiating with the Cardinals before he hits the open market. With Matt Holliday and Jason Bay being the biggest free-agent names in the outfield, Ankiel could be heading towards a large contract.

Why? Holliday and Bay play left field, whereas Ankiel can play the entire outfield—and do it well.

Besides his pending free agency, Ankiel needs to be dealt to cut payroll. With a likely raise of $3 million coming, he could be dealt for a player that isn't going to arbitration for a year or two, which could cut payroll by $500,000 and stop from adding $3 million (which can be added to the amount left over and be used to sign a pitcher).

So, where should Ankiel go? First and foremost, he should be shipped to the Seattle Mariners. Brandon Morrow can be a closer or starter and is very talented. A straight-up trade (or an inclusion of another pending arbitration case, like Brad Thompson or Chris Duncan) would be good for both sides.

The Mariners are trying to rebuild, and Ankiel (being only 30) would be a good start for the organization. A good year out of Ankiel could up his worth to Type A status. He could also bring a big return at the trade deadline if he's having a good year. A bad year would be a good way to leverage Scott Boras into going lower for his next contract and wait for Ankiel rebound in 2010.

If the Mariners won't deal, a "three-way" (a trade leading to a trade, instead of a regular three-way deal) trade with the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals would be a great start. The Nationals have high interest in Nick Swisher. So, a deal of Swisher to the Nationals would bring the Yankees slight salary relief and two or three prospects. The Yankees turn around and deal one of the prospects with Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy to the Cardinals for Ankiel.

The final team would have to be the Atlanta Braves. As happy as I would be to see them pry Yunel Escobar loose, I'm a realist and I know it won't happen, but who said anything about Escobar?

Mike Gonzalez is a good closer and a straight-up trade would be ideal. Of course, this wouldn't shed any payroll for the Cardinals (and would shed about $1 million for the Braves), with Gonzalez also standing to make $5-6 million in his final year of arbitration, but he would be easier to sign to an extension (if need be).

The Mariners are the best match, the Yankees are second, and the Braves are third. There are no other "ideal" straight-up matches out there. A larger deal involving Ankiel would work, but as far as Ankiel alone, these are the only three teams and these are the only targeted players that make the most since for both sides.

I hope Ankiel isn't traded, but I also hope he is. I'm on the fence about this whole situation, but I would be okay with either situation.

Let's not get our hopes up, though, people. John Mozeliak is moving at a snail's pace and may wait until the middle of Spring Training to make a move ("Lohse" another pitcher). Of course, that's if he makes a transaction at all.

I haven't decided one way or another about Mozeliak yet, but I'm starting to lean towards the side that says he is a stooge and a puppet, while having no potential at all.

Here's to hoping Mozeliak makes a few good moves.