Brendan Ryan is a free agent, but the Cardinals should steer clear.
While players around the league are heading home to be with their families, front office personnel and general managers are in intense meetings as they map out a game plan.
The Cardinals are no exception.
With many players crossing the free agent threshold, the Cardinals have many unanswered questions.
The problem is that the crop of free agents is not the best. With Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann topping the list, the talent level drops pretty fast after the top 10.
While it’s possible the Cardinals could find themselves in the mix for a number of the top 10—namely Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran—there are also a few that I would recommend they avoid in their search.
For the most part, expect a shortstop pickup, but don’t rule out an outfielder that could either play center or spell Craig in right field on occasion.
Following are three free agents that I would recommend they steer clear of this winter.
2013 Team: Seattle Mariners/New York Yankees
2013 Stats: .197/.255/.273 4 HR, 22 RBI, 23 BB, 319 AB
Career: .237/.299/.320 19 HR, 187 RBI, 189 BB, 424 K
Why to avoid? While there may be a certain faction of Cardinals fans who would believe Brendan Ryan as a free agent while the team searches for a shortstop to be divine intervention, that group would be wrong. No one is arguing against Ryan’s glove—defensively he’s solid. His bat, on the other hand, is weak at best.
For now two seasons in a row, Ryan has failed to hit .200 and hasn’t batted over .250 since 2009 with the Cardinals. Ryan has only played more than 140 games once in his career. All things considered, Ryan wouldn’t necessarily be an upgrade over Pete Kozma.
2013 Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
2013 Stats: .211/.249/.309 5 HR, 23 RBI, 14 BB, 304 AB
Career: .246/.294/.383 86 HR, 392 RBI, 197 BB, 661 K
Why to avoid? Tom Singer of MLB.com reports that the Pirates are eager to re-sign Barmes, and the Cardinals should make sure not to interfere with their efforts. Barmes is a solid defensive option, but there is no reason to see his offensive production as an upgrade.
Only once in his 11-year career has Barmes played 150 games, and he has been in offensive decline for three consecutive years. His average has dropped from .244 in 2011 to .211 in 2013—a new career low. That’s not a gamble that a team two wins away from winning a World Series should be willing to take.
2013 Team: Houston Astros/New York Mets
2013 Stats: .194/.232/.435 7 HR, 18 RBI, 8 BB, 124 AB
Career: .241/.302/.423 76 HR, 251 RBI, 162 BB, 552 K
Why to avoid? Much like Brendan Ryan, Rick Ankiel could be attractive to the sentimental crowd, but in reality it’s not a direction where the Cardinals should be shopping. The need for an additional outfielder is only marginal and would hinge on the anticipated exit of Carlos Beltran.
Ankiel was good enough with a bat that after his shutdown as a pitcher he was able to keep his major league going. After putting together a pair of decent seasons, he has since bounced from team to team in search of a long-term role.
Over the last two years he has failed to play 70 games and hit a career low .241 during his time as a position player in 2013. He’s not signed anywhere in 2014, and, while it would make a happy story, he should not return to finish his career in St. Louis.
In the end, the Cardinals would be better served by working the trade market than picking up bargain priced, aging talent.