Not long until pitchers and catchers report. Twenty days or so. Baseball season is almost here! Right now though, we talk about what the Cardinals need to do to get ready for the start of spring.
Matt Holliday is signed. A vast amount of players are returning and are under contract.
Damn that bench, though. Damn it. Go ahead, I'll wait for you.
The St. Louis Cardinals bench is lacking not only pop, but versatility.
Julio Lugo returns on the Red Sox dime and plays 2B and SS. He can also play 3B, LF, or RF if needed, but his best positions are up the middle.
Jason LaRue is a catcher and has logged some innings at first base.
Then the crickets chirp, and chirp loudly.
Every person (writers, fans, those cavemen off of Geico commercials) are pushing for more players, and preferably from outside of the organization.
Why not sign others.
In fact, let's devote a whole article to it! Why? Well, because it is Friday and delaying my three page essay a few more hours won't kill me. And if does, well, at least I went out like a man and wrote this article.
My attempt at humor is over. Game face is on.
Bench Building 101
The Cardinals are committed to David Freese at the hot corner, but want to bring in competition for him so he never takes easy or takes the job for granite.
You need competition? Hank "The Bank" Blalock is here.
Okay, sure, Blalock has never been much with the glove.
In his career, Blalock has made 71 errors in 1778 chances (.960 fielding percentage) at the hot corner. He has an average range factor per game (2.4) and a a horrible range runs above average (-18.7). His ultimate zone rating is horrific (-11.2) and a below average UZR/150 (-2.6).
The good news? Well, will you take "meh" news? His wins above replacement are slightly better than one (11.9 over eight seasons) for his career.
Not bad, really. Not great, but not bad.
The actual good news is that he makes a competition with Freese, as Blalock is a veteran who has established himself. He will keep Freese from getting too comfortable.
The best part is that Blalock can serve as a left handed pinch hitter with power (152 home runs) and can serve as the primary backup to Albert Pujols (something the team lacks).
Yeah, that is the hard part.
Scott Boras is Blalock's agent, but teams are not lining up to sign Blalock. Plus, the Cardinals just signed Holliday, so maybe Boras will throw a bone.
A one year deal worth $2 million would not be horrible for the team or Blalock. That is actually more than what his comparable counterparts, Jason Giambi and Jim Thome, will make.
Incentives of course will be in the deal that could kick the total up to something in the $3.5 to $5 million range. It would account for Blalock picking up a starters amount of at-bats for injuries, among other factors.
And this signing would actually serve the Cardinals better than Felipe Lopez.
Please, get back into your chair.
Lopez is a better fielder at third base than Blalock, but of course the difference in games played is as big as the Grand Canyon (95 to 697).
And while Lopez would offer more positional flexibility than Blalock, Blalock would be paid slightly higher than a backup player. Lopez will be paid like a starter to fill a bench role.
In that regard, who would you rather have?
Blalock is the guy and the Cardinals need to make that happen.
Oh, and the fun doesn't stop there. There are still two more spots to fill up, and believe you me, I'm filling them.
Next up: outfield.
The Cardinals need a fourth outfielder who can play center fielder first and foremost.
Hey Rocco Baldellli, what are you doing this season?
Baldelli is a center fielder who can play the corner outfield. He is, however, at his best in center field. And that is why the Cardinals need him.
Baldelli's UZR in center field is a very good 10.8, and his UZR/150 is 4.2 (again, good).
He doesn't carry a big stick, but with Blalock in the fold and Baldelli serving as a right handed hitting center fielder to replace Rasmus against touch lefties, his bat is more than fine for St. Louis.
Throw in that he has battled back from issues and is a positive clubhouse presence, all the more reason to sign him.
A one year, $1.1 million contract will get this done. Again, incentives are aplenty within the deal to raise his salary in case of an outfield injury that results in more playing time.
For $3.1 million, those two better this bench.
The final spot would be used on an internal player. Be it another natural outfielder (Jon Jay), a power corner man (Allen Craig), or an infielder (Tyler Greene).
Another possibility? Signing Alfredo Amezaga to a Minor League contract that pays him $600 thousand plus incentives if he makes the big league club.
Amezaga is a super utility player, playing 2B/3B/SS/LF/CF/RF and even some first base. He did have surgery, hence the split contract. If he is healthy, though, he would serve an important role on this club.
Glen Perkins isn't happy with the Minnesota Twins. He throws from a side the Cardinals know little about. He has had good success in the Majors.
Need I say more?
Yes, he too had shoulder surgery. Shoulder burns have been common in St. Louis recently, but he is worth the risk assuming he is healthy. A few weeks into Spring Training would be ideal before making this deal for two reasons:
1) Perkins would have pitched some and shown weather or not his shoulder is fully healed
2) The Cardinals fifth starter battle would be a few weeks old and it would have some clarity about if someone else is needed for the role
The reasoning here is simple, but before I defend myself, I want to make a case reference from the famous Law v. Jones. Keith Law said this about Jones in his most recent Top 100 Prospect Rankings (insider required):
"He's a plus-plus runner who shows good pitch recognition and sprays line drives to all fields. Where Jones may fall short as a hitter is in the power department—he's pretty linear and doesn't transfer his weight fully, striding but keeping his weight back even through contact, so even though he's physically wired for power he's not going to fully realize that with his current swing.
"On defense, he has the speed for center but his reads continue to need work, and his arm won't allow him to play right."
Left field? That spot is set for seven years. Center field? That spot is set for five more years and more to come.
Right field? Law doesn't think Jones can play there, and with Allen Craig and Jon Jay primed and ready for everyday gigs (well, more primed than Jones), Jones falls short. If he didn't throw left handed, he could always move to second.
The Twins like young players. With Delmon Young possibly falling out of favor, Michael Cuddyer's contract ending and Joe Mauer's new one possibly starting, the Twins need outfielders.
Yes, Aaron Hicks is right there, but it always helps to have others at your disposal. Jones would be a good add for the Twins.
Reifer is more of a special case. He has a very high octane fastball, and dare I say higher than Motte's. His problem is control, and the fact that he too lacks a good second pitch.
With the Cardinals armed with right handed relievers/starters-turned-relievers (do you REALLY want me to name them all?), Reifer is expandable.
The Twins need of him? They like cost controlled players and could use the flamethrower in their bullpen in the next couple of years. Reifer is an elite setup man, or good closer, in the waiting.
The Twins like that.
Rick the Stick is Gone: Get over it!
I won't sit here and tell you that I'm not sad to see Ankiel leave. I still wear high socks because of that man (2000 was great). I was at the game he blew up. I jumped around my basement and broke a lamp, and just about tore cartilage in my knee from tripping over a table. when he hit a home run his first game back as a hitter.
Get over it though. People are making this into too big of a saga.
Ankiel was a flawed hitter who played a decent outfield. The Cardinals have Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus, and Ryan Ludwick manning the outfield. Ankiel was going to be a fourth outfielder. He wanted to start. Kansas City was willing to offer him a starting gig.
Good for him. He can start, we can move on. Making a big saga about it won't bring him back. Though, you can always bring it up for four months and make a movie out of it like they did with Michael Jackson. That could always be entertaining. Rick Ankiel: "This is it! I'm Done With Pitching!"
The one thing that makes me laugh about this whole thing though: the same people crying over the spilled milk are the ones who complained that Ankiel took too many at-bats away from Rasmus.
Jim Edmonds is a Brewer! Gasp*Shock*Horror!
Here's a link to Bernie Miklasz's most recent column on this (among other interesting stuff...great read, seriously). I agree with him 100 percent. Edmonds is a great actor. He found a job because of his acting skill, and I honor him for it.
People are up in awe because he went to ANOTHER division rival! Big deal. The San Diego Padres released Edmonds and the Chicago Cubs offered him a job in 2008. He didn't do it to make the Cardinals or their fans mad. He did it because he knew he could win there, and oh yeah, they actually offered him a contract.
The Milwaukee Brewers? Edmonds is comfortable in the National League Central, obviously, and signed with a team he knows. They offered him a job. He'd be dumb not to take it.
Will he have an impact? Probably not. He's a corner outfielder now and can't hit left handed pitching. Not needed in St. Louis, but could be needed in Milwaukee. Wish him the best, don't hate on the guy.
It is kind of like if you were fired from Pepsi. Would you turn down Coca Cola if they offered you a job because you worked at Pepsi? No, of course not. You need the money, you go where the job is.
And if you get some kind of revenge on your old employer, then that is just icing on the cake.
Just some final bits on what is probably the longest and least structured article I've written in a while:
John Kruk annoys me. You can point out the obvious by saying he always tries to make himself out to be so much better than what he was when he was playing, but he's just annoying. Could be the voice. Could be that eerie way he looks like Chester the Molester from down the street. Not sure yet. Stay tuned...
Conan O'Brien isn't the Tonight Show host anymore. Can we all praise the TV Gods please? That man is not funny. I'm sorry, but he isn't. Nothing he says makes me laugh. Jay Leno is somewhat funny and has some good lines, but he's better than Conan.
This whole thing though isn't Leno's fault. He didn't want to retire six years ago, but NBC made him pick a replacement. He didn't want to leave last year, so NBC made him a show. Connan's ratings sucked (I wonder why...) and NBC put Leno back in. Blame NBC, not Leno...
Anyone else notice that the world's temperature is all screwy? The summer was cold (except my friend was married outdoors on the one day the temperature was over 100) and the winter was warm-ish. Now? Freezing. Tomorrow? Probably 50 degrees again. Seriously Mother Nature, make up your freaking mind...
Final quip: Eddie Money rocks. Don't deny it. Listen to some of his music and you'll learn to like it.