Well, Spring Training is right around the corner, and the Cardinals are going into the 2010 season having a devastating middle of the lineup. But they still have some work to do.
First, with the Redbirds having Matt Holliday in their lineup for a full season will make the offense better than it was last year. With the presence of Pujols, Holliday, and Ludwick consisting the middle of the batting order, the offense is a very very talented offense and one of the best in the National League.
The thing that is still bugging me about the Cardinals' batting order is that Pujols is hitting third and Holliday is hitting fourth. Yeah yeah yeah, I know your best player is supposed to hit third, but in this case, Pujols should be hitting cleanup. Fat Albert not only hits for a high average but also led all of baseball in home runs and has more power than Holliday.
Pujols is one of the best hitters in the game today, and possible will be one of the best in baseball history. Having Holliday hit third wouldn't be bad anyway.
With the Cardinals signing of Matt Holliday to a long-term deal done, which was and should have been their No. 1 priority, the Cardinals can relax and take a deep breath and know that they will be competing every single year, especially if the Cardinals sign Pujols long-term (which they will).
With the signing of Brad Penny, which was a great pick-up for the Cards—sorry Giants fans—the Cards now also have a solid pitching staff now. They had an already good rotation last year, but Brad Penny is a more reliable and consistent pitcher than Pineiro was. Penny will now be replacing Pineiro in the rotation. Last year was one of his best years in his career.
Brad Penny was born to pitch in the National League, and leaving At&T Park may hurt his numbers a little bit; however, he should be fine because he has Pujols and Holliday hitting for him in the lineup and those two will put many runs on the board for you every single game, unlike the Giants and their horrid offense from last year. The Redbirds didn't do much this offseason, just signed Holliday and Penny, but that is good enough.
They didn't need to do much anyway because they are already good. Also, having a year under the belt done, Colby Rasmus, should improve and be a very important young solid player to add to the core of the Cardinals lineup. And also having Lugo all year will be beneficial. Lugo was a very solid player for the Cardinals last year after they obtained him from the Red Sox at the July trade deadline.
The Redbirds do still need to spend some money and get a couple of more luxury things to add icing to their cake. Yeah, David Freese is going into Spring Training as the favorite to win the third base job, but I still think that he should be a backup.
The Cards need some bench help, another starter, another bullpen guy or two, a third basemen and/or second baseman, and some outfield and infield depth. The Cards should first sign Felipe Lopez. He had an excellent year last year, and isn't to expensive. He can play both third base and second base. He can platoon at third and second.
The Redbirds should then sign John Smoltz to be a fifth starter. If they sign just those two players, along with the signings of Holliday and Penny, the Cards' offseason would have been very beneficial.
The Cards did miss out on signing Jim Edmonds. As a Cardinals fan, I would have loved to see him as a backup outfielder and player off the bench. I really wish the Cards would have signed Tejada to play third; that would have been a great upgrade.
Another move the Cards could do for bench help is to sign Hank Blalock. The Cards could also sign Orlando Hudson if they wanted to, but he is costly, and I would just go with spending the money on Lopez and Smoltz.
The Cards' offseason so far, with the signings of Penny and Holliday, I would give them a grade of a B+, because they could still add a little more, but they don't need to do a whole lot cause as I said earlier, they are already good enough now to continue to win the National League Central and adding anything else would be icing to the cake.
This offseason, the Cards didn't lost a whole lot in free agency. They lost: Mark DeRosa (San Francisco), Pineiro (Angels), Smoltz (still a free agent), Troy Glaus (Atlanta), Khalil Greene (Rangers), Brian Barden (still a free agent), Rick Ankiel (Royals).
The biggest losses were DeRosa, Smoltz, and Pineiro. Penny replaced Pineiro and Freese is replacing DeRosa. Signing Lopez would make the absence of DeRosa even less bitter, and then just re-sign Smoltz. The loss of Glaus, Greene, Barden, and Ankiel aren't real threatening, and the losses of DeRosa and Pineiro have already been replaced.
I was really disappointed on some free agents that signed elsewhere who would have been perfect for the Cards: Tejada (Orioles), Edmonds (Brewers), Padilla (Dodgers), Sheets (A's), Garland (San Diego), Atkins (Orioles). The remaining free agents that I think the Cardinals should look at and consider are: Joe Crede, Jose Lopez, Hank Blalock, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, Noah Lowry, Chien-Mang Wang, and Erik Bedard.
Tejada, Atkins, and Beltre would have been perfect for the Cards. Sign Crede and Lopez, both for pretty cheap. Edmonds would have added outfield depth and veteran presence off the bench. Padilla would have been the perfect number five starter for the Cards as would have Jon Garland and Ben Sheets, but who is available is good really cheap options. Just resign Smoltz.
This is what I think the starting Lineup should be with current team:
1. SS Lugo
2. CF Colby Rasmus
3. LF Matt Holliday
4. 1B Albert Pujols
5. RF Ryan Ludwick
6. 3B David Freese
7. 2B Brendan Ryan
8. C Yadier Molina
I really would rather have Ryan play second than Schumacker, and have Lugo play short rather than Ryan or Greene. Greene and Schumacker should be backups. This is what the lineup should be after signing Lopez.
1. 2B Lopez/Ryan
2. SS Lugo/Ryan
3. LF Holliday
4. 1B Pujols
5. RF Ludwick
6. CF Rasmus
7. 3B Freese/Lopez/Crede
8. C Molina
If the Cards signed anyone else then just switch the lineup around and primarily switch 3B, SS, and 2B depending on who you sign. Now Pitching Rotation with current team:
Now if you sign Smoltz, just insert him into the five spot. Or if you sign another pitcher, slip him into the five spot.
In conclusion, the Cardinals are going to be good next year, and in my prediction they will do about the same they did last year, but actually win in playoffs. The Cards are set to go and anything else they add is icing to the cake.
I think the Cards should definitely re-sign Smoltz and then sign Lopez. Then maybe possibly another pitcher or also sign Crede to man third and then Lopez to man second. The Cardinals are going to be competing every year for the next couple of years. I'm sure I left a lot of stuff to mention out and didn't talk about it, but is my very first blog.