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Nomar Garciaparra. He plays first base, third base, and was one of the better shortstops of the past decade.
The Cardinals should sign him.
Let's look at this reasonably. No stats, no money, nothing like that.
What we will look at: presence and versatility.
Nomar is a great clubhouse presence. You can never have too many of those kind of guys. Never. Nomar is a respected teammate who has offered to play positions he has never played before for the team.
Take his 2005 season. He had been hurt for much of the season and was finally back healthy. Then, Aramis Ramirez went down.
Nomar actually went into Dusty Baker's office and offered to shift to third base. Third base, a position he hadn't played professionally at all. Not in the minors nor the majors. Not even on his rehabilitation assignment for the Cubs in 2005.
Yet, he still offered to move for the good of the team.
He hit the open market and was touted as a utility player. You tell him the position, he'll play it. The Dodgers came calling and wanted him to play first.
Nomar will do what it takes to improve the team. That's a good player, someone others can look up to. The Cardinals need another one of those players to match with clubhouse figureheads Chris Carpenter and Albert Pujols.
You can make the case that the Cardinals have plenty of guys in the clubhouse that others can look up to, but Nomar brings a lot to the table. He not only has a very strong work ethic, but he also brings humor to the table. Humor is needed.
With the serious guys like Pujols, Tony La Russa, and Dave Duncan around, the clubhouse needs someone to keep them light.
Yes, Brendan Ryan is that guy, but because he is still considered a "young kid," he doesn't get away with it. He gets some leniency (the big helmet batting practice gag was great), but La Russa looks down upon Ryan when he goes a little overboard. As he should, so Ryan doesn't feel like a veteran, but someone still fighting for a job.
Nomar brings automatic respect, but also humor that La Russa will let go. La Russa gives his veterans loose chains because as he sees it, they have worked their tails off to get and stay there, so why should you limit them?
This clubhouse needs Nomar. Sure, the team will survive without him, but he would really make this clubhouse great.
As for his versatility, I touched on that with his 2005 selflessness. Nomar has experience at both corners and at shortstop. He can easily play second base as well.
What his signing would mean is that the team has a decent replacement for David Freese at the hot corner. No, Nomar isn't left-handed, but you take what you can get. Nomar can also serve as protection for Ryan and Skip Schumaker up the middle, elevating some of the stress on Julio Lugo as the lone backup.
Oh, he can also spell that guy at first base from time to time. What's his name again? Yeah...whatever it is, Nomar can back him up.
Can Nomar still hit? Yes. His .281 batting average in 160 at-bats is proof of that. Can he still hit with some authority? No. Those days are long gone, but as a bench player, you can look past that.
It is his defensive versatility that makes Nomar a good buy for the Cardinals. Nomar still wants to play, and will probably take a small amount of money (in the $1-2 million range, with incentives) to come to a great town like St. Louis.
It would also allow the Cardinals to focus primarily on a right-handed hitting center fielder if the team so desires (check out the bottom of this article for my suggestion on this matter) and create a battle for the final bench spot between Memphis players.
To put all of what I said in a few words: Nomar is perfect for this team.
As for the bench configuration, it will be slightly right-handed heavy. There will be no big left-handed bat—no chance of that. Most of the good ones are gone, and the only ones left (i.e., Hank Blalock) are really limited to one position by many (not by me).
For my team, I would add Nomar to the bench. For my right-handed backup in center field, it has to be Brendan Ryan.
I know, Ryan isn't a natural center fielder, but he's not a bad one. He has a strong arm, good speed, and has decent reads. That would also mean that the Nomar/Lugo bench would make for a heavy right-handed lineup, sitting the lefties (Schumaker and Colby Rasmus) against left-handed pitching.
To me, that is better than most configurations.
For the left-handed power, you would have to choose between three outfielders: Jon Jay (double machine with some home run power), Tyler Henley (like Jay), and Mark Hamilton.
Hamilton would be my choice. He is a first baseman who plays the corner outfield (better than Chris Duncan, mind you), but has good power. He could fill the left-handed pinch-hitter role with power.
With Allen Craig taking the other role, the bench would offer versatility everywhere (four 1B, two 2B, two SS, three 3B, two LF/RF), just no one that can play center field.
Again, Ryan fixes that hole, with Schumaker serving as the second natural centerfielder and Ryan Ludwick as the emergency centerfielder.
Every team has a flaw. If this were the only flaw, this team is a World Series winner.
Nomar. Nomar. Nomar.
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