The St. Louis Cardinals are trying desperately to stay in the 2008 Playoff chase. I believe they still have a chance, but I’m looking at 2009 anyway. After all, the entire purpose of 2008 was to see what the Cardinals had for 2009.
Now, let me add my disclaimer here. None of the trades or signings I am going to say will happen. Though some may, they probably will not go down as I say. All of this is my ideas and what I would do if I were the Cardinals General Manager.
Ok, now on with the show.
The Cardinals will have a lot of free agents at the end of the year. Here’s the list of them:
LHP Randy Flores, RHP Jason Isringhausen, RHP Kyle Lohse, RHP Braden Looper, RHP Russ Springer, LHP Mark Mulder (via contract option buyout), LHP Ron Villone, RHP Todd Wellemeyer, C Jason LaRue, INF Cesar Izturis, INF/OF Felipe Lopez, OF Juan Encarnacion.
I told you there were a lot of names.
Cardinal Nation will not be disappointed by the departures of Villone, Izturis, and Lopez. Some will be sad to see Mulder go, as his fall was devastating. Wellemeyer, Flores, Isringhausen, Looper, Springer, and LaRue take with them the heart of Cardinals Nation. I know I enjoyed having them here, but it’s time to move on and get younger.
Encarnacion is another story. The man has been staying in the Boston area getting treatment for his eye. Remember him? He was the one who took a foul ball from Aaron Miles off of the eye in the batter’s box, and hasn’t been on a baseball field since that faithful day. He has been getting paid $6.5 million as a get well present and will probably retire from baseball at the end of the year.
Let’s get to the good news though, shall we?
Here are the offseason moves I would make, with explanations attached.
St. Louis Cardinals trade 2B Adam Kennedy to the Kansas City Royalsfor Class AA RHP Daniel Cortes
The Royals are going to lose Mark Grudzielanek to free agency in the off-season. They don’t have any true second base answer within the organization. Mike Aviles is a shortstop (and a darn good one at that), and Esteban German is a utility player. Kennedy can provide another year of veteran leadership from the second base position and allow the Royals to find another answer.
Cortes doesn’t project to be much. He’s a starter at Double A right now, but who knows what will happen in the future. The Cardinals really need to dump Kennedy’s salary and will take pretty much anyone to do it. Cortes is 21 and he may be something, or he may not.
St. Louis Cardinalstrade RHP Joel Pineiro and Class AAA OF Shane Robinson to the San Diego Padresfor LHP Justin Hampson
Well, the Padres need another starting pitcher. Their organizational depth is lacking, so Pineiro could become a good asset to them in a pitcher’s park. The Cardinals would pick up $4 million that is owed to Pineiro in 2009 to make this deal work. So, for $3.5 million, Pineiro could be a bargain as a fifth starter.
In Robinson, the Padres land a speedy outfielder with a little pop to leadoff their lineup. Robinson will need a full year at Triple A before he plays in the Majors, but should be a good all around player. In Petco, Robinson will lace close to 40 doubles and hit possibly 10 home runs between Petco and the road.
The Cardinals receive two benefits. They lose Pineiro from their rotation so they can add a rookie to the mix, plus they add a new left handed reliever to make up for the loss of Flores. It’s a big upside on both parts.
St. Louis Cardinalstrade Class AA 3B Allen Craig, RHP Adam Ottavino, and OF Daryl Jones to the Oakland Athletics for SS Bobby Crosby
The A’s love drafted players with little or no service time. They get the best of both worlds here. Ottavino was a 2006 first round draft pick by the Cardinals. He has struggled thus far at Double A Springfield, but his potential and talent is still exceptionally high.
Allen Craig has been tearing up Double A and could be a 2010 call-up to The Show. With Eric Chavez not up for free agency until 2011 (with a buyout of his club option), Craig could be blocked. If Chavez is healthy, though, he could bat at DH and allow Craig to play third base every day.
Jones is another story. Draft out of high school in the third round of 2005, he hasn’t fully made a name for himself yet. He tore apart High Class A before being promoted to Springfield. He has struggled a little since the jump, but his talent is still there. He hits for a .300 average and a .400 on-base percentage, while stealing 20+ bases a year. He’s only 21 years old, and his stats should only grow.
The Cardinals lose three good prospects. Craig is sandwiched between Brett Wallace and David Freese, making him expandable. Ottavino and Jones are in the middle of a long tunnel of pitching and outfield prospects, so they too are expandable. You always hate losing three premium prospects, but for Crosby, you’ll overlook it.
Crosby is signed through 2009 and will probably land a one year extension. His current contract is affordable ($5.25 million) and he puts up good numbers. He was the 2004 American League Rookie of the Year. He’s not much of an average hitter, but he has a lot of pop in his bat. His defense is a little shaudy, but with the proper work with Jose Oquendo, his errors should lower a little. He would be a good stopgap for the Cardinals as they wait for the appearance of Pete Kozma in 2011.
Ok, so that’s it on trades. The Cardinals, surprisingly, do well on cash after these trades. They actually free up $2 million dollars by dumping off Pineiro and Kennedy.
Now, onto signings.
The Cardinals don’t really need much on the free agent market. Just a starting pitcher and possibly a second baseman. So, let’s get to it.
St. Louis Cardinals sign RHP Kyle Lohse to a 3 yr/$25.5 million contract, with a $12.5 million club option for 2012
2009: $7 million; 2010: $8.5 million; 2011: $10 million; 2012: $12.5 million ($1.5 million buyout)
Not a bad contract, really. Lohse wants to stay with the Cardinals and the Cardinals want him to stay. With this contract, Lohse would be making number two money to slot in as the number three in the rotation. Plus, it’s tradable too if the Cardinals get to that point.
St. Louis Cardinals sign 2B Orland Hudson to a 4 yr/$41 million contract
2009: $9 million; 2010: $9.5 million; 2011: $10.5 million; 2012: $12 million
Another good contract. Hudson will need a lot of money to stay away from all of the high market clubs, and not to resign with the Arizona Diamondbacks. With an average salary of $10.25 million, that’s an average salary for someone of Hudson’s caliber in today’s market. He’s turning himself into a great hitter. He’s hitting over .300 for the year (a career average of .282) and can hit 10-15 home runs a season. Plus, he’s a switch hitter who hits well from both sides.
So, that’s it for the offseason moves. Why? The Cardinals have a lot of internal options for the holes. With all of these moves, the new payroll number is $91,978,000. That’s where the Cardinals have been in payroll for the past four seasons. It’s a good number to be at. With a $105 million budget, the Cardinals have about $14 million to spend on a mid-season acquisition, if needed.
Now, I know you’re wondering what the new roster will look like. Well, I have that answer too.
SP: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan, Jaime Garcia
RP: Mark Worrell, Jason Motte, Brad Thompson
LP: Justin Hampson, Tyler Johnson
SU: Ryan Franklin
CL: Chris Perez
2B Orlando Hudson
LF Colby Rasmus
1B Albert Pujols
CF Rick Ankiel
RF Ryan Ludwick
3B Troy Glaus
C Yadier Molina
SS Bobby Crosby
Bench: C Bryan Anderson, INF Brendan Ryan, INF Aaron Miles, OF Brian Barton, OF Skip Schumaker
I like that roster. Perez is going to be one of the best closers of all-time, and slotting in as the closer at 24 will put him on the fast track to that accolade. Franklin is signed through 2010 and is a good setup man. Thompson and Johnson have proven to be very valuable out of the bullpen in the past, and should be again. Motte is blowing out Pacific Coast League batters this year and could be a very good setup man down the line.
McClellan could be the 2009 Wainwright. He started 2008 in the bullpen and gained valuable experience. He could be a future number three or two for this staff. Garcia has also gained valuable experience and pitched well in his only big league start this year. The future is bright indeed.
The offense will take off. Hudson at the top of the lineup will make this lineup move. Rasmus could be a future MVP and has a sweet swing. He fits Tony La Russa’s mold as power guy in the two hole. Pujols, Ankiel, and Ludwick make up a very potent 3-5 in the lineup, as they do now. Glaus and Molina can anchor the bottom part of the lineup and provide deeper protection for the middle of the lineup. Crosby can be the speedy guy in front of the pitcher to make sacrifices easier.
The bench is also improved. Anderson is a good hitter and will make for a cheap option for a backup. Schumaker and Barton will make for a good twosome on outfield backup, as they can play all three outfield spots well. Miles and Ryan are two good bats that can play three positions each. The bench will have depth.
So, there you have it folks. This is what I would do as the Cardinals General Manager. This team will be good and will compete. It could take a slight downfall due to a lot of inexperience on the younglings parts, but they will bounce back. Every aspect of the team will be improved: pitching, defense, and offense.
Remember my disclaimer. None of this may happen. If any of it does, it won’t be anything close to what I said. So keep your negative thoughts and opinions to yourself, as they provide no creative thinking. Positive comments only, with some tips on what you think or on what you would do differently. Let’s keep this friendly. Thanks.
All contract and payroll information was taken from Cot’s Baseball Contracts. All stats were taken from MLB.com. All player names were taken from MLB.com and MiLB.com. All of this can be found on a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet I have created. If you’d like a copy, feel free to leave your email in your comment and I’ll be more than happy to email you a copy.