St. Louis Cardinals: A Trade To Fill Holes and Win the NL Central in 2011
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As we know, the injury of Adam Wainwright has put the St. Louis Cardinals in a really tough position. What was looking to be a promising 2011 season is now looking to be one of disappointment. Adam Wainwright has been the Cy Young runner-up in the National League the past two seasons. According to the Wins Above Replacement statistic, Wainwright was worth 5.7 and 6.1 wins in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
If that's not bad enough, Albert Pujols, the team's franchise player and the best hitter in all of baseball, said that he will test the free agent market this coming offseason.
Although things aren't looking great at this moment, don't fret, Cards GM John Mozeliak. You're in luck, because I have a trade that will solve all of your problems. I propose the Cardinals trade Albert Pujols to the Dodgers for Andre Ethier and Chad Billingsley.
Those of you who are still reading this may be scratching your head at the idea of trading Pujols. WAR had Pujols at 7.3 wins last season. His best all-around season by WAR was in 2003, when he was worth 9.5. Still, the Cardinals are in an interesting predicament.
As expected, Pujols wants the same "respect" A-Rod got with his $30 million contract. All evidence is pointing to the Cardinals not being able to afford "The Machine." He supposedly laughed at the contract offers the Cardinals pitched to him a week ago. Last offseason, the Cardinals managed to lock Matt Holliday up long-term by promising to pay him through 2029. This likely won't fly with Pujols, who will have the interest from clubs around the major leagues.
Should the Cardinals trade Albert Pujols for Andre Ethier and Chad Billingsley?
You may be wondering who would fill in at first base if Pujols gets traded for the two players proposed. Lance Berkman is a much better defensive first baseman than left fielder. He would relish the opportunity to play everyday there.
From an offensive perspective, few can outperform Andre Ethier in right field. His 2010 season was a down year, but still productive from the 29-year-old lefty slugger. What may not be factored into his offensive line of .292/.364/.493 from 2010 was his propensity for the walkoff hits. He has been the undisputed king of the walk off the past couple of seasons.
His defense is considered his weakness. While he may not be close to Albert Pujols offensively, he will get his fair share of hits and provide the Cardinals with a lefty bat. He costs $7.63 million in 2011. That's much cheaper than the $30 million Pujols is demanding. In 2010, he was worth 2.2 wins because of his defense. However, he can be expected to be worth 3+ per season for the next four years.
When fully healthy, Billingsley is a top of the rotation workhorse who is only 27 years old. He has a nasty four-seamer, cutter, curveball, slider, two-seamer and changeup. He would do a good job to fill the void left by Adam Wainwright. Billingsley costs $6.275 million in 2011, which is also very cheap compared to the salary of Pujols. He was worth 4.6 Wins in 2010, the best mark of his career. I can see him being worth 4+ per season for the next four years or so.
There are two reasons why this trade may not happen. For one, the Dodgers' financial situation may be worse than the Cardinals'. With the divorce of the McCourts, it's hard to say how much money they'd be willing to take on. The Dodgers would only do this trade if they could be guaranteed to extend Pujols, which wouldn't be possible if they didn't have the money.
Trading away Albert Pujols may be considered GM suicide by John Mozeliak. In the end, he has to worry about his job security. While I don't doubt the fans would take to Ethier and Billingsley, Mozeliak may receive the blame if the Cardinals' season isn't a success. If the Cardinals have a down year in 2011, he could use the Wainwright injury as a scapegoat and keep his job.
Overall, I feel that this trade would fill holes the Cardinals have and keep them in a position to contend for years to come. Besides, the team that gives Pujols a 10-year, $300 million deal will be as regretful as the Yankees are for signing A-Rod a couple years back.
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