The St. Louis Cardinals have addressed some major needs this off-season. They have solidified a weak point in the bullpen (left handed relief) by signing Trevor Miller. He's not a dominant, shut down pitcher, but he gets the job done as a left-handed arm. They also upgraded the offense by adding Khalil Greene to the team. Greene had a down year in 2008, but his down year is better than the up year of Cesar Izturis.
Let's take a look at the 2008 and 2009 starting shortstops for the Cardinals:
Greene - 83 hits, 389 ABs (.213), 30 runs, 35 RBIs, 10 HR
Izturis - 109 hits, 414 ABs (.263), 50 runs, 24 RBIs, 1 HR
So right away, we notice nine home runs, and 11 runs batted in will be gained. Outside of that, these stats don't show that Greene is an upgrade, am I right? Well, I purposely left out their games played. Greene played in only 105 (missed the last two months with a broken hand), while Izturis played in far more with his 135 games played. When spread out over 135 games, Greene's numbers improve: 107 hits, 500 ABs, 39 runs, 45 RBIs, 13 HR. His average and runs are not up to Izturis' standards, but that's still a vast improvement.
What does all this mean? The Cardinals have already upgraded the lineup, meaning that the need for a "big bat" is less important.
Another lineup improvement is Colby Rasmus. I have been saying this for the past six months or so, but Rasmus will vastly improve the lineup. He has speed, power, and can hit for a good average. Add his consistent bat in place of revolving door in left field (or center field if they realign the outfield to be able to play Rasmus in center), and the lineup depth is insanely good.
The more depth you have, the need of a big bat lessens. Think of it this way: the Cardinals' lineup stopped after six batters last year. Molina is a good hitter and very patient, but he doesn't fit under the depth of protection. He anchors the bottom of the lineup.
Think of this lineup being rolled out on the field every night:
CF Colby Rasmus, LF/RF Rick Ankiel/Ryan Ludwick, 1B Albert Pujols, RF/LF Ludwick/Ankiel, 3B Troy Glaus, SS Greene, C Yadier Molina, 2B Adam Kennedy, Pitcher (pitcher bats ninth in my lineups; Ankiel and Ludwick flip when a left handed starter is on the mound)
Now that is depth. There's no true stopping point in that lineup, at least in the first seven. Kennedy, on good days, can be a good hitter. Pitcher? Well, Bud Selig tells us we have to bat them.
So, what do the Cardinals really need (the main topic of this article)? Jon Garland.
The Cardinals have Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer, and then a combination of Joel Piniero, Chris Carpenter, Kyle McClellan, Mitchell Boggs, Jess Todd, and P.J. Walters. This is starting to look like 2007 all over again. Adding Garland to the rotation would not only give us a better front three (while allowing Wellemeyer to slide into the four spot instead of being the No. 3), but it even masters the bullpen. Take this ride with me:
The Cardinals sign Garland and have four starters penciled in. They promise a healthy Carpenter the fifth spot. This slides Piniero to the bullpen (Piniero, Ryan Franklin, Chris Perez, Jason Motte, and Josh Kinney from the right side) and Kyle McClellan to Memphis to stretch out as a starter (Todd, Boggs, Clayton Mortenson, Walters, and McClellan in the Memphis rotation, and this would be a fearsome five for Triple A).
If Carpenter isn't healthy, those five arms (Piniero, Todd, McClellan, Boggs, Walters) fight in an open competition for the fifth starting job. This creates a good problem to have (too much starting pitching) to protect ourselves in case of injuries, something we didn't have in 2008. It also solidifies the bullpen by adding a true long man and sixth starter type to the bullpen to absorb innings and won't overwork any of the short arms.
So, Garland. Yeah, you can make the argument he isn't a No. 2 pitcher, or even a three. The fact of the matter is, he gives 190+ innings every year and 30+ starts. He has also pitched his entire career in the American League (with far better offensive numbers) and pitching in the National League should lower his earned run average by more than half-a-run (not his 2008 ERA, his career ERA; using that as his norm).
What would his contract look like?
2009: $6.5 million; 2010: $8.5 million; 2011: $10 million, $1 million buyout (club option)
Two years at $16 million, or three years at $25 million is a very good contract for a pitcher of his type. Plus, it is now officially January and there is still a vast amount of pitching on the market. Pitchers will be taking less than what they originally wanted, and this deal will not insult Garland (like the New York Mets offer did to Derek Lowe).
Enjoy the rest of New Year's day! And don't forget, the Major League Baseball Network starts in less than an hour! Check it out on DirecTV Channel 213!