Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Cardinals, The Offseason and Me

You've just come off a crushing defeat to the Boston Red Sox and have ten free agents. As Dennis Hopper says, "What do you do? What do you do?" Well, Keanu, don't get on the bus, or even drop off the key - I'm here to set your mind free (and you don't need the red or green pills.)

But, before I start with what to do with the Cardinals FAs, I think I should start building from the bottom, and try to let you see the method to my madness. I am going to assume that the Cardinals are going to be revenue neutral so that they won't spend much more or less than the previous year. Second, I will take into account the fact the Rockies are paying $7.5 million of Larry Walker's contract in 2005 and that the Mets will be paying most of Roger Cedeno's contract leaving the Cardinals on the hook for only $700,000. I will also assume that the guaranteed contracts of Rolen, Pujols, Walker, Edmonds, Suppan and Sanders will all increase by about 9 million dollars over the next year. Carpenter's option pays him 2 million so that goes in the total. Let's add another 2 million for increases for the rest of the roster and the payroll should be around $59 million with 6 spots to fill. (I think my assumptions are pretty realistic without some more research on the contracts structures.) Now, the first move I will suggest will either make my colleagues think I have had my body switched with a space alien named Fizzy or lost my mind.

1. Sign Pokey Reese.

Yeah, I know. No bat. Obviously. However, I would make this the first move of the offseason just so that the Cardinals could take some chances. Last year his salary was one million, so I don't think it would be unreasonable to sign him for 1.25 mil.

2. Sign Ben Grieve.

Oh, I am bringing out the big guns. Whooeee, I am crazy with the money and crazy with power. So, to me one of the big weaknesses of the Cardinals was the lack of any power off the bench. This would give the Cards another left-handed bat for the bench with some pop as well as another outfielder to go with defensive replacement So Taguchi and then they could release Roger Cedeno. Plus, Grieve is only going to be 29 this next year. Last year he made 700k. So, if you pay him a cool million, you would have your fifth outfielder for $1.7 (combining him with the payment that would still need to be made to Roger Cedeno.)

3. Sign Valerio de los Santos.

Ok, I will now mention the first Cardinal free agent in this column: Steve Kline. It looks like his relationship with LaRussas has soured and I doubt he will be back. If de los Santos is healthy, he has a BA against of .232 against lefties and could be a valuable second lefty in the bullpen. This would be the biggest stretch in the first three moves, since he is turning 33 and is more than likely on the downward slope of his career. I would want to make it a minor league deal with a chance to make the major league club so as not to risk any money.

4. Use Carpenter, Suppan, Marquis and Ankiel/Haren in the starting rotation.

Truthfully, I have little problem with this being the second through fifth spots in the starting rotation. If it came to desperation time, you could go first through fifth, but that would be putting a lot of pressure on the young pitchers. We would have Adam Wainwright in AAA just in case, but that is another young pitcher to throw in the fire. However, we are saving a lot of money (to be used later), because my next suggestions are good cost saving measures.

5. Promote Al Reyes and Carmen Cali to the bullpen.

Both pitched well in the minors last year - even in the rarefied air of the Pacific Coast League. Admittedly, Cali only pitched twenty innings, but was promoted from the AA in mid-season and had 20 Ks to go with only four walks in those innings. This way you would have as a long reliever Haren or Ankiel (preferably Haren); Cali, de los Santos and Ray King from the left side; Kiko Calero and Reyes from the right with Isringhausen as the closer. So, the Cardinals would be carrying twelve pitchers in this plan. I think eleven would be the perfect number, with fourteen position players, meaning that de los Santos and Reyes should be the ones battling for the last spot. (Reyes will be turning 35, so he is not exactly a prospect - but could be serviceable. Cali will be 27, not a young pup either, but definitely a longer possible path.)

6. Do not resign any of the Cardinals free agents.

Am I crazy? No Edgar? No Matt? No Ray-Ray? Darn tootin. As I've already said, we will be losing Kline. I can't say that I would be unhappy to lose Cal Eldred, Ray Lankford, John Mabry, Tony Womack, Woody Williams, Matt Morris, Mike Matheny or Edgar Renteria. Williams is getting old. Lankford's return was a nice story, but didn't really offer too much after the first couple weeks of the season. Morris will probably cost too much. John Mabry did some nice things but will be 35 at the end of next season. Tony Womack doesn't really offer any offense. Neither does Mike Matheny, though with the catchers on the market, although I am perfectly happy with Yadier Molina, I would resign him for two to three million just to avoid having Cody McKay as the backup. (I am assuming that the Cardinals will not be in the market for Varitek.) So, we get to Edgar Renteria, which leads to my pentultimate point.

7. Sign Nomar Garciaparra.

Yes, he is injury prone. (That is why I made Pokey Reese the first signing. Pokey as the backup is nice. Heck, even as the starting second baseman, he is certainly not much worse than Tony Womack offensively and a much better defensive player. I just think the only good offensive second baseman on the market is Jeff Kent and he is past ripe. Additionally, you can keep Hector Luna as the guy to back up both positions, because I don't think he is ready to play full time.) Now, some of you might be wondering about the ages and the defense. Yes, Nomar is going to be 32. Edgar will be 30. However, last seasons OPS of 728 looks to be about where Edgar should be, while Nomar is up at 842 last season, and has potential to be better. The amount of total chances both had during their last full year is comparable with Nomar only making a few more errors. Edgar had a fielding percentage of .983 this year - Nomar while not really healthy was at .982. Renteria had a range factor of 4.41, Nomar 4.02. (If you look at Reese's last full year - he blows them both out of the water.) I would hope that Nomar's range would increase if he was healthy. Maybe I'm hoping against hope. I would also think that like other malcontents on other teams (Edmonds, Rolen) he could find a home in St. Louis. I would think a three year deal for 30 million would be possible. A little over what Renteria makes now, but I still think it would be a value for the increase in offense.

So, that brings the total to 72 million dollars, or about 10 million more to spend to equal this years salary total. Let's say we add five million to that total to make it about $15 million to go. There is one true possible #1 out there. That is Pedro Martinez. I'm not sure if that would be the best signing, but I think that could be exactly what the rotation needs. That may not be realistic, so I think a Radke, a Milton or a Derek Lowe could all be signed for about $10 million a year in today's market and could also make nice additions to the rotation and be true number ones.

Geez, not only do I have to hear it from Andy, now I am saying that I want three ex-Red Sox players on the Cardinals. If that is not admitting superiority, I don't know what is.


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