CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
So You Need: Starting ... (11/05)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article GM for a Day: Oakland ... (11/04)
Next Column >>
Premium Article GM for a Day: Chicago ... (11/08)
Next Article >>
Premium Article On the Beat: Big Game ... (11/05)

November 5, 2010

GM for a Day

St. Louis Cardinals

by Christina Kahrl

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

So here we are in Mound City, home of the team that featured three of the 10 most-valuable players in the major leagues last season, and wound up with nothing but October golf dates to show for it. It would be easy, on a visceral level, to overreact and decide that the stars-and-scrubs formula hasn't worked, and start shopping one of the stars, but one of the advantages of this strategy for roster assembly is that you can easily replace the scrubs, and if you're worrying about expense, you know where to avoid it while making sure to spend top dollar on the capital items. It's the eight-figure mistakes with the likes of Kyle Lohse that are the ones to avoid.

First, start calling around to see whether several possible 2012 free agents-to-be in other people's outfields are available, as a matter of expense or disappointment or both. Start out with welcoming Sandy Alderson back to the ranks of the active organizational stewards and then ask about Carlos Beltran. Likewise, I'll congratulate Chris Antonetti on his promotion with the Indians before segueing to find out if he's willing to talk about Grady Sizemore. For a real wild card, let's buzz the Brewers and see if Doug Melvin is hungry enough for pitching talent to talk about Rickie Weeks—to play right field for us, though, not second.

Now sure, I know what you think, that I'll almost certainly be rebuffed, because it isn't like the farm system's stuffed with players. Even so, it's worth attempting because beyond trading for other people's under-contract stars, you get into solutions a lot more ugly (on defense) or expensive, or in the case of Adam Dunn or Manny Ramirez, both. Given the expectation that there's only so much money in the register, I'd expect Dunn is automatically out of reach. Maybe Manny would sign for something incentive-laden, but I'm not holding my breath, and frankly, if I'm going to explore moving one of my big stars to right field, I'd rather see if his Albertosity would agree to the move so that I could try to add a lefty-swinging first-base bat for balance. And to be realistic, that probably also can be safely filed under “ain't gonna happen.”

However, to get any of these three, I'm certainly willing to put Lance Lynn into the conversation, figuring that Lynn's second-half performance has boosted his blue-chip rating enough to make him a name commodity in these kinds of conversations. For the record, after the break Lynn delivered 67 strikeouts against just 20 walks in 65 IP, while getting his fastball from its previous 90-92 range up to sitting at 92-94, and even touching 96 in the PCL playoffs. That sort of improvement might find converts or new-blush enthusiasm, but given the modest cupboard and win-now expectations, he's probably the best moving part I have to work with.

If the Tribe is receptive about the concept—and they do seem to love them some Cardinals prospects—you can bet that Antonetti wants a blend of ready bodies and future value, starting with Lynn. So, I'll see if he'll go for a package that includes Lynn plus frustrating, toolsy outfield suspect Daryl Jones, one or two organizational types from among Mark Hamilton, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Nick Stavinoha, etc., maybe toss another live bat like Aaron Luna into that mix, and then one of a pair hard-throwing right-handers lower down in the system, Joe Kelly or Adam Reifer. Contingent on Sizemore passing a physical, of course, but if this works out right, the Cards could have the new Jim Edmonds in a five-for-one exchange. The price would essentially be a below-market one-plus-option deal, which I gave up a stack of nice talent to get, but it's not talent so nice you'll ever win the NL Central with it, long after my day's done.

That's a big chunk of the day right there, but getting a premium bat has to be taken as the must-do of the offseason to shore up a lineup that slumped to .261/.326/.384 after the trade deadline put Ryan Ludwick among the Pad people, which was almost a 30-point drop in SLG from what they'd done through July 31. But the other big-ticket item to address is the rotation, not just because you can never have enough pitching, but also because you just never know how much you can bank of Chris Carpenter's availability year-to-year, because Jaime Garcia is still going to be in the injury nexus for a year or two—he only turns 24 next July—and because there are still two more years with Lohse (for almost $24 million) to live down.

The easy fall-back, and the one that John Mozeliak seems to favor, is bringing back Jake Westbrook. I'm OK with that notion, as long as Westbrook is willing to sign for something well south of eight figures per annum. But if he decides to entertain dreams of plenty to be found on the market despite his track record for sporadic health, I'd say let him walk at anything north of $6 million, and see who might be willing to ponder taking up the dark arts at Dave Duncan's direction. There are a lot of veteran pitchers who need an assist to get their careers back on track, and if Dunc is all that his decades of delivered results suggest, I'm more than happy to make incentive-driven offers to former stars like Jeremy Bonderman, Doug Davis, Freddy Garcia, or Aaron Harang. Heck, give Brad Penny the benefit of the doubt, a non-roster invite and a split contract offer, just in case he'd like to make good on the money wasted on him last season.

This is where I go if Westbrook wants top dollar, perhaps signing a pair in order to threaten Lohse's job security with while I'm at it. If the two deals' costs are incentive-dependent, maybe then I have enough money left over at the end of the day to address that need for a big bopper in case my trade offers die quick deaths. If I don't get any of Beltran or Weeks or Sizemore, and I've wound up signing cheap starters on the mend, only then do I know I can make an eight-figure per, multi-year offer on Dunn to go out to play right field for at least the first year, while leaving Mr. Mozeliak something to work with if re-signing Pujols beyond 2011 proves impossible.

There's one major item left to address for 2011: the problem with stocking the infield at the non-Pujols positions, because that's a mess, but one you don't have to suffer with as you season ticket-holders just did. Up the middle, Brendan Ryan provides just one virtue (defense), and the Skip Schumaker experiment provides nothing beyond an “art for art's sake” exposition on the convertability of guys who don't hit well enough to start in the outfield—and who don't hit well enough to start in the infield either, as it turns out. Third base needs to be added to the shopping list as well, because while it sort of belongs to David Freese, it's important to remember that he's already heading into his age-28 season without having achieved all that much, and last season's production before he was shut down for surgery on his ankle didn't involve much power or patience.

At the very least, replacing both Ryan and Schumaker in the lineup should be queued up as the day's third major action item, with the acknowledgment that kicking both to the bench frees you from most of any other position-player shopping tasks. Ryan's best use will be as a defensive replacement (if you don't deal him for a reliever or the like), while Schumaker would be better suited as a multi-positional utility rover, one perhaps only you value when you're stuck paying him $2.7 million for 2011.

So to make sure I can afford my initial items as far as a bopper and pitching help, I'm going to trust rookie Daniel Descalso to help solve the Cardinals' immediate second-base needs. While there's an argument for seeing if Orlando Hudson would swing his nomadic career trek through St. Louis for a season or two, especially if he's willing to sign for $4-5 million late in January, I can't see a calendar from where I sit during my day in Mozeliak's chair, and I'm not going to pay a lot for my second baseman by moving early, not if I don't have much more than $15 million or so to play with (as the always insightful Matthew Leach posits).

Which means I should be serious about getting a shortstop. Here again, it's time to pick up the phone and see if the Rays would like to talk about moving Jason Bartlett or the Red Sox would get Marco Scutaro out of Jed Lowrie's way, also moving their salaries before they potentially become free agents for 2012. Both would represent significant offensive upgrades over Ryan, but in each case, though, I'm not looking to move one of my better prospects, so it's really just a pair of calls to see if either of my opposite numbers wants to move either and use the money in some other way. This will be easier to squeeze in if I've had to go cheap with starting pitchers; I figure I can't get either if I've pulled off the trade for Sizemore and settled for signing Bonderman and Davis, for example.

However, if I've got Sizemore and Westbrook, then I'm probably running out of money. While I'd like to talk to Jhonny Peralta for his multi-positional applications, I may have put myself in a position to afford an old friend: Edgar Renteria. For a year, and maybe something on the low end, ideally around $2-3 million. Ryan can serve as a spot starter and defensive replacement, and it provides the former St. Louis star with a victory lap of sorts. If Renteria decides to hang up his spikes, see if Miguel Tejada will take the same sort of deal. If not Tejada, call Juan Uribe. If not Uribe, call Craig Counsell.

But there's still the issue of whether Freese is really worth leaving be at third, and there, while Tejada or Uribe or Counsell would give you some flexibility, I'd really want to make sure it's a guy who can bat lefty. If I wound up with Counsell and he's already getting lots of reps at short, I might want to close out my busy day at the desk by leaving behind a note suggesting that if youse guys were formerly willing to blow the last spot on the bench on Sloppy Joe Thurston, you couldn't do worse by giving that same sort of role to Ruben Gotay after he hit .297/.430/.477 against right-handed pitching for Memphis. Yes, he drops off against lefties, and yes, he's a bit error-prone at third base, but if he ends up getting a bunch of at-bats spot starting as your re-fangled “second leadoff hitter” from the ninth slot, Pujols and his RBI totals will thank you for thinking of his pending free agency. Because avoiding that unhappy day is one big decision that you—or I—can't resolve in just one day.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

20 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

69wildcat

I love these GM for a day articles, one of the better things on BP for the last month or so. My only real quibble with this one is the comment that David Freese did not exhibit much patience at the plate. He drew 21 BB (none intentional) in 270 PAs, which is a 7.7% rate, not great but not terrible either. I agree that he does not display the power you want from a corner infielder and it is not likely he will develop into a star. However, I would keep Freese at third and spend my money elsewhere, as you point out, the middle of the Cardinals infield was a mess last season and needs immediate help.

Nov 05, 2010 07:45 AM
rating: 0
 
6manfan

Very insightful article, Christina. As a life-long Cardinal fan, I hope Mo is thinking the same way. However (isn't there always a "however"), I wouldn't be too concerned if the Cards give Ryan another whirl at SS, provided they add Tejada for insurance at Short and Third.

I don't expect Freese to be a long-term solution to the third base issues, but he showed some promise before he was injured. If he is healthy, he's an acceptable short-term risk. Zach Cox should be penciled in at third for 2013.

Nov 05, 2010 07:55 AM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

I'm sorry, but this analysis begs the question. You simply CANNOT make sensible roster decisions for the Cardinals in 2011, let along the long term (and make no mistake, the long term matters -- St. Louis may be a "win now" situation, but they've been "win now" for the last ten years, and expect to be for the next five), without confronting the Pujols Question. A $20M+ payroll uncertainty, not to mention 10+ WAR, simply cannot be swept under the carpet in trying to understand what Mozeliak should do.

Very simple question, Christina: do you try to extend the guy or not, and if you do, how high are you willing to go? From where I sit, the "negotiations" with Pujols look like a simple two-step process:
1. Find out what it will take to keep him in St. Louis for a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 8 years;
2. Give it to him.
Subsequent roster decisions can be made once those "negotiations" are completed, and I suspect that they will lead to a much more conservative approach to hitting the market than you've expressed here. That's fine; perhaps your starting position is that his long-term price is going to be higher than you're willing to go. But TELL US, please? Sensible decisions on *anything* for the Cardinals simply cannot be made while ignoring the elephant in the room.

Nov 05, 2010 09:40 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Bill,

I respectfully disagree, because even while this is the >$64,000 question, and while it's something you figure is going to run north of $20 million per year for 2012 and beyond, it's not something that is going to define the Cards' actions outside of his situation, and certainly shouldn't define their decision tree for 2011, not unless there's some awful slight that ends with Pujols saying he wants out now, and would never re-sign in St. Louis in a thousand years.

There's a fundamental difference between whether or not it's the most important question, and whether the Cards should do nothing until they come to an answer, and that's what I went for, since I take keeping Pujols as a given. They're already committed to Carpenter and Wainwright and Holliday for 2012, and despite the fact that re-signing Pujols for $20 million or so per season for that campaign and beyond will push their commitment to the five biggest earners on the roster past $70 million, I don't think there's a better choice out there for the window that exists at least through '12. That brings Carpenter's contract to a close, but it's also the last year they're stuck with Lohse, so you're going to wind up with a one-year payroll balloon of sorts if the Cards are supposed to operate somewhere in the vicinity of $90-100 million on player payroll.

And so what? You live with it, and you start with an offer of five years guaranteed at something around $23-24 million per (more than Teixeira per year, in other words), while expecting to be pulled a bit above that; if he wants an option year or nested option years beyond 2015 that rely upon playing time triggers, readily give in on at least one PT-determined option. But aim for five to six years, with the expectation that you can work out an extension with deferred payments later in his career; ie, something like what the Rockies achieved with Todd Helton.

All of which I take as fairly obvious as plans go, and nothing about it alters what I've already proposed in the article as far as addressing immediate needs.

Nov 05, 2010 10:14 AM
 
BillJohnson

Okay, that's fair enough. One important point, though, is that I see a need to get Pujols extended NOW, without waiting for him even theoretically to test the free-agent market after the 2011 season. There are many reasons for that, and I continue to find that extension incompatible with significant acquisition of large contracts (incentivized or not) this winter -- but at least I now understand your reasoning.

As for the Freese question, Kevin Goldstein points out that Matt Carpenter has kinda-sorta emerged out of nowhere as a real prospect at third base, not a "top" prospect, but one with very good chances to be at least as good as Freese. He may (or may not) be half a year away yet, but the fact that he's out there would argue to me that there is no need for Gotay-ish contortions, let alone talent acquisition from outside the system, as a Plan B in case Freese doesn't recover fully. Fun fact: Carpenter was a thirteenth-round draft choice a few years back (2007). The last third baseman before him to be a thirteenth-round pick for the Cardinals was never seen again (whatever a "Kainoa Obrey" was, in 2003), but the one before that was ... guess who.

Nov 05, 2010 10:33 AM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

Oh, I forgot to say: sincere thanks for the thoughtful and polite response.

Nov 05, 2010 10:37 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Ah hell, Bill, no worries, I'm just responding in kind. You're unfailingly courteous and active on the boards.

Nov 05, 2010 11:19 AM
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Not disagreeing with the generally positive vibe for Freese, but being something better than the next Scott Cooper is the definition of placeholdery; I'm cool with letting it ride for now, but Tejada (and/or a no-expense addition like Gotay) makes for a reasonable bit of insurance against these ambitions for full-season adequacy.

Nov 05, 2010 09:43 AM
 
UofIx3

I've seen Tejada mentioned in a lot of different forums as an option, and I know part of that is based on TLR's interest in him over the years, but I guess I don't get the attraction.

I look at his offensive stats in the recent years and they're mediocre. He doesn't really offer a substantial platoon advantage versus righties or lefties. He's never been strong defensively.

Is there something I'm missing?

Nov 05, 2010 11:47 AM
rating: 0
 
Meatpacker

Christina,

As a Cards fan, I enjoyed reading your analysis. But at the beginning of the 5th paragraph, you suggest that a deal could be done between the Cardinals and Indians because the Tribe "do seem to love them some Cardinals prospects."

That may have been true a few years ago, but I don't think it is anymore. It was widely reported that the Cardinals were forced to surrender a major leaguer (Ryan Ludwick) in the deal that brought Westbrook to St. Louis because the Cardinals were devoid of prospects in which the Indians had interest. I guess that situation could have changed since the end of July, but still ...

Nov 05, 2010 12:52 PM
rating: 1
 
VaDad1

Some protection in the lineup for the big two and some defense at third might take the form of Mark Reynolds. Kevin Towers has already started to express his displeasure with strikeouts and Reynolds is not as bad as last years terrible numbers show. The Diamondbacks need pitching especially power arms for the backend. Who knows maybe that deal could even be expanded to include Rasmus for one of the young D'back outfielders?

Nov 05, 2010 14:19 PM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

Not in the cards (or the Cards). The "protection" (to the extent that such a thing exists) that Pujols and Holliday need is in the form of guys to get on base in front of them. Reynolds, with his .320 OBP, doesn't qualify.

As for the outfield, I would welcome a discussion as to just which side walks away first from a straight-up deal of Raz for Justin Upton, but my personal view, as one who follows both of the teams involved, is that the Cardinals would be daft to make this trade.

Nov 06, 2010 07:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Not to mention Reynolds' .160 ISO (2010, .230 career) on the road doesn't exactly suggest a guy who would be a great fit. I really think that the bat the Cards need to add needs to bat lefty or switch. So, Holliday and Pujols, Rasmus and X, where Brand X had better not just be Mark Teahen or the like. (Not that Teahen wouldn't be a nifty $2 million pickup to spot at third and the outfield corners.)

Nov 06, 2010 12:14 PM
 
Ric Size

I'd be interested to know your thoughts on the Tony LaRussa/Colby Rasmus ordeal, and how you would handle that in the best interests of the organization.

Nov 05, 2010 20:30 PM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

Actually, I think this one is easy: trade Colby's father to the Polaris North Stars of the Intergalactic League for an alien to be named later.

Nov 06, 2010 06:54 AM
rating: 0
 
moremoose

See if NYY wants to send Swisher to STL. If they miss on Cliff and sign Crawford maybe a deal could be worked out. Then that's an additional 8mil for 2011 that could be invested elsewhere.

Nov 06, 2010 11:47 AM
rating: 0
 
moremoose

8mil if they send Carp to NY

Nov 06, 2010 11:51 AM
rating: 0
 
tmangell

Really good analysis, Christina. I like the Renteria idea - never thought of that one. I wonder, though, if he's got one more year in the tank, but, with B Ryan on the bench, you can afford to rest Renteria 1-2 games a week.

Nov 08, 2010 17:36 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Exactly my thought. It's sort of a weaker version of the Ozzie/Royce Clatyon tag team of yesteryear, weaker as far as both portions, because this time around you'd have a veteran who really does need to be sat down, plus a sub you really don't want playing every day.

Nov 08, 2010 20:08 PM
 
BillJohnson

This idea has been bandied about on the Cardinals fan blogs, and it has legs. One thing that would concern me somewhat is the question of whether it would interfere with Ryan's, quote unquote, "development." Ryan certainly isn't as good a hitter as he was in 2009. However, I also doubt that he is as bad a hitter as he was in 2010. If regular playing time would get him to some offensive level midway between the two years, then I'd say swallow the startup problems of getting him to that point, for the sake of his terrific defense, and pass on Renteria. Still, Edgar isn't the worst idea I've heard lately, and there's the alarming possibility that 2010 really IS Ryan's offensive level ...

Nov 09, 2010 06:07 AM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
So You Need: Starting ... (11/05)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article GM for a Day: Oakland ... (11/04)
Next Column >>
Premium Article GM for a Day: Chicago ... (11/08)
Next Article >>
Premium Article On the Beat: Big Game ... (11/05)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Fantasy Players to Avoid: Starting Pitchers
Fantasy Infographic: Starting Pitchers
Fantasy Article Dynasty League Positional Rankings: Top 175 ...
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Diamondbacks Third Baseman is...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Bad Bullpen Teams ...
Prospectus Feature: A.J. Preller's Offseason...
Premium Article Raising Aces: The Eyes of March

MORE FROM NOVEMBER 5, 2010
Premium Article Future Shock: Playing the 'What If' Game wit...
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: San Francisco Giants
Premium Article On the Beat: Big Game Hunting
So You Need: Starting Pitchers
Premium Article Changing Speeds: The BSAT Answer Key
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Brad Bergesen and Jeremy Gut...

MORE BY CHRISTINA KAHRL
2010-11-11 - BP Unfiltered: Don't Frack with DeJesus
2010-11-10 - Premium Article Prospectus Perspective: First-Strike Options
2010-11-09 - Premium Article Prospectus Perspective: Five Deals That Must...
2010-11-05 - Premium Article GM for a Day: St. Louis Cardinals
2010-11-04 - Premium Article Prospectus Perspective: Four and No More
2010-11-04 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Texas Rangers
2010-11-02 - Premium Article World Series Prospectus: Game Five Analysis
More...

MORE GM FOR A DAY
2010-11-11 - Premium Article GM for a Day: Boston Red Sox
2010-11-09 - Premium Article GM for a Day: Colorado Rockies
2010-11-08 - Premium Article GM for a Day: Chicago White Sox
2010-11-05 - Premium Article GM for a Day: St. Louis Cardinals
2010-11-04 - Premium Article GM for a Day: Oakland Athletics
2010-11-03 - Premium Article GM for a Day: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2010-11-02 - Premium Article GM for a Day: Houston Astros
More...