Friday, November 13, 2009

Baseball Cardinals Offseason Ramblings

I've been meaning to do this for a month, but I've been too lazy, and it's not as though anyone's clamoring for it. The Cardinals have a bunch of free agents, and a considerable amount of payroll space. Problem is, there's not a lot of players out there that appear to be worth spending money. For now, I'm gonna look solely at the Cardinals free agents.

Three of the starting pitchers are available to be re-signed: Pineiro, Wellenmeyer, and Smoltz. They already have a lot of money invested in Carpenter and Lohse, and Wainwright's going to make something like 6 or 7 million next year as well. There are a few guys that could be called up to fill a spot, including Blake Hawksworth, Mitch Boggs, Jaime Garcia, PJ Walters, and perhaps Kyle McClellan (though considering Kyle walks too many guys for a reliever, making him a starter seems ill-advised).

First off, tell Wellenmeyer "Thanks for the surprisingly good 2008, now get lost". Whatever he did to stop walking people that year, he couldn't do this season, and I wouldn't count on him figuring it out again. I'd like to see them offer Smoltz a one-year contract, and he might go for it. He said he liked the atmosphere playing in St. Louis more than he ever did in Atlanta*, which might make him receptive to that. Added bonus is that if Smoltz can't hold up in the rotation, you can easily shift him back to the bullpen. He could even take over for Franklin as closer if that fellow continues the regression we saw the last couple months of the season.

As for Joel, I wouldn't offer him more than arbitration. Given the weak free agent class, he'll probably get better offers than that, but this season is pretty far out of line from his career norms. He had his success by pitching like someone out of the Dead Ball Era**, and the other players in the last 80 years to pitch that way a whole year, were only able to do it for season. Keeping the BB and HR rates that low, while striking no one out is just too tricky these days. So I expect serious regression. If he accepts arbitration, hopefully he can at least pitch better than he did in 2008. If not, well at least it's only a 1-year deal. If he doesn't accept arbitration, sweet, draft pick!

So for me, I'd like to slot Smoltz in the #4 spot, and Garcia in the #5 spot, get that draft pick for Joel, and forget about Wellenmeyer.

No free agents from the 'pen, since everyone's either already re-signed, or still under team control. Amongst the position players, there's LaRue, Khalil Greene, DeRosa, Glaus, Holliday, and Ankiel. First things first, Greene and Ankiel can take a hike. I'm ambivalent at LaRue. If the Cardinals think either Bryan Anderson or Matt Pagnozzi can be roughly as good as LaRue, then let him walk, and let one of those guys try. If Yadier's healthy, then the backup catcher's hardly going to play anyway, and if Yadi's hurt, the Cardinals are in trouble whether LaRue or one of the newbies is the backup. Hardly matters.

Between DeRosa and Glaus, I don't know. Glaus is still going to be recovering from that shoulder surgery. DeRosa has, I believe, already had his wrist surgery, but he's still going to be recovering from that. DeRosa's a couple years older. Glaus has a more extensive injury history. DeRosa has greater versatility, but Glaus is the better 3rd baseman, and the better all around player if healthy. Crap, I dunno. I'd like to see David Freese get a shot at 3rd, although Chone Figgins is appealing*** . I really don't want DeRosa to be starting at 3rd. If there's a set of figures that would be appropriate for a "super-sub" (2 years, 14 million? I have no idea, I'm just guessing), I'd be open to giving DeRosa that, let him get some time all over the diamond. As for Glaus, arbitration, since they can get a draft pick for him too if he leaves.

As for Holliday, I don't think he's coming back. Scott Boras doesn't believe in "hometown discounts", and he's definitely not buying into any talk of St. Louis being a small or mid-market team. Which means the Cards would have to match the likely ludicrous offers Holliday's going to wrangle from the Mets, Yanks, Red Sox, whoever. I do not want them to do that, so to hell with him. Offer arbitration, when he declines, move on. Look into Mike Cameron. He plays an excellent CF, so LF ought to be a snap. Plus, he can hit lefties, so if you want to platoon someone with Colby Rasmus, there's your guy (I wouldn't go for that myself. If Rasmus is going to be your franchise centerfielder, then he's gonna have to learn to hit lefties). Beyond that, I was thinking of a few other possibilities, maybe Reed Johnson. He platooned with Edmonds, and can also play center. Admittedly, not much power, but if we had say, a healthy Glaus, and Ludwick, and Rasmus can improve, that might be enough power around Pujols.

* Which, hey I appreciate hearing the fans made a good impression, but that has to hurt if you're a Braves fan. Admittedly, the fans don't help by being so indifferent to their team's success, but there were surely some good fans that were consistently supportive, and that kind of spits in their face. Probably not his intent, but I could see that hurting some feelings.

** Really, unsustainably low strikeout, walk, and HR totals.

*** His high on-base percentage and Schumaker's at the front of the lineup and Albert might have some people to drive in. Of course, Albert might get walked 150 times depending on who's behind him, but hopefully other managers would nut up a bit.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Arizona Keeps Things Interesting

Last year they couldn't win on the road. Now they can't win at home. They can go to Jersey and beat a Giants team that looked at least decent, and figured to be pissed off after the Saints rolled over them. Then they make fools out of themselves against the Panthers. They couldn't even intercept Jake Delhomme. If that guy tried to pass on a cold it'd be intercepted.

Wait, does that make any sense?

Then they travel to Chicago and curbstomp the Bears. Whisenhunt even makes an amusing Dennis Green reference* afterward. Admittedly, the Bears aren't an elite team, and they lost Tommie Harris about one minute into the game, but the Cardinals' offense made it look easy. They even ran the ball successfully! It's troubled me that the running game has been even weaker this year than it was last year, which is saying something, but maybe it's starting to wake up. I don't watch college football, so I know little about Chris "Beanie" Wells, but I like him. I'm hoping he'll be a running back the Cardinals draft that actually works out for them**.

I just can't figure out this team. Losing to the Colts, sure I can understand that, the Colts are really good (and the Cardinals seemed to have a poor gameplan. Why throw a lot against a team with really good pass-rushing ends?) Losing to the 49ers in Arizona, that one I couldn't figure. It wasn't as though Frank Gore tore them up, they just couldn't get the job done. So at this point, I'm definitely concerned about this game against Seattle. The Cardinals dominated the Seahawks a few weeks ago in Seattle, and I have to figure the Seahawks will be looking to repay the favor. And they wouldn't be the Arizona Cardinals if they didn't periodically blow games they ought to win.

On the upside, in the old days they alternated losing games they shouldn't with almost, but not actually, winning games they had no business winning. Now they actually win those games. Sometimes. Progress.

I'm being too negative, I know. I ought to be happy, and I am, really. Any time the Arizona Cardinals win it makes me happy, especially when it's a convincing win, though I'll take any kind of victory. Still it's hard for me to shake those fears that anytime now, they're going to go in the toilet, the way they used to whenever they showed promise. Warner will get hurt, or this Boldin*** situation will actually start to disrupt things, or the pass defense will completely disintegrate, and the next thing you know, six-game losing streak. I think they're too good for that to happen (plus they have several games left against lousy divisional opponents), but I still worry.

* Bill Plaschke thinks it was in poor taste. Of course he does. I can't say I was eager to be reminded of that Monday Night Football debacle, but since it was bound to happen anyway, given it was Cardinals/Bears, and the Bears tried to mount a comeback, I'm glad I could get a laugh out of it. Plaschke, lighten up. Or alternatively, go away. You contribute nothing useful to any dialogue.

** As opposed to the ones that go somewhere else to succeed, like Thomas Jones or Garrison Hearst. or Michael Pittman. Or the ones that just don't work out, like Leeland McElroy or J.J. Arrington.

*** I appreciate how badly Boldin wants to play, but I wish he wouldn't air this stuff so publicly. Honestly, I don't believe he's a malcontent, or trying to cause trouble. I think he just believes in speaking plainly. You ask how he feels about not playing, he tells you outright it wasn't his call, and he didn't like it. I can respect that, but it bothers me that he seems to be getting a bad reputation with the sportswriters around the league, all of them painting him as a "me first, I want my stats" troublemaker type, when I think he just really wants to play. Maybe they're right, but I hope Boldin proves them wrong. The man came back from a busted face in two weeks. They had to insert metal plates in his face under the skin and he came back that fast. I have a hard time believing that guy is a cancer.