The St. Louis Cardinals had a nice season last year. They came in with expectations of finishing with a sub .500 record, yet the Cards battled for the division the entire year. They finished 86-76, only 4 games behind the Brewers for the Wild Card. They were able to be so competitive because of many unexpected heroes. Just look at their outfield. Ryan Ludwick came out of nowhere to put up fantastic numbers. Albert Pujols finally started to get some protection. Rick Ankiel also had a very good year with the bat. All together, they were a good offensive unit with a lot of thump in it.
Despite many injuries to their starting staff, the rotation was O.K. Adam Wainwright had a very good year and pitched like an ace. Unfortunately, he was limited to only 132 innings because of injury. If he can stay healthy, the Cardinals will have a legitimate #1 sitting atop their rotation. After him, there are some question marks. Kyle Lohse had a career year for the Cards after signing for only 4.25 million the year before. Lohse pitched fantastic and so he got a huge 4 year contract just days after the season ended. Todd Wellemeyer also compiled a nice ERA and had a very good season. After you get past that trio, things get a little shaky. Joel Pineiro had a very poor showing in 2008, Chris Carpenter might not be healthy to start off the season, and there is a total lack of depth. This rotation 1-3 is solid, but once you get past them, there are a lot of question marks.
The bullpen is not very good at all. They have only one sure thing: Ryan Franklin. He is a solid relief pitcher, but I would prefer him in a set-up role instead of the closer. If they decide to go that route the closer’s job would probably belong to Chris Perez. This guy was a very good prospect, and definitely their closer of the future, but will he be able to realize his potential in his first full season at the big league level? If not, then manager Tony LaRussa will have to get creative with his ‘pen.
So, this Cardinal team has some good pieces. The middle of the lineup and the top 3 in the rotation are very good. The big problem with the Cards will be once the starter leaves the game. Will they be able to hold onto leads? Will Chris Perez excel in the closer’s role? Will Chris Carpenter regain his 2005-2006 form? How will the 4th and 5th starters perform? If these questions are answered positively, the Cardinals will be in the thick of the Wild Card race once again. They might even contend with the Cubs for the division. It’s tough to count out a team that has Albert Pujols on it.
I know that it’s really early to start talking about this, but I started to wonder where Matt Holliday will sign next offseason.
Yankees (frontrunners) If my estimation is correct, the Yankees will have 158 million committed on their 2010 team unless they sign a free agent to a multiyear deal this offseason. Lets say that they’ll put their payroll in the 200 – 210 million dollar range. That would leave 42 – 52 million left to spend. The outfield corners and designated hitter look like the only holes. Holliday is the best player available in the outfield, and I’m sure that the Yanks will go all-in to try to lock up this great slugger.
Red Sox (frontrunners) They’ll pursue him partly because the Yankees are in on him, but also because they would love to add Holliday to their ball club. The BoSox inquired on him while he was with the Rockies, because they thought he would be the perfect Red Sox player. Jason Bay is a free agent, opening up a hole in left field. I’m not sure if the Red Sox would like to make record breaking contracts back-to-back years, so I don’t think the BoSox will go all-out in order to sign Holliday if they already have Mark Teixeira. If Tex goes elsewhere, look for Boston to go hard after Holliday.
Angels (frontrunners) This is pretty much the same thing as with the Red Sox. If the Angels sign Tex this offseason, they’re less likely to sign Matt Holliday next offseason. If Holliday goes somewhere else, the Angels are a big player for Matt. A lot of money should be opened up when John Lackey’s, Kelvim Escobar’s and Vladimir Guerrero contracts end. With “Vlad the Bad” not so “bad” anymore, the Halos could always look at the younger Holliday. Matt makes a lot of sense for their club if Teixeira isn’t signed first.
Dodgers (possible) If Manny Ramirez doesn’t resign in Dodger Blue, the other LA team could decide to go after Matt Holliday. I don’t know if they’ll be willing to go past the limits for Holliday the way the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels probably will. This remains a possibility, however.
Cardinals (slim chance) I named them because I think they have a chance to sign Holliday, even if it is a slim chance. They aggressively pursued him in trade talks with the Rockies, and were reportedly close to an agreement. If they did aquire Holliday, they would like to talk extension with him. So that could possibly mean that they would be willing to fork over the 200 million+ that would be necessary to sign Matt. I just don’t think that a mid-market team like the Cards would be willing to pay at least a fifth of their payroll on one player. The above mentioned teams are much more likely.
Nationals (dark horse) They’re aggressively pursuing Mark Teixeira this year, and that leads me to believe that they could do the same with Holliday if Tex signs elsewhere. Remember, they were in trade talks with the Rockies if a window for an extension would be granted. I think that means that they would be willing to offer the 200 million+ it would take to sign him. They might be outbid by the larger market clubs like the Yanks and Red Sox, but I think that they’ll throw a pretty high number in front of Holliday’s face.
Khalil Greene has been traded to the Cardinals for minor league pitcher Mark Worrell and a player to be named later. It is unknown how much money the Padres will kick in, if they even pay any. This seems like a pretty good move for both sides.
The Cardinals turned right to Greene and got a deal done quickly once Edgar Renteria singed with the Giants. He was probably their top target, but I guess they chose Greene at 6.5 million tops over Renteria at 9 million. I think that is a smart desion. Greene plays by far better defense, comes on a 1 year deal, and is cheaper even without money thrown in. On top of that, Khalil has more power even though he was awful last year. Other options like Rafael Furcal and Orlando Cabrera are appearantly out of their price range. So when it boils down to Greene or Renteria, I think they made the right choice by selecting Greene.
The Padres also did well in this trade. I doubt that Worrell or the PTBNL turn out to be anything, but they moved Greene’s salary. They needed to make a trade to move some cash, and they dump a good amount. Hopefully this will take the pressure off a Jake Peavy trade. So now they won’t have to take a bad deal for him just to move some green.
I think this is a solid move for both teams. The Cardinals get a fairly cheap shortstop; the Padres move salary.
Three middle relief signings have happend recently; hopefully this will get the other markets going.
- The Astros resigned Doug Brocail for 1 year, 2.5 million. This is a nice little move for Houston. I know that they don’t have the money to help out the rotation or the offense, but at least they were able to keep their bullpen mildly intact. I still don’t think they will compete, but you never know.
The Cardinals signed Trevor Miller for 1 year, 2 million. Miller failed his physical, otherwise it would have been a 2 year deal. The 2 million on this contract isn’t even completely gaurenteed; he has to earn the money based on appearances. This makes the contract look very nice for St. Louis, though. He comes for not much money at all, but if he is healthy he is a solid lefty reliever. The Cards will continue looking for lefties even after this signing.
The Giants signed Bob Howry for 1 year, 2.75 million. Another cheap, good signing. Howry was awful last year with the Cubs, but he was a work horse the previous two seasons. If he can return to form in San Francisco, the place his career began, this will be looking like a heck of a signing by the Giants.
Those are the three deals that happend between yesterday and today. Hopefully more will continue, because everything is just talk so far. There haven’t been many major moves.
Believe it or not, Trevor Hoffman will not be returning to the Padres next season. The Padres offered him a low ball 1 year, 4 million dollar contract with a 4 million club option. The guy’s a Hall-Of-Famer, you’ve got to offer more than that, at least for sentimental reasons. I know they don’t want to raise payroll, but with Jake Peavy likely to be dealt, they would be able to afford him. Anyway, now that Hoffman won’t be a Padre, he’ll hit free agency. All teams in need of a closer seem like fair play. The Indians showed interested back when Trevor last hit free agency. They still need a closer now, and I think they make a lot of sense. It’s possible, but I think the Mets would want a younger closer. The Tigers could check in as well. The Cardinals and Brewers are possibilities. If none if these teams suit him, then Hoffman could decide to retire. It seems like he wants to continue playing even though he won’t be a Padre. I just can’t believe he isn’t going back.
Tracy Ringolsby and Joe Strauss talked to Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak here and here. Both are reporting that the Matt Holliday trade to the Cardinals is dead. I’m kind of confused on this one; it would’ve given the Cards a big bat to put behind Albert Pujols in the lineup. Some might argue the price is too high, but Ludwick is the only needed player. Schumaker wasn’t needed with Holliday coming in, and Mitchell Boggs was just a throw in. One reason could have been payroll. With Holliday slated to earn 13.5 million in ’09, the Cardinals would be left with only 6.5 million to spend. With big holes in the middle infield and the bullpen, it might be smarter to keep Ludwick and spend the money to fill those holes. The other reason might be that they think the improvement of Holliday over Ludwick wasn’t so great. A case could be made that Orlando Hudson would have a bigger impact replacing Adam Kennedy than Holliday replacing Ludwick. Plus, Holliday would be a rental while Ludwick and Hudson would be under contract for a long time. So when you look at it that way, it makes sense to decline that trade and use the money on middle infield and/or bullpen help. The Rockies will continue shopping Holliday, but there are no good suitors left. One dark horse is the Nationals. If they are willing to offer Mark Teixera 10 years, 200 million, then they could pursue a trade for Holliday. A window for an extension would be necessary, however. That way they could offer Holliday some insane 10 year offer and lock him up instead of Tex. Another possibility is the Red Sox. If they were willing to trade Mike Lowell, move Kevin Youkilis to third base, and move Jason Bay to first base, Holliday would become an option. I don’t know if Bay would be willing to go to first base, though. This seems as a sort of far fetched idea, but so does the Nationals idea. There are no good fits for Holliday now that the Cardinals are out.
The Cardinals and Phillies have surfaced as frontrunners for Matt Holliday. I recently wrote about the Cardinals situation. Additionly, they are offering a package of Ryan Ludwick, Skip Schumaker and Mitchell Boggs. This package is very strong, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Rox accept. Ludwick could play left field replacing Holliday, and Schumaker could share center field with Ryan Spilborhgs, replacing Willy Taveres if dealt. (which is very likely, especially if this trade goes down) The Cardinals open up two spots in the outfield corners by trading Ludwick and Schumaker. Holliday takes left, Ankiel moves to right, and top prospect Colby Rasmus takes over in center. I really like this trade a lot for both teams.
The Phillies are very interested as well. They can offer a lot, but not as much as the Cardinals. The Phils package would be Carlos Carrasco, Greg Golson, Joe Savery, and Lou Marson. This package is not very enticing to the Rox, however. Dextor Fowler is just as good as Golson is. Chris Iannetta is better than Lou Marson. Carrasco and Savery add depth, but you don’t trade Matt Holliday for just depth. I don’t see the Phillies working a deal out.
So both the Cardinals and Phillies are very aggresive in these trade talks. But the Cards have the undoubted lead.