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January 2009

One Last Poke of the Hot Stove

Posted on January 31, 2009 at 8:11 AM
First off, thanks to all that read through the UCB blog swap entries yesterday.  To identify the writers, Erik from Play A Hard Nine wrote here, Pip from Fungoes wrote at Cardinal Diaspora, Nick from Pitchers Hit Eighth wrote at La Beisbolista, Ryan from Cardinal Diaspora wrote at Pitchers Hit Eighth, Sara from La Beisbolista wrote at Play A Hard Nine and I wrote over at Fungoes.  Good stuff all the way around (even if no one took a stab at guessing authors!)

Speaking of the United Cardinal Bloggers, we've added a new blog to our ranks.  Redbirds Row just went on-line yesterday but is eagerly looking forward to participating in some of our upcoming projects.  Go over and take a gander at his site.

It seems that the thought of Manny Ramirez, one I laughed off a couple of days ago, has stirred up the coals of the almost-dormant hot stove.  I guess the thought of one of today's greatest hitters being in the lineup with today's greatest hitter does get people dreaming.

I know Albert likes to think that Manny might take a discount to play in St. Louis and he'd love to have his friend on the team, but seriously, how much less would Manny take?  I'm sure that the allure of playing with Pujols would be helpful, but how much?

Say, for just wild speculation, you could get either Manny or Ben Sheets for $8 million a year.  Where do you spend the money?  Because, obviously, the Cardinals aren't going to be getting both.  (The Cardinals aren't going to be getting either, but stay with me for the purposes of filling up blog space.)

I could see the argument that, if you sign Manny, you could move two outfielders, say Rick Ankiel and Skip Schumaker, and get back the pitcher that you need instead of signing Sheets.  What would those two bring, though, especially since the Cardinals already need to deal without Manny?  Teams would know that the Cards were in a corner and needing to deal, which might lessen what the outfielders could bring back.

Besides the fact that, if Manny would come down to those levels, you don't think a team like the Mets would offer him $11 or $12 million?  I just can't imagine he'd love the one-paper atmosophere enough to pass up on a few more million.  Couple that with his questionable defense (granted, we will have that anyway if Chris Duncan is out there) and it's a tough stretch of the imagination to even discuss it.

I'd love for John Mozeliak to be doing this kind of outside-the-box thinking, but I still think I'd rather have Sheets to shore up the pitching staff.  That's the current need and should be the higher priority right now.  Anything else is really a heat-enduced dream from standing too close to the hot stove.

UCB Blog Swap: Passing Up Garland

Posted on January 30, 2009 at 7:00 AM
Today, some of the United Cardinal Bloggers are relieving the monotony of the winter by switching around blogs, and we are encouraging the readers to read them all and guess who is doing the guest writing.  The blogs participating are:

Cardinal Diaspora
Fungoes
La Beisbolista
Pitchers Hit Eighth
Play A Hard Nine
and this one, of course.

Without further adieu, here's today's guest post.  Post your guesses (as well as any discussion, of course) in the comments.

--------------------------
Jon Garland signed with the Diamondbacks, and you there are more than a few Cardinal fans whining and moaning about another free agent signed that won't be donning the birds on the bat. But did the Cardinals really lose out by passing up on Garland?

The short of it - No, not really.

Jon Garland, Randy Wolf, Oliver Perez and Braden Looper all have one thing in common, and that is while they are are pretty sure to give you innings, they are all pretty "meh" pitchers. Garland is the surest bet of those four to log you 190 innings, but like the others, he's a 4.50 FIP pitcher, meaning that he's a worth about 2 wins above a replacement level pitcher.  The difference between 190 innings of Jon Garland and what the Cardinals already have in house - either 150 innings of Mitch Boggs or Kyle McClellan - is a net savings of 7-9 runs. The bottom line is $7.5 million dollars is greatly overpaying for a marginal gain, at least not when you have other in house options that probably aren't a whole lot worse. As it stands,the Cardinals look like an 86-87 win team, depending on how much Chris Carpenter can go.

Rather than playing it safe and going with a known innings eater, the Cardinals still have the opportunity to sign Ben Sheets, who I would think would like a shot at getting revenge against the club who let him go.  I know it's a long shot, but they have a lot to gain by signing him. Ben Sheets is a pretty safe bet to net you a 3.70 ERA. Even if he can only throw 135 innings, he's worth over 3 wins above replacement, putting the Cards at 90 win talent level heading into the season. He doesn't have to be 100% healthy, if you can believe he can give you at least that, unless a lot of other things go wrong, Ben Sheets punches your playoff ticket.

We've recently seen Andy Pettitte sign for a pretty affordable incentive laden deal with the Yankees, who is older but has a cleaner bill of health, so it's possible he set the market for Sheets. The season is already riding on Carp's health. Hopefully with luck they can coax 70-100 innings out of him.  200 innings of Sheets/Carp combined gives the staff a much needed ace and could be very well be the difference between watching the playoffs or being in them. So why not go all in?

Crazy Times At The Hot Stove

Posted on January 29, 2009 at 8:28 AM
This one just made me laugh. 

Apparently a rumor got around that the "mystery team" in the bidding (such as it is, right now) for the services of Manny Ramirez was the Cardinals.  In exactly which world does this make sense?  Sure, the Cards could use the bat, who couldn't?  But an outfielder, especially an expensive one?  The Cardinals already have too many outfielders and haven't yet been able to trade one off.  An addition of Ramirez would mean that probably two of them would have to be moved, especially if Rasmus is going to start in the bigs.

Nice out of the box thinking, but it just doesn't make sense.  You know it's way out of there when the GM actually flat-out denies it instead of goes the political non-answer route.

Ben Sheets apparently wants a guaranteed contract.  Of course, we can't always get what we want, as some obscure rock group sang.  That said, if he'd go with an $7-8 million guarantee with some incentive clauses built in, I still think it makes sense for the Cardinals.  Even if he goes down, the odds of getting their money back on the contract are pretty high.

The Post-Dispatch scribes weigh in on whether Colby Rasmus will make the big squad this spring.  Not terribly surprising answers. They expect an outfielder trade to make room for him, but if that doesn't happen, at least a pretty good possibility he'd start in Memphis, which would delay the arbitration clock at least.

Tomorrow we'll have a guest blogger as part of the UCB blog swap.  So if you didn't like today's, come back tomorrow for something better!

Ebb and Flow

Posted on January 28, 2009 at 8:12 AM
You know, Cardinal news seems to come in bursts this offseason.  One week there's plenty to talk about, one week, well, scraping the bottom of the barrel comes to mind.

That's about the only reason the potential signing of a 38-year-old Korean pitcher would create a decent discussion.  Of course, the notable signing fee doesn't hurt discussion matters.  You know that $101 is just prime fodder for the Bill Dewitt haters.  All in all, it looks like just a depth move for the Cardinals to sign Choi Hyang-nam.  Probably see him some in Jupiter, probably won't see him much after that.

Elsewhere, Kyle Lohse is really, really glad that he pushed to get his contract extended before the end of the year.  I can well imagine.  Do you think any other time Lohse would be paid more than Ben Sheets when they both were free agents?  And yet Sheets is still looking for work while Lohse has the security and piece of mind of knowing where he's going to play and for how much.  You know he's glad that he overruled Scott Boras and Boras probably is as well now.

To steal from a couple of other talented bloggers, Tom at CardinalsGM suggests that, with the resigning of Andy Pettitte, John Mozeliak really should give the Yankees a call and suggest a Rick Ankiel for Phil Hughes deal.  The Yanks are stockpiled on the pitching front and could really use a good outfielder.  I've discussed before the Ankiel for Ian Kennedy rumor, which might have a bit more likelihood of occurring, especially after the New York shopping spree. 

Either way, I agree that's a conversation the Cardinals really need to have.  Bringing in a young, talented, cost-controlled pitcher for an outfielder that, as much as I'm a fan, is a free agent at the end of the year and likely won't be back, plus one that you can replace from your outfield surplus, is really a smart decision and the way smaller market teams should be thinking.  Whether it'll happen before spring training games start, though, I don't know.  I don't figure it will.

Secondly, check out what Pitchers Hit Eighth has done with the Baseball-Reference Play Index.  He's studied the stolen base rate against Chris Carpenter and found that Carp tends to allow fewer stolen bases than you'd think.  Yes, he's had some good catchers behind the plate, but even when the catchers were less than Molina-like, runners had a tough time with him.  Just something to keep in mind if Carpenter stays on the mound a lot this year.

Remember the UCB blog swap on Friday!

Farm Points

Posted on January 27, 2009 at 8:02 AM
Sorry for no entry yesterday, but no news meant no blog entry.  Doesn't stop me today, for some reason, but I'd hate for you to be deprived two days in a row.

Mike made an excellent point in the comments on the last entry, something I'd hadn't really thought of.  Look at the non-roster list.  It's all minor league players.  There's no D'Angelo Jiminezs or Greg Vaughns.  No has-beens looking for one last shot at a summer of baseball.  Instead, we have a ton of minor leaguers looking to make an impact.  The farm system really is starting to bear some fruit.  The Cards may not have a ton of the top 50 players, but they've got depth and quality players that can hopefully help a ball club.

Speaking of the farm system, Bernie Mikalsz makes a strong point in his last column.  If David Freese isn't given the chance to fill in for Troy Glaus, what was the point in getting him.  Why would you spend an extra million picking up Jim Edmonds' salary to get him instead of someone else?  There comes a time where you have to use that safety net and this would seem to be the most opportune time.  He may stink it up in spring training and force another decision, but until that time you'd have to think he'd be considered the favorite.

18 more days until pitchers and catchers report!  This Friday, to keep you intrigued, is the next United Cardinal Bloggers project.  Six bloggers will be swapping around, writing for someone else's blog.  We're not going to tell you who is writing for who, give you a chance to figure it out.  Someone else will be in this space, while I'll be.....well, that'd be telling, wouldn't it?

The Chosen: Cardinal Non-Roster Invitees

Posted on January 24, 2009 at 8:22 AM
The Cardinals were a little behind the trend on announcing those that were invited to their major league spring training but finally released those names yesterday.  Let's take a look.

The headliner is, of course, Brett Wallace.  I don't believe anyone is surprised at that after last season's remarkable minior league campaign.  I'm sure these were decided before Troy Glaus's injury, but that sure didn't hurt matters any.

Another player that is sure to draw plenty of attention from fans this spring is Jess Todd.  After rocketing up the ladder last year, it'll be interesting to see how he fares against major league talent, even in a more relaxed setting.  Remember, at this time last year Kyle McClellan was on few radars.  Who knows what a strong spring could do?

Others getting their first taste of a big-league spring include Allen Craig, Jon Jay and Fernando Salas.  As was noted, it's pretty telling that the minor league player of the year (Daryl Jones) doesn't get an invite.  Because, as an outfielder, where's he going to play?  Even with split squad games, there are only so many ML ABs available in the spring, and the Cards will need all of them to figure out what to do with their current outfield glut.

Coming back for another year of ML spring are Colby Rasmus, who has a strong chance of finishing what he started last March, David Freese, still the likely leader for 3B with Mr. Glaus down, and Adam Ottovino, which is an interesting choice given his struggles last year.  I got to see him when he pitched against the Arkansas Travelers down in Little Rock and he looked pretty good that night, with some serious heat.  If he can consistently do that, he'll have a future.

Of course, keep an eye on Future Redbirds for more on these players!

Glaus Fallout

Posted on January 23, 2009 at 7:43 AM
Maybe it's appropriate for a guy nicknamed Santa Glaus.  Because it's starting to look like it may be a holiday before we see him again.

The latest article from Joe Strauss indicates that Troy Glaus may miss up to five weeks of the season after his shoulder surgery done earlier this week.  That puts him returning pretty close to Memorial Day and may change the equation on who is at third on Opening Day.

The 12-week window banded about yesterday in the initial aftermath of the announcement seems to be the very best case scenario.  Even John Mozeliak indicated yesterday that it could be longer than that.  Which is no surprise to Cardinal fans.  Numerous people have been relieved to know that George Paletta didn't do the surgery.  If he had, many fans wouldn't believe Glaus's arm was still attached unless they saw it themselves.

Why some of this wasn't found on the exit physical last year remains to be determined.  It sounds like it was there, even if it was laying dormant due to the muscle not being used as much.  In fact, he was hurting at the end of the 2008 season.

I can understand why the Cardinal staff thought rest and therapy might have worked, but you get the nagging feeling that, if they'd done just a little more work, they might have found it.  Maybe not, maybe they did all they could do.  I'm not a doctor and I have no clue on that.  But it's not one of their finest hours to have this happen, and this is a staff that could use some finer hours to burnish their reputation in Cardinal Nation.

I also don't really blame the Cardinals too much for not discussing this during the Winter Warmup last weekend.  I'm not sure Glaus should have necessarily been talking about a healthy winter when that doesn't seem to have been entirely the case, but until surgery was determined, there's a case for keeping that under wraps.

As for who will be manning the hot corner April 6, that should be one of the major story lines in Jupiter this year.

Of course, you have the obvious suspects that we discussed yesterday.  Brett Wallace probably has to either have a monster spring (and Colby Rasmus can attest that those don't always get you on the roster either) or have the prognosis on Glaus come back worse, that he'll be out until the All-Star Game or something of that nature.  The team won't want to start the arbitration clock on him just for a couple of weeks of play, especially when they could probably tread water with other options.

As I talked about yesterday, David Freese is probably the favorite at the moment.  He is older, has a year of Memphis under his belt, but probably won't be in the organization long enough for that arbitration issue to be a real factor for the Redbirds.  And that utility possibilty does help him get another point on Tony LaRussa's chart.

Allen Craig is the forgotten man among prospects.  They may use spring training to let him have a lot of time and pump up some trade value.  If he has a good spring, he could get the job, because again I don't think they'll worry too much about starting his arb clock.  He'll have to prove that he can skip AAA, though.

For those on the roster, the most intriguing is Joe Mather.  That would be one of the best ways to allieveate the outfield glut that St. Louis has.  It would get Mather's potent bat into the lineup while still allowing for Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus (or Skip Schumaker, or Chris Duncan) to play as well.  I expect that Mather will get a lot of time at the hot corner come February, probably even playing in some minor league games to get reps.

I'm not sure they can replace Glaus's production and overall game, but if he's only out a few weeks, they probably can hold their own until he returns.  If it's a longer issue, though, there could be some tough choices ahead.

Glaus Out For Three Months

Posted on January 22, 2009 at 1:32 PM
The press release was short and succinct.  Troy Glaus had arthroscopic shoulder surgery yesterday and will be out around 12 weeks.  Apparently, people didn't ask John Mozeliak the right questions yesterday.

The official site and the Post-Dispatch site don't have stories up on this yet, so it'll be interesting to hear the details.  When did it start hurting?  How did he do it?  Why now to have the surgery?

There's going to be a lot of discussion about his replacement, as well.  You have to know that David Freese, Allen Craig and Brett Wallace just had their ears perk up.  Whomever plays the best out of that group has a strong shot at making the roster come Opening Day.

A lot of the attention will immediately go to Wallace, of course, but I'm not sure that the Cards would want to rush him that quickly.  There had already been some talk about Freese being a utility-type guy, so I'm thinking that, right now, he's the leader in the clubhouse.  Obviously a lot can and will change between now and the end of spring, though.

So, if the doctors are right (and of course that's something you take with a silo of salt when the Cardinals are concerned), Glaus should be back around the end of April.  Not terrible, but that's assuming all goes well.  Still, it may give the third baseman of the future (whomever it is) a chance to get his feet wet.

Chatting Up The World

Posted on January 22, 2009 at 7:57 AM
GM John Mozeliak sat down to the keyboard yesterday and answered some questions.  While the impoliteness and crudeness of some fans seems to have taken center stage, let's take a look at some of the other things he said.

First off, he seemed content enough with the rotation, noting that you don't judge a rotation on the fifth starter and they had a number of options for that slot.  Kyle McClellan was specifically noted, as was P.J. Walters and Jess Todd, which may indicate that the team feels they are close to ML ready.

He also didn't rule out going after another reliever in the spring.  It didn't sound like it was a top priority, but if something worked out, they'd do it.  I wonder if that'd be the result of a outfielder trade.  The bullpen has improved (even if Royce Ring's numbers don't inspire people with confidence) but could always get better, especially if Ring stumbles during the spring.

He had a chance to put the urban legend Skip Schumaker to second to rest, but instead acknowledged that it was at least something they might look at during the spring.  I still don't expect that to go anywhere, but they've got to do something about the outfielders.

It was nice to see this from him:

Not to get to detailed on this topic but I feel it is a nice place to address how we make decisions. First we look at the player performance, then scouting reports, then enter the risk factors, and then finally place a dollar value and length we feel comfortable with. I know it is not always popular, but there is a logic to our process.
Some people just seem to think they pull numbers out of thin air or cheapen out when it comes to free agents.  But if you think a guy's worth $15 over three, for example, why would you pay him $20 over three?  It's not good business.  And, if nothing else, this front office has a pretty good grasp on the fact that baseball is a business.

He did get away from setting a firm payroll number or talking about how much flexibility they have, since conditions seem to change on a regular basis.  In other words, the discussion of yesterday may not be as relevant as I thought, as payroll could be revised downward depending on other factors.  Still, they've shown they'll get the players they need, so hopefully they'll realize how much someone like Ben Sheets (again with the drumbeat!) will help the club.

And he's got a sense of humor.  Not only dealing with those fans we talked about before, but talking about himself:

allang: Can you please use the phrase "low hanging fruit" at some point in this session so the whiners can have something to cry about this afternoon?

John Mozeliak: That is funny, perhaps instead of low hanging fruit...for the rest of the off-season I will try to boil the ocean.
Which may have sent some posters off to complain that Mo thinks improving this team is impossible, because boiling the ocean can't happen.....

From his comment, it looks like any upgrade at second base will have to come via trade right before the season starts.  I'm not as concerned about second as a lot of people are--I think Adam Kennedy had a better season last year than some think--but it makes me wonder if Mo's got something simmering with another team that they can go to if they both need to.

It's nice that Mo sits down and does these chats.  It's not surprising that he doesn't give out much information or tell everyone exactly what they want to know, but it does give us a little insight into what's going on in the front office.

You can check out last night's UCB Radio Hour, when we talked about this chat and other topics, either on iTunes or on the player at the top of the page.  We had a miscommunication with Derrick Goold (who put together a must-read blog entry before he left on vacation), but we'll have him back on some time during the spring or early season.

Razzball, a fantasy baseball site, is doing a series where they ask a blogger five questions about their team and the season coming up.  I was lucky enough to be asked about the Cardinals and you can find my answers (and go disagree with them, if you wish) over here.  It's a fun idea, one that's inspired me to try something later on the spring.  You'll know it when you see it!

Cardinal Payroll Bits

Posted on January 21, 2009 at 7:52 AM
Payroll is always a big topic, but especially this week as things start to take their final shape for spring training 2009.

First off, VEB had up a new roster matrix yesterday.  Which looked all well and good and that there was some room in the payroll for an addition of someone like Ben Sheets until the release of the arbitration numbers for Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick came out.  Ankiel was offered by the club basically what was estimated on the matrix, though of course he might win his case and get $3.3 million instead.  (With a gap of less than a million, I'd think there are strong odds they'll come up with a contract somewhere in the middle.)

Ludwick, though, put in a $4.25 million request and the club offered $2.8.  The club offer is $1 million over what the roster matrix says.

So we take the $89.25 and give Ankiel $0.3 and assume Ludwick settles for $1.7 more than they've already been accounted for.  That'd give a payroll of $91.25.  Add in the extra $150K that Brad Thompson signed for yesterday and we're at $91.40.  Boy, giving $7 million to Joel Pineiro is going to hurt the Cards this year, isn't it?

If I'm counting right, the VEB matrix includes 26 people.  I don't know if the payroll would include, say, Brian Barton even if he's playing in Memphis.  No matter, it looks like the Cardinals are getting close to their limit, but they still seem to have a little money left.  A backloaded Sheets contract should be within their reach.

Feel free to ask John Mozeliak about any of these issues in today's chat.  I'll be away from my computer today so I'll have to check the transcript this evening.  And don't forget, Derrick Goold on UCB Radio Hour tonight!




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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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