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"A Small Bit of Churn"

Posted on November 15, 2011 at 6:34 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
Mike Matheny was introduced as the new Cardinals manager yesterday to rave reviews.  We've talked a good bit about Matheny and there wasn't much new that came out of yesterday's press conference, except maybe the fact that Matheny may be as detail-oriented as his predecessor.  He apparently is big on the video aspect of the game, which is something that the team uses often (occasionally to its detriment) and he's open to the advanced metrics of the game.  All in all, lots of good words but we just have to wait until February to really start seeing how they are put into action.

What I did find interesting in this discussion was the talk about the coaching staff.  John Mozeliak said that while it would likely stay pretty much the same, there may be "a small bit of churn."  It's no secret that the club would like to see Chris Maloney on the big league staff, which might be all that changes.  However, even that means that someone would have to go.  Let's take a quick look at the staff and see how likely it is people would leave.

We'll start with the easy one.  Dave Duncan is under contract for the next season and Matheny wouldn't have been hired (or been much of a baseball man) if he wasn't willing to work with Duncan.  Barring an unfortunate relapse by his wife from her brain tumor, Duncan will be in the dugout for next year.

The point was made on the radio last night (I happened to be able to pull in KMOX's Sports Hub program while in my car) that perhaps you make sure that your next pitching coach, who you may need in 2013, gets on the staff in some role next year.  If you went that route, the most obvious place to look is Derek Lilliquist's slot.  Does the team expect that Lilliquist could take over for Duncan?  The organization does seem high on him, removing long-time coach Marty Mason before last season to make room for him.  I think Lilliquist is pretty likely to stay.

Moving on through the media guide, we reach Mark McGwire.  Mac's an interesting case.  He's only been in the job two years and definitely owed a lot to Tony La Russa.  However, he's put together some real solid work in his two years.  His rookie year, the offense was at a level comparable to what Hal McRae was doing the year before.  Last year, as we saw, the offense was near the top of almost every category.  McGwire could decide that he wants to return to family, but if he didn't do that last year, I don't think he walks away from this group.  My guess is, again, he stays on Matheny's staff.

Dave McKay has been the third part of the TLR/Duncan triumvirate since they were in Oakland.  He's been a fixture at first and his son even played with the team for a while.  That said, I'm thinking he's probably the most likely to go.  I can see Maloney sliding into first base or, perhaps, taking over third base while Jose Oquendo moves over.  It could be that McKay moves to the bench coach role, especially since the club said they were looking to fill that internally, but depending on his relationship with Matheny, I just don't see that happening.

Oquendo has said that he'd like to stay no matter the outcome of the managerial race and I don't believe he'd carry any grudges or be any sort of thorn to Matheny's rule.  I think it's also a good PR move not to drop him right at this time, as it'd look more like a sweeping of the deck than has been implied.  Oquendo might shift around, but I think he's still with the squad in spring training.

Finally, there's Joe Pettini.  Pettini's an old-school baseball man who has done the minor league manager thing and has been a bench coach for eleven years now.  I don't think the Cards would release him outright, but I could see them making him a roving instructor or something of that nature.  I think there's been enough talk about the bench coach that there's a good chance he'd move on as well.

I really think Pettini and McKay are the only coaches that might be asked to move on, with McGwire leaving if he wants to.  With the staff expected to be set this week, it's something worth keeping an eye on.

While the coaching staff gets the attention this week, it is only a matter of time before the players they have to deal with change as well.  We know that Albert Pujols has gotten an offer from the now-Miami Marlins, though it does not appear to be one that Pujols immediately had to grab.

I find it interesting that the club has already seemed to install Daniel Descalso as the starting second baseman next season.  I like Descalso and he's most likely the best option currently on the roster, but I worry about him being a bit overexposed on a daily basis.  Then again, Mozeliak has said that they are not going to repeat last year's strategy of offense over defense, and there's no doubt that Descalso gives you a great glove at the position.  David Freese also might find that interesting, because it means that it's more likely that he'd finish games with Descalso at second and Tony La Russa in retirement.

Mozeliak also indicates they aren't going to search out starting pitching.  While that makes sense and was expected given Adam Wainwright's return and five starters already in the fold, I'd much rather have Edwin Jackson or Roy Oswalt in the fourth or fifth slot than Jake Westbrook.  No use crying over spilled milk, of course, but the Westbrook deal has turned out to not be one of Mozeliak's finest hours.

Rafael Furcal is apparently wanting a two-year deal.  If that's the case, I think Mo should walk away.  I'm iffy on bringing Furcal back anyway--he did up the defensive level, there's no doubt, but he made some key errors down the stretch and also just hit .255/.316/.418 for the Cards (which is better than I expected, but is bumped by the five home runs he inexplicably hit against Milwaukee).  He only had a .296 OBP in the leadoff role and if you can't lead him off, his value drops tremendously.  The Cards should talk to him, but be careful about going crazy to bring him back.

Tyler Greene looks like he's in the mix for the shortstop role as well.  Greene is out of options and perhaps will feel more comfortable with Matheny in the dugout than La Russa.  If Greene is able to finally play to that level he's been expected to for so long, he'd bring a new dimension to this squad.  Even with his limited time in the big leagues, he still led the team in steals with 11, two more than Pujols.

Ryan Theriot appears to be on his way out the door but the Cards are at least talking like they are interested in bringing Skip Schumaker back as a utility man.  I figure you'll see one of Skip or Nick Punto, but probably not both next year.  You'd have to think that Matheny isn't going to be as active with switches and lineup manipulations as TLR was and the value of the super sub is not quite as high.

Also nice to see that it looks like Tony Cruz and Bryan Anderson--yes, Bryan Anderson!--are going to compete for the backup catcher role instead of bringing in another veteran.  On a team that has to pinch pennies, this is a logical move and one that should have been done the last year or so, though we appreciate what Gerald Laird brought to the team.

The offseason is just getting started.  While the player movement might be less than in some years, there's still going to be plenty to talk about!

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2 Comments | Leave a comment

Good stuff, sir. As a former manager of people, I can't imagine keeping a guy on the coaching staff that was passed over for the managerial job. That's just asking for trouble. But I don't know Oquendo personally and perhaps he's a special enough person to be able to pull it off.

The Cardinals MUST sign Furcal. Their pitching staff relies on contact and needs as good a shortstop as possible. Furcal is going to have a bounce back year I think. But we'll see I guess.

Where is Allen Craig going to play? He has to be in the line up full time, but where?

It's a good question. When Berkman was signed, we expected TLR still in the dugout and figured Craig could get at bats in LF, RF, CF, 2B, and possibly popcorn vendor. Now, that would seem to be limited. I think you'll still see him get plenty of time spelling Berkman or Holliday, and that's assuming AP comes back. If he walks, Craig's the starter in RF.

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