Monday, November 17, 2008

FA FA FA: St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals (86-76)

Significant FAs: Braden Looper (SP), Mark Mulder (SP), Jason Isringhausen (RP), Felipe Lopez (2B), Cesar Izturis (SS)

The St. Louis Cardinals led the National League in OPS+ last year, but were 8th (of 16) in team WHIP. So naturally, their big publicized move this off-season was to be in the running for Matt Holliday.

The Cardinals need pitching and this off-season has many available names on the market that could step in and be a number one starter for this team. Wainwright, while a quality starter (1.18 WHIP 6.2 K/9) could easily be improved upon with the addition of a name like Peavy, Burnett, or even Johnson. That would help fill out a rotation that is losing two starters (neither are huge losses in themselves) and maybe push Joel Piniero (1.38 WHIP, 5.79 K/9 career; 4.7 VORP in 2008) out of the rotation. Chris Carpenter should be back next season as well although how the surgery will affect his performance is difficult to predict.

The Cardinals should be in the running for Peavy. They supposedly were willing to deal Ludwick and if that is the case then they have several good/decent pitching prospects (Perez, Garcia, Ottavino, Herron) to include in the deal to get this done. The Cards have the ability call up Colby Rasmus to replace Ludwick or make the deal and go after a FA to fill the hole in left. (I have no reason to think this will happen but I will throw the name Adam Dunn out there just to scare Dave with the prospect of an order that goes Pujols/Dunn/Glaus. Seems more likely that the Cards could at least land someone like Garrett Anderson or Juan Rivera.) I have yet to hear their name mentioned in trade talks although that may have something to do with Peavy's no trade clause. Regardless, the Cardinals should be trying to get this done and if not Peavy then they should be trying to land another big name starter for 2009.

Offensively the Cardinals were very solid with a team OPS+ of 111. That is impressive and there are only a couple positions that have sizable holes. Their biggest weaknesses are up the middle at 2B and SS. Felipe Lopez came over in a late season trade and in 43 games for the Cardinals played out of his mind (.385/.426/.538). While I wouldn't expect him to have a SLG .143 above his career average every year (and therefore would understand if the Cards let him walk), at 2B the Cardinals are predicted to start Adam Kennedy (.280/.321/.372) and his career 87 OPS+. They could easily go after Ray Durham (.289/.380/.432 in 2008), who, despite his age of 37 in 2009, should be much better to insert in top of the order.

At SS the Cardinals played defensive specialist Cesar Izturis for most of last year. As a result they got the production that a career 67 OPS+ hitter provides. Admittedly, SS is a defensively minded position but there are plenty of available players that can provide much more power at the plate and still field the position decently. If the Cardinals want to maintain a primarily defensive presence at SS then there are about a million MLB journeymen and minor leaguers to choose from. If they want to add some kind of offense at the position then they could look at Orlando Cabrera (.274/.322/.399) or, and I hope Jay and Steve read this, Edgar Renteria (.290/.347/.405).

I mention those names skirting a big one in Rafael Furcal (.286/.352/.412), who would be a great fit in the Cardinals lineup. I did this because in writing these previews I wanted to avoid just naming the biggest name on the market possible at the position in need and instead focus on how much the club should devote versus how badly they are in need. Most teams won't be able to afford even two FA players ranked in the top five at their position (by which I mean among available FAs at a given position). Therefore, I suggested that the Cardinals go after big name pitching talent because it is their biggest need and quite frankly they could play their position players as is and be competitive. I doubt they will be able to get Durham and Renteria even though they are not the best players available at their respective positions simply because of market demand.

Even so, the Cards should be trying to get some offensive help at least at 2B or SS. They are already defensively focused at C (Yadier Molina .262/.316/.360) and to give up three positions to defensive players is a large gap to fill.

Seriously their best bet is to get the fastest guy they can find, and convince teams to let him play second and first at the same time in exchange for batting Pujols twice.

1 comment:

  1. "their best bet is to get the fastest guy they can find, and convince teams to let him play second and first at the same time in exchange for batting Pujols twice."

    The look on that guy's face every time a lefty came to the plate would be priceless.

    Also, in this scenario Pujols should bat in the 3rd and 4th spots in the lineup. If he gets on base from the three slot, he'll be on the honor system when reporting the movements of his ghost runner.