Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cardinals Should Look to Improve Rest of Team

The Cardinals have lost out on Albert Pujols and its a bigtime loss. However, the Redbirds still have plenty of good players on their roster and Pujols wasn't the only guy responsible for winning the World Series last year. They did it without Adam Wainwright who didn't throw a pitch last season and will be returning from Tommy John surgery in 2012. After letting it settle in Pujols is gone, its time to use some of the money allocated to him to improve the team. It looks like John Mozeliak might just do that, he talked about signing Carlos Beltran to a one or two year deal. Lance Berkman will be taking over first base, and Allen Craig when he gets healthy can play multiple positions including second, third, first, and all outfield spots. First base prospect Matt Adams is probably a year away and had a monster year in Double A last year. Mozeliak has also discussed signing lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez to take Arthur Rhodes spot.

The Cardinals middle infield was a weak spot last year. They started with Skip Schumaker and Ryan Theriot, one of the worst double play combos imaginable. Nick Punto and Daniel Descalso was also part of the mix, and Tyler Greene and even Allen Craig got some time at second. Theriot's lack of range and fielding misplays really hurt the club in the first half of the season, and its time to get a natural second baseman instead of Schumaker, a converted outfielder. Rafeal Furcal was acquired in a midseason trade, and did stablize short, but he's a free agent with a injury history who wants a multi-year deal.

I doubt Furcal comes back now, and I think the Cards should part ways with either Theriot or the Schu-man. I would consider re-signing Punto as a utility infielder if the price is right. I would want Descalso and Greene to get the most playing time at second and short if a veteran cannot be acquired. The free agent market is bare now for middle infielders now that Jose Reyes has signed with Miami and Jimmy Rollins is close to re-signing with Philly. The Brewers signed Alex Gonzalez, and Yuni Betancourt is a free agent but I wouldn't sign him. Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, and Jack Wilson are free agents; but at this point in their careers they are role players and not suited to start.

First off, I think the Cardinals should ask the Marlins if Hanley Ramirez is available. If reports are true he's unhappy about moving to third base, then we should put together a package to try to get him. He's coming off a down year, so I would see if they would take either Jon Jay or Allen Craig and Lance Lynn or Kyle McClellan, or even Kyle Lohse. I wouldn't trade Shelby Miller for him though, he's projected to be a future ace. If that fails, I would see if the Diamondbacks Stephen Drew, the White Sox Alexei Ramirez, or the Nationals Ian Desmond is available.

If they fail to land a shortstop, then I would go for a second baseman. 2011 first round pick Kolten Wong is projected to be the Cards future 2B, but he's a few years away. We need a stopgap for 2-3 years. I've wanted to see the Cardinals get Orlando Hudson for several years. He's got one year left on his deal with the Padres, and I doubt he's part of their long term plans since he's about to turn 34. If the Cards can get O-Dog for a mid level prospect or two they should, he's a four time Gold Glover with a decent bat. The Braves moved Martin Prado from second to left field last year to make room for Dan Uggla, and its rumored they are looking to trade Prado. He was an All Star in 2010 and a career .293 hitter. He would be a good pickup as well.

In the last year or two, Mozeliak's has changed the organzation's drafting approach. He had his amateur scouts look for speed, athleticism, and middle infielders and high end starting pitchers. The farm system has improved in recent years producing Jaime Garcia, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Dan Descalso, Jason Motte, Kyle McClellan, Fernando Salas, Mitchell Boggs, Tyler Greene, Colby Rasmus, Chris Perez, and Brendan Ryan. Thats a big improvement from being one of the worst systems in baseball during the mid-2000s. The Cardinals have two top pitching prospects in baseball with right handers Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez who should be making their debuts in the next couple years. Miller could possibly come up sometime next year. Oscar Tavares is a high average hitting center field prospect, and 3B Zack Cox, 1B Matt Adams, 2B Kolten Wong are thought of highly by scouts. Adams is probably the closest to the big leagues. Ryan Jackson is the top SS prospect, but opinions are mixed on him. Adron Chambers, Lance Lynn, and Eduardo Sanchez are still rookies and they will get a chance to play next year.

The Cardinals have rebounded from losing alltime greats before. Rogers Hornsby was considered the greatest right handed hitter ever when he played, and was traded after their first title. The Cardinals went on to make the World Series in 1928, 1930, finally winning another one in 1931 with alot of the same cast. They traded Hall of Famers Joe Medwick and Johnny Mize in consecutive years before winning three NL pennants in a row from 1942-44 and another in 46, winning three of those World Series. After Stan Musial retired in 1963, they won the World Series the next year. Lou Brock retired in 1979, and they won the World Series in 1982. We cut ties with two thirds of the MV3 trading both Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen a year after winning in 2006, and you all know what happened this year. The Cardinals will rebound from losing Albert Pujols, bank on it.

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