Arm Chair GM: Offseason edition pt. 2
After Albert Pujols signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last Thursday morning, the shift of the Cardinals off season has changed. Now the Cardinals have more money to spend, they already made their first move of the off-season by re-signing short stop Rafael Furcal to a two year 14 million dollar deal, so some new needs have become more important than they would have been if the Cardinals had signed Pujols. So, I am going to show you what I would do if I was Cardinals GM John Mozeliak:
Something that the Cardinals especially John Mozeliak has been notorious for has been giving contract extensions whether it is mid-season or during the off-season. Right away two names come to mind as guys who I think the Cardinals need to lock up now, rather than seeing them put on an Angels hat next season and beyond. First, is the new face of the franchise Yadier Molina. Molina is just 28 years old, he is a three time All Star, and he has won four consecutive gold glove awards breaking the Cardinals franchise mark for gold gloves which was once held by now manager, Mike Matheny. Molina is young, his offense just keeps on improving, last season Molina batted .305, had a career high 14 home runs, and 65 RBI’s. Without his buddy Pujols here to persuade him as his contract expires next season, I think Molina would walk in a heartbeat to sign elsewhere, so the Cardinals need to act now and make a good, smart, deal before the Cardinals and Cardinal Nation loses yet another franchise icon. Molina is making 7 million next season which is about right for a two tool catcher, however I think the Cardinals should sign him to a four year 35-40 million dollar extension which would keep the catcher through age 33-34 which will probably be the end of Molina’s effectiveness behind the plate.
Next on the plate, Adam Wainwright. He is now the franchise pitcher along with Chris Carpenter (who is going to be 37 next season) the Cardinals might want to keep him here a little bit longer. Wainwright will be under team control through atleast 2013, which by then he will be 31 and will still have a few more years in his prime. With the uncertainty of his health, the Cardinals might be wise to wait until mid-season 2012 or the 2013 off-season before committing money but the Cardinals might want to start thinking about locking Waino up.
The Cardinals only have one left hander in their bullpen as of right now, Marc Rzepczynski. The free agent market is very slim for left handed relief, but a few names come to mind off the bat: Mike Gonzalez and J.C. Romero. Gonzalez was a member of the A.L. Champ Texas Rangers and is a seasoned vet with experience closing, he might be more expensive than Romero but he might also be more effective. Romero a former Minnesota Twin, LA Angel, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillie, and Colorado Rockie is 36 years old and might not be the guy that the Cardinals should go after, though his price tag would be much more cost effective. But, if I were the GM I would not sign anyone however I would trade Kyle McClellan and/or Mitchell Boggs for a left handed pitcher like Jeremy Affeldt who was recently put on the trade block by the San Francisco Giants.
With the departure of Octavio Dotel, the Cardinals might want to go after a shut down reliever something we haven’t really seen in a while. The Cardinals do have Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas who I believe would both be perfect for set up roles, but with a little extra money I think the Cardinals could find a key guy to help solidify the bullpen. The first few names that come to my mind on the free agent market are former Mariners closer David Aardsma, former closer Chad Qualls, and young fireballer Joel Zumaya. My only concern with Zumaya is his lack of staying healthy he missed the entire 2011 season and played in only 31 games in 2010, other than that Zumaya is a guy who can hit the upper ninety’s and get the big strike out when you need it. Qualls and Aardsma have experience and I think their veteran presence on the club would be a huge benefit to a very young bullpen.
The first two names that come to my mind are Ryan Ludwick and Carlos Beltran. Ludwick would be the best fit, he played for the Cardinals from 2007-2010 before he was traded by the Cardinals for Jake Westbrook in one of the worst trades in recent history. Ludwick would be the perfect right handed compliment to a lefty heavy outfield that features Jon Jay, Adron Chambers, and Skip Schumaker. Ludwick could sign a one or two year deal for less than three million a year, which would benefit him and the club. I say it would benefit him because he has played his best and stayed his healthiest in St. Louis and the fans really adore him, and vice versa. Beltran would be a nice option if the Cardinals wanted to give Jon Jay less playing time, Beltran is a proven hitter, fielder, and a team leader but his injury history is just as bad as Ludwick’s and he is older than Ludwick. Beltran would also command probably over ten million a year and would want a multi year deal, I am not apposed to the Cardinals signing him but I would much rather see Ludwick back at Busch. In his four seasons with St. Louis, Ludwick had a .280 AVG, 84 HR, 305 RBI’s, and he was a Silver Slugger award winner during his breakout 2008 season in which he batted .299, with 37 HR, and 113 RBI’s.
Every team needs a dependable utility guy, someone who has a steady bat, a solid glove, and can play multiple positions effectively. Last season Nick Punto was the guy the Cardinals wanted to be their utility guy but he was constantly spending time on the disabled list and barely saw playing time, but he did appear in 63 games with the Cardinals. I could see Punto returning he seemed to have a good clubhouse presence and let’s be honest everyone enjoyed seeing the tiny little elf like Punto play his heart out with the Cardinals. Other guys that come to mind are former Cardinals: Aaron Miles, Mark DeRosa or guys like Orlando Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, and Jose Lopez. My first choice would probably be DeRosa but because that is nothing more than a dream, I think Lopez or Guillen would be solid choices as well.