What the Cardinals really need!
With all the hub on Pujols and the manager vacancy, I feel Cardinal Nation is overlooking their biggest need of the offseason, middle infield. When is the last time the Cardinals have had a solid second baseman? What about shortstop?
We have gone through middle infeilders like they are butter we have seen names like: Mark Grudzielanek, David Eckstein, Adam Kennedy, Aaron Miles, Ronnie Belliard, Miguel Cairo,Cesar Izituris, Kahlil Greene, Brendan Ryan, Tyler Greene, Felipe Lopez, Joe Thurston,Ryan Theriot, Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, Nick Punto,and Rafael Furcal play in the middle infield since 2005. We haven’t had a stable short stop since Edgar Renteria, though Eckstein did play parts of three seasons with the Cardinals. Second base has been even worse, names like Fernando Vina and Placido Polanco are the teams most stable second baseman since the late eighties when the Cardinals had Tommy Herr. So why is it that these two positions have looked like a carousel for over ten years? Well in my opinion the Cardinals biggest need of the offseason lies in the middle infield.
The Cardinals currently have Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker on arbitration eligibility which theoretically they could be non-tendered which is a nice way of saying released. They also have let Nick Punto and Rafael Furcal become free agents, and they are currently in talks in bringing back Furcal to a cheaper deal than what his 12 million dollar option would have been worth. If that works out the Cardinals will have brought back a veteran leader of last years World Series team who has had tremendous success in the past at shortstop but has seen his numbers drop in recent years mainly due to missing large amounts of games to injury. But if he can remain healthy I am all for keeping Furcal on this team. However if Pujols decides to sign with another team, that money could be used on a big name like Jimmy Rollins or Jose Reyes who have both been linked to the Cardinals on the rumor mill.
Reyes is one of the most exciting players in the game, he can hit like no other and has some power to go along with his great glove, arm, and speed. He is a very talented player and the only thing that has slowed him down is his injury problems, he has missed a lot of games in the last three seasons due to knee and hamstring issues. But, I think it would be a risk well taken if the Cardinals could find a way to bring in Jose Reyes, he would be a great addition to the Cardinals or any team for that matter.But with that said that still leaves second base open.
The Cardinals could keep both Schumaker and Theriot for moderately cheap deals and sacrifice defense for two scrappy hitters that will try to hit around .300, drive in around 40, and maybe hit a home run or two. But if I were the Cardinals, I would try to get a premier second baseman and then keep either Schumaker or Theriot as a bench option. Unfortunately this free agent class doesn’t offer too many big named second baseman, but two options immediately come to my mind, Aaron Hill and Kelly Johnson.
Hill who will be turning thirty years old in March is former Blue Jay and Diamondback who has had two seasons of 25 plus home runs, one of those was his career year in which he had 36 home runs and 108 RBI’s. Hill has a lot of potential and I think he would fit in perfectly with the Cardinals system, with back to back down years he could come at a relatively cheaper price than what he once could have been worth. I envision a two or three year deal for between 16 million to 25 million depending on the years given.
But an even cheaper option would be Kelly Johnson, Johnson a guy that the Cardinals have had on their radar in the past is another second baseman with some pop. In the past three years he has had three 15 plus home run seasons, two of them were 20 plus homerun seasons. He has been pretty streaky however with the bat going from batting .224 to .282, and then this year a combined .222 between the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays. The Cardinals might be risking themselves because both of these players have had shots of brilliance but also really bad years. But either one is an upgrade over Schumaker and Theriot especially with the glove. Another option is trading for a second baseman, one that comes to mind is Martin Prado of the Braves who was recently put on the trading block from the Braves. Prado is a typical .300+ hitter, around 15 home runs, and 50+ RBI’s, but he also has a really solid glove and can not only play second base but third, and the outfield.