spending the edmonds dividend

the news that jim edmonds asked for this trade has done little to stop the angry recriminations over it. there are still plenty of people out there --- including a few who e-mailed me yesterday --- who insist that thte deal was born of dewitt's money-grubbing and/or mozeliak's stupidity. the truth, we now know, is that the front office was planning to do exactly what the fans wanted --- keep edmonds around for one last hurrah, let him retire a cardinal --- but jimmy didn't want to stay in a diminished role.

he did the cardinals a favor, forcing them to make a beneficial move they otherwise wouldn't have made (perhaps because they feared the fan backlash). the trade netted them a not-inconsequential prospect (more on that below) and $6m to spend on a player who probably will be more impactful on the win column in 2008 than edmonds would have been. the onus is now on the front office to put the money back into the roster; if they don't, the angry talk about salary dumping will be somewhat justified. but they also need to spend it wisely --- ie, in a fashion that's consistent w/ their commitment to player development. so what should the cards do with the edmonds dividend? i can think of a couple possibilities:

spend it on pitching. this is the obvious way to go. the cards already were in the market for pitchers and, having failed to swing a trade, were beginning to sort through the junk on the free-agent market. but their budget would only allow for one acquisition; now they might be able to squeeze in two, which changes the calculus. mozeliak had previously ruled out high injury risks --- with $17m already tied up in mulder and carpenter, the cards need stability above all else, so mo focused on healthy but mediocre (or worse) guys who could be relied upon to consume innings. josh fogg typifies this class of pitchers. but the edmonds dividend allows them to gamble on a second pitcher with great downside risk but high upside. edmonds' departure leaves the payroll at about $95m, so there's $10m to $15m in the till; that should be enough to acquire one dependable innings-eater (josh towers is my favorite in this class) and roll the dice on somebody like bartolo colon or jason jennings. the number of pitchers in this category is large --- colon, jennings, freddy garcia, john lieber, matt clement, rodrigo lopez, mark prior, and kris benson all fit the description. the cards ought to be able to land one of them on a short-term deal, and if they do then in essence they will have traded edmonds for a prospect and (let's say) bartolo colon; you can't expect a better return on the shell of a one-time superstar.

spend it on another outfielder who isn't quite as washed up as edmonds. admittedly, this would kind of defeat the purpose --- why replace one old, expensive outfielder with another? but with edmonds gone, the dean of the cardinal outfield corps is chris duncan, who has all of 665 career at-bats; ludwick has 637, schumaker 177, ankiel 172, and barton 0. aside from duncan (who can't actually play the position), any of the st louis outfielders might prove to be a complete bust --- indeed, the odds are that at least one of them will. this is not a big deal if the cardinals are content to write off the whole season to player development, but if they want to give themselves even a remote shot of contending then it might be prudent to add one veteran to the cast --- provided said veteran a) is available on a one-year deal, b) willing to accept the part-time role that edmonds rejected; and c) can still hit. milton bradley fit this description to a tee, but he's no longer available (i just can't let this one go . . . . ). in a pure baseball sense, the most logical fit still on the market is kenny lofton; i don't like the little jerk at all, but he is still a very productive offensive player and he'd give the cardinals a real leadoff man (their best in over a decade). but he's a mismatch for this organization personalitywise, which makes him an unlikely pickup. ditto barry bonds, for reasons i need not enumerate. geoff jenkins would be a logical fit, but reports are that he's bound for either san diego or philadelphia. so who's left? shannon stewart and shawn green are out there, but neither one is any better than the players already on hand. but there are a few guys who i would consider defensible pickups --- again, under the caveats outlined above. one is brad wilkerson, hampered by injury the last two seasons but still pretty young (30) and blessed with good plate discipline and decent power. if he's available on a one-year deal, i like him. another possibility would be luis gonzalez, who has expressed strong interest in playing in st louis and, even at age 40, can still reliably get on base. he put up an ops of almost .800 in dodger stadium last year and might be handy to have around in case one of the young players fails or gets injured. and finally there's corey patterson, who is the same age as skip schumaker but vastly more talented --- more power, more speed, better defender, better arm. if he could simply muster a .330 on-base percentage, this guy would be quite a valuable player. alas, his single-season high in obp is .329, and his career average is .298 . . . . you don't want this guy playing for you every day, and you don't want him taking at-bats away from rasmus or barton. but as a depth guy --- a part-time player who can run, play defense, and pop the ball out of the park --- he wouldn't do any harm. and there's always the remote chance he puts it all together and posts an .800 ops for you.

however the cardinals spend the $6m, that return will get added to the value the cards have already received in exchange for edmonds, david freese. frustrated jed fans are dismissing this guy as a piece-a-shit prospect, which isn't fair; he'll never be a star, but he has a decent chance of delivering a few seasons of league-average offense. at least, that's what PECOTA thinks; it projects .260ish equivalent averages (.260 is the definition of league average) for this player through his age 28 season. for the sake of comparison, the list of 3bmen with .260ish eqas last season included scott spiezio, casey blake, eric chavez, and scott rolen. a guy of that ilk who makes the league minimum is a valuable player. BP translates freese's 2007 minor-league line into a major-league equivalent of .245 / .325 / .384 and an eqa of .249; the average big-league 3d baseman had an eqa of .269 last year and a line of .274 / .346 / .445. so freese has a ways to go before he becomes league average for his position. but he's not that far off; there's a reasonable chance he will get there with another year or two of development.

yesterday erik did a comparison between freese and allen craig, the cards' leading incumbent 3b prospect; nice bit of contexting. i'll augment that from an eqa perspective --- these are major-league translations:

age avg obp slg eqa
craig 22 .269 .321 .469 .267
freese 24 .245 .325 .384 .249

craig is still the better prospect; better performance at a younger age. but depth is a good thing.

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