Currently is that time in the off-season in which I am still interested in what is going on. Not in the playing baseball sense of the word, I could(n't) care less who wins between New York and Philadelphia. Now, if the Angels pull it off, I might root for them, but then I probably would not watch 4/7 of the games because of them being west coast 9:00 PMers. I am, instead, talking about what the home town Birds on the Bat will be doing in the off-season. Since so many people have already chimed in on what they would like the Cardinals to do with what money is perceived to be available, I decided to take a different route and look at what a team of free agents would look like.
I decided, that to make this more real, I would not include anyone that has an option, whether it is a team or player option. That way, everyone chosen is truly, at this moment, a free agent. I am also assuming 700 AB at each position, and an NL club, thus no woosy DH position. Lastly, I am assuming a one-year deal for everyone and no limit on payroll; I'm pretty much trying to see how much I could win right now with who's available in free agency. In essence, I gave Mark Cuban an expansion team and one season.
Benjie - $5 million - 500 AB, .280/.300/.440/.740
Zaun - $2.5 million - 200 AB, .250/.340/.410/.750
Catcher total - 700 AB, .311 OBP/ .431 SLG
At first base, it came down to Adam LaRoche and Nick Johnson for me. I also looked at the aging, injury-prone Carlos Delgado and Aubrey Huff, but decided quickly that AL and NJ would both be better choices. After looking at what I would project the two at, I went with Nick Johnson.
Johnson - $6 million - 500 AB, .290/.420/.465/.885
First Base total - 700 AB, .390 OBP, .459 SLG
Hudson - $5 million - 500 AB, .285/.360/.440/.800
Polanco - $4 million - 200 AB (2nd), 100 AB (SS), .300/.350/.410/.760
Second Base total - 700 AB, .357 OBP, .431 SLG
This one comes down to Marco Scutaro or Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera is a sure-fielding .720 OPS guy at SS. Not a bad guy to have as long as you have some hitters. Scutaro is an average-fielding .720 OPS guy for his career...then comes his outlandish .790 OPS of this past season. If you're a believer in Brady Anderson and other one year wonders...then this is the guy for you.
Orlando Cabrera - $6 million - 500 AB - .285/.330/.390/.720
Shortstop total - 700 AB, .341 OBP, .392 SLG
Mark Derosa we all know (and some of us love) here at VeB. Mark DeRosa is a highly probably .800 OPS player at 4, positions, (2B, 3B, LF, RF) none of which he plays very well defensively. Chone Figgins is a .750-.770 OPS guy who has serious speed and a decent glove at 3B. While he's been a 3B for the last 3 years, he has logged 800-4500 innings in the field at 3B, 2B, CF, OF in his career. Adrian Beltre, the non-steroid era version, is a .760 OPS hitter with a great glove at 3B. He is the only true 3B in the group above. I want two of these guys.
Beltre - $8 million - 350 AB (3B), 200AB (1B) - .265/.315/.445/.760
Figgins - $5 million - 350 AB (3B),100 AB (SS) - .300/.385/.385/.770
Third Base total - 700 AB, .350 OBP, .415 SLG
Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, Bobby Abreu, and Johnny Damon are all type A left fielders who rock in one sense of the word, or more. Vladdy Guerrero is another type A free agent outfielder. Dave Roberts, Randy Winn, Reed Johnson, and Mike Cameron look like the best true free agents who can play CF. Out of all of those players, I need to come up with 5 of them to play the outfield on a regular basis.
Cameron - $5 million - 500 AB (CF) - .250/.340/.460/.800
Johnson - $1 million - 200 AB (CF) - .280/.350/.410/.760
Abreu - $12 million - 350 AB (RF) - .290/.380/.450/.830
Holliday - $16 million - 250 AB (LF), 350 AB (RF) -.325/.400/.560/.960
Bay - $10 million - 450 AB (LF) - .280/.380/.515/.895
Left Field total - 700 AB, .387 OBP, .531 SLG
Center Field total - 700 AB, .343 OBP, .446 SLG
Right Field total - 700 AB, .390 OBP, .505 SLG
Team total (minus pitchers) - 5600 AB, .359 OBP, .451 SLG = .810 OPS as a team
That is $85.5 million wrapped up in the offensive side of the ball. I said I was going to have unlimited payroll.
Obviously the outfield defense leaves plenty to be desired (even with Cameron in CF for most of the innings) and the infield defense isn't the best, but isn't horrible. The left side should be good, whereas the right side shouldn't. Any Molina behind the plate defensively is good.
Looking at the Type B free agent starters that are truly availble, I only see: Erik Bedard, Doug Davis, Rich Harden, Randy Johnson, Jason Marquis, Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte, and Joel Pineiro. Randy Wolf and John Lackey are obvious signings, IMO. Justin Duchscherer was also there, but his high in IP is 141. No thanks as a starter. I'm also of the opinion that Rich Harden should be moved to the closer role (as has been thrown around here a bit.)
Lackey - $10 million - 200 IP, 163 K, 47 BB, 3.56 FIP
Wolf - $7 million - 200 IP, 158 K, 67 BB, 4.02 FIP
Bedard - $5 million - 160 IP, 160 K, 62 BB, 3.72 FIP
Pineiro - $7 million - 190 IP, 95 K, 38 BB, 3.83 FIP
Pettitte - $8 million - 205 IP, 141 K, 66 BB, 3.92 FIP
The starters' averages would be: 191 IP @ 3.81 FIP
That only adds up to 955 IP out of my starting rotation, and typically staffs throw around 1450 per season. My bullpen will have to work 500 IP or so. Therefore:
I will start out with Justin Duchscherer because he can be a workhorse out of the pen, I would assume, based on him throwing 140+ innings this past season, and him having worked out of the pen before. He would also fill my "Brad Thompson" role of spot starter when someone goes down with an injury. Rich Harden would be my closer. I think he'd be a rock in that role, assuming he could stay healthier with it. Other than that, I go with all the Type A's...and for a reason after looking at stats.
Spot Starter/Long Relief
Duchscherer - $4 million - 100 IP - 83 K, 22 BB, 3.76 FIP
Darren Oliver - $2 million - 75 IP - 58 K, 23 BB, 4.18 FIP (L)
Kevin Gregg - $3 million - 75 IP - 75 K, 33 BB, 4.39 FIP
Jose Valverde - $4 million - 70 IP - 78 K, 26 BB, 4.01 FIP
Mike Gonzalez - $4 million - 60 IP - 73 K, 27 BB, 3.48 FIP (L)
Rafael Soriano - $4 million - 60 IP - 77 K, 20 BB, 3.52 FIP
Rich Harden - $5 million - 60 IP - 73 K, 23 BB, 3.53 FIP
The relievers' averages would be: 71 IP @ 3.86 FIP
The pitching staff's totals: 1450 IP @ 3.84 FIP
$63 million was spent on my pitching staff. It has a lot of power arms, which would help out the defense incredibly, with 6 players (5 in the pen) with a K/inn or more. In 1450 innings, the defense would only have to make 3,115 outs (out of 4,350).
My total salary ends up being $148.5 million for the season, but I think we put together a pretty decent team. I wouldn't know how to go about figuring out what each player's WAR or how many wins this team should get next year, (so if anyone wants to do that (hint, hint) please go ahead) but I would be willing to wager that if everyone were to stay healthy playing at this level, the team should do more than just "alright."
To bring this full circle:
There are some pretty decent options out there this season on the free agent market. Obviously, the Cardinals have a salary cap put into place by Bill Dewitt and the other owners. Obviously, the conjecture around here is $90-100 million will be that cap. We cannot be sure. There are many options listed above and many possible ways to put these pieces together with what the Cards already have. I am not going to project, here, what we are going to put together in St. Louis; however, there are quite a few options out there.