I've got to say, I liked this whole minor-league-depth thing better when the Cardinals were grabbing Ruben Gotay instead of Freddie Bynum, the newest Memphis Redbird for all of us to worry about. (Bonus angle: If you want something else to blame Pete Kozma for—well, I guess you could have expected him in Memphis by now.) Bynum was in Japan for at least part of last season, but it doesn't appear to have taken—he was 4-29 in 16 games with the Orix Buffaloes, racking up six total bases and nine strikeouts. (While there he was presumably regaled with Cardinals stories by So Taguchi, who hit .261/.297/.387 as the club's fourth outfielder in his first NPB season since 2001.)
Bynum is fast but not very good at stealing bases; he plays a lot of positions but the only ones he's adept at are in the outfield; he was actually having a fair super-utility career until an incredibly bad 2008 season with Baltimore, but it was dependent entirely on hitting a ton of triples, 8 in 351 career at-bats.
If this is a La Russa move, and I don't think I can characterize it strictly that way, it's an inexplicable one, because he's got one of the least gritty careers I've ever seen. He strikes out a ton, he never walks, and he's the ultimate one-tool player, with speed that manifests itself entirely in track-star value—triples and the ability to run down fly balls. Grit is all about having zero tools; having one tool that you can't take full advantage of is seriously ungrit.
Risk of Catastrophic Miles Event: 25%. I would imagine Bynum, who seems like a debauched, punchless version of Tyler Greene, would infuriate La Russa with his total lack of baseball skills—he's taller and proportionately less gritty than Joe Thurston, the last baserunning-challenged utility guy to stick for an season in St. Louis. But there's only Donovan Solano keeping him out of the bigs if the Cardinals' infield situation destabilizes.
Ian Snell—well, I guess I'm fine with that, if strictly as a minor league move, but he's now three years removed from that live strikeout rate and that ability to not walk everybody. Dave Duncan has gotten decent years out of worse pitchers, but not especially decent, and not a lot worse.
Risk of Catastrophic Miles Event: 20%. As NL Central reclamation projects Snell is less braintrust-coveted than Rich Hill and right-handed to boot; if he doesn't have a big Spring Training he'll find himself buried behind Lance Lynn, David Kopp, Brandon Dickson, Bryan Augenstein, etc.
Miguel Batista isn't retired, which is news. He got his first cup of coffee when Albert Pujols was 12, and has been around for pieces of 16 seasons despite never once having the kind of peripherals that would make you think, yeah, that's the guy I want to put on my staff. He intentionally walked eight batters as a set-up guy in Washington last year, which seems like too many; his peripherals look a little better if you get rid of those, but not a lot better.
He might be better than Blake Hawksworth, but he's more likely to kind of just be Blake Hawksworth.
Risk of Catastrophic Miles Event: Orange. Batista had a 3.70 ERA last season, which is the ultimate gutsy-veteran ERA; root for Ryan Franklin to provide all the veteran guts La Russa desires in this year's bullpen, lest Batista reverse-Pipp Fernando Salas. (Trivia fact: Miguel Batista got his first cup of coffee when Wally Pipp was 12; polio was briefly called Miguel Batista's Disease in the thirties.)
I can't complain about this pick-up, but the Cardinals can and should do better when breaking camp, unless they plan on resurrecting the old very-very-very back of the bullpen. (Batista might retire of his own accord when he's assigned the locker next to Brad Thompson's skeleton.)