(Note: The St. Louis Blues released their schedule last night. You can find it here. Opening Day is Saturday the 19th at home against Detroit.)
This has been an inordinately boring offseason. The Angels have been active, the Blue Jays acquired the Marlins and Tampa Bay stole the Royals best prospect. Otherwise ... not much has happened.
The Cardinals don't move. This is what prospect depth and a reasonably good team do to an offseason.
If you want to read about John Mozeliak urging calm, which a) seems like how he starts every media availability ever and b) is probably the working title to his memoir, you can check out Joe Strauss's column. The Cardinals offseason has consisted of a perplexing two year deal for Ty Wiggington and a thoroughly mediocre three year offering to Randy Choate.
This is emblematic of where the Cardinals are at right now. They are a mostly complete team at the major league level and are aided by a significant amount of depth in the upper minors. Spring Training will be vastly more interesting -- and telling -- regarding the Cardinals upcoming season. They'll have a better opportunity to evaluate Rafael Furcal in action. Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia will be under close scrutiny coming off of injury plagued years. But the Cardinals appear content with the depth they have in place.
Lose Furcal? Insert Pete Kozma. Lose Jaime Garcia? Insert Shelby Miller.
This is not a new approach for the Cardinals. They often assemble really good teams and then hope that injuries don't derail the season. If the Cardinals are tepid about the risk that young, untested players represent they've proven themselves less concerned about the risk that injury prone players represent. That has made for some great (Larry Walker, Chris Carpenter) and some terrible (Mark Mulder) contracts and seasons.
It was a weak market overall. Mid-rotation pitchers made up the bulk of the top free agents and there wasn't a franchise player available this season.
Part of the problem with a weak free agent class is exacerbated when one team, in this case the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, sign what are, arguably, the top It two free agents. Neither Michael Bourn nor Josh Hamilton are hitting the market as particularly young players. The former is a good player (maybe a very good player if you believe UZR) until his speed dissipates, which generally begins around 30. Josh Hamilton is his own worst enemey and will be 33 this season.
If you wanted a franchise position player this offseason, you probably looked at BJ Upton. He'll be 28 for almost the entire season. He's a very gifted physical athlete. Having said that, he hasn't been a tremendous on the field contributor averaging 3.8 fWAR over the last three seasons. That's good -- enough to get 5 years and $75M from the Braves -- but it's not the type of performance that can carry a team.
The Angels, in addition to acquiring Josh Hamilton, signed Zack Greinke to a 6 year deal. Coupled with Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson, Greinke's addition was the biggest free agent signing of the offseason both in impact to a team and overall dollars. It's hard to argue that the Angels didn't get dramatically better for the next 2 years. Their long term contracts may or may not catch up with them at some point but these acquisitions were the big news this offseason.
There was no Albert Pujols or CC Sabbathia this offseason. Next offseason could include the following pitchers 30 or younger: Josh Johnson, Matt Garza, Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo Jimenez. It also has pitchers like Adam Wainwight, James Shields and Roy Halladay on the potential market.
Teams are more covetous of prospects than ever. The only thing they may value more are draft picks.
This remains the age of the prospect. The Blue Jays and Royals deemed it worthwhile to move their top prospects but they were, by far, the exception and not the rule. Even as the Cardinals overflow with pitching prospects, they've either been unwilling or unable to find a match for the high octane arms now at the top of their minor league system.
What has arguably been more interesting is to watch the attempts of the new CBA to deal with draft pick compensation largely fail. Kyle Lohse is not a bad pitcher. Nor is he a great pitcher. He is, however, a pitcher who requires the loss of a draft pick to sign after receiving a qualifying offer from the Cardinals (which he declined). Lohse has found himself in a dead zone of being too expensive for the bargain hunters but not good enough for those looking for high end pitching. The added cost of a draft pick has further hampered his market.
It's a long offseason and things can change. I hope things change because, right now, I'm bored to tears.
Author's Note: Yes, I made a factual error in the landing place of Zack Greinke. Zack Greinke made a $147M dollar deal with the Dodgers, not the Angels. This was not intended as a subtle pun and was simply a mistake. Thanks to those of you who stopped by to point out my error. Not sure what I'd do without you.