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outfield outtakes

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stuff i read over the holiday weekend related to the cards' outfield vacancies:

  1. a st paul columnist named charley walters hears that the cards may offer 3 yrs / $20 mill to jacque jones
  2. miklasz, citing, says stl has interest in mark sweeney
  3. miklasz also says emphatically that the cards haven't made an offer to giles and won't be meeting his asking price of 3 yrs / $30 mill
  4. the tigers want a right-handed starting pitcher and may be willing to offer an outfielder, craig monroe, as compensation
  5. one reds outfielder, willy mo pena, is demanding a trade, and another, adam dunn, appears on si's list of 10 players most likely to be traded
let's start at the top: the jones rumor i think, and certainly hope, is not true; would be a disastrous move. jones is neither young nor cheap, and he's also not very good -- certainly not worth that kind of money. a couple of posters at bernie's pressbox claim the writer of this article is known to fill space by publishing even the most far-fetched piece of speculation; one never knows what agenda he or his source(s) might be trying to advance. in any case, the cards' 1st preference seems to be signing burnett, then trading marquis for an outfielder; until that situation shakes out, i doubt that jock would make a $20m move.

the sweeney item helps illustrate what a waste of $$$ jacque jones would be. sweeney is a much, much better hitter than jones and much, much cheaper -- made $575K last season and, even after a career year, probably won't command more than $800K or so. his career ops is comparable to jones', and he's coming off his two best seasons, whereas jones hasn't had a good year since 2002. sweeney's career arc is beginning vaguely to resemble that of john lowenstein, a late-maturing hitter who had his best seasons between the ages of 32 and 36. he is not an everyday player and at best a passable outfielder -- you probably wouldn't want to squeeze more than 250 at-bats out of the guy. but when you compare the price tags . . . let's put it this way: sweeney does more to help you win and costs (pro-rated per at-bat) about a third as much. the cards' groundball-oriented staff somewhat mitigates his limitations with the glove; he could be part of a cheap mix-match solution in left field, much as ray lankford was two years back. sweeney is the same age ray was in 2004.

and whom might he be mixed-and-matched with? maybe the tigers' craig monroe, who over his career has killed left-handers -- .287 / .339 / .538 / .877. he became arbitration-eligible this offseason; i have no idea what the going rate is, but based on his power numbers (avg ~20 hr, 80 rbi per annum) i'm guessing he pulls in the range of $2-$3 million . . . . hmmmm. pretty steep price for a 29-year-old platoon outfielder, especially when it would likely also cost you jason marquis. maybe a better option -- and this is sheer baseless speculation, my favorite kind -- is jason michaels, who formed half of the phils' very productive cf platoon (with kenny lofton) last year. but the phillies' acquisition of rowand makes him expendable, and he's in his walk year which makes him doubly tradeable. michaels (whom the cards apparently considered at the trade deadline last year) murders left-handers, career obp of .436 vs them with a .902 ops. he's due for a raise to about $1.25m this season. the phils are losing wagner and have a dearth of good bullpenners, so maybe they need ray king more than we do; toss carmen cali or john rodriguez into the package . . . . ?

just an idle thought, and probably far removed from reality.

but considerations like these may play into the cards' thinking on giles, who would cost about five times as much as a platoon of the sweeney/michaels type. unlike jacque jones, giles is a better hitter than the platoon combo, but it's closer than you might think. i'm sure jocketty would love to have giles, but not enough to break the budget; he seems to be hoping the stl organization and fans will ultimately prove worth more to giles than the extra $3-$6 million he can get from some other team(s). so far jock has successfully waited out a couple of other bidders -- the padres are out of the running, the yankees all but. but the braves and indians are still very interested, and now the blue jays have gotten involved in a big way and the dodgers are said to be ramping up their efforts. i'm still not giving up on him; he's too good a fit in stl, old age and all. if burnett signs elsewhere, maybe that shakes a few extra dimes loose to throw at giles.

finally we come to the two reds outfielders. the cardinals rarely trade within the division; the only recent ones i can think of are the miguel cairo deal (chicago) and the vina trade with milwaukee. the reds have been stubbornly unrealistic about the market for their young outfielders; they'll want the moon for either of these guys -- at least, the old management would have. but with the team now under new ownership -- ex-cardinal partners no less -- perhaps the reds have new priorities. the reds desperately need pitching and have a glut of young outfielders; the cardinals desperately need young outfielders and have a small pitching surplus. . . . .

but i still can't see either one of these players coming to st louis. pena's career obp is .303; he has never learned the strike zone and doesn't appear inclined to start now. and he's in part a fiction of ballpark effects; counting back from 2005, his ops's away from great american are .707, .816, and .690. dunn has a large home-road split himself, with a career slugging avg of .553 and ops of 1.008 in cozy great american ballpark but just a .485 slg pct and .849 ops on the road. factor in dunn's bad defense and lack of speed, and that .849 ops doesn't help the team much. then you factor in the high price tag -- likely ~$7 million each of the next two years, after which dunn's a free agent . . . . . but the main obstacle to a deal like this is that st louis simply doesn't have the players to trade. i suppose they could offer reyes and wainwright (although from a budgetary standpoint it would make no sense), but the reds can almost surely do better if they market dunn aggressively.

news flash: in case you missed it, cal eldred retired.