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waste not, want not

bernie miklasz hits it on the head vis-vis the cards' organizational dysfunction:

To make the reduced payroll work, the Cardinals need to give significant roles to young players such as like Luna. Players who can start, handle the job, and do it cheaply. But that scenario doesn't hold up, because La Russa prefers playing the veterans, who are pricier, over the youngbloods, who cost less. In this case, the Cardinals dismissed Luna's cheap labor (he made $340,000 this season) to bring in a more expensive temp.
another organization might very well have committed to luna in the offseason, hoping for league-average performance, and used the $1.3 million expended on spivey some other way. likewise, another organization might have committed to reyes and wainwright in the offseason, rather than throwing a million at sid ponson; they might have committed to tyler johnson instead of throwing $2m at ricardo rincon; and they might have committed to a j-rod / rodriguez platoon, rather than trading for larry bigbie, who ended up costing $900K.

spivey, ponson, rincon, bigbie -- that's $5.2 million, plus a left-handed relief pitcher, that the cardinals wasted on "established" veterans who were brought in to do jobs that young players within the organization already could do -- and have done, as it turns out. too bad those resources weren't applied toward a solution for one of the holes that have gone unfilled on this team all season long, and likely will remain unfilled beyond the trading deadline. for example, if the cards had been willing to commit to both wainwright and reyes, they could have traded marquis over the winter when his value was still reasonably high -- might've packaged him with king and a prospect to acquire the "impact bat" they've been missing all season.

i'll acknowledge that la russa does work unproven players into the mix -- molina, flores, and j-rod last year; duncan, luna, hancock, wainwright, reyes, and ty johnson this year. but in the majority of these cases he has not gone out of his way to create an opportunity for a young player; rather, he's turned to youngsters as last resorts, when injuries left him without other options. aside from molina, the cardinals under la russa don't commit to young players; tony's always got to have other (read: veteran) options hovering around, soaking up resources and roster space. over time all those mediocrities gum up the pipeline, and jocketty finds himself with no attractive trade chips and no maneuvering room.

will belliard help? marginally, perhaps; he's got the ability to get hot for two months, and i hope he does. but he's not the type of player who is likely to alter the outcome of the postseason, carry the cardinals to a world series. at any rate, i'm not focusing on this individual trade; in isolation, it's harmless. the troublesome thing is the pattern -- the inefficient use of organizational resources. that's no longer sustainable. jocketty's shopping list for the 2006-07 off-season is already long enough -- 2 or 3 starting pitchers, a left fielder, bullpen help (as always), and bench strength. now he'll also have to buy a 2d baseman, leaving fewer resources available for all the other positions. so the cardinals will spend $2m on a 2bman next winter . . . . . but they'll come up a few million short in the bidding for jason schmidt.

here's joe sheehan's take on the trade at baseball prospectus (subscrip req'd); you could say he's not a fan:

At the very least, the Cardinals have merely shuffled deck chairs, acquiring a veteran in exchange for a comparably-valued, less-experienced player. It's likely that the difference between the two won't even be a win over the last 60 games of the season. That wouldn't make it a good trade for the Cards--they lose out on Luna's peak seasons at low cost--but it would mean they didn't actively hurt themselves. On the other hand, Luna is trending upward, while Belliard seems to be treading water or sliding back. I've been advocating for Luna most of this year, and I won't stop now; he's going to outplay Belliard over the next two months, take hold of the second-base job in Cleveland and be one of the best 2Bs in the AL in 2007.
i think sheehan's overstating luna's value, but if he isn't -- hoo, boy.

transaction oracle says:

This isn't one of Walt Jocketty's best trades. While I was skeptical of Luna's play last season, he's playing just as well this season splitting time with Aaron Miles. While Luna has a disproportionate amount of at-bats against left-handed pitchers, the difference in platoon splits is only 29 points of SLG (identical OBP), so one can't argue that his stats are beefy from beating up lefties. Speaking of platoon splits, the Miles/Luna sorta platoon has to be one of the most pointless platoons ever - Miles actually has a higher career OPS against lefties and hasn't been as good as Hector Luna at either handedness.

While I appreciate Belliard and his impressive Fat-Leticism at second, I don't see him as all that much a better player than Luna now (if at all) and I'd rather have 4 years of Luna than 2 months of Belliard. Yes, the trade gets Aaron Miles out of the lineup, but the team could've done that anyway. My only complaint is of utilization . . .

the luna-belliard deal is a rare one in this sense: it's a straight-up trade of position players at the same position. i've only found two previous instances of this type of deal in jocketty's record: on march 29, 2004 he dealt speedy outfielder kerry robinson to the padres for speedy outfielder brian hunter; and on the trade deadline in 1999, he traded utility guy shawon dunston to the mets for utility guy craig paquette. so this is the first time walt has traded a starting position player for a starter at the same position. in 2002 he did trade the cards' starting 3bman (polanco) for a new starting 3bman (rolen), but it wasn't a straight-up transaction. . . . .

in case you missed it, both the pa.m beach post and the post-dispatch (2d-to-last graph) confirmed the cards' active pursuit of dontrelle willis. . . . .not that it alters the outcome, but at least it clears up any doubts about whether this so-called rumor had any truth behind it.