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giant implications

with four days to go in the season, the cubs have the most secure lead of any nl division leader --- 2 games. they can thank the cardinals for that. st louis won not only the game vs milwaukee but also the psychological war, as ned yost foolishly took la russa's bait and earned his third ejection in four games. the brewers' 8th-inning plunking of pujols was extraordinarily immature --- which is not to say that the cards' hbp of prince fielder in the 2d was an act of great enlightenment. it was just the latest escalation of a pissing match that tony initiated back on monday night, when the cardinals beaned corey hart in a blowout. my guess is tlr saw his team checking out with a week to go and concocted an "insult" to get their heads back into what's left of the season. or maybe he found his own interest wavering; it's been a long time since he managed such a meaningless series. whatever the case, the cards provoked this particular fight, and then they escalated it last night by retaliating for a couple of brushbacks with a pitch in fielder's ribs. a savvier manager than yost would have waited until 2008 to take his revenge; the brewers still had a reasonable chance to win the game (win expectancy of about 27 percent at the time of the pujols plunking) and ought not to have been distracted by extracurriculars. insofar as the free baserunner touched off a 4-run rally that snuffed out the brewers' chances, the gamesmanship obviously backfired. it wasn't the dumbest move yost has made in this pennant race, but it adds to the doubts about his fitness to manage in pressure-packed circumstances.

further commentary on the beanballism from the brewer camp and from bernie last night at his blog.

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the suggestion was made in yesterday's thread that VEB should adopt a playoff team this october; i like the idea. once the national league field is finalized (which, at the rate things are going, won't happen until monday night), i'll post a poll; whoever wins will have the honor of our community's endorsement. i also have been thinking of holding a postseason contest of some sort --- essentially a tournament bracket, with the objective being to predict the series winner, score in games, and series mvp of all 7 postseason matchups. the cards won't be involved, but it's still october --- the best time of year for baseball fans.

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watching the highlights of barry bonds' last game in san francisco, i started perusing the giants' roster and decided they might be a good trade partner for the cardinals. san francisco is desperate for young position players --- only 1 player under age 30 took more than 200 at-bats for them this year --- and they have a surplus of talented young pitchers that includes matt cain, tim lincecum, jonathan sanchez, and kevin correia. they also have noah lowry, who is less talented and less young but surely is available. i saw one article recently suggesting that the giants might be willing to deal an arm or two; what sort of package could the cardinals offer? it depends on who the target is. for noah lowry, it wouldn't make sense to offer much; he's slightly damaged goods (has a bone spur in his elbow that kept him out of action the entire month of september), and his strikeout rates have plummeted the past couple of years, to the point that his k/bb this year was 1:1. he also has a career 4.85 era away from san francisco. lowry does come extremely cheap, however --- under contract for $2.3m next year and $4.5m in 2009, with a $6.3m option for 2010. and he did go 14-8, 3.92 this season; despite the declining peripherals, he is not entirely without value. if --- and it's a pretty sizeable if --- he can maintain a league-average level for the life of that contract, he'd be a tremendous bargain. accordingly, the giants' asking price will be high --- they'd probably want chris duncan, who is a perfect fit for them. i think duncan's worth more than that, and i wouldn't make that deal --- but if they'd accept ankiel plus a sweetener or two instead, i would pull the trigger. i don't think the giants will have to sell lowry that cheap, however. they'll surely get a better offer.

bobbyballgame1 recently proposed trading dunc for a young starter, and the idea has some merit. since duncan makes so much sense for the giants, the cards could offer him plus, say, brendan ryan or brad thompson or anthony reyes and request lowry plus sanchez or correia in return. (ryan also makes a lot sense for the giants --- omar vizquel's contract is up, and san francisco does not have an in-house replacement ready. another logical fit for that organization would be mark hamilton.) sanchez is the cards' type of pitcher --- ie, he throws a hard sinker --- and he has outrageously good minor-league numbers. he's also left-handed. the giants have used him mainly in relief the past two seasons, but he was primarily a starting pitcher in the minor leagues. he'll be 25 next season. correia is entering his arb-eligible years, which makes him a good trade target; in 26 career starts he is 8-5 with a 4.19 era, including a 3-0, 2.02 stint this year since joining the rotation on august 25. he, too, throws a sinker. correia turned 27 last month.

let's say this deal were to happen. if things go as planned, the rotation is now set for several years --- wainwright, looper, lowry, correia/sanchez, and mulder to open 2008, with carp returning in august; wainwright / carp / lowry / correiasanchez would all be under club control at least through 2010. the cards then buy one or more run-producing free-agent outfielders to replace duncan -- the market will be full of them, and the cards should be able to get themselves at least one reasonable deal. the loss of duncan would make the everyday lineup nominally older in the short term, but in 2009 the rasmus / anderson crop of prospects should arrive to freshen things up.

it'd be risky, as lowry might be on the verge of imploding and neither correia nor sanchez is a sure thing. but the cards are in a position where risks are in order. a trade of this type would have a reasonable chance to yield one solid long-term piece for the rotation, with the potential to add two pieces and settle the rotation quandary for several years. anybody with me?

a less risky alternative: simply go after correia, with ryan or ankiel as the primary bait, and leave duncan and lowry out of it.