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VEBegone

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"O, Oysters, come and walk with us!"

The Walrus did beseech.

"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,

Along the briny beach:

We cannot do with more than four,

To give a hand to each."

Obviously, VEB is in for a bit of a change over the offseason. It's one that's healthy and natural in the course of blogdom. It's a demanding task that, while having many rewards, is arduous at times. Personally, I've found it surprisingly difficult to be original on a once-a-week basis. The fact that others can write about the same 25 players day in and day out is a testament to their abilities (or stubbornness). My thanks go to Larry as well for the opportunity to write at VEB -- even if my stamina here was merely a season, I enjoyed it very much.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Walked on a mile or so,

And then they rested on a rock

Conveniently low:

And all the little Oysters stood

And waited in a row.

So without making that melodrama overly long, how 'bout them Dodgers? A part of me recognizes that it must feel pretty crappy to be a Cubs fan right now. They're not done yet but the walls are closing in. Since I'm not a Cubs fan, however, I'm looking for a good T-Shirt to commemorate their pending century of futility. Here's to many more!

"The time has come," the Walrus said,

"To talk of many things:

Of shoes—and ships—and sealing wax—

Of cabbages—and kings—

And why the sea is boiling hot—

And whether pigs have wings."

As I ride off into the sunset (can a robot ride a horse?), I've got a couple suggestions for the offseason. I'm not going to make outlandish trade proposals or even reasonable ones. Those types of happenings are very difficult to just guess at so I'll keep to in-house personnel but there's no shortage of story lines and decisions to make there.

1) Kyle McClellan to start: I discussed Kyle McClellan last week. With the signing of Lohse, I'm inclined to believe that it's even more important to make McClellan a starter. The Cardinals aren't in a good position to land another good starting pitcher with a multi-year deal given the holes in the middle infield that have to be addressed. I won't belabor this point but Kyle should be given the chance in Spring Training to prove that he can take the ball every 5th day.

2) Arb for Loop: Braden Looper appears to be a Type-B Free Agent. This is the simplest decision that Mozeliak will make the entire winter: offer him arbitration. The Cardinals need to avoid making too many multiyear deals with pitchers and they've just signed Lohse. Looper is in for a healthy payday on the market; the Cardinals shouldn't bet on a mid-30s pitcher when they don't have to. If Looper accepts arbitration, which is the risk that you take on when you offer it, that would be all for the better. He'd get $8-$10M and the Cardinals would get a safe one year deal. If he declines (far more likely), the Cardinals get a supplemental round pick. Getting as many early picks as you can is a good way to have a good draft. Plenty of talented players are still available in the supplemental round.

3) Pick 3 middle infielders, any 3 middle infielders. I'd love for the Cardinals to acquire Brian Roberts but I'm not going to hold my breath for something like that. The players readily available to them (Aaron Miles, Adam Kennedy, Cesar Izturis, Felipe Lopez, Brendan Ryan) offer a variety of offensive and defensive options. Let's just be clear though -- having four middle infielders on the roster IS BAD ROSTER CONSTRUCTION. These players are routinely the weakest hitters on a team so being able to use them as a pinch hitter offers less gain than having another outfielder or someone who can man the corners who can actually hit. The difference between any two of these players moving forward probably isn't more than 1 win. The players that can hit (Miles, Lopez) can't field. The players that can field (Izturis, Kennedy, Ryan) can't hit. Pick your poison and ditch two. Don't give any of them multi-year contracts if you can avoid it. these aren't the kind of players that deserve long-term commitments.

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,

"Before we have our chat;

For some of us are out of breath,

And all of us are fat!"

"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.

They thanked him much for that.

4) Trade some prospects but do it because it makes the team better. The meme that some in the media (namely Joe Strauss) have been consistently floating for the last month about the front office hoarding prospects or just trying to get prospects on publication lists (such as Baseball Prospectus or Baseball America) is crap. Strauss is a pretty good beat writer but he knows next to nothing about the farm system (as his comments on the radio routinely make clear). There isn't any player that's untouchable (not even Rasmus). The goal should always be value for value. No PR moves. No dumping players because TLR doesn't like their attitude. Value for Value.

But, if you do consider trading Rasmus this offseason, take a look at what Evan Longoria did this season. The Rays gave him the reins and let loose. Colby Rasmus is that caliber of player and while a rookie season such as Longoria's is never the expectation, Rasmus is one of the few prospects in the minors capable of putting up those types of numbers their first season.

5) Stop being loyal to a fault. If Izzy is willing to come back for a $2M base salary, sign him yesterday. It's worth taking a chance to see if he's healthy. If Chris Duncan is 100% and mashing the ball, play him on a regular basis. The system is good enough, however, at both RH relief and outfield that those players do not deserve extended looks. That is the doom of the Cardinals this year. The team -- be it Mozeliak or TLR -- is too scared to cut the cord when it comes to these players. Trust your farm system to supplement at these positions and don't waste more than 20 games if the players don't look like they've returned to health.

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,

"To play them such a trick,

After we’ve brought them out so far,

And made them trot so quick!"

The Carpenter said nothing but

"The butter’s spread too thick!"

It's easy to prescribe some simple moves or decisions like above. The last bit of advice I have for the Cardinals could be more valuable than all the rest combined but has nothing to do with personnel decisions: Learn how to talk to the media and the fans. The Cardinals have two problems in this area: 1) medical issues and 2) LaRussa/Dave Duncan. The first isn't entirely their fault. The players have some sway in what the club can tell the populace and really whether the club has enough foreknowledge to address a small injury before it's a big one. That said, the rest of it is clearly the club's fault. They are borderline deceitful when releasing information to the public about injuries. Far more harm comes from injuries like Ankiel's that turn into something really bad than from letting other team's "know" how desperate you may or may not be. The club winds up looking like they are lying to their fans or are totally incompetent. The damage to the club-fan relationship is more important than another team knowing that Ankiel really is hurt. Find a way to correct this problem.

With regards to number two, send TLR/DD to a class or have them sit down with a politician. They need to find a way of either being straight without being condescending or sounding like they have a grudge. If they can't do that let them learn how to say nothing but offering equivocations (the politician). I'd rather they speak their mind but doing so without throwing players under a bus or demeaning them are skills they obviously don't have. Head back to PR 101 and figure out how to not start a s--tstorm every time you speak. Fans (and the internet) will always blow quotes out of proportion but there is no need to throw us a meatball pitch down the middle. We'll hit those out of the park every time.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,

"You had a pleasant run!

Shall we be trotting home again?"

But answer came there none—

And this was scarcely odd, because

They’d eaten every one.

~The Walrus and the Carpenter

by Lewis Carroll

Note: SBN 2.0 decided to try and destroy me this morning. If you've seen some wacky formatting, apologies. I had to break out my brute force HTML skills for some jenky fixes in the background. All should be well now. Victory is mine. [/kicks SBN server] [/rides off into sunset]