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Winter Meetings Preview

First of all, let’s look at the updated roster matrix.



molina c
miles ut
wainwright rhp
perez rhp
pujols 1b
duncan lf
lohse rhp
franklin rhp
kennedy 2b
barton of
pineiro rhp
motte rhp
glaus 3b
mather of
wellemeyer rhp
mcclellan rhp
ryan ut
carpenter rhp
kinney rhp
schumaker lf
rasmus of
boggs rhp
thompson rhp
ankiel cf
larue c
todd rhp
miller lhp
ludwick rf
freese 3b
mortensen rhp
--- ---
--- ---
So the team has about $10M or so to play with – maybe $15 but if Mo wants to have any leverage at the trade deadline, he’s going to probably stay right around the $100M mark. According to Joe Strauss in today’s p-d and Bernie in his forum last night the Cards’ priorities going into the winter meetings include a starting pitcher, a closer (or a reliever who can close), and a left-handed reliever. The team has an offer out for Arthur Rhodes but expect him to sign for more money w/ Jocketty and the Reds so they’ll likely try to trade for a lefty reliever. That won’t come cheap.

Maybe the payroll limit is the answer to our Randy Johnson question. He’d be super in the 5 hole but there doesn’t appear to be enough money to add Johnson and 2 relievers – even if we pare some payroll by trading an OF. BTW, if we can’t afford Johnson, how is it possible we could afford Pettitte even in the unlikeliest of scenarios where he would even entertain an offer from the Cards? That I don’t get at all.

Second base is put on the WAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY back-burner as there seems to be a greater likelihood that Kennedy will return. I suppose that’s ok. If he’s half as good defensively as he was last year, he’ll be worth the $4.5 M he’s getting paid. His defensive numbers are out of line w/ his career norms but, he’s got a low threshold to meet.

We’re looking for a closer, apparently. This is discomfiting, to say the least. Names mentioned in Strauss’ article include trying to trade for J.J. Putz or Huston Street. I’ve discussed Street before. He’s ok – probably not as bad as a lot of people think but, to me, the only rational reason to replace Perez w/ Street is if we were going to market Perez as a chip in a trade for a young SS. Well, there’s no chance of that happening now so why don’t we just use Perez? He’s as good (or better) and cheaper.

Putz is a guy who people have feared for a few years that his arm was about to fall off and he missed more than a month last season with a hyperextended left elbow. When he pitches, he pitches well, at least prior to last season. To wit:

2006 78.1 11.95 1.49 0.46 1.64 2.38
2007 71.2 10.30 1.63 0.75 2.91 3.16
2008 46.1 10.88 5.44 0.78 4.61 4.53

Putz stands to receive $8.6M this season -- the last year before he becomes a free agent. Do we really want to give him nearly $9M AND give Seattle a pretty good prospect or 2? Isn’t Perez just as good or almost as good for MUCH less money? Better yet, isn’t Perez AND Randy Johnson better than Putz and Mitch Boggs? It’s about the same money.

I was relieved to read in Bernie’s forum that the Cards don’t intend to get into a bidding war for type-A free agents (who were offered compensation, btw) K-Rod and Brian Fuentes. Goold a couple of days ago mentioned the Cards’ interest in Randy Wolf or (gulp!) Looper. If we were going to resign Looper, or were willing to do so, shouldn’t we have offered him arbitration? Inexplicable! As for Wolf – just say no. Wolf had a career year last year. Hell – the Astros recently backed off of Wolf b/c it appears as though he’s in line for something like a 3 year/$30 M deal. In the last 4 seasons, Wolf has thrown 80, 56.2, 102.2, and 190.1 innings, respectively. He’s thrown less than 430 innings over the last 4 seasons but happened to throw nearly 200 last year – when he was 31, btw – and is now looking for a 3 year deal. Don’t be stupid, Mo (and, contrary to popular belief, I don’t think he will be).

If we’re considering throwing nearly $9M and prospects at J.J. Putz, wouldn’t it make more sense to offer this guy a 2 year, $18 M deal? There may be some hostility to he-who-shall-not-be-named in these parts, but he could close and be dominant when he does. He’s a type-A free agent who wasn’t offered arbitration so he’d cost us no draft picks and be among the best closers in the NL. Sure, there’s an injury risk – he missed about 3 weeks last season – but Perez or Motte could step in for that time and get some experience in the role and not be too much of a step backward.

He was a 3 win player last season even w/ missing 3 weeks to injury. He struck out 11.4 batters per nine and walked just 2.4. He gave up 3 homers all season. His tra and tra* were 2.11 and 3.16, respectively, making him one of the best relievers in the big leagues and providing reason to think that success will continue. He does turn 32 in June but a 2 year contract wouldn’t leave the Cards exposed for the long-term. He wouldn’t solve the Cards’ SP woes since his contract would eat up much of what’s left but, to me, it’s a much better idea than trading valuable assets for the right to pay similar dollars to Street or Putz.

Maybe a __________________ (insert above closer’s name here) and Looper combo – if Looper signed for 1 or 2 years is palatable. Would Looper sign for 1 year in order to become a free agent next year when the market might be a little better? The Cards, apparently, thought the likelihood was high enough not to offer him arbitration. What about 1 year, $8 M for Looper and 2 years, $9 M for the reliever? We’re getting now into $110 M territory once we trade for the lefty reliever. Maybe it can be done. It’s more likely, isn’t it, that we resign Izzy for $4 - $6 M and stick him back there in the role? That’s a recipe for disaster, IMO. Pay the extra $3 M for Wood (DAMMIT!!!!!) or go w/ the kid (Perez).