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Winter Meeting Notes

The big baseball story, before we get into partisan matters: congrats to the late Joe Gordon, baseball's newest Hall of Famer. Flash is a good choice, and a great one if his defense really came as good as advertised.

His induction brings up an interesting issue—what happens if Chase Utley plays, with a reasonable decline phase, until he's 37 or so? If what we're seeing right now is his peak, he's been as good as or better than Gordon in the process, and while you have to give Flash war credit for the time he missed you also have to look a little cock-eyed at the big seasons he put up while the league was weak, in '41 and '42.

Utley's career numbers entering his age-30 season—he might end the year with 150+ home runs, close to 1000 hits—are going to look pretty weak, but the Hall of Fame peak is already in place. Hitting 30 has proven to be a rough spot for plenty of superstar and borderline-superstar second basemen—call it the Chuck Knoblauch line, if you want. But Utley doesn't necessarily have the most conventional 2B skillset. 

Anyway, from the players on the list I'd've liked to see Deacon White and Bill Dahlen join the Hall with Gordon, but I'll take what I can get. My favorite proto-Cardinal, Bob Caruthers, would have been a nice choice too, but I don't see that ever happening; someday I'd like to do a nice, long Friday post about him. 

The news that Trever Miller is only due $500k plus incentives was definitely welcome here at the hypothetical VEB compound. I know a lot of people are still hoping the Cardinals go after a name reliever, but the fact is that the Cardinals' homegrown bullpen corps is among their biggest payroll strengths, and as of now they're set to take great advantage of that fact—only Ryan Franklin will make more than a million bucks.

Since there's not a lot of cheap talent in the starting cupboard, which is both shallowly and underwhelmingly stocked with Mitch Boggs, WonderBrad, et al, and the Cardinals seem serious about filling another spot on the open market, that added payroll flexibility is both welcome and extremely important.

But it looks like the main storyline for the Cardinals during the meetings, having gotten shortstop out of the way just in time, will be whether or not they trade an outfielder. I'm going to have a hard time analyzing these moves and non-moves—any Ludwick deal will probably undervalue him, and any Ankiel deal will come hard up against my inability to be objective in the face of Ankiel's story, which I've followed obsessively for the past seven or eight years. A trade that lines up Ankiel, who plays the same position as Rasmus and is a free agent after 2009, and a young pitcher might work out really well for the Cardinals, but that doesn't mean I'm going to be happy about it. 

Finally, MLBTR mentions that the Yankees are about to make an offer for Ben Sheets in the two years, $30 million range. The draft pick makes it tough, and the Cardinals' minimal flexibility in the rotation make it almost an impossibility, but I'd certainly rather they go for Sheets than break the bank on a Burnett deal or, as Matthew Leach insinuates at the Mothership, offer a multi-year deal to a closer. Once upon a time Sheets was considered a remarkably durable young pitcher, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if his next two years are largely free of the strange, haphazard injuries that have befallen him since that ridiculous 2004 season. (Seriously? 264 strikeouts against 32 walks?)