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First, Deal with the Worst

Raise your hand if you think Izzy's performance yesterday bought him another shot at a save situation?  Let's see. . . yep that looks like everyone's got their hand raised.  Despite some initial exuberance over Chris Perez, I have little doubt that Izzy's going to get another shot. Justifiable or not.

Moving on, the Cardinals signed Felipe Lopez ostensibly to provide a better bat in the middle infield.  They demoted Brendan Ryan who has been hitting very poorly and not seeing a lot of playing time was sent done in order to "get regular at bats".  Ignoring the effect this has on the Triple A team with Tyler Greene having been called up, the Cardinals would appear to be exchanging one bad hitter for another one -- only Lopez has been quite awful defensively. 

Lopez was hitting .234/.305/.314 upon being released by the Nationals.  Let's just think about that last part for a moment.  The Nationals, who are tied for dead last in the league, released a player . . . and we claimed him.  There's something very disturbing about that on a superficial level.  There's a chance that Lopez could improve his hitting.  His Marcel projection for the rest of the season is .258/.329/.379 which would be an upgrade over Brendan Ryan off the bench. As a defender, RZR pegged him as a -15 defender at SS in 2007, which, if accurate, negates any and all upgrade on offense.  Several commenters have made the argument that "we need offense" right now and therefore that exchange is justified.  While I sympathize with the desire for an improved middle infield bat, runs prevented and runs scored all go toward the same goal of winning.  Reducing the former to increase the latter is nothing more than a lateral move.

Now Lopez has emerged as a left fielder for the Cardinals.  The most likely reason this is happening at the moment is that the team is to stubborn to put Rick Ankiel on the DL. Since his last start 11 games ago, Ankiel has had 5 plate appearances.  If the Cardinal medical staff thought he was going to be ready, I'll point the finger at them for a poor evaluation.  If Tony La Russa thinks that it's better to have Ankiel on the roster for the occassional pinch hit, I'll point the finger at him for poor evaluation.  The Cardinals have backed themselves into a shortened bench and depleted outfield situation and, given that Ankiel can't even run right now, one has to wonder whether he'll exacerbate the injury during an at bat.  When Rick comes back, the Lopez in left field experiment should hopefully be at an end.

But, perish the thought, what if Ankiel doesn't come back?  I'd rather not be forced into a bench of Stavinoha and Joe Mather.  While I've been impressed with Mather but he's not a finished product and I still am of the opinion that Stavinoha is a minor league organizational player -- not someone you want on a contending team.  Watching them make the last two outs against Lidge was nothing short of excruciating and to think that they may have increased prominence on a team that could go to the playoffs worries me.  Yet, despite some uncertainty in the outfield, the Cardinals made no waiver claim on Brian Giles.  With an OBP at .390 he'd provide some clear veteran depth that's also good.  Instead he passes through the entire NL to reach the Red Sox.  Baffling.

As another alternative to Lopez in left, perhaps the team should revisit the idea of Barry Bonds.  Nate Silver took a look at the impact Bonds would have on a team over the last 40 games based on who he's replacing.  He concludes that "Overall, we see Bonds contributing just 3.1 marginal runs to the Cardinals on the balance of the season. They can probably be eliminated as a serious contender."  Ah but wait, Nate.  Now we have Lopez in left field so Barry would be stealing some time from him too.  At best, we're probably still talking about a fewer than 5 run marginal upgrade but there's another factor that I think should be taken into consideration: the playoffs.

If Rick Ankiel's injury becomes nagging and Lopez remains on the team getting at bats, those are problems.  Bonds helps correct those but the returns over 40 games just aren't that immense (primarily due to defense).  But is there a single player that would radically alter the appearance of a lineup more so than Bonds?  How about one that comes at no cost in prospects and, allegedly, will play for the league minimum?  If the Cardinals are serious about being contenders, Felipe Lopez isn't the answer.  As impressive as they've been over the course of the season, the continue need to try and wring the last remaining talent out of players like Randy Flores, Kelvin Jimenez, Cesar Izturis and Felipe Lopez is confusing and likely damaging to their postseason chances. 

I always target the player I perceive to be the worst player on the team.  If the team is looking to make small, affordable moves, that is, imo, a great place to start.  It's official; we have a new worst player on the team: Felipe Lopez.  There's still time for a "real trade" to occur, but if the team keeps passing on players who are good (Giles) to take players that aren't (Lopez) then we're in for a long dash to the finish line.