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friday hash

to quote one of my favorite writers, the great jim anchower: hola amigos. i know it’s been awhile since i rapped at ya. . . . hope 2009 is off to a good start for ev’yone. danup is on the road today, so i’m filling in for him. i’ll do my best not to rehash too much old ground . . . . although what other type of ground is there in this slooooow off-season market? it’s all been hashed up pretty good. anyway, here goes.

first of all: the cubs signed so taguchi to a minor-league deal. gooch becomes the fourth member of the 2006 championship team to be acquired by the northsiders, following marquis, edmonds, and miles. no doubt jim hendry has made contact w/ scott spiezio’s agent, and there must be hopeful stirrings in the preston wilson and jeff weaver households.

next item: if the trade market for xavier nady is so hot (and that’s what i keep reading), then why the hell can’t the cardinals find any interest in ankiel? he and nady are both in their free-agent year, but ankiel’s a year younger, walks more often, has more power, and has a lot more value as a defender. nady has been linked in the rumor mill to the braves, nationals, pirates, reds, and giants --- and that’s just in the last week. the orioles and angels would also figure to be potential suitors. my guess is that the trade market will remain frozen until man-ram, adam dunn, and bobby abreu sign; once there are no free-agent bats left, maybe ---- maybe ---- the cardinals will get the offer they are looking for on ankiel (or, alternatively, ludwick).

if they don’t, they'll just have to pick up one of the 237 free-agent pitchers who remain unsigned. matt leach posted a rundown yesterday of that market, which even at this late date holds plenty of interest. ben sheets is on the list, and as much as we’d all like him to become a cardinal, we know it ain’t happening; he’s neither affordable nor reliably healthy, and therefore fails on both of the cardinals’ prime criteria. the team already has one $15m-a-year crapshoot in the rotation, and there aren’t many clubs that can afford more than one of those --- or even one, for that matter.

the only other pitcher leach mentions who’s actually good is andy pettitte. i might rather have pettitte than sheets, given his superior health record. but i doubt he will end up in st. louis, for the simple reason that he has never expressed any interest in pitching here. even though his two previous teams (yankees and astros) are both out of the running, andy might still have an offer in his home state of texas (the rangers) or back in new york (the mets) --- and if he doesn’t, he might just retire. it seems unlikely to me that the cards would offer him $15m on a one-year deal, and if they did i don’t think it’s likely pettitte would take it. if both those things were to happen, hallelujah.

once you get past those two guys, you’re down to the garland / looper / perez tier; perez will be too expensive (the mets are gonna throw tons of money at him), and the other guys just aren’t that much better than the top in-house option, kyle mcclellan. on the contrary, mcclellan (my opinion) has more raw ability than anyone left on the market besides sheets and pettitte; he’s got a live arm, good mound presence, and command of three big-league pitches. to that, you can add the fact that mcclellan is club-controlled for another 5 years and has some upside, which is the main thing lacking in the looper / garland model. even if you get a decent season out of a stopgap like that, you haven’t really moved your team forward; you still have the same damn problem, a so-so rotation. guys like that seal in mediocrity; they keep your team from backsliding too much, but they also keep it from moving forward. whereas if the young player pans out, you’ve got one less problem to solve for the next few years.

duncan thinks mcclellan has the makings of a starter --- same as he thought about wainwright, looper, and wellemeyer . . . .

as unsatisfying as the off-season has been so far, i can’t relate to the angry-fan stuff. the cards aren’t in bad shape. they didn’t lose anyone of consequence off last year’s team, they improved at shortstop very cheaply, their in-house personnel ought to improve the bullpen, and they've got near-ready prospects at several positions. they still have question marks, and they still haven’t made the redefining move they are so primed to make this off-season --- the acquisition that opens a new window of world-title opportunity. the cards came into the off-season with money to spend and talent surpluses to deal from; if they come out of it with nothing more than khalil greene, trever miller, and (let’s just say) jon garland, that’ll be frustrating. but splashy off-seasons don't always pan out --- viz. the mariners and tigers last winter --- and dull off-seasons sometimes do. after their disappointing third-place finish in 2003, the cards had a lackluster winter and seemed to fall further behind the competition. while the cubs added greg maddux and the astros added clemens and pettitte, jocketty did nothing more than acquire a couple of free-agent stabilizers (jeff suppan and reggie sanders) and a bunch of retreads and rejects --- jason marquis, roger cedeno, julian tavarez, marlon anderson. the cards didn't land their starting second baseman, tony womack, until the last week of spring training; their opening-day platoon in left field consisted of anderson (a journeyman middle infielder) and 37-year-old ray lankford, who’d been out of baseball for more than a year. they played .500 ball for the first month and a half of 2004 and looked like anything but a contender. . . . .

sometimes it takes a while for things to jell. maybe they will jell in 2009, or maybe they won’t. it’s too soon to say.