[ed. note: I suppose I should schedule this for 5 AM instead of 5 PM in the future...]
Here's the thing about the Cardinals' first big-ticket move of the offseason, resigning Jason LaRue for one more season—if Matt Pagnozzi wasn't good enough to take the job now, with LaRue coming off a season in which he not only put up a .615 OPS but also had the rest of the Cardinals rip off his whole mustache thing, why is he still around, sucking at-bats away from Bryan Anderson?
Backup catchers are not very important, goes the refrain, and ideally that's true; but if a backup catcher were to become important, the 36 year-old who's hit .194/.286/.323 over the last four years isn't going to step up and fill in. It's an odd choice, and an odd scenario; Bryan Anderson might be the fourth string catcher in this organization, but should Molina get hurt he seems like the only real medium-term option.
I can only assume Jason LaRue has some intangible value to the team; perhaps he has spent all winter in seclusion, coming up with a new and even more off-putting method of facial hair solidarity.
Ruben Gotay was near the top of the this year's crop of would-be Ken Phelps All-Stars, and while I might have preferred the Cardinals jump on PCL Three True Outcomes king Dallas McPherson, who went to Oakland, it's good to see the Cardinals exhausting all options at positions other than backup catcher.
That said, I'm not sure Gotay is more than a worst-case scenario fit in St. Louis. He can hit, in some capacity—his bizarre .272/.429/.450 line in the PCL says as much—but as an all-hit/no-glove defensive second baseman on a team that will likely platoon two of them, that's not much of a value proposition. As for third base—he's a good hitter for a second baseman. Gotay, like Anderson, is more valuable to the Cardinals on the Redbirds than he is on the bench; Lugo and Tyler Greene, among others, are more interesting backup options.
He's a flawed player, and his flaws match up a little too closely with the flaws of the Cardinals' superior starters, but depth is depth, and Gotay was the best risk-free player available at second and third base. The goal, as always, is that the Cardinals don't need to use Gotay for any length of time in 2010; if things had broken better in 2009 we might still remember Joe Thurston as a fun slap-and-run pinch hitter with a good feel for second base. If Ruben Gotay has to take 100 at-bats over the course of a season and shows off that 102:69 BB:K ratio in a few great at-bats, things will have gone as planned. If he's starting at third base in June... I don't want to deal with that.
- At the mothership, Matthew Leach has a nice overview of Mark McGwire's bizarre Hall of Fame trip to this point. I was surprised to see his vote total go down year-to-year; it was a minor variation, but it's disheartening, as a McGwire backer, to see his lack of momentum. I still have no idea how his tenure as hitting coach will play out; the idea that he's going to give a coming-clean press conference and get on with his life doesn't jibe with La Russa's continued assertion of his innocence.
- Bernie, meanwhile, has done a fine job of extruding a little worthwhile analysis out of the latest Albert Pujols Freakout news. Honestly, most of this seems self-evident; Pujols is in a position to influence the direction this team takes—something he does indirectly anyway—and it makes sense that he would want to do that. That said, Miklasz is right in suggesting that the Cardinals, for the last year in particular, have operated as "competitively" as any team can; and while I have no reason to believe Jose Oquendo would be a bad manager, or that Pujols has any interest in installing "his guy", I would be more worried about Pujols's feelings determining where the Cardinals go managerially than where they go on the free agent market.