Everybody saw the Barton cut coming, except maybe the Play Like a Cardinal people, but now that it's actually happened the weirdness of the potential 2009 roster comes into sharper relief.
There are three—and this is the scientific term—points of weirdness, as far as I can tell. Three places where the likely construction of the roster comes into stark conflict with the realities of the roster at this moment.
#1: Long Relief: It's not always necessary to have the long reliever; it usually just means that a team has one relief pitcher it odes not trust at all in high-leverage roles, which for the Cardinals, of late, has been WonderBrad and his wild-looking fastball. But the way the roster is shaping up, the Cardinals are going to have one too many right-handed set-up men:
|1. Trever Miller
2. Dennys Reyes
|3. Ryan Franklin
4. Kyle McClellan
5. Chris Perez
6. Jason Motte
7. Josh Kinney
That strikes me as the best bullpen the Cardinals could come north with, and a pretty satisfying one given last season's adventures. But it probably won't happen. Goold, on this topic, suggests that Thompson is a shoo-in, which makes sense since I'd be stunned if La Russa actually moved Franklin to long relief, which is where a guy with his stamina belongs in a bullpen constructed like this. But Motte's dominant Spring performance—not just the ten strikeouts, but the zero walks—seems like it's forced the Cardinals' hand.
Do the Cardinals go north, then, with one of La Russa's favorite early-season affectations? Let's assume, for purposes of this entry, that they do, and WonderBrad joins the list above. Moving forward, we have the second and third points of weirdness.
#2: Utility Infield; #3 Too Many Outfielders: Here's the fearless prediction portion of our afternoon. I think to get this increasingly strange situation right you have to take these two roster crunches at once. Here's a table—this assumes the Cardinals will carry four backups, plus the opening day third baseman and minus Jason LaRue, whose spot is guaranteed unless the Cardinals' Matt Pagnozzi fetish reaches new heights.
|1. Joe Mather
2. Joe Thurston
3. Brendan Ryan
|1. Colby Rasmus?
2. Joe Mather
3. Joe Thurston
I'm stunned, honestly, to see Rasmus on the Major League Grapefruit squad at this late date, especially in a post-Barton world. But with Jon Jay as his only remaining competition for the Duncan's-legs position, Rasmus seems to have an inside position on the So Taguchi Memorial 100 games/300 at-bats roster spot unless Schumaker finally loses his grip on second base.
From there, the backup situation gets stranger and stranger. It makes one yearn for a manager willing to do away with the backup catcher role—if Molina were to get hurt, La Russa could Be La Russa like no one ever has ever Been La Russa before, and sub in Jason Motte for him until the second catcher was recalled from AAA. But instead, for the purposes of this prognostication, I think he'll just alternate between Thurston and Mather as de facto fifth outfielders.
World Baseball Classic action today: the United States plays Puerto Rico in a winner-takes-all game at six, and Japan brings out Yu Darvish to put the hurt on South Korea at ten. I'm excited to see Darvish pitch—five years from now, when some team is offering $70 million and a PTBNL to negotiate with the Nippon Ham Fighters for his services, I'll be able to put a fastball to the name.
Post-script: As far as the Play Like a Cardinal commercials go, I like "Does NL MVP Albert Pujols Have a Secret Identity?", "Fredbird Makes a Disappointing Lunchtime Discovery", and "Skip Schumaker Models the Latest Baseball Superstition." They're not at Mariners level yet, but I like that the Cardinals have gone in that direction.