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Hot Corner Futures

So apparently this Matt Holliday guy is pretty decent at playing the baseball, huh?

On the list of least expected wins of this year, I would have to put that one right up near the top. For eight full innings, it felt like the Cards were just going to let the game slip away from them, victims again of poor at-bats and bases left full of runners. Oh well, the collective mind of Cardinal fandom said to itself, you can't win them all, I suppose. Hell, the Cubs haven't actually gained a full game on the Cards since late July; that's a pretty good run. Just one of those days when the team didn't quite get it done.

But Matt Holliday was having none of it. Hey there, collective consciousness, he said, that's loser talk! Why, I'm going to hit this Hall of Fame changeup over that center field wall just to prove to you how wrong you are!

And so he did. And there was much rejoicing.

Oh, and I would like to send my thanks to Tony La Russa for sticking to what I like to call the Grand United David Weathers Theory of Baseball. On second thought, I need a better name for it than that. GUDWTB just doesn't really stick in your mind, does it? Someone help me out with a better name.

I'll be honest with you; there really isn't a whole lot  else I can say about last night's game. Smoltz looked very, very shaky in the early going but then seemed to get himself back on track; with his ability to get the strikeout, I think he's going to be a very, very useful weapon for the Cards come playoff time, most likely late in the game. I do think we need to change Blake Hawksworth's nickname to the Lucky Charm. Just saying.

Given the fact today's contest is a day game, I'm going to be brief this morning. Or at least try.

 The longer the season goes on, the more convinced I become the Cardinals are probably going to resign Matt Holliday. He's been so good, and such an ideal fit, I just can't see the Cards letting him walk. Never mind the PR disaster; the fans will follow as long as the team wins. But more importantly, I think the organisation is still committed to keeping Tony La Russa on board as the manager, and having Holliday in a Redbird uniform for the near future could go a long way toward helping make Tony's decision whether or not to return in 2010 and beyond much easier. Plus, Scott Boras or no, Holliday seems to be honestly enjoying his time here in St. Louis, enough I think he'll accept a fair deal with relatively little fuss. He isn't going to be giving the Cards a discount, by any means, but I also don't think he's going to hold out and try to get Mark Texeira money. (I was getting ready to make a comment about how good our pie is here in flyover country, but then played it back in my head and decided that maybe wasn't the exact best phrasing I could come up with.)

No, to me, the more interesting free agent situation of the offseason for the Cardinals is going to be that of their current third baseman, Mark DeRosa. DeRosa is in a rather unusual position going into the offseason, and it will be very interesting indeed to see if he'll get anything approaching the sort of contract most of us assumed he would be due.

The problem, of course, is DeRosa has problems. Specifically, he has a wrist problem and a status problem. The wrist problem revolves around a tendon sheath and will require surgery in the offseason to repair it. The status problem revolves around the letter A.

As a likely Type A free agent this year, DeRosa will cost any team interested in signing him either their first or second-round draft pick in the 2010 draft. In the past, a player with numbers good enough to qualify as a Type A would generally be the sort of player a team would be perfectly willing to part with a draft pick for, but the math of baseball has changed. Teams are valuing their draft picks much, much more highly than in the past, as we saw this past winter. Players like Juan Cruz and Orlando Hudson found themselves on the market much, much later than anticipated, largely due to the Type A status and accompanying draft cost they were carrying around with them. Of course, Dayton Moore then proved not all teams have quite made it on the bandwagon yet; personally, I'm kind of hoping Moore continues making stupid brilliant moves like that and decided to stick it to his team's cross-state rival by trading them Alex Gordon for a bucket of KFC.

If the only issue for DeRosa were his arbitration status, he would likely be just fine. There would be at least one team out there willing to give up an early draft pick for the offensive upgrade he would immediately give them. Unfortunately for Monsieur du fait de Monter,  his wrist issues and rather advanced age make him a bit of a risky bet anyway; add in the loss of a valuable draft pick, and I don't think too very many teams are going to be beating down his door, contract in hand.

Keeping all that in mind, I thought I might look at a few of the more likely candidates to fill the Cardinals' impending opening at the hot corner; give us all a bit better idea of just what's out there.

Mark DeRosa 

Pros: Power bat, solid on-base skills. (though those have suffered since coming to St. Louis. Consternant!) Is, by all accounts, a good clubhouse guy. (Valuations may vary.) Gives outstanding interviews. Quite handsome. (Seriously, we've all seen his wife -- and no, I'm not posting pictures -- and I have to say, he might be the good-looking one in that marriage. Just saying.) Cool name. Will likely come on a short-term contract, due to factors outlined above.

Cons: See above. (Wrist, age, etc.)

Troy Glaus

Pros: Has hit for power in the past, decent on-base skills. Solid defender. A source of significant entertainment even when striking out. Scratch that, especially when striking out. Will likely come on a short-term deal, probably one-year.

Cons: Has missed almost the entire season after having left shoulder surgery, so health is a serious concern going forward. (And let's face it, we've seen what happens to St. Louis third basemen after they have shoulder surgery.) Well on the wrong side of 30, so decline is a concern.

David Freese

Pros: Very good glove. Young. Has a great story as a native St. Louisan. (Again, valuation may vary.) Has shown good power at the minor league level. Walk rates consistently near 10% at most levels. Making league minimum.

Cons: Unproven. May have lingering concerns about health after having ankle surgery. Was less than forthcoming about the injury with the organisation early on. Has few weaknesses as a player, but also has no real outstanding tools.

Brett Wallace

Pros: Remarkable plate discipline, plus power to all fields. Should hit early and often. Has good hands. Will be  very inexpensive, making league minimum as a rookie. Great nickname already, though he apparently doesn't really like being called the Walrus.

Cons: Not actually an option. (Sniff)

Allen Craig

Pros: Hits and hits and hits and hits. Has never posted an OPS below .868 at any full-season minor league stop. Hits for both average and power, with a .921 OPS this year in Memphis. Will make league minimum.

Cons: Struggles in the field, often attempting to catch the ball with an oven mitt. Occasionally tries to get traded in mid-inning to avoid playing defense. Once invited Tony La Russa to a party at Michael Vick's house. Wants to pee in your pool. (Note: none of this is true, but I can't think of any other reasons why Craig is so universally ignored in the organisation.)

Joe Mather

Pros: Best nickname ever. Tremendous power, plus athleticism. Versatile; can play third, first, and any outfield position. Inexpensive, making league minimum.

Cons: Is a below-average defender at third. Missed almost all season with wrist issues; it will remain a concern until he proves it is not. Probably going to steal your girlfriend. Better fit in the outfield or as a supersub than an everyday third baseman. (Then again, so is DeRosa, so...)

Adrian Beltre

Pros: Best defensive third baseman on the market; barely a step down from Scott Rolen or Ryan Zimmermann. Younger than you think. Numbers have been depressed in Seattle; may be undervalued. Could come on short-term deal to try and reestablish himself. Enjoys free balling. Possibly a good bet to capture a bit of contract-year lightning in a bottle.

Cons: Health is a concern, as Beltre had season-ending shoulder surgery in July. Doesn't really like the walks so much (career .325 OBP). Scott Boras client. Competitiveness has been questioned at times. May have left his free balling days behind.

Chone Figgins

Pros: Fun to watch. Seriously. Hits for high average and has become a very good on-base player. Versatile, though truly awful in the outfield. Solid-average defender at third, maybe a little better than that. Walk rates have increased steadily.

Cons: Has little (read: no) power. Aging curve is not kind to speed players over 30. Will likely require long-term contract, and at high dollars. Is a fan favorite in Anaheim (as well as a manager favorite), and seems a fair bet to resign with the Angels. Violates rules of scrappiness by being black.

Joe Crede

Pros: Very good defender. Local product (Jeff City), nice story.  Strong arm, good hands, plus range.

Cons: Has never been much of a hitter, and is in further decline. Chronic back problems have necessitated multiple surgeries. No longer has much power, and has never had much in the way of plate discipline. Over 30 with serious physical issues.

Melvin Mora

Pros: Would come cheaply on a short-term deal.

Cons: Is fairly awful. And old. And kind of a jackass. And awful.

And that, folks, is just about it. Technically, there are a few others, guys like Craig Counsell and  Rich Aurilia and Nomaaaaaahhhhh, but I just can't really see the Cardinals looking at any of those guys too seriously. I suppose Pedro Feliz might be an option, but I'm not feeling it.

So given the options, what would be your choice? Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing Beltre if he came on a one-year deal, and I like Chone Figgins a lot. As far as Figgins goes, though, with the Cards needing to find budget space for Hurricane Holliday as well as the impending Albert mega deal, I doubt he's much of an option. Also, as I said above, I just get the feeling he stays in Anaheim. A guy I would very much be interested in is the player Figgins is blocking, Brandon Wood. Wood has destroyed the minors for several years now, but has struggled to make the transition to the big leagues. I think the Angels' handling of Wood has had a hand in his struggles, as he's never been given much of a chance to prove himself, instead filling in at short or third here and there with inconsistent playing time. He may be a bust, but I think it would certainly be worth finding out.

As for the in-house options, I know there is some sentiment to bring back Glaus, but I would vote no. Maybe if DeRosa does in fact go elsewhere Glaus would be worth it on a one-year low guaranteed deal, but shoulders just scare me. I think DeRosa is a better bet to be productive coming off his postseason surgery than Glaus coming off his long year of rehab. Just my opinion, though.

In the end, DeRosa probably represents the best option, especially if offered arbitration and signed for only a single year. Otherwise, I'm comfortable letting David Freese have first crack at the position in spring training, then look for possible solutions as the season goes on if he struggles. Well, technically, I would probably give Allen Craig first crack at it, but that apparently isn't in the organisation's plans. It is kind of nice to see the Cards giving Craig the chance to break Crash Davis' minor league home run record, though; that's the sort of thing we'll all remember forever. What? What the hell is fiction?

Above all, though, please god no more Joe Thurston. This is one case where I absolutely don't care what the numbers say. I can't take another season of watching him play third base for this team.

What say you, mob?  (I would say angry mob, but who can be angry after watching the Douche Crew crash and burn?)

The Baron's Playlist for the 9th of September, 2009

"Poke" - Frightened Rabbit

"Holes" - Mercury Rev

"Blake's View" - M. Ward

"Robot Ponies" - Laura Barrett

"He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot" - Grandaddy