Zack Cox and I are not getting off on the right foot. It might be my fault—maybe I didn't get it across clearly enough—but it is the responsibility of all hot-shot Arizona Fall League prospects to give me things to write about between the end of the championship series this weekend and the start of the World Series on Wednesday, and he's making this extremely difficult for the both of us.
2-19 with nine strikeouts? What am I supposed to do with that? It's bad, but the Small Sample Size Agreement of 2000 requires that I not make anything of it. Certainly it's made it a fair bet that any Spring Training intrigue, Mike Leake-style, will be muted at best, which also gives me less to write about in February. It's bad news all around.
So far all this AFL season has given me is a list of the things that might have happened if things had gone differently. Zack Cox, for instance—if he hits .350 and knocks out a few home runs he'd spend Spring Training making David Freese nervous and getting us riled up whenever he takes grounders within fifty feet of second base.
Adron Chambers—he's hitting (an empty) .300 with some stolen bases through five games. If the Cardinals didn't have Jon Jay newly entrenched in the singles-hitting-fourth-outfielder-plays-the-game-the-right-way role he might also prove to be an interesting Spring Training bet in the Emil Brown/Colin Porter role. Now it's going to take a Jon Jay injury at least to rouse the Cardinals fanbase's primordial Whiteyball instincts.
And Pete Kozma... I don't think there's anything Pete Kozma could do to impress or depress at this exact moment, but he's very consciously not doing either one—he, alone, is having a perfectly typical Pete Kozma season, hitting .241/.290/.379 with an error or two. It is not the kind of season to which one would generally like to be adjectivized, but I get the feeling he could make that one his own, given the chance.
Did we talk about the two pre-post-postseason free agent deals? Both of them are vaguely relevant, I think, to the Cardinals' offseason interests. Ted Lilly, three years, $33 million, is chronologically older than Jake Westbrook but he's got young-pitcher's skills, if such a thing exists—his strikeout rate is still high, he still gives up a ton of home runs, and he's as healthy and consistent as most pitchers get.
It's actually the exact same deal Westbrook got, from 2008 to 2010—and considering he spent two-thirds of it on the disabled list I can't imagine him getting a third year in the deal he and the Cardinals are apparently discussing. A second year is probably a fair bet, but when you look at it he's not really got a lot more to recommend him than Brad Penny did a year ago, except that he just missed the 2008 season instead of pitching terribly for most of it. (Which is not to say I'm against the Westbrook deal—as with Penny last year, the Cardinals are in a position where they really have to take the risk.)
Brandon Inge got a two-year, $11.5 million extension from the Tigers, which was a good chance for me to be surprised by his value over the last two seasons. Inge is a much different hitter, but the shape of his value over the last two years is about what we might hope for from David Freese, if he keeps all his limbs together: average or nearly average on offense, a little above-average on defense, somewhere close on either side of two wins. Freese was better, at least in 2010, at least when he could walk; above-average on both offense and defense adds up really quickly.