It's been an oddly eventful offseason to this point. I say oddly because it isn't just that the Cardinals have made a relatively large number of moves already, it's that the moves they have made haven't really been the ones we were expecting going in. To wit, I would like everyone out there who predicted the Cards would sign Lance Berkman to play the outfield to kindly raise their hands. Alright, now just the people who aren't lying. See, that's what I thought.
That's not to make a qualitative judgement about the Berkman deal one way or the other, mind you; I'm actually somewhat excited at the prospect of seeing how the 2011 edition of the Cardinal lineup works out. I do realise the defense will almost have to be viewed between our collective fingers, but still. We saw the Run Suppression Show last season, and it was all kinds of frustrating. At the very least, I think the 2011 Cardinals will give us plenty of cheap drinks courtesy Mobil On The Run. Sure, most of those serious numbers will be accompanied by an opponent's score of equal gravitas, but maybe it'll be fun watching our team lose in differing fashion.
The Ryan Theriot deal was unexpected, both because Theriot himself was not really on the radar and because I don't think very many of us thought the organisation could possibly be serious about replacing Brendan Ryan before Skip Schumaker. Well, surprise! Signing Jake Westbrook to an extension was all sorts of expected, nearly to the point of being dull, to be quite honest. Of course, it's also probably the only move so far which made the team almost indisputably stronger, so there's that I suppose.
I expected the Cards to sign Orlando Hudson. I really did. With the whole deal between he and the Twins about arbitration, I thought it was a no-brainer. Tony La Russa loves experienced, veteran players, the Cardinals have a significant need at second base, and Hudson fulfills both of those prerequisites beautifully. He's even pretty good. Not as good as he was five years ago, but still. Now, barring some bizarro-world shenanigans which leave the O-Dog standing in a soup line (said shenanigans apparently knocking Hudson back to the thirties), come the second week of March, it appears the Cards are not going to be signing the player I thought to be the path of least resistance. Oh, well. This sportswriting thing is an inexact science, you know.
The net effect of all this early, unsettling movement is to leave us with essentially four months left until baseball begins in earnest and virtually nothing else to look forward to happening. If the offseason is the Hot Stove, we are now entering the rest period you afford a roast for carryover heat to subside and stop cooking your hunk of beast. Sure, said carryover means the temperature may continue to go up for a little while longer, but let's face it: the actual work is all but done. Unfortunately, due to some poor planning on the cook's part, the roast is now done and the guests won't be arriving for another three hours or so.
Note from the author: you should all be glad I went with this metaphor, as opposed to the rather more extended metaphor I initially thought up, involving an afternoon delight with a partner you don't much like, which finished up a bit more quickly than you had would have preferred, and a dinner date not until seven. All with my typical level of uncomfortable detail. But no, I pulled back. Who says I don't have tact?
There will still be a few opportunities here and there for small, marginal moves to be made, of course. The Rule 5 draft is coming up, and I'll be attempting to preview a couple players I thought the Cards would do well to at least consider over at the RFT sometime today. There's still the matter of finding a suitable tandem partner for Trever Miller on the sinister side of the relief corps. There have been a couple options brought in already, but I certainly don't see any of the current competitors as prohibitive favourites to win a spot with the big club. (The Rule 5 draft and the lefty relief spot could actually end up somewhat related, come to think of it.) There is still, of course, the rather larger question of just what Brendan Ryan's future in St. Louis is. (Spoiler alert: it does not seem all that likely to include the manager telling Brendan he can go ahead and buy a house here as he did with Skippy a season or two ago.)
And that's really where I want you to cast your collective mind this morning, El Vivi Birders. If you could make just one more move this offseason, what would it be? No, you can't undo anything which has been done already. And it has to be at least somewhat reasonable. I won't place a dollar restriction on any moves, since I believe the Berkman deal has already put us into the land of the hypothetical, payroll-wise, but signing Cliff Lee is not an option.
So, what's it going to be? Would you make a move to solidify the bullpen? Lefty or righty? Back up the hot corner with someone relatively more experienced for when David Freese's ankles inevitably catch on fire in a low-speed collision? Still try to upgrade second base? Trade Colby Rasmus, hopefully for a Colby Rasmus type?
I'm well aware most any move still to be made at this point will almost assuredly be a marginal one. Then again, marginal moves not made in December have a way of becoming trades in July that cost you, oh, I don't know, Chris Perez. Or something like that, anyway.
So, you've got one more move to improve the team for the offseason. What's it going to be?
Oh, and one final note: you're allowed to say, "Sign Greg Zaun," would be your last move; however, you will be booed mercilessly for a lack of originality and Bryan Anderson may show up on your doorstep to kick you in the balls. (Or whatever girls have instead of balls; I'm not real familiar with what they've got going on down there.)
The Baron's Playlist for the 8th of December, 2010
"Hands" - The Dutchess and the Duke
"Green Bird" - Yoko Kanno
"Your Lucky Day in Hell" - Eels
"Red Right Hand" - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
"Ringfinger" - Nine Inch Nails
"Three to Get Ready" - The Dave Brubeck Quartet