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(don't) wait till next year

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when considering spinal tap drummers, defense against the dark arts teachers, and cardinal third basemen, it seems almost cruel to propose another person for their ranks when doom seems to follow such a designation. a mere list of ailing cardinal third basemen over the last four years serves to chronicle the misfortune of those taking the position – scott rolen, troy glaus, david freese, joe mather, joe thurston (if whatever afflicted him was an ailment), mark derosa, and david freese (again).

nevertheless, somebody has to stand there and field the position. most suggested options for this year do not seem particularly appealing, by reason of cost and duration of contract (aramis ramirez), inability to field the position (hank blalock), or just sheer ineptitude (aaron miles).

despite recent andy laroche rumors, I find it hard to believe that an infielder making $450K whose name does not rhyme with "barren styles" makes his way very far in the waiver process. even for a team with a solid 3B, laroche could be an interesting utility man down the stretch. he would also be a decent trade chip in the offseason if he finishes on a high note, given that he has three years of club control left. If nothing else, another team might lay claim to him just to keep the cardinals from doing so. i have not heard a plausible theory for why he would make it through waivers to the cardinals.

it looks like internal options are the way to go this year. danup gave us a very good rundown of the internal options for this year yesterday – lopez as prime choice, and dabblings with mather, craig, and tyler greene as backup options. I’d throw gotay in as a plausible name in that mix.

it seems like some mix of the above names is both the best and most plausible option for august and september; results on the field – fleeting as they will be in their small sample sizes – will likely determine who sticks at third and who stays on the bench or at memphis.

instead, i’d like to talk a little about the wrench thrown in the delicate machinery that is the cardinals’ near future by freese’s recent injury. i shared with you my mantra last week – that no cardinal pitcher is healed until he makes three solid appearances with the major league club. i call that rule the mulder rule, and it was recently spectacularly vindicated by a crap rehab performance by kyle lohse. closely related is another injury rule: if a player misses a month or more of time in two consecutive seasons for injuries to the same body part, one should not expect them to return and be effective. confusingly, this second rule is also called the mulder rule.  the second mulder rule is itself subject to the carpenter exception, which goes like this: chris carpenter does not give a (fig) about your rules.

that was a terribly long way to say I think it would be wise not to assume that david freese will be healthy or effective next year. [i had prepared this before azru posted the dire outcome of freese's surgery, but i think the lesson holds: freese is a bonus for next season, if he makes it.] danup commended mo’s contract with lopez this year as the stellar deal that it was. the next obvious step would be to get lopez back for 2011. you won’t catch him for $1M again, but the free agent market for infielders has been terrible the past few years, from the player’s perspective. the market is really awful next year for buyers (pedro feliz, bill hall, melvin mora), with just terrible names in the market. i would think a little stability would be attractive to felipe, who had just glowing things to say about st. louis this spring. 2y/$6m seems like a decent offer to be a super utility player, money scarcely worse than solid starters like orlando hudson command. as long as our major in-house 2B options are left-handers like schumaker and descalso, it would be trusting a lot in tyler greene not to take some steps to make sure we have some infield depth from the right side.

i would not want to roll into the 2011 season with just lopez and the not-very-mended body of david freese capable of taking up space at third base. it probably makes sense to start getting to know the name matt carpenter. carpenter was taken in last year’s draft as an older draftee and has quickly gained an age-appropriate berth with springfield. although he hasn’t been in AA very long, the club should probably promote him to memphis soon, so that he could plausibly be ready to see action sometime next season.

i do agree with azru that he should not see the majors this year, but i think that with some exposure to memphis this year and maybe some winter leagues time, he should go to spring training with a serious chance at the 3B job, either in the spring or later in the season.

t’other carp is not an all-star, but he looks like a solid player. his defense is generally well-liked at 3B by observers. TZR, for all its questionable accuracy, wants to take his defense home and make sweet, sweet love to it - he amassed a +/- value of +16 runs in 163 chances across three levels last year. sadly, minor league splits has not done its midseason defensive update. he could be as good or better on defense than freese.  

he doesn’t profile as a huge power hitter, currently sporting a .185 ISO at springfield. after walking at a prodigious rate in palm beach, he's returned to earth a bit at springfield matching a  .329 average with a .421 OBP. with a .935 OPS at springfield, there's not a strong argument that a guy who will be 25 in the offseason needs more seasoning at AA; a memphis promotion would be aggressive, but not crazy. in 2011, if he handles memphis well, he could be a very nice high-average, high-OBP player who fits in a #2 role. of all the internal options for the cardinals, i’d say he might be the most likely to take on a starting role at 3B next year.

apropos of nothing, the fun baseball fact of the day: the padres have less money committed to existing contracts in 2011 than the yankees have tied up in squiring Mrs. AJ Burnett in limousines to her equestrian lessons -- $1.1M.