The rapid turn around between World Series and beginning of Hot Stove has yet to fully set in. It was less than two weeks ago when David Freese was saving the Cardinals season. And it was just about a week before that when Allen Craig was doing so. And about a week before that when Chris Carpenter's game 5 performance against the Phillies occurred. It all happens so fast.
- The Cardinals' managerial search continues and for the most part, I don't care. Tony LaRussa was frustrating with his on the field decisions. I expect every manager to be frustrating with their on the field decisions. These are type A personalities whose jobs are dependent on the outcome of games. They're going to tinker. That said, Mike Matheny might be one of the less frustrating guys they could hire. He's stated in previous radio interviews that, and I quote from memory here, "teaching Yadier how to handle Tony was the most important baseball skill he passed on."
- The danger of Tony LaRussa was never his on the field decisions. It wasn't about his calls to the bullpen. It wasn't about his seeming obsession with small sample sizes between pitchers and hitters. It's hypocritical to argue that managers don't have much of an impact on individual games and then fret about what a manager's on the field tactics will be. So at least make sure that you've got some internal consistency between those two arguments. That doesn't mean managers aren't important though.
- The danger was that LaRussa had the capability and the one-on-one relationship with Bill DeWitt to run players out of town. If there was ever a contest of wills between a player and manager, in St. Louis, the manager always won. Always. Given that our manager was also very headstrong, it resulted in some truly great players leaving before their time. I think we're unlikely to see those situations for the first few years at least with the new hire in St. Louis. I look forward to evaluating personnel decisions without the filter of the manager.
- The hot stove league is about the players really and, for the Cardinals, there is no base like first base where we will suffer through what is likely to be a protracted contract negotiation. I understand that Albert Pujols is an iconic player and, retrospectively, one of the top 5 players of the 2000s but I just can't get over the idea that, even backloaded, this contract is going to wreck the Cardinals payroll. The farm system is much improved but a 30M commitment in 2019 is still a potentially daunting number to have to work around on the back end of a contract.
- Most of the focus for the Cardinals will start off on Albert but the more interesting position for me is shortstop. Without signing a free agent, the Cardinals will have Tyler Greene followed by ... Pete Kozma on the depth chart. lboros nicely sums up my feelings here. Rafael Furcal seems like the obvious answer to our problems and he would still provide ample opportunities for a Tyler Greene. Without Furcal, things get expensive quickly (Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes) or less valuable quickly (Clint Barmes).
- A quick search of the Free Agent list shows how thin the market is on right handed CF options as well. Let's clear one thing up: Allen Craig is not a centerfielder. He may be quite good at the corners -- in a similar way that Matt Holliday looks good 95% of the time and then makes the occasional terrible play -- but Craig should not be our first choice as the RH half of centerfield. The Cardinals need some kind of backstop against Jon Jay, who fell apart in the post season at the plate and will need at least a few days off during the year. Adron Chambers is fun to watch but is also left handed. The Cardinals need a little more depth at CF and the market just doesn't have it right now.
- The last thing I want to mention is how desperately I hope the Cardinals stay out of the free agent market for RH relievers. The volatility of these players' year-to-year performance is well known. The Cardinals post season closer, Jason Motte, is entering his first arb year and should remain cheap for the time being. Beyond Motte, the Cardinals have Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Eduardo Sanchez and Mitchell Boggs. While the last two are not yet entirely reliable, 2011 showed that the Cardinals are better off poaching from their farm system given the high cost of relievers. The Cardinals will have Brandon Dickson, Adam Reifer (2011 knee injury) and Maikel Cleto as their most likely options in Memphis.
The confidence poll is up to 90 this week! When did we all be come optimists? Did something happen?
Viva el Hot Stove!