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The Doldrums and A Game

November is the cruelest month, at least for baseball fans. Once December rolls around the Winter Meetings start up, and along with them comes the frenzy of free agent and trade activity that keeps us all occupied. January can be rough if your team finished its business early, but there's usually still plenty of hot stove action happening hither and yon to make for some lively conversation. February brings spring training and the promise of renewal, along with the sort of rampant optimism which makes even Cubs fans into believers for the next month or two.

November, though. November is just brutal. There's a holding pattern all over the league, as teams make up their minds as to just who they were in the season completed, and who they would like to be in the year upcoming. There are filings and arbitration offers and the occasional award announcement, but by and large November is a cold-hearted bastard of a month for baseball. Only the bitter grounds at the bottom of the cup.

It's an odd November this year for we Cardinal fans, though, as we actually have something tangible to consider. Our dear Redbirds are currently considering who will be the new master and commander of the on-field product. Or, to be a bit more practical, they're currently deciding who we'll all hate for the next decade. Which should be fun to see, really.

You know what, though? I don't really feel like writing about the managerial search at the moment, mostly because I've already written part of a piece about the managerial search for the RFT, and I refuse to cover the same material in two places. Unfortunately, though, that puts me right back in the middle of the doldrums, where we all know at least some of what needs to happen, but are equally aware there's a near-zero chance of those things happening in the immediate future.

Here's what I want to do this morning, then, in lieu of me trying to cook up something which likely wouldn't turn out very well anyway. A little thought exercise, if you will, to get our collective juices flowing on a windy, dreary November morning. (Which just happens to be my favourite sort of day, but I know most people groan at a day like today.) Also, I figure I should probably hold off on pouring a ton of energy into a big post today, since I fully expect the Cards to announce their new manager roughly 45 minutes after I complete this piece. Oh, sure, they say they're still going through the process, but that's bullshit. They're just waiting for me to hit Post so they can swoop in and fuck up my Wednesday effort just like always.

Anyway, we all know the biggest decision the Cardinals face this offseason is what to do about Albert Pujols. He's awesome, he's popular, and he's angling for a big dumptruck full of money. That particular combination of traits makes the contract the Cards will or will not sign him to a uniquely enormous issue. For a long time I thought Pujols was gone. Now, I'm just not sure. I suppose we'll all just have to wait and see.

But here's my scenario for you this morning: let's say for a moment Albert does, in fact, take his talents elsewhere. That would leave the club with a big 8.0 WAR-shaped hole on the roster, but also a fair amount of cash to try and fill it. Pujols made $16 million in 2011; I'm relatively certain the Cards will have to offer him $25 million per season to retain him.

So how about this: we'll just shoot for the middle of that range. Let's say if Albert leaves, the Cardinals would be looking to spend about $20 million on the roster beyond what's already locked in. That's your budget. Tell me what you're going to do to improve a roster with no Albert Pujols and $20 million worth of payroll flexibility. You can do whatever you like; there's no need to assume anything about the composition of said roster. I think we should probably stick with only trading players who don't have no-trade clauses, however. Otherwise it could just get a little ridiculous.

Doesn't matter how you want to improve; focus your money and efforts however you like. I'm just interested to see how our group of superfans here would go about building a playoff vehicle which has suddenly lost its engine.

Take it away.

The Baron's Playlist for the 9th of November, 2011 -- The Baron's Top 40 Ever, pt. 1 (My 40 favourite songs, presented in absolutely no particular order, split into two equal halves)