I'm going to be on a plane back to
Cardinal Nation—actually, while I'm here, can I just say that I hate the whole "nation" trope of sports fandom, and that, yes, I do know the name of my current employer?—the Midwest today, so just a few notes before I continue packing.
J.C. Romero: John Mozeliak has successfully pursued the least interesting LOOGY in the universe. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, because Romero is an effective-enough lefty specialist, just that he's completely uninteresting.
Except for this. I know this is something people used to say about every reliever, but it's more true of Romero than any other one I can imagine: J.C. Romero is a failed pitcher. He does none of the things a pitcher is supposed to do—strike batters out, get the ball in the strike zone, keep it out of the stands—well enough to make a living. Luckily, left-handers are nervous about his breaking ball. I hope he writes Tony La Russa a thank-you note every year.
The relevant 2011 numbers: Lefties hit .231/.318/.231, and righties hit .322/.429/.508.
Nick Punto: For what it's worth, Red Sox fans are, so far as I can tell, furious about giving Nick Punto a Skip Schumaker deal. I'm angriest that the Cardinals didn't have anything better than Astros closer-by-default Mark Melancon with which to tempt the Red Sox' new management into giving up Jed Lowrie, their 28-year-old, injury-prone shortstop-of-the-alternate-future. Begin shaking your first at Jeff Luhnow: Now.
Lowrie's not a sure thing—he's the kind of infielder you can acquire, if you're lucky, for Mark Melancon—but he's a career .252/.324/.408 hitter who's competent at short and second base. He'd have been an upgrade on Daniel Descalso and another body in the rotation for when Rafael Furcal, who's equally injury-prone, is sitting out.
Pipe Dreams: The Cardinals are "a serious entity" in the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes! Which is great! On a two-year deal, with more than $15 million coming out of the rotation in 2013, Berkman returning to free agency, and the Cardinals lacking any impact bats in front of Oscar Taveras, Beltran makes a lot of sense to me, even if he's likely to be expensive on a year-to-year basis.
The Cardinals probably didn't bid on Yu Darvish, but whether they did or didn't my earlier guess that the market had been softened by Daisuke Matsuzaka and might have made an interesting bet in the face of rising domestic free agent costs appears to have been exactly wrong, if the winning bid was in fact "sky-high."
In other Japan news, Hiroyuki Nakajima, who the Yankees appear to have won the rights to on accident, could be sign-and-traded. I actually got to see him play in Saitama last year, and I can confirm that he fulfills all relevant Japanese baseball player stereotypes—small-looking, corkscrew-y swing, excellent at math. He also did a fine job of adjusting to the NPB's recent Dead Ball Era turn, hitting .297 with 16 home runs last year; if the Cardinals were able to acquire him, perhaps for an uninteresting reliever, he could very easily turn out to be a healthier version of Jed Lowrie. (In other other Japan news, Nick Stavinoha looks prepared to sign with the Hiroshima Carp, but seems unresponsive to my suggestion he star in an SB Nation-sponsored reality show about it.)