I'm spending the weekend in Chicago with some friends. They moved from the St. Louis area after college and one is a lifelong Cub fan. I was surprised to find how little interest there was in Albert Pujols and his contract situation. It wasn't just an indifference but almost a complete disregard as if the contract had already been signed.
Indeed, after asking her about it, I'm find myself more at ease. The anxiety that Cardinal Nation feels is, in part, an infection that's non-communicable and psychosomatic. Up until the last few weeks, Albert has made all the right statements about wanting to stay with the Cardinals for life and the Cardinals have made significant moves in recent seasons to form a team around their star.
This isn't to say that the contract is a given nor that my friends reaction is anything more than anecdotal but I hope it ameliorates to some extent the suspense for a situation that is, in fact, rather common to many newly or soon to be free agents.One of the themes going into Spring Training is how the Cardinals largely have their roster set. There's very little competition. (Speaking of which, this shines a little light on the current managers mercurial desire for competition. He loves competition in Spring Training . . . when it suits him.) While the 25 man roster is probably set in almost every meaningful way, the roles for certain "positions" should still be fluid in my opinion.
- Closer: Does Ryan Franklin still have the ability to be an effective late inning reliever? Franklin's actually been remarkably consistent year to year. His HR rate has varied but from 2007-2010, his xFIP was 4.13, 4.76, 4.27, 4.11. That's not particularly dominant but, outside of 2008, it's sufficient. On some level, Dave Duncan has already acknowledged that Franklin's days as closer are numbered making mention of the potential of Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs. Whether Duncan spoke of 2011 or later for a transition is probably dependent on Ryan Franklin's in season performance.
- SS: If Tyler Greene has a fantastic Spring Training, is there anyway that he can force a larger role for himself in 2011? I don't think it's impossible but La Russa has shown a bad blind spot for Skip Schumaker's relative incompetence at second base. It also seems questionable that the Cardinals would immediately sideline their Brendan Ryan replacement given the offseason disappointment with that trade. A strong spring from Greene shouldn't necessarily change the opinion on him in a serious way but neither should Schumaker's tepid 2010 be ignored. For what it's worth, Tyler Greene has posted a .370 wOBA over his last 750 PAs in Memphis.
- 5th Starter: A less consistent position on the roster is hard to find compared to the 5th starter. Kyle Lohse is the nominal holder of that title this year. Lance Lynn's new found velocity is interesting but consistent mechanics (combined with results) will be the key to making a Spring impression. Regardless of the results leaving spring (and, although I think the initial Lohse contract was defensible at the time), I'm as ready for a new face in the rotation as anyone else.
- 3B: If there's a place that seems like it may have a true competition, to my mind it's third base. Can Freese withstand the rigors on reconstructed ankles? Will Matt Carpenter's unorthodox skillset impress the coaches? Does Allen Craig's bat get a chance to play at third? Freese has been both a pleasant surprise and an injury disappointment to the extent that his grasp on third base is lukewarm at best. In the next two years, the Cardinals may disregard all three of those players in favor Zach Cox.
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I've not discussed this with any of the other authors so if they were planning on doing this as well, too late fools! I win! Ahem . . . what I meant to say was, if you leave your projection for Matt Holliday in the comments, I'll compile them and post them mid week. Please use the following format: