Long-Term Thinking

So the big news out of the last day of the Winter Warm-up was the Cardinals signing Yadier Molina to a four-year deal.  The money seems fairly reasonable and I don’t think you’ll find too many people that say Molina isn’t worth keeping around.  There is some debate about Bryan Anderson and where he fits into the organization.  If he keeps developing, either he or Molina will be a great trading chip in the next couple of years.  It could be that Anderson gets a chance to be an understudy at the major league level (like Jared Saltalamaccia did last year) before getting moved.  The defense and leadership Molina brings to the table is almost worth the money, but the contract really becomes good if the advances in hitting he had last year stick and he keeps improving with the bat.

Other things from the Warm-up wrapup:

  • Albert Pujols isn’t taking that false link to the Mitchell Report lightly.  He banned a reporting crew from the station that aired it from his press conference yesterday.  Personally, I kinda like this quote:

    “This is a hobby, man.  I fear God too much to do stupid things in this game.  Cheating on this game, that’s not right.”

    It’s often been said that we build people up just to tear them down.  Hopefully Pujols continues to walk the straight and narrow and make it very difficult for people to do that.

  • During that press conference, though, Pujols made it known how much pain he was in with his elbow last year.  Personally, that sounds to me like we’ll see him get some surgery mid-season if it flares up and the team is out of contention.  You’d hate to see him down, but if this year pans out the way some expect, it would be the best time for him to get it taken care of.
  • Mark Mulder is not too comfortable with setting a return date.  Can you blame him?  Especially with this organization, you take return dates with a silo of salt.  If he’s back at the beginning of May, it’ll be a bit of a surprise.
  • Adam Kennedy is already digging himself a hole.  Not a great idea given the weak season he put together last year and the plethora of middle infielders this team has.
  • And, if you had LaRussa in the pool of who would crack in public first after the trade, him or Rolen, congrats.  You’ll see in the Reyes link that TLR has already taken a shot in the press at Scott.

Around Cardinal Nation

It’s been a pretty busy week for me, so I’ve not been able to examine all the Cardinal related news and blogs like I would have liked.  But in the limited time I’ve been online, there’ve been a few things that have jumped out at me. 

The biggest one is this rumor with the Pirates involving Brad Thompson, among others on our side and players such as Jack Wilson, Matt Morris and Jason Bay on the other side.  Bay is the only one in that group worth getting.  Sure, maybe you take Morris on if the Pirates take a lot of salary and if it helps you get Bay, but other than that, there’s not much value. 

Tom over at CardinalsGM really broke this deal down.  I agree with him, if it’s Duncan, Thompson and Reyes going for Bay, Morris and Wilson, you can’t do that deal.  If you could get Bay for Reyes and Thompson, you’d probably have to do some serious thinking about it, even though outfield is where the Cardinals are overstocked at the moment. 

Wilson makes no sense with the glut of mediocre middle infielders we already have.  Why bring on another one, especially at that price? 

Also, over at VEB, they’ve started the community projections.  We did this at CCH last year and you may remember seeing the results.  We’ll start them up at the Clubhouse soon, but if you’ve not had a chance to put in your thoughts on what Matt Clement will wind up with (and I need to do that), head on over there and post them. 

Finally, there was no movement on Mark McGwire getting into the Hall of Fame this year.  He received exactly the same number of votes as he did last year, putting him around 23%.  Something is going to have to give, though.  Either players like Bonds and Clemens aren’t going to get in when they are eligible or people are going to have to give a second look to McGwire.  Heck, he wasn’t even named in the Mitchell Report as a steroid user, so why does he not get a little more benefit of the doubt?  I wish he’d come out and talk about it, but if he’s not going to, should that be held against him? 

Hopefully we aren’t still having this discussion 10 years from now, but I wouldn’t put it past the baseball writers.

My Darling Clement-ine

(Surely I won’t be the only one to use that one.)

As you know, the Cardinals signed Matt Clement yesterday to fill up the rotation. More about the contract is available now, so let’s take a look at those terms:

the Cardinals acquired Clement for $1.5 million in base pay and $5.25 million in appearance incentives. The deal also includes a club option for $8.75 million next season. A series of escalators based on innings pitched could jack up the option’s value to $10 million if the 33-year-old righthander works 200 innings.

What kind of escalators?

The Cardinals have an $8.75 million option for 2009 with a $250,000 buyout. The option would increase to $9 million and the buyout $500,000 if Clement reaches 160 innings this season; $9.5 million and $1 million for 180 innings; and $10 million and $1.5 million for 200 innings.

Let’s compare this contract to the one signed by another rehabber, Mark Prior. Prior signed a $1 million deal that could go up to $3 million if he hits all the incentives. However, Prior’s deal has no option for 2009 and it’s likely he won’t pitch until May/June, while Clement should–should–be ready to go Opening Day.

If Clement stays healthy and pitches well enough to hit those innings marks, even at the higher salary that option gets picked up. And just think about this one:

The option would become $11 million and the buyout $2 million if Clement finishes in the top five in 2008 Cy Young Award balloting.

Best case scenario, we could get a Cy Young candidate for $8.25 million a year for two years. That’d be worth it, don’t you think? Especially in a market where Carlos Silva can get $12 million a year for just being the best of a weak group.

The potential that Clement brings to the table will be big for the Cardinals. There are still a lot of ifs in the pitching staff, but if all of the players in the mix pitch to their potential or close to it, the Cardinals might be a little more competitive than we thought just a few days ago.

It also means that Anthony Reyes may get shopped. I’d hate to see that happen, but if the Cardinals could get a good young hitter for him, it’d probably be the best for all concerned.

Cardinals Sign Clement

According to sources, the Cardinals have signed pitcher Matt Clement to a one-year deal with a club option for 2009.

The best thing about it, in my mind, is the club option.  If Clement is healthy and effective, he’ll help out ’08 but would really be a boon in 2009, when Carpenter is healthy and the team has hopefully signed another top pitcher to go into the rotation with him and Wainwright.  A 2009 staff of Carp-FA-Wainwright-Clement-? would probably be enough to put the Cards back into contention fairly quickly.

This also may mean that the Cardinals are close to dealing Anthony Reyes.  Right now, the rotation is Wainwright, Mulder (if ready for ST), Pineiro, Clement and Looper.  That leaves Reyes and others such as Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson out of the picture, at least for now.  Of course, we don’t know how Mulder is going to start the season or if he’ll be ready, but I’d think a deal like this would give Mozeliak more breathing room to send Reyes somewhere for a hitter or perhaps package him with Duncan for a bigger name.

It’ll be interesting to see how this deal compares to the Mark Prior deal.

Year In Review: Top 5 Cardinal Stories

The United Cardinal Bloggers strike again, this time with a recap of 2007. We each selected the five stories that we thought were the most important for 2007 in relation to the Cardinals. Check out CardinalNationGlobe, CardinalGM, Readin’ Redbird, Rockin’ the Red and Stan Musial’s Stance for their takes. (I’ll direct link to their stories when they are up.)

And, after the jump, my selections:

Read the rest of this entry »

Sound and Fury

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.  Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.  It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.–Macbeth

Yep, that’s the Cardinals at the winter meetings.

OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but when you think of all the talk that “Mozeliak’s going to do something” and that a lot of progress would get made, it looks like nothing will happen in Nashville this week.   Thankfully, he’s not just giving away Scott Rolen, though it does look like they are actively shopping him.  Trying to make sure you get something back when you are requiring the other team to pay the salary, though, is a tough job.

The Cards are tied to uninspiring pitchers such as Josh Fogg and Kevin Millwood.  Millwood might make a rebound in the National League, but he’s not the kind of guy you trade a Duncan or an Anderson for, so I’m not sure anything can get done there.  Some people are excited that the Cardinals apparently have talked about Noah Lowry.  Don’t count me in those numbers.

Look at Lowry’s stats.   The ERAs aren’t bad, though he has played in a pitcher’s park.  His walk rate, though, is atrocious, and he only seems to average about 100 pitches per game, which probably means he’s a 5-6 inning pitcher.  He has a winning career record and doesn’t make a lot of money, but he’s not anything like the #2 type pitcher they were trying to go.  If Anthony Reyes would bounce back (or be left alone, depending on your point of view), I think he could easily put up better numbers than Lowry.

Still, I think a lot of fans were really thinking these winter meetings would be different, that Mozeliak would pull a Whitey and start to remake the team.  Really, though, except for that major blockbuster Tigers/Marlins trade yesterday, there’s not been much go down.  So, again, probably a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Signs of Concern

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately defending ownership.  However, the talk and actions of our new GM are starting to concern even me.

First, we have the Izturis signing.  While not worth the doom and gloom, sky is falling mentality some people had for it, it still was a bit of a headscratcher and not nearly the kind of moves most fans have been waiting for.

Then, we have the idea of shipping Scott Rolen off to the Brewers.  In case you aren’t paying attention, the Brewers are 1) a team in the same division as the Cardinals and 2) the team most likely to win the NL Central next year, in my opinion.  While I’m not one that thinks Rolen should be traded now, trading him within the division would just be nuts.

Coupled with that is the pursuit of Chris Capuano.  Larry at VEB broke down Capuano pretty well yesterday, and there are points to like, points to worry about.  This probably isn’t a terrible move, but it depends on what it costs.  I wouldn’t give Rolen for him, I don’t think.

Next, the ESPN winter meetings blog indicates the Cardinals have talked to the Indians about pitcher Cliff Lee.  Lee’s an Arkansas boy and in that regard, I’d like to see him come over.  Moving to the NL probably would help as well.  The price is supposedly Anthony Reyes and/or Brian Anderson.  It best not be and–that’s a ton to give up for a guy that has been down for a year or two.  Reyes, also according to that blog, is getting some attention from suitors.  I believe they’ll deal him–and he’ll probably do well away from the organization–and Lee would probably be acceptable.  But not if they overpay for him.

That blog also indicates Ankiel, Duncan and Edmonds are all available.  I can’t believe the organization would move Ankiel now, after all they’ve done for him, but it is a new GM, so maybe so.  At least you have to hear the offers.

There was talk about bringing Pedro Feliz in if Rolen is traded.  Yuck.  They aren’t even offering arbitration to Eckstein.  Nuts.

All in all, the best news around is that the Cardinals were in, at least on the periphery, on Eric Bedard.  If Mozeliak could pull that off, I’d take it all back.