The off season can be a very interesting time for fans of baseball because it is the time when teams retool for the coming season by signing free agents and making trades. Sometimes big free agent signings happen, like the Angels’ signing of Albert Pujols in the 2011 off season. This off season promises the free agent signings of big names like Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, to teams not yet known for potentially big amounts of money. For the Cardinals, the off season looks to be fairly quiet. No big needs are front and center for the Cardinals and no big names are linked or likely to be linked to the Cardinals. That doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t make additions to the team. Talk has already centered around obtaining another left handed relief pitcher to join Marc Rzepczynski in the bullpen. There have been discussions about middle infield help as well as bench help, preferably of the right handed variety to shore up a predominantly left handed bench. No specific names have yet been linked to the Cardinals, except for a brief, but apparently passing, flirtation with the idea of trading for Indians’ shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. There is plenty of time left, and no doubt signings or trades will occur at some point. For my part, I have ideas about who and/or what I would like to see the Cardinals do in terms of off season acquisitions, and this post is to mention some of those ideas. These are my ideas only and not intended to be a wish list on my part, just throwing some names out there for discussion.
Middle Infield—It is certainly good news that Rafael Furcal appears to be healing very nicely from his injured elbow. Nevertheless, given the uncertainty surrounding Furcal’s health, and the somewhat murky (in my mind) depth the Cardinals have at the shortstop position, the idea of acquiring some veteran shortstop help is one idea for which I have to be on the bandwagon . I have to admit that I was, and still am, not a fan of the idea of acquiring Asdrubal Cabrera. Frankly, I have some issues concerning his defensive abilities, and well, I am a snob when it comes to middle infield defense. While I do not sniff at the offensive numbers Cabrera has put up, at least in my mind, defense for a shortstop is more important. If you can get at least a slightly above average glove at the shortstop position, then any offense you can get is just gravy in my opinion. And I don’t think Cabrera measures up defensively. As to who would measure up, well that is where the rubber meets the road, because the affordable shortstop market is pretty thin. The Cardinals gave away the best defensive shortstop in baseball in 2010. Even if Brendan Ryan were again available, the chances of the Cardinals wanting to re-acquire him are, well, I don’t think that is going to happen for a number of reasons. I like J.J. Hardy of the Orioles, but he would likely be more expensive to obtain than is in the Cardinals’ budget, and his bat would turn off the offense snobs among the fan base. To be honest, as much as I think the Cardinals need to get shortstop help, this is the area where I really don’t have a clear favorite to recommend. All I can say is that if the Cardinals do go for another shortstop, I really hope they don’t give defense a short shrift. We need the glove more than we need the bat.
Left handed relief pitching—Here I like, and would recommend, either Mike Gonzalez or Sean Burnett. Either or both might require a multi year deal, which is something that many don’t like for relief pitchers. I can’t say I don’t see their point, but I would much rather take a risk with a 2 year deal for a decent lefty reliever than continue the Cardinals’ past practice of picking up lefties off the discount rack. Need I be specific about how that has worked? If neither Gonzalez or Burnett are an option, I might be persuaded to go along with Randy Choate. He’s not my favorite, but he is likely to be more gettable on a one year deal if the Cardinals are determined to go that route.
Right handed bench bat—A guy with some pop in his bat coming off the bench is something the Cardinals lack. I like the idea of Scott Hairston for this role; he has the requisite pop and the experience as a bench player to recommend him. I have heard he may be being courted by the Yankees, if that is the case, well there is likely not much chance the Cardinals can compete there. But if he is available and would consider a move to the Cardinals, I would like to see some attempt to woo him. He also plays the outfield, and therefore would double as a 4th or 5th outfielder against left handed pitching.
I am open to other possibilities at these positions through trade rather than free agency if the right deal came along. My main concern is that the Cardinals don’t sacrifice value just to put a warm body in a position. The Cardinals have done better than most in the past through the trade market, and I would like to see that continue. But first and foremost I want to see the Cardinals put obtaining quality ahead of just filling the position for the least amount of money. I would rather have nothing than someone who will just have to be released mid season, as we have seen happen in the past.
I welcome your comments and criticisms of my choices as well as suggestions of your own.