From Rays to Redbirds? Cards Free Agent Options


You can feel it. The smell of the hot dogs, the grass, and the fresh spring air. The sounds of leather and wood echoing. Baseball season is just around the corner. Soon, Spring Training will be underway and the 2010 MLB season will officially begin. As we close in on the season, the Cards are still in the free agent market to complete the Spring Training and ultimately summer roster. Some final pieces to fill out the bench are needed. So, which players out there interest the Cardinals?

Felipe Lopez. Lopez is still a free agent and he is still on the Cards radar. Most insiders have predicted Lopez will land in St. Louis. Still, Lopez’s camp and the organization have been quiet in the last week, and you never know what could happen. Lopez is viewed as a perfect fit for the Cardinals because he is a versatile player that plays good defense and swings a good bat. For now, I expect to see Felipe in red for 2010. All Cards fans can do is play the waiting game and hope that a deal is done by Spring Training.

Lopez fills the need for depth in the infield, specifically at third base, the outfield, and as a pinch hitter. He can also be an everyday player if need be. The Cards are still looking for more bats on the bench who can serve as a fourth outfielder. Rasmus, Holliday, and Ludwick are the set trio in the outfield, but there is little insurance if one goes down. The rumored options still available include Rocco Baldelli, Jonny Gomes, and Endy Chavez. It seems all of these players have been linked to every MLB team this offseason. It will be interesting to see where each sign, and if St. Louis can find the player and price it wants to complete the puzzle.

Rocco Baldelli. Baldelli was the best player on the struggling Rays teams earlier this decade. He was a natural in center field tracking down balls and showed promise at the plate. Rocco was a rising star in the baseball world. Then, Baldelli struggled through injuries that would hurt his career. He suffers from channelopathy, a protein irregularity that made him a bench player. Originally thought to be a life-threatening disease, Baldelli suffered from fatigue and could only play sparingly. In 2009, looking for a fresh start, Rocco signed with the Red Sox. He only appeared in 62 games due to injury problems and was left off the playoff roster. Baldelli is a classy player and professional who is great for the clubhouse, but he may not be the best option for the Cards. His injury-riddled past is too risky for the Cardinals to make him the insurance policy of the outfield.

Jonny Gomes. Jonny Gomes has been mentioned as a possibility for the Reds, Yankees, and Cubs to name a few. Add St. Louis to the list. Another former Ray, Gomes spent 2009 with division-rival Cincinnati. He hit .267 and added 20 home runs. He definitely has some pop in his bat. Gomes would be another power threat for the Cardinals and would serve as an able backup and platoon candidate in the outfield. St. Louis was once a dismal offensive club, but the lineup is now stacked. With Gomes, the bench would be stacked, too. I like the power he brings. I also like the edge he brings. Remember the Spring Training fight with the Yankees in 2008? He helped set the tone for the 2008 AL Champs. Every team needs a spark and he could be that for St. Louis.

Endy Chavez. Chavez is a long shot and may not find a team at the start of the season. He tore his ACL and MLC last year in June, and the rehabilitation is grueling and long. Chavez is a contact hitter that relies on his speed. He needs it to steal bases, put pressure on defenses, and to fly around the outfield. With his knee in question, his value drops significantly. Also, the Mariners training staff have worked with Chavez closely during his rehab, making Seattle the logical spot if or when he comes back.

Of the three, I like Gomes for St. Louis. He has stayed healthy for most of his career, a key when looking for bench help. He also poses the biggest threat offensively and could be great late in games as a pinch hitter. Baldelli still hasn’t shaken the injury bug, and Chavez seems destined for retirement or Seattle.