Since the dearly departed Albert Pujols left the Cardinals for the sand, surf, and sites of Los Angeles, the number one question on the minds of fans has been will the Cardinals add another bat to the lineup to compensate for some of the loss of offensive production. Given that it is assumed that Lance Berkman will be the Cardinals first baseman in 2012, it is likely that such bat will be right handed and preferably put in the outfield. Granted, for those fans of the more pie in the sky variety, the idea of perhaps getting Prince Fielder as the bat (which would then put Lance Berkman back in the outfield) is mesmerizing, but nevertheless, pie in the sky (or cake, if you prefer). Of the free agent outfielders available, three have been mentioned in the same sentence with the Cardinals this offseason. They are Carlos Beltran, Coco Crisp, and Cody Ross.
The most frequently cited as on the radar for the Cardinals is Carlos Beltran. In terms of offensive production, Beltran, a switch hitter, is the most promising of the three. Originally signed by the Royals in 1998, Beltran spent 7 full seasons with the Mets before being traded to the Giants midseason 2011. His stats are impressive, though he spent the better parts of the 2009 and 2010 seasons out with injuries. He bounced back in 2011, batting .300 with an OPS of .910 in a combined season with the Mets and the Giants. Beltran’s health history is worrisome, and combined with the likelihood that he isn’t going to come cheap, or short term, Beltran isn’t necessarily the obvious choice, though he may be the best one.
Coco Crisp, also a switch hitter, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 7th round of the 1999 draft (ironically the same year the Cardinals drafted Albert Pujols in the 13th round) but started his major league career with the Indians in 2002. Crisp played his 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Athletics. He does not have the offensive pedigree of Beltran, considered more or less a league average hitter with no power. He had some worrisome splits against LHP in 2011, batting .211 with an OPS of .593, but his career numbers suggest this may have been a fluke. He does have speed but also has some injury history. Crisp will come cheaper and possibly on a one year deal.
Cody Ross, a right handed hitter who throws left, has played in the major leagues with the Tigers, Dodger, Reds, Marlins, and most recently the Giants, becoming a free agent at the end of the 2011 season. Ross is probably most noted for being the MVP of the 2010 NLCS series against the Phillies, in which he hit a homerun off Roy Halladay in Game 1 and another one off Roy Oswalt in Game 2. Despite his NLCS heroics, Ross is also considered a league average hitter, though with more power than Crisp. Again, he is likely to come cheaper and shorter term than Beltran.
If I had my druthers, I would prefer the Cardinals bite the bullet and get Beltran, simply because he is more of an impact bat in the lineup than Crisp or Ross. While Crisp has the added advantage of speed, something which the Cardinals have lacked, his lack of power is a negative when considering the production in the lineup that is needed. (I will refrain from the obvious name related joke, though I am sorely tempted). Ross would be my second choice as he does have some pop in his bat. Crisp just doesn’t excite me, and I would be disappointed if the Cardinals chose him, though I would accept him with open arms as I would any new Cardinal. Hopefully, we will hear shortly whether the Cardinals sign any of the three, or perhaps go in another direction.
Now, for the moment about a dozen people have been waiting for, the announcement of who is the lucky winner of the 2011 World Series DVD set. My lucky Cardinals cap has revealed that winner to be Stl16cards. You must email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your shipping information so that the DVD set can be put in the mail to you. Congratulations. I hope you have many hours of enjoyment with your DVD set.