Baseball season is over. I’m not sure it’s even hit me yet.
Yes, I’m disappointed the Cardinals didn’t show better against Boston in the World Series. A team that hit well in the clutch all season failed to do much of anything in the clutch against the Red Sox. But I give
credit to Boston; it’s not just about the St. Louis shortcomings.
The better team won. At least Boston was the better team for six games.
My wife and I watch a lot of baseball. She’s become a huge Cardinals fan, too, in the nearly five years we’ve been together. Before that, she was an unenlightened Royals fan. Sorry, had to take a jab. It’s a weakness.
Debbie (that’s my wife) takes a sentimental view of the Cardinals. She gets attached to players, to the point of even discussing the possibility that a player might not be a Cardinal from year to year makes her anxious.
I’ll use Carlos Beltran as an example. She loves Beltran and while understand that he’s now a free agent, she cannot imagine the Cardinals won’t bring him back.
I explain to her that economics enter into the picture. Beltran just finished a two-year, $27 million deal with the Cardinals. His production made that a good signing. But he’ll be 37 next season and he has slowed down some, especially as an outfield defender.
Does Beltran have another year or two in him of playing right field? Possibly. But at what price? And doesn’t he make more sense as a designated-hitter in the American League?
David Freese is another one of Debbie’s favorites. And mine. Freese was the player most responsible for the Cardinals’ 2011 world championship. He will go down in history as the hero of Game 6 of the World Series that year, arguably the greatest World Series game ever. And he’s a St. Louis native, to boot.
But Freese has slowed down. He had a bad season. He looks a step slower than he did in 2012 and, as a second-year arbitration-eligible player, he’s probably due to get a raise to $4.5 or $5 million per season.
That’s a lot to pay a third baseman who didn’t have much wallop in his bat this season and who is just an average defensive player.
The Cardinals have to go about improving their offense and with some big contracts coming off the books (Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, Jake Westbrook, Edward Mujica, Beltran?) they can be aggressive.
So, today I’m wearing my Cardinals general manager hat. The team’s real GM, John Mozielak, has agreed to step aside while I construct five moves – realistic moves, I hope – that could make St. Louis an even better team in 2014.
I’m operating under the premise that the Cardinals have a lot of good, young pitching. Some of it should be expendable. So here are my five moves sure to produce another World Series club.
1. Sign Jacoby Ellsbury. It won’t be easy; Ellsbury is probably the most attractive center field candidate on the market and quite a few teams will make a run at him. But Jon Jay’s days as the St. Louis center fielder should be over. Ellsbury could give the Cardinals a speed element they have been lacking for a while now. And his presence in the leadoff spot would allow Matt Carpenter to hit second, where I think he would be even more productive. Offer Ellsbury a three-year, $51 million deal and see what happens.
2. Trade SP Lance Lynn, 1B Matt Adams, and CF Jon Jay to Texas for SS Jurickson Profar – Lynn can win games and he needs to pitch somewhere else. He is the one Cardinal who has never quite grasped what it means to be a Cardinal. Jay could be a good fourth outfielder for the Rangers, perhaps even a starter. But St. Louis has to move beyond Jay and find someone better to put in center field. Thus, my suggestion to sign Ellsbury. Profar was regarded as perhaps the top prospect in baseball going into the 2013 season. But in 85 games with Texas, he batted only .234. The Cardinals would be giving up a lot to get him, but the potential reward is mammoth. Texas might even ask for more than this package, believe it or not. In that case, proceed carefully.
3. Move Matt Carpenter to third base and let rookie Kolten Wong play second. This one will make some Cardinals fans nervous. Wong didn’t hit much after he was promoted to St. Louis in late-August and he made the biggest blunder of the World Series, getting picked off first base to end Game 4 with Carlos Beltran at the plate as the potential tying run. But I believe in Wong and I think that mistake, oddly enough, will be beneficial to him in his career. Carpenter is a natural third baseman and can handle that move well. It means Freese is out of a starting job, much to chagrin of my wife and many other David Freese fans. But the goal is to win games. Would the Cardinals keep Freese around as a bench bat? Probably not at his cost.
4. Re-sign Carlos Beltran. This is a tough one. Oscar Taveras, though he missed much of the 2013 season with an ankle injury, is still a hot prospect and one the Cardinals could plug into right field next season. But Beltran is such a good clubhouse guy and still a productive hitter. Taveras could be used as a fourth outfielder and get plenty of playing time at all three positions. I would offer Beltran a two-year, $20 million deal and see if it’s enough. And I would do everything I could to find 350 at-bats for Taveras.
5. Keep Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez in the bullpen, for now. Both of these guys have electric arms and could someday be great starting pitchers. But the Cardinals need them in the pen next season, if not longer. Former closer Jason Motte will return next season after having Tommy John surgery, but it’ll take him some time to regain form. Rosenthal, Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, Randy Choate, Sam Freeman and Motte would be an effective bullpen corps. The Cardinals might need to add another arm or two to that mix.
So, after my moves, here’s what the Cardinals would look like in 2014.
C – Yadier Molina
1B – Allen Craig
2B – Kolten Wong
3B – Matt Carpenter
SS – Jurickson Profar
LF – Matt Holiday
CF – Jacoby Ellsbury
RF – Carlos Beltran, Oscar Taveras
The batting order:
Bench – Tony Cruz (backup catcher), Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma, Shane Robinson, Taveras.
Bullpen – Rosenthal, Martinez, Motte, Siegrist, Choate, Freeman, Seth Maness.
Starters – Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller. Left-hander Tyler Lyons could also be plugged in here, or traded to Texas in the Profar package.
Thoughts, Cardinals fans?