Let's Fix the Cardinals Roster, Shall We?
Yesterday, I wrote about the troubles that the Cardinals are having right now, particularly in terms of the offense, and how those issues are directly related to the way that this roster is constructed. Today, I wanted to see if I could come up with some options on how to fix these problems.
First, though, a quick word about the options status of Brad Thompson. An astute commenter yesterday pointed out that Thompson was already sent to the minors this year (after the game in which Chris Carpenter got hurt, in fact; that awful loss to Arizona), and then recalled, so he did have options. The thing is, he was sent down, but I'm pretty sure the team had to expose him to waivers to do so. Looking at his status and the transaction log on him, I can't for the life of me figure out any way he would still have any options left. I know for a fact that Thompson was optioned in 2006, '07, and '08, which would be all three years he should have had options. I know there is a fourth option year for certain players (Anthony Reyes had a fourth option year last season, in fact), but that's only for guys who get to the big leagues really quickly. Thompson does not fall into that category.
Thanks to anyway1102 for pointing out something I was remiss in including, but I'm pretty sure that Thompson would still have to be put through waivers to send him down again. The team got away with it once, while WonderBrad was sporting an ERA somewhere in the mid-6.00 range; I doubt they'll risk it again.
So anyhow, as I said yesterday, the biggest roster issues with this team are as follows:
1) The injuries to the depth players have left the Cardinals without good second line options;
2) The thirteen man bullpen is sucking up roster space while adding little value; and
3) There are too many players assured of roster spaces, due to a lack of minor league options.
So, let's fix this thing, shall we?
Well, first off, as far as the injuries go, there simply isn't a whole lot you can do about that. I know, it isn't the answer everyone wants to hear, and frankly, it isn't really the option I want to give. But when not only the player you were counting on to start get hurt, but the guys you were planning on backing them up go down as well, there just isn't a whole lot you can do about it. Nonetheless, there are definitely some moves to be made that could ease this situation.
-First off, the bottomless bullpen has got to go. Period. And there's only one solution: one of your two bottom guys is out. That means either Blaine Boyer, aka the Remains of Brian Barton, or the Puppy Kicking maniac himself, Brad Thompson. Which one goes is really immaterial to me, though I do think that Boyer pretty clearly has the better potential. He hasn't been all that effective, for the most part, but Boyer's pure stuff is mighty impressive. My vote is to keep him and DFA Mr. Thompson. If he makes it through waivers again, mazel tov! The Cards get to keep their favorite swingman a little bit longer. If not, hey, maybe Brad will find someplace he's really needed, because around here, he's more than a little bit extraneous.
-A quick note: at no point in time do I think the Cards should send down any of their young setup relievers. Those guys have done a tremendous job, and they're only getting better. This team desperately needs to learn how to keep the good talent, and not just the guys that the manager has gotten attached to.
-Next, the team badly needs to figure out something for third base. John Mozeliak was on Bernie Miklasz's radio show yesterday, and said that his gut feeling on Glaus was that there was probably less than a 50% chance that he returns this year. Okay. Fine. Shit happens. Now we just have to find a solution for Glaus' empty base, and Joe Thurston just ain't it.
After the interview yesterday (which was actually really good, by the way), I texted in to the show that I thought Adrian Beltre represented the most sensible option, and I firmly believe that. Beltre, who you may remember from his days with the Dodgers, is in the final year of his deal with Seattle, and is owed $12 million this season. If the Cardinals were to acquire him in, say, early June, that should work out to somewhere in the $7-8 million range in terms of a prorated salary. Beltre hasn't been nearly the player in Seattle that he was with the Dodgers, but he's been badly hurt by Seattle's home ballpark. His road splits put him generally in the range of an .850ish OPS, plus consistently Gold Glove caliber defense. The Mariners are going nowhere fast, and would love to unload Beltre and his salary. With the amount of money he's still owed, the talent pool required to get him would be very light. He would represent that same right-handed power bat in the middle of the lineup that the team has been missing, and would be a massive upgrade at third with the glove. He would be strictly a rental, yes, but a mighty fine one, I believe. Plus, he's only 30. (I thought he was several years older than that, but he's one of those guys who got to the majors when he was like 20.)
If Beltre isn't to your liking, I think the choices are probably Mark DeRosa or call up Brett Wallace. DeRosa's a nice player, but I think he's overvalued because of his monster season with the Cubbies last year. I just don't believe that DeRosa is that guy.
As for Wallace, personally, I think it would be awesome to see him up with the big club soon. However, there are apparently some reservations about calling him up among the members of the front office, and I can't say I blame them. Wallace's approach at the plate is polished, yes, but he still could use more time to get used to seeing advanced level pitching. There's the matter of his defense, about which scouting reports are still somewhat conflicting. And then there's the simple fact that Wallace was still in college this time last year. He's as advanced a hitter as I've ever seen coming straight out of school, but you still fear rushing the kid before he's ready. So I don't have a problem with the Cards playing it a little bit safe with Wallace.
So far, we've dropped Brad Thompson, and added Adrian Beltre. That solves the issue of third base going forward, and gets us back down to twelve pitchers, and only one guy serving in a long relief role. Moving on...
-Call up Allen Craig, send down Thurston. I'm really sorry about this, Thursty, but I just don't think you're adding all that much value to this team. Craig, on the other hand, can play third, spell Albert at first if needed, and has gotten some time in left field in the minors. I don't know if he's actually versatile or only La Russa versatile, but even if he isn't good at all those positions in the field, at least he offers a bat with some pop in it. Craig has actually struggled some this year hitting, getting off to a really rough start, but has come on strong the last week or so, going 10 for his last 25 (.400), with a couple of doubles and a home run. You get an upgrade on offense, and, while the Cards themselves have expressed skepticism over Craig's glove, I've seen Joe Thurston play third base, and it isn't pretty.
-Trade Skip Schumaker. This is actually a pretty tough one for me to say, as I've grown attached to Skip. I think the guy is a solid ballplayer, a guy who does lots of things to help out a team, and he's gone above and beyond this year with the whole second base experiment. All that being said, I think Skip gives back a ton of the value he creates with his bat in the field at second. Is he improving? Absolutely. Is he a good fielder? No. No he is not. I don't think he offers anything in the outfield the Cards can't get from someone else, and I think there will be better options in the very near future (Daniel Descalso, anyone?), if not now, so my answer is to move him. He probably doesn't bring a great return on his own, so maybe he's part of a package for something good. Wonder what all the Yankees would want for Phil Hughes...?
In place of Schumaker, bring Tyler Greene back up. I'm still on the fence about Greene's bat, but I loooove his glove. At either spot in the middle infield, he's a huge upgrade defensively, and with a staff that throws as many ground balls as this one does, I think air tight middle infield defense is of paramount importance.
-Disable Khalil Greene. And by disable, I mean put him on the DL, not go all Tonya Harding on him. Right now, I just don't think that Greene is doing the team, or himself, any good being out there. He needs some time away from the game to get himself right. And if he can't, at least he isn't dragging the team down while he struggles with his demons.
By the way, I'm assuming, in all of this, that Ryan Ludwick comes back and takes a roster spot. I've built a spot in for him; if he doesn't come back, um, well, I don't know what I would do then.
So at this point, the team looks a little bit like this:
2B- Brendan Ryan
3B- Adrian Beltre
SS- Tyler Greene
CF- Colby Rasmus
RF- Ryan Ludwick
I put Greene at short and B. Ryan at second because I think Ryan has more experience at second base. You can switch them, if you like. It's a middle infield that may not hit much, but good lord, will they ever catch the ball. In fact, that's a pretty ridiculous defense all the way up the middle, with Yadi and Colby included in that.
Dick Ankiel- fourth OF, plenty of playing time
Allen Craig- a little thump off the bench, can play either corner IF spot, maybe some LF
Brian Barden- Awesome utility guy. Good glove at three IF spots, pretty nice bat
Jason LaRue- Fuckin' A, man.
This leaves us with one bench spot, which I think should be used however is needed to get another bat up, or get a guy a taste of the majors, or whatever. Right now we'll just leave Stavinoha there, as he's actually hit a little bit here lately. (Plus, he seems to have a little bit of that John Gall thing going on, so, you know.) Maybe a Jon Jay comes up if you need a lefty, or Joe Mather if he looks to be healthy later in the year. Bottom line, this is a spot you can change around however to keep a little flexibility.
That's right. Until Wellemeyer proves to me he can actually do something good for more than one start at a time, he's the fifth guy, below Jo-El. You want to move up, Todd? Earn it.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I would go about fixing this roster. Notice I only went outside the organization to fill one hole; there are enough pieces, and decent ones at that, already here. Obviously, the injuries have hurt, but there are still plenty of options, enough that we shouldn't have to watch the performances we've seen lately from the positional half of the team.
This new roster has more power on the bench, better defense up the middle, and a real third baseman. No longer will Adam Wainwright be the first pinch hitter up because the Cards are only carrying two bench players. And there are plenty of arms in that 'pen still to get the job done. Need an extra guy? Bring up Blake Hawksworth; he's been good this year. Or Jess Todd, who is already closing at Memphis anyway. Or Fernando Salas. This can totally work.
Alright. Roster fixed. Now, let's see if we can't get this Ballpark Village thing cleared up.