When starting shortstop Brendan Ryan, his job having been given to new signee Ryan Theriot, was traded to
return wasn't much. The Cardinals got a hard-throwing but erratic Class A
pitcher, right-hander Maikel Cleto, which suggests that Ryan's value was not as
high as some of his St.
Louis fans might have thought.
Also, there are suggestions that
the trade was made based not only on Ryan's disappointing .223 offensive season
last season but on the fact that his talkative clubhouse personality rubbed some
veterans the wrong way.
General manager John Mozeliak
would say only, "Changing the culture of the clubhouse was important to us.
Given the personalities involved, we felt this was an appropriate way to make a
Ryan hit .292 in 2009 and fielded
in Gold Glove fashion. However, Ryan slumped most of this year after belatedly
undergoing left wrist surgery in January.
"When you look at 2010 and the
fact that we never really got going offensively, we had to look to change some
things," Mozeliak said. "We didn't have a lot of opportunity to change certain
"I recognize that Brendan's an
outstanding defensive player, but we had to try. If we rolled it out like last
year, I don't know if we could count on taking the next step."
Ryan, who didn't curry any favor
with right-hander Chris Carpenter one night when he didn't have the right glove
as he headed for his position, said of his implied clubhouse issues, "I think
you can spin it any way you want. I think I was the same guy in '09 that I was
in '10. But when you're struggling, it's easier to point to certain things to
explain what's going on.
"It's cute and fun when things are
going well. But when you're struggling, it's easier to say, 'He wasn't focused
or prepared.' I don't think that's the case. It's more about lost confidence and
Ryan took the high road, though,
when discussing manager Tony La Russa.
"I have nothing but thanks and
gratitude for what he's done for me," Ryan said. "It's both exciting and sad.
Change can be scary, but at least I'm going somewhere I'm wanted. They were
clear Theriot is their guy. That stuff is out of my
--RHP Maikel Cleto, though he
never has pitched above Class A, was added to the 40-man roster after being
acquired from Seattle for SS Brendan Ryan. Projected as a closer or setup man,
Cleto, 21, compiled a 4-9 record and 6.16 earned run average as a starter at
Class A High Desert last season before going 2-1 with a 7.91 ERA in six starts
during the Arizona Fall League. He throws in the mid-to-high 90s.
--After making a play to sign
Bengie Molina, older brother of Cardinals Gold Glove C Yadier Molina, the club
signed former Texas and Detroit receiver Gerald Laird to a one-year deal that calls for a $1 million base plus $300,000 in
incentives. Laird, 31, batted just .207 in 2010 with the Tigers but is a .242
lifetime hitter and is considered a strong thrower and good receiver with
occasional home-run power. Pending Yadier Molina's ability to stay healthy,
Laird probably won't start many more than 30 or 35 games.
--Even with the addition of Laird,
the Cardinals' bench figures to be very young. None of the other four projected
bench men -- infielders Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene and outfielders Allen Craig and Jon Jay -- has ever played a full season in the majors.
--The Cardinals' potential 25-man
roster seems relatively set, but the club might have to add some left-side
infield help in the spring if it is determined that 3B David Freese, who had
surgeries on both ankles during the 2010 season, isn't ready for regular duty.
--The Cardinals' interleague
schedule for next season isn't a terribly attractive one. St. Louis will play at Kansas
City, Tampa Bay and Baltimore and
will be home against Kansas City and Toronto.
BY THE NUMBERS: .740 to .573 --
Drop in SS Brendan Ryan's on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) from 2009 to
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was almost like
having to relearn everything I did last offseason. I know it sounds like an
excuse. But being honest about what went on, it didn't help." -- SS Brendan
Ryan, whose season never really got going offensively after he had left wrist
surgery in January.
The Cardinals entered the
offseason with one of the best core groups in baseball: 1B Albert Pujols, LF
Matt Holliday, RHPs Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and Gold Glove C Yadier
Molina. They have tried to upgrade the supporting cast, particularly by signing
outfielder Lance Berkman.
ARRIVALS: C Gerald Laird (free
agent from Tigers), RF Lance Berkman (free agent from Yankees), LHP Brian Tallet
(free agent from Blue Jays), SS Ryan Theriot (trade with
DEPARTURES: INF Brendan Ryan
(traded to Mariners), LHP Dennys Reyes (free agent, signed with Phillies), RHP
Blake Hawksworth (traded to Dodgers).
BIGGEST NEEDS: At the top of the
Cardinals' wish list is a contract extension for 1B Albert Pujols, now that
general manager John Mozeliak has filled most of the other priorities.
FREE AGENTS: 3B Pedro Feliz, RHP
Mike MacDougal, OF Randy Winn, INF Aaron Miles, RHP Jeff Suppan, RHP Brad Penny.
It is probable that none of them
will be brought back.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Kyle McClellan.
McClellan is one of the best
middle relievers in the game but doesn't have much in the way of stats covering
saves and wins.
--3B David Freese (right ankle
surgery in August 2010, left ankle surgery in September 2010) should be ready
for spring training.
--LHP Jaime Garcia (left arm
fatigue), RHP Adam Wainwright (right forearm strain) and C Yadier Molina (right
knee inflammation) all were shut down at the end of the season. All are expected
to be ready for spring training.