Ask The Insiders


Posted Jan 24, 2007


Email Ray Mileur or Brian Walton with your questions about the St. Louis Cardinals, their minor league system, coaches, players, broadcasting, Busch Stadium or any other topic about your favorite team!


We want to hear from you.  Send your encouragement, thoughts, opinions, wisdom or advice to one of our editors,  Ray Mileur at raymileur@yahoo.com or Brian Walton at brwalton@earthlink.net.

Also, please remember to check out our excellent Message Board, where you can pose questions and interact with other knowledgeable Cardinals fans. We post there regularly, too.



Last Two Spots (01/24)

From what I understand a decision from Weaver should be known this week. Also, the quotes I've read (LaRussa: There's probably 400 at-bats in the out field for someone willing to play all three positions) make it sound like Wilson isn't going to work out because of money and playing time. Are my understandings correct? Have any of your sources given you any information on which way Weaver is leaning? Do you know if Weaver has received any serious interest form the Mets or anyone else? Personally I would like to have another major league starter because you never know what will happen during the season.

Ryan
DeKalb, IL

Walton’s take: I haven’t heard that Preston Wilson has ruled out the Cards nor have they ruled out him. My sources tell me that Jeff Weaver absolutely wants to stay in St. Louis. Other reports suggest his agent, Scott Boras, is dissatisfied with the Cardinals’ offer and wants to keep looking.

The Mets seem to be done for the winter and frankly, I don’t know what teams are still looking that Weaver would be interested in joining. Seattle was one name I read, but I don’t think Weaver wants to go there. The other name I heard was the Dodgers, which might make sense since Weaver seemed to like his time there. But, they already have a glut of starters, so I don’t know why they would be a buyer. I imagine Boras is desperately seeking another bidder, hence the delay.



No Go Sox (01/24)

Brian,

Rick Hummel suggested in a recent writing that the Cards might have interest in connecting in a trade for Mark Buehrle. He thought the Sox would want a young pitcher with a high ceiling in exchange for him. How realistic do you think a Cards trade for Buehrle might be?

Rick mentioned the down season recorded by Buehrle last year might be attributed to the long season/post season the year before. Do you think the Cards could suffer that same reality with Carpenter since he too piled up so many innings last season/post season?

Also, I look forward to hearing what you learn from Walt when you ask about the limited roster turnover this winter. It is somewhat amazing that the turnover has been so light for the Cards.

Thanks,
Kevin

Walton’s take: I imagine the Commish’s assessment of the Cardinals’ view is valid, but my guess is any Chicago interest evaporated several months ago. This winter, the Sox have already traded away two starters, Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy, plus a key bat, first baseman/outfielder Ross Gload.

Their take in all three deals plus several others was a total of eight young pitching prospects – eight of them! I would have to surmise they are done dealing for now.

Buehrle’s fondness for the Cardinals is well-documented. However, I have read some reports that speculate that Sox General Manager Kenny Williams would not trade Buehrle for that very reason. We may have to wait and see what happens if Buehrle enters the free-agent market next fall.

Yes, the fatigue issue could be real for both pitchers. With an untested four in the rotation behind him, there could be more pressure on Carpenter than ever this season.



RE: Chris Perez (01/22)

Ray and Brian,
 
I work at the sports academy Chris Perez came from in Bradenton, FL (IMG Academies).  Being a huge Cardinals fan, I was very excited to see Chris go to "The good guys."  Knowing what a fanatic I am about the Cardinals, my students keep me posted on the latest news with Chris.  Last weekend a group of them came into my office swearing that they had just learned Chris had a good chance of making the Big Leagues by the end of this year.  Is this a possibility or is it the over over-optimistic view of some teenage athletes?  My better judgment says the latter, but I would be interested in your opinion.  Even if Chris does not have a chance of making the big leagues this year, how fast could a player conceivably work his way through the farm system?  Is one position prone to taking longer to than another to adjust?
 
See you in Jupiter,
 
Tim
 
 
Mileur's take:  Perez is probably on the fast track to the majors. The consensus among our staff is he will likely be the first member of the 2006 draft class that will reach the Major Leagues.
 
Perez will probably start this season at Double-A Springfield and I wouldn't be surprise to see him in the mix as a reliever for St. Louis in 2008.
 
As to how fast a player makes it to the majors, it is hard to predict because there are so many different variables that must be considered for each player and each situation.
 
Here is some statistical information you may be interested in;
 
About 10% of players that sign a minor league contract will play one game at the Major League level.
 
The average age of minor leaguers at each level;
 
Triple-A: 27.4
Double-A: 25.0
High-A: 23.5
Mid-A: 22.3
Short-Season A: 21.9
Rookie (Pioneer/Appalachian): 21.3.
 

A player's chances of reaching the Major Leagues;
 
Round 1: 66%
Round 2: 49%
Round 3-5: 32%
Round 6-10: 20%
Round 11-20: 11%
Round 21+: 7%
Non-drafted: 4%
Foreign Players: 7%
 
 
I'm thinking Perez will make his first appearance in the Majors some time in 2008 and that puts him on a pace of about 2-3 years faster than the average minor league player who actually makes it.




Casing the Prospects (01/18)

Hi Brian,

I enjoyed your prospect article on scout.com. I like reading about the youngest prospects. Have the Cardinals signed any young foreign players in the last couple of years that are worth following?

Thanks
Phil Case

Walton’s take: Thanks for reading, Phil. Our minor league co-editor Jason Scott just singled out three players for our upcoming Scout Prospect Guide.

Dominican outfielder Edgar Lara is considered by the Cardinals to be their top prospect in Latin America. Right-handed pitcher Omar Javier is said to have the highest upside of any of the Cardinals foreign pitchers, with the potential to be a No. 2 starter in the big leagues. Right-handed pitcher Francisco Samuel is another Domincan worth watching.

These players and many more from the Dominican and Venezuelan academies are expected to join the Cardinals’ new Gulf Coast League affiliate this summer.



Turnovers Undone (01/16)

Brian,

In the past it seems that championship teams have had better luck the following season if they turn over a good number of people on their roster. Do you think the Cards have done an adequate job of turning their roster?

Also, I have been a little surprised the Cards have not participated in trades this winter. Obviously, they had a good number of FA's but the trade route has been Walt's bread and butter. With that said, do you foresee any deals before the season begins? I felt going in to the winter that Chris Duncan might be dealt to a team in need of a first baseman. Any thoughts?

Do you feel the Cards have any interest in adding and outfielder like Craig Wilson or Darrin Erstad? Are they more likely to add Preston instead? Is the bullpen set or do you think they will add another arm? Kolb?

Thanks for taking a moment to look at the post!

Kevin

Walton’s take: One of the first things I am going to ask Walt Jocketty in Florida is about turnover. I often recall him expressing regret that he did not turn over enough of the club between his first and second years, I think it was.

As we’ve seen, his best hope this winter was to hold most of the previous team together while adding a few new parts. That may still be good enough to win but wasn’t very sexy.

Like you, I was surprised Walt didn’t pull off any trades. But, Duncan, Reyes and Wainwright were his best chits and I give him credit for keeping the pitchers. I continue to think Duncan would be better in the American League, but the ties are strong in St. Louis.

I think the club is about set for 2007. Jeff Weaver and Preston Wilson or another outfielder with a little pop from the right side should do it.

Thanks for writing.



Sugar Shane (01/15)

I subscribed to scout two months ago and have thouroughly enjoyed your articles, particularly as it applies to minor leaguers since you supply a lot of information not available elsewhere. I partticularly enjoyed your articles and interviews relative to the Latin players.

With regard to the top 40 articles, I was initially surprised that Furnish was not included but later saw that at least one of your group listed him. I was also surprised that Robinson was not listed. I realize he has no power but he is among the few players that the Cards have sent directly to a full season league in recent years and he hit a respectable 282. albeit without power. I noticed he was not among the instructional leage invitees. Does that mean that the Cardinal management has a low regard for him as a prospect as well as you and your colleges?

Warren Jeffrey

Walton’s take: No, don’t read too much into an invite or a no-invite to instructs. In fact, one of their very best prospects, Bryan Anderson, wasn’t there either. The organization thought he was tired and would be better served to get some rest.

Regarding prospects not on the list, isn’t it great that the Cardinals have enough good players that a list of 40 isn’t enough? For guys who were just drafted this past year, their track record is obviously very short. Another season of success and you’ll see these and perhaps some other names make the list.

Heck, we are far from infallible. Not one of us ranked Josh Kinney 12 months ago.

Thank you for subscribing and I am glad you are enjoying it.



What “Abot” Trot? (01/12)

Hi Brian

I am quite puzzled by the lack of talk regarding Trot Nixon signing anywhere. Personally, I would love to see us sign him and trade Encarnacion for a starting pitcher. Nixon has a tremendous eye at the plate and I think he would fit perfectly in the # 2 slot in front of Albert. Has there been any mention of Trot in the Cardinals camp at all?

Randy W.
Toronto, Canada

Walton’s take: The rap on Nixon is that he cannot stay healthy. While I have not heard his name mentioned in conjunction with the Cardinals, I guess it is not out of the question. Just this past week, Walt Jocketty was quoted as saying the club was looking at medical reports on some outfielders.

However, the Cardinals’ outfield is already pretty well loaded from the left side with Chris Duncan and John Rodriguez behind Jim Edmonds, along with Skip Schumaker knocking on the door.

Still, they could do worse than Nixon – if the price is reasonable. (He made $7.5 million last year - that is not reasonable.) In the past, the Cards have made similar offers to multiple players and said they will sign the first player who accepts. They could conceivably do that again with the final bench spot.

Unless a trade changes matters, I’d still rather see a righty added, though, and expect that. I don’t think Encarnacion would bring enough in trade to satisfy the need, but if he was traded, it would only increase the need for more right-handed hitting.



Lotsa Qs (01/12)

What ever happened to Alan Benes? Is he still with us, if so why dont we try and let him compete for the 5th spot in are rotation? You know ok Mark McGwire not making it this year ok who didnt see that one coming, but im just surpirsed that Lee Smith did make the Hall Of Fame this year considering he is number 2 all time on the saves. Whats the word on Preston Wilson and Jeff Weaver? What are the chances of Eli Marrero making the St. Louis Cardinals starting spot. Why dont we consider having John Mabry back in St. Louis? We would have a strong bench with So Taguchi, Chris Duncan, Gary Bennet, John Mabry and Scott Speizio. And I know its WAY to early but could I have your idea on the 25 guys who you think will be there on opening day roster.

Thanks,
Harold Fox

Walton’s take: Benes retired, though he is on the Cardinals Caravan. That is good, since he hasn’t been major league-ready for about ten years. I provided an update on Weaver and Wilson in the Mulder story a couple of days ago. Marrero has next to zero chance of starting. He isn’t even yet on the 40-man roster. His best hope is to make the team as a utility man. I think John Mabry is about done, though Colorado is rumored to be interested in him. I would prefer the Cards sign an outfielder, like Wilson, for that last bench spot.

I am working on a roster projection story that will be ready next week. What sets mine apart is that it takes into account factors like options remaining that others either don’t remember or at least don’t consider.



Late on Cate? (01/09)

I read a short article on the Cardinal's mlb.com website that Troy Cate was doing well as a starter in winter league play in Venezuela. I was wondering if there was any chance he'd get to audition for a role as a starter. I read all of the articles about the big league team on your site, and most of the 40 prospect articles, but I don't ever remember seeing his name.

I was also wondering if the Brad Penny talk is dead. Was that just a rumor created by a sports writer (living about 50 West of Chicago, I am very familar with writers playing GM), or was a real interest on either side of the deal?

Ryan K
DeKalb, IL

Walton’s take: I never got a solid read that Penny was a serious option, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t discussions. I have heard nothing about him since early December.

Good timing on Cate, Ryan. My lead story tomorrow morning is about the Cardinals farmhands’ success with the Mazatlan club in Mexico. That includes Cate and Edgar Gonzalez, a player MLB.com apparently doesn’t even know signed with the Cards.

While Cate has been pitching well, it must still be kept in perspective. Given the number of lefties in front of him, including Flores, Johnson, Rincon, Narveson and Keisler, and the fact he has no Triple-A experience, Cate would have to be the longest of longshots to make the 2007 Cardinals even as a reliever, let alone a starter.

Yes, I am very familiar with Cate and his work. Here are six different subscriber-only stories from our site that featured Cate, just since the end of last season. They are almost always either exclusives or we were at least the first to report the news here:

Sept. 28: I noted that Cate would be a free agent and recommended he be re-signed.

Oct. 17: I was the first to report that Cate re-signed with the Cardinals.

Oct. 31: Assistant General Manager John Mozeliak confirmed to me that Cate would be playing winter ball.

Nov. 20: We were the first to report Cate’s addition to the 40-man roster.

Dec. 10: First report on Cate’s winter results.

Dec. 29: My second report on Cate’s winter success.

A good way to check up on a particular player is to bring up his profile, either from his club’s roster or by doing a search on his name from the upper right of our homepage. There, many of the stories and news items about a player are listed.

I don’t mean to sound like I am taking it out on you personally, Ryan. It is just frustrating that even our good subscribers seem to miss out on so much of what we provide.

People look to MLB.com’s reports, which cover about five or six players playing winter ball, compared to our reports that highlight between 15 and 20 Cardinals players.

Oh well, I guess sometimes people get what they pay for…

Thanks for sending the note and giving me a chance to rant a bit. I feel a tiny bit better now…



What’s Up with the Pitching? (01/04)

Brian,

Now that Suppan has signed with Milwaukee, plus the Cards have lost (or are on the verge of losing) Mulder and Weaver, can you tell me what --- in your opinion --- is going on with management's thinking?

Looking back, and without looking it up on a year-to-year basis, it seems to me the team, during the LaRussa era, has had a perverse fixation on trying to avoid going to spring training with more than two (or three at most) established starters in their rotation. It also seems that every time they've entered an off-season with what looks like a solid 4-5 man rotation, they've allowed one or two of those pitchers to drift elsewhere. It took me a very long time to appreciate Suppan, and I can't figure out why they let him go so easily (he was the original #1 expansion draftee of the D-Backs, traded immediately before the draft was over, never impressed me with any club before he got to St. Louis, and then only in the last year and a half).

I suppose they will claim there are payroll issues involved, but it's been my impression that pretty much everyone who matters is signed for the time being. I'm also unaware of any Rick Ankiel-type prospect coming up from Memphis or farther down the minor chain, and haven't read anything about them making any big effort to sign a free agent, or trade for a #1-2-type starter.

It just strikes me that LaRussa and the team might have had more postseason success during his tenure if he hadn't been forced to re-tool his rotation on a virtually annual basis, a process which sometimes takes until mid-season. I'll grant that Mulder and (to a lesser extent) Marquis were disappointments last year, but I also think they both have enough talent to stick with them for another season to see if they could turn things around, and would still be better than most of the #3-4-5 guys out there.

It's also true that injuries have cost them some success during the playoffs in recent years. But I also think this perennial need to revamp the rotation has been a major contributing factor to the well-known incidents when LaRussa was forced (or chose) to use Matt Morris or someone else too often, for too many innings in key or decisive playoff games --- as, shaky bullpens notwithstanding --- it was obvious on several occasions that he had no real confidence in anyone beyond his #1 spot in the rotation.

Anyway, it all seems like a waste of energy to me, about as weird as their annual need to bring in a new second baseman.

jv

Walton’s take: First of all, let me agree with I believe to be your bottom line. The rotation is screwed up, it should have been addressed sooner and enough help does not appear to be on the way.

Now, having said that, I can offer up some thoughts to address several of your points. Jocketty says he has a policy not to negotiate contracts during the season. Heading into 2006, he had Mulder, Marquis, Suppan and Ponson - all four with expiring contracts - to go along with Carpenter. Weaver came along during the season.

At that point, signing Suppan seemed to be low priority, though in hindsight, it clearly would have been the best move.

About June, Suppan’s ERA was pushing six and letting him go seemed like a better idea. I was among those pushing to re-sign Mulder and Marquis.

Keeping Marquis would have been a huge mistake as his hard-headedness had reached the point of no-return with Duncan and La Russa. Mulder probably would have cost too much for his value based on the fact he was hurt shortly thereafter. Still, having Mulder locked up now, even if overpaid for half of a season or more while he rehabs in 2007, would make me feel a lot better.

Supposedly, the Cardinals did approach Suppan about an extension late in the season, but by then, it was too late. Weaver didn’t pitch well until September, so I can understand why nothing was done with him early.

On the free agent side this winter, the Cards tried. They apparently made an offer to Jason Schmidt equal to what he accepted from the Dodgers and if you believe the New York press, took a run at Andy Pettitte. They tried and failed to get Randy Wolf, Miguel Batista and Vicente Padilla.

Yet, the facts are that the Cardinals have not made a significant free-agent signing in at least four years. With the overheated prices for pitching in this market, they chose not to overspend.

One could argue their strategy is to establish that rotation continuity you are looking for by locking up Carpenter long-term, which they did, and getting Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright into the mix now. Neither of them can be free agents for about five more years.

The off-season isn’t over yet. I am still holding out hope that Jocketty will acquire a proven starter via trade. There have been off-and-on rumors about Carl Pavano, for example. Maybe there are others. I sure hope so.

Regarding the history points made, I think La Russa leaves his starters in close games too long in an attempt to get them a win. I don’t have the data to prove it, but my feeling is that he does this consistently despite the quality (or lack of quality) of his pen.

One thing I do know is that pen had better be ready for a lot of work in 2007 if the rotation remains Carpenter and four other guys.

Finally, I am not upset about the constant change at second base. Vina was washed up when he left. Womack’s deal with the devil ran out after one season. Grudz had a nice year, but KC overpaid for him. Luna and Belliard were both disappointing and Miles is a reserve, not a starter.

The market at that position is weak. Consider that both Belliard and Mark Loretta, two decent players, are both looking for jobs and none appear to be open. However, the Cardinals did sign Adam Kennedy for three years, so that revolving door is closed for now.



RJ to StL? (01/04)

I read that the Yankees were trying to find young pitchers in return for Randy Johnson. Well we all know the Cardinals have nice minor league teams of young pitchers. Do you think there would be a chance Walt Jocketty would pull a deal of trading some young pitchers for Randy Johnson?

Thanks
Harold

Walton’s take: An interesting question.

There are several reasons it would be a good idea for the Cardinals, including the need for a lefty in the rotation and of course, Johnson’s proven track record of success.

However, there are also multiple reasons why not, including Johnson’s advanced age (43), ongoing serious problems with his knees and back, his large contract ($16M in 2007), a no-trade clause, his desire to pitch close to home, the fact that there are other bidders, and ultimately the cost in prospects it would take to get him.

The reasons “why not” far outweigh the benefits, in my opinion. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t think the Cardinals really need to get another starter – they do. I just don’t think RJ is their man.

Thanks for the note.



Mr. Smith Goes to StL? (12/21)

Mike Smith, will he be a factor for making the 5 man rotation for the Cardinals in 07: So it could possibly look like
Carpenter
Reyes
Wainwright
Wells
Smith

Just wanting to know thanks,
Harold Fox

Walton’s take: I look at Mike Smith as the 2007 version of Dennis Tankersley – a veteran starter who is nice Triple-A insurance. But like Tankersley last season, Smith isn’t going to get a chance in St. Louis unless he is totally lights-out in Memphis. Based on Smith’s history, that seems unlikely unless injuries strike.

Though his name is never mentioned by the braintrust in St. Louis, I would think Chris Narveson would be ahead of Smith in the pecking order, if Narveson remains in the organization past Spring Training (he is out of minor league options).

Instead, the candidates for that fifth rotation spot today are Braden Looper and Brad Thompson. I still believe a trade or free agent signing is going to fill that spot, as none of the three should be in the rotation, IMHO.

But, what the heck? Until Izzy proves himself healed, I don't think Wainwright should be starting, either! It should be an interesting March in Jupiter.

As an aside, Tankersley signed with Detroit for 2007, one of the few places where he has less chance of seeing time in the majors than St. Louis. Guess he likes Toledo better than Memphis.



FIP for a King (12/20)

I have a question regarding what a Tigers fan has said to me regarding the worth of Carpenter vs Bonderman. He is trying to convince me that Bonderman is in the same league as Carpenter based just on this statistic:

Fielding Independent Pitching, a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. The formula is (HR*13+(BB+HBP)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number. FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded.

He shows me a list of players who lead this category in 2006. Bonderman is at #3 in the majors behind Santana and Webb with a FIP of 3.31. Carpenter is #9 at 3.47. I try to throw obvious statistics at him, such as ERA, wins, and WHIP over the past 2 years, but he follows that up with the notion that FIP is a better determination of how a pitcher performs rather than the former statistics. I try to tell him that the ERA and WHIP aren't even close, but he still seems stuck on FIP. Not only that, but he brings up the argument that Carpenter's ERA would substantially increase near 4.00 if he pitched in the AL Central. Can you give me any other type of selling points that disprove his theory? Or do you somewhat agree with him?

Thanks!
Pierce

Walton’s take: The general debate in the sabermetric community has raged since at least 1999, when Voros McCracken first introduced DIPS, Defense Independent Pitching Stats and dERA, DIPS ERA.

DIPS went underground when McCracken joined the Red Sox, but a number of other related measurements were spawned, more than I can count. They include DICE, Defense Independent Component ERA, which was built upon Bill James’ Component ERA (CERA). Another is Tom Tango’s FIP, which your adversary obviously believes in, of which there are several variations, including Modified FIP and Expected FIP.

Using one single measurement for any argument would seem to be limiting. So, if you want to fight the battle on his field, I guess you could ask him to compare the results of the two pitchers using these other sabermetric measurements. Or, you may choose not to enter those waters…

As an aside, the blog Fungoes posted career FIP ERAs for the Cardinals and Tigers staffs before the World Series. Here is the link. The nums show the two pitchers – Carpenter and Bonderman – with almost identical FIP ERAs against lefties, with Bonderman having a leg up against righties. I don’t know what Carp’s Cardinals-only stats would be, but I imagine the Toronto years drag his career numbers down substantially.

Though I was formally trained in mathematics a long time ago, after some point, I find these academic arguments tiring. But, that’s just me.



Missed Opportunities (12/20)

Brian,
I appreciated your apt characterization of the Werth situation as "another in a long list of missed opportunities." Too many Cardinal apologists seem to think that anyone who doesn't sign for whatever inadequate amount the Cardinals consider to be a player's true worth--pun intended--is being overpayed and therefore not worth having.

Heaven forbid that we should ever actually win a bidding war! At this rate we'll save a lot of money next season but be conspicuously lacking in playoff revenue at the end. This is the one bad consequence I feared might result from the miraculous 2006 championship, that it would create complacency in a front office all too willing to look for cheap, patchwork solutions rather than make a real effort to stay on top. The Jason Schmidt pursuit was merely a repeat of the same comedy we see every offseason, with the Cardinals playing Avis to someone's else's Hertz.

Mike Greenwald

Walton’s take: I can see both sides of this argument, Mike. The Cardinals did a nice job with Kennedy as well as getting Edmonds and Spiezio back. I would have liked Werth, but I am not too worried yet. There are numerous fourth outfielder-types out there still looking for jobs, including last year’s model, Preston Wilson.

The pitching is a huge risk, however. I agree with those who worry about the bullpen imploding behind the current penciled-in rotation.

Yet, I don’t see the Cardinals as complacent in this or any off-season, as they have been busy trying to make trades and sign free agents. But, I just don’t get why they chase guys they know they cannot catch. It just sets themselves up for second-guessing from folks like us.

I think the Cardinals misread the market (as did a number of other clubs). The policy of not signing any of their four free agent starters during last season could prove to be disastrous. At this point, short of a trade, the best we can probably hope for is to stand pat, with two of the three of Mulder, Suppan and Weaver re-signed. Short of that and I am very concerned.

Frankly, I think your reference would have been even better had you used Budget Rent-A-Car!



Comp for Soup (12/20)

Brian: Right now the Cardinals have the 18th pick in the 2007 amateur draft. Assuming that one of the Royals, Pirates, Giants, or Brewers signs Suppan, we would get the 2nd, 4th, 10th, or 7th (in previous order), right? In addition to that, we would get a sandwich pick in round two which would be the 39th, right again? Actually, that would be pretty sweet compensation for Suppan. Just checking on the accuracy of my own speculation.

Mike

Walton’s take: Great question, as this is complicated.

To answer directly, no and yes. The first 15 picks in the first round are always protected. (Those are the losingest teams from the previous season).

So, if one of those teams sign a Type A who was offered arbitration, they lose their second-round pick instead. In that case, the sandwich pick (between rounds one and two) is more valuable than the compensatory pick.

It gets more complicated. If a team signs more than one Type A, then you have to compare the Elias Rankings of the players involved. The team losing the highest-ranked player gets the highest pick, in this example, the second-rounder, while the other team would get their third-rounder.

Look at these pages, as they illustrate the possibilities. The first table shows which picks are lost/gained as the result of the signings of free agents, with a tally of how many picks each team gained and lost. The second table lists the actual order of the draft, including the sandwich picks being added between the first and second rounds.

On the sandwich pick, yes, if Suppan signs elsewhere, the Cardinals get the #39 pick overall.

Bottom line, if the Cardinals lose Suppan, this is what they would ideally want to get the best compensation. They would want one of the 15 teams with the best record last year to sign Suppan if that same club did/does also not sign a higher-ranked Type A than Suppan.

Hope that clarifies matters a bit.



On the Rotation (12/18)

Brian,

Thanks for your coverage of the Cards!

It appears that the Cards are comfortable waiting for Mulder to announce his future plans. Either way he will be of little service until late summer. The Mulder saga makes you wonder if he would prefer to go to the D-Backs instead of the Cards.

It also seems the Cards are comfortable waiting on Boras to "get down on his list of FA's" to Jeff Weaver's name. I can't help but wonder if the Cards might find the price too rich or the years too long for their liking and get shut-out similarly to the Benes fiasco several winters ago.

The posturing of Looper or Thompson to the rotation is frightening. If the Cards miss out on Mulder and Weaver who do you think they would be most likely to add? Penny, Pavano, Lieber, Willis, a Pirate starter or someone else?

Thanks,
Kevin

Walton’s take: Thanks for the note. I am not sure if his return will be early summer or late summer, but certainly not too much should be counted on from Mulder in 2007. I would be more worried about Texas than Arizona.

I don’t know that the Cardinals are comfortable with Boras and Weaver, but there isn’t anything they can do until Boras decides it is time to get serious. I do share your concern that the Cards could lose out again.

I like your “frightening” characterization of the current fifth starter options. Of the trade candidate names you list, I would cross off Willis and probably Penny. Willis isn’t going anywhere and the Cardinals don’t match up well with the Dodgers on a trade. Pavano will only happen if the Yanks want to pay the majority of his salary. Lieber is going somewhere, but I hope not to St. Louis. The Pirates have some good young arms, but Dave Littlefield is apparently a difficult trading partner. Frankly, I think if Walt does a trade, it will be for someone we didn’t consider seriously. I wish he’d get to it!



Jennings and Mulder? (12/12)

I saw the headline announcing "Astros add Jennings" and almost went insane. I thought the Cards really let one get away. Then I saw the Astros gave up a lot, Willy Taveras (26), Taylor Buchholz (26), and a prospect, Jason Hirsh (25, all at start of 2007 season), with very solid numbers, and I felt much better. I felt better because I'm not sure the Cardinals would part with that much young talent; especially when you consider Willy T is an everyday player making very little money (by 2006 MLB standards, not my own) and Jason Hirsh's numbers look pretty good. Mainly, I wanted your take. I'm not convinced the Astros got better, and I really wanted to know if you'd see the Cardinals making a similar move as wise? I know you have to give talent to get talent, but this seems like too much of a gamble for the Astros.

Ryan
DeKalb, IL

P.S. I don't like trading healthy everyday players for pitchers, generally (Encarnacion for Santana I'd do). I'm always worried the newly acquired pitcher will be under the knife before you get your money's worth. Your take?

Walton’s take: I feel both very good and very bad about this trade – at the same time.

I feel good because of what the Astros gave up for one year of Jennings, who is decent, but not great. Hirsh was the #1, top prospect in the Astros system and Buchholz was also well thought of, as the key ingredient in the Billy Wagner trade a few years back. Taveras is not a Phil Garner favorite, having lost his job for awhile last season, but has very good speed and is not yet arbitration-eligible.

In other words, this has all the makings of a Mark Mulder-esque deal.

I feed badly because if this is any indication of the trade market, then Walt Jocketty is going to find it very hard going to make the deal that he really, really needs to make to help fix his rotation.

No, I don’t see the Cards making a similar deal now. What would they solve by trading Anthony Reyes just to get another pitcher back, even if that pitcher is more established? They would still be two starters short.

Trading an everyday player for a pitcher is not a problem for me – if the pitcher is worthy. Having said that, to this day I still get very, very angry when I think of trading Keith Hernandez for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. Given that was 23 years ago, I guess I should get over it, huh?



Tomo Hawk? (12/12)

Bernie says the Cards are serious about Tomo Ohka. What do you say about that?

Jack Young

Walton’s take: I say it is about time the rest of the Cardinals watchers have caught up with us! I first mentioned Ohka’s name in association with Cardinals’ interest over a month ago and most recently again on November 25 here.

Ohka was not offered arbitration by the Brewers after an injury-curtailed 2006 where he was their #4 starter behind Ben Sheets (when healthy), Doug Davis and Chris Capuano.

If the ground-ball pitcher can be had for less than crazy money and fewer than three years, then I would certainly consider giving him a go. Those may be big “ifs” in this market, however.

One interesting factoid is that in 2005, Ohka was traded to Milwaukee by Washington for Ernest “Junior” Spivey and both players missed time in recent years due to severe injuries after being hit on the arm by a baseball.

Here’s hoping the result is different if this part of that deal ends up in St. Louis!



Wladimir Mendoza’s Line (12/11)

Brian,

I just read your interview with Jeff Luhnow on the Cardinals' new GCL club. I noticed that Wladimir Mendoza wasn't on the list of latin players being brought over to fill out the roster.

Thats not surprising because Mendoza is a 20 yrs old. But he's a LHP w/ great stats in Venezuela, I'm expecting him to start out higher. Perhaps at Quad Cities? Do you know what the Cardinals' plans are for Mendoza? Is he the real deal?

Thanks
Jim Comas

P.S. Great job with scout.com.

Walton’s take: Yes, you are right, Jim. Mendoza has continued to look very good in limited action in the Liga Paralela, with an opposing batting average of .191 and a stellar 0.64 ERA. However, he only appeared in four games so far, so I am checking into that.

Based on him being named the Cardinals’ Venezuelan Summer League Pitcher of the Year, Mendoza already wrapped up an invite to 2007 Extended Spring Training. I wouldn’t read anything into Luhnow leaving him off the list. In fact, it was pretty impressive Jeff could recite that many names so quickly when being put on the spot.

Jim, I don’t know how long you’ve been a subscriber, but if you’re new, I highly recommend you go back into our archives and listen to Jeff’s recaps of the VSL and DSL seasons. We did those interviews in August. There is a wealth of information here not available anywhere else.

Finally, thanks for the compliment and thanks for subscribing!



Carl’s Second Coming? (12/09)

What do you think of the Carl Pavano rumors?

Mike

Walton’s take: First thought was I wondered if it was 12 months ago, when rumors had the Cards considering trading Jim Edmonds for the oft-injured Yankees starter.

But, it looks like the rumors have heated up again. If it advances, I predict it will get down to three things - Pavano's health, how much of his salary the Yanks will eat and what they want in return. Chris Duncan would seem perfect for them, but your guess is as good as mine whether or not they would be interested.

Everyone’s biggest worry is Pavano’s health and durability. He is surely a risk, and sometimes they pay off and sometimes not. If I could get him down to the $6-$8 million range, the meds said “OK”, and the trade price in return wasn’t too steep, I would take a shot.



Jason, Part III (12/09)

Marquis to the Cubs! That is too perfect. I can't wait to see the Cards tee off on him a few times a year. :)

Jan

Walton’s take: The best part for me was in reading how Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild is going to help fix Marquis. Rothschild must either be the most optimistic soul on Earth (which could explain his choice for place of employment) or he thinks both Leo Mazzone and Dave Duncan are failures. Pass the Kool-Aid, Larry.

The only question in my mind is how long it will take until Lou Piniella gets into a fist fight with Marquis. Maybe a good contest idea for us...



Parity Stinks! (12/07)

Brian,

If, as Rick Hummel wrote, parity has kept things balanced in MLB then why in the world would any free agent want to play for the Cards? It would be a long time until the parity wheel comes back to the Cards. Wow! That is a hopelessly negative thought. On a positive note, Walt's record seems to be much better with trades than free agent signings.

With that out of my system I wonder what your thoughts were on trading for a couple of these players. Pitchers like Jon Leiber, Jon Garland, Matt Clement or Mark Buehrle? Do Leiber and Buehrle have anything left? If so, they or a combination of Leiber and Garland could make a nice addition to fill the vacated spots in the rotation. Also, is the rumor about Pavano still active?

Thanks Again,
Kevin

Walton’s take: It is all about relationships. Don’t forget that just days ago, Adam Kennedy took less to sign with the Cardinals. But that doesn’t mean every player will do it.

The challenge with the pitchers you mention is that each carries their own baggage, whether it be injury (Clement), ineffectiveness (Buehrle), inconsistency (Garland) or terminal ordinary-ness (Lieber). Yet, the reality is that the Cards may need to take a few chances.

Word is that the Mariners were offered Pavano in a deal (for a power hitting first baseman – hmmm…), but the Yankees insisted the M’s would have had to assume all of Pavano’s $11+ million per year deal for 2007 and 2008. If he is healthy, that could be ok. But when was the last time Pavano could pitch? Unless Pavano checked out well medically and the Yanks would help with the cash, a trade with the Cards seems low odds.



Sammy and the Other Gonzo (12/07)

What are the chances of the Cardinals being intrested in Sammy Sosa and Juan Gonzalez for the outfield and do you think they make a good idea for the Cardinals. And since supposially Brad Penny is on the Block that make a intresting move for him to come to St. Louis to have Carpenter, Penny, Reyes,Wainwright, Wells, (Mulder ???????? whats the word on him haha).

Thanks
Harold

Walton’s take: In the immortal words of Nancy Reagan, “Just Say No!”

Brad Penny is an interesting name. He has had his share of injury and apparently has a bit of attitude, but when he is on, he is a very fine pitcher.

The Cards may decide that Mulder isn’t all that bad of an idea, after all, and try harder to get something done. That is one scenario where the idea of starting a bullpen guy might be ok – as a short-term fill-in from the start of the season until time Mulder is ready to go.



Hot Stove Talk (12/06)

First, thanks for the continued insight into the Cards potential dealings. My concern, like many others, is with the future status of the Cardinals starting rotation. What is the latest on Suppan and Weaver? Do you think the Cardinals have a chance of signing one or both? Like other pitchers on the market are they waiting for the top free agents to sign before starting serious negotiations? I know you are skeptical of the Schmidt deal. I personally would rather he sign somewhere else, like Chicago so he can tie up a bunch of money and stay hurt for two years. If the Cardinals do acquire one major pitcher from either free agency or trade, do you think they may try and fill the final rotation spot with someone out of the bullpen? I think Wainwright deserves an opportunity at the starting rotation. It is always easier to find a closer than a quality starter, and his potential may best be served in the rotation. What is your take on signing Suppan, Weaver, or a quality free agent pitcher, then filling out the rotation with Wainwright? Filling the final spot in the rotation from within the organization could also save money for the signing of another outfielder. Please advise.

Kyle W.
Franklin, KY

Walton’s take: My sources tell me that Suppan isn’t waiting for the Cardinals and the Cardinals aren’t waiting for Suppan. Sure, there was an offer, but Suppan more than likely wants to see what Zito and Schmidt get before committing anywhere. Jocketty can’t afford to wait around and all indications are that he is not.

I still think Weaver wants to stay but his agent is Scott Boras, not Brian Walton. As a result, this isn’t happening as fast as the player or the team seems to want it. I said more about this at the end of my “Wanderings” column on Monday.

I have to wonder if all this talk of making bullpen pitchers starters isn’t a perfect example of Winter Meetings smokescreen, designed to help enhance the trade value of these pitchers more than it is a serious intent, as well as making the Cardinals seem less desperate to make a trade for a starter.

Look at it this way. Would you want to go into a season with a rotation what includes three youngsters, including two who weren’t even starting the season before? (In this example - Reyes, Wainwright and Thompson) That feels like a very, very high-risk scenario to me.

One part of the concept of finding more starters from within that does make sense to me is to identify some potential fill-in starters to keep in reserve. After all, every member of the current rotation has had health problems before (Carp, Reyes and Wells) and surely could again.

In another point of support for the idea, a yet-unspoken, but viable benefit of actually finding a serviceable starter from the other members of the pen would be to potentially allow Wainwright to remain as the closer.

Don’t forget that the idea of signing a reliever (or maybe trading for one) may have a greater direct impact on Wainwright’s immediate future than signing or trading for another starter. It is clear Looper can’t close.

This week’s reports on Izzy are promising (another well-timed story?), but he hasn’t even picked up a baseball yet and should not be considered a lock by any means. No one from the Cardinals is going to publicly express any doubt or concern about Izzy, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be ready with solid alternatives if he can’t pitch come March or July or October.

In other words, my gut tells me that Wainwright in the rotation is a good “Plan B”, but it is probably not yet “Plan A”.

The good news is that Jocketty still has a lot of moving parts to figure out how to best assemble his 2007 roster, along with plenty of time to consider “Plan B” later.

Thanks for writing!



Brainwashed! (12/03)

First, I want to say that after two or three years of reading your site I think you've finally brainwashed me. I was reading your wanderings and found myself agreeing with everything you said. Second, I hope your right about Schmidt, he'd be a perfect fit for the Cubs,; expensive, overrated, and oft-injured. Too bad he wants to stay out west. Third, what is going to happen to Izzy. The message boards, and your site, all talk about Wainwright and now Dotel, but what about the $10 mil sitting in the pen? Finally, can I dream about getting Jennings and Hawpe, or should I go back to dreaming about McGwire making the Hall on his first vote? Which is more likely? (Please say, "Jennings and Hawpe coming to StL.")

Ryan
DeKalb, IL

Walton’s take: You crammed a lot into a very few amount of words, Ryan! First of all, thanks for the compliment, I think. It is great you subscribe, but you don’t have to agree. The idea here is to provide facts first, without sugar coating. When spin is offered, it is always evident as such. What conclusions you draw are up to you.

Speaking of spin, as an aside, did you notice that MLB.com’s Free Agent Tracker doesn’t include the contract terms when guys sign new deals? Talk about half the story! Use ESPN’s instead…

Anyway, yes, I think any trades have a higher likelihood of happening then Big Mac getting into the Hall in 2007. Once the sportswriters make their point this time, however, I have a hunch there will be a shift in 2008. Too bad Mac is in hiding, though. He could have chosen to help himself and others and didn’t.

I don’t have anything new to say about Izzy. He is providing optimistic reports to the team on his recovery. I think that is great. I would expect him to be optimistic. However, I am worried the meds will soon run out of effective duct tape to hold his hip together. In my book, Wainwright is the closer unless one is traded for. If Izzy makes it back, that would be gravy.

I see Schmidt sort of like Burnett last year. Overpriced considering the gamble. Schmidt has even more miles on him than A.J. and we saw how that worked out for Toronto. I am still holding out hope for some trades, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it ends up being with teams and about players we haven’t deeply considered.



Mulder and Weaver and Schmidt (12/02)

What do you think of Mulder getting arbitration and Weaver not? That isn’t what you said would happen. I think they want Suppan’s picks so they can be traded off against when they sign Schmidt.

Mike

Walton’s take: Yep, totally missed this one. Thanks for reminding me. ;-)

I still don't get why the Cards bothered with offering Mulder and why he agreed to not accept other than if perhaps he felt a bit guilty about taking so much money the past two years with so little results. Of course, the sandwich pick doesn't really hurt him at all. I suppose Jocko did it so he could say he has something left from the awful trade even if Mulder walks. At least the two sides are cooperating - sort of.

I wonder if the Cards were sending a message to Scott Boras by not offering Weaver. I think they may have been worried about getting gouged in an arbitration hearing. A quick scan of the offered/not offered list seems to indicate most of Boras’ clients were not offered – probably the way he wants it.

I still doubt Schmidt is going to sign with the Cards, despite them having money to spend. I think it is Walt's usual “Dances with Wolves” that leads nowhere. Remember some guy named Burnett last year, for example? When all was said and done, well after the fact, a senior Cardinals official told me that they were “never even close” to signing A.J. last winter. And that market was far, far less crazy than this one.

I still have the old quotes somewhere when Walt said and did similar to Schmidt back in past years when Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Mike Hampton, Greg Maddux, etc… were the top free agent pitchers. Bottom line, there is always some other team that is going to overspend more than the Cards will want to do.

Until the free agent pattern is broken, I am continuing to think trade. Walt’s track record there is clear.



The Rub on Reyes (11/30)

Hey, Brian, I was curious about what you think of Anthony Reyes' future in the big leagues. It seems that he has lost some zip on his fastball that had been getting a lot of good reports from scouts while he was in the minor leagues. I know Dave Duncan wanted him to use a two seam fastball more instead of his four seamer. Maybe that is why he has lost speed. From the little I've seen of him he doesn't seem to be the front of the rotation guy we thought he would be. Has his stuff faded or what is the problem? Besides his one hit gem against the White Sox and the World Series game 1 masterpiece he hasn't impressed me to much. Could his durability be in question next year with all his previous arm injuries?

Staff

Walton’s take: Thanks for the note! The durability question remains my biggest ongoing concern about Reyes. In the past, he had a series of relatively-minor shoulder injuries, but for the most part was fine this past season health-wise.

I don’t know for sure about his velocity, but for me, I am looking for that lost mound aggressiveness for which Reyes was known in the minors. His curve and sinker are good enough that I still think he has a long career ahead of him. Maybe not as an ace, but a solid middle of the rotation guy. And, that would still be a pretty good return!



Core Dump (11/29)

I was wondering do you see the Cardinals trading for an outfielder and if so who? And how good of a pick up is Kip Wells? Why did Eli Marrero sign a minor league deal? Whats the word on Zito and where do you think he would go? Dont you think a rotation of Carpenter Zito Mulder (the new big 3) Reyes and Wells be a good rotation? And what are the chances of Mulder resigning with us? Any word on where Ronnie Belliard and Preston Wilson are going? And do you see the Cardinals going to spring training with the group they have now as far as outfielders or do you think they will sign or trade for another person? How good would that be for Dunn to come to St. Louis?

Thanks
Harold Fox

Walton’s take: OK, here we go…

I think the Cards would most likely trade for an outfielder as part of a multi-player deal to replace Juan Encarnacion. Kip Wells is a ground-ball pitcher who may thrive under Dave Duncan. A good pick-up for $4 million. If he does well, he can move on and make more money in 2008, stepping aside to hopefully make room for some of the young arms moving up. Marrero is about three years removed from playing well. He needs to re-prove himself. Low risk deal for the Cards.

Zito will go to the Mets or another top-spending team, not the Cardinals. I peg the chance of Mulder returning at 20-25% at best. So your dream rotation is interesting, but is not going to happen. Nothing hot on Belliard or Wilson. I think the Cards will either sign or trade for another outfielder before spring training. Dunn isn’t going anywhere. Whew!



Ool Slipping Away? (11/24)

Thanks for that wonderful article on the Rule 5 draft. I was extremely curious about who was available from our end and while I see Lucena as the top prospect of that group, I see 1 player being taken.

I just have this gut feeling that someone will take a flyer on lefty workhorse Kevin Ool. He was one of the few pitchers to actually perform well in Springfield this year and in 2005 he pitched in three levels. I'm not sure of his repertoire but my monies on him moving to an organization starving for southpaw relievers.

By the way, who do you see as the best available players from other organizations that our Cards might have interest in?

Randy W.

Walton’s take: Good point on Ool, Randy. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone decides to risk $25,000 to determine if he could contribute at the back of a major league bullpen.

Given the extraordinary prices for proven major league talent, smart organizations are going to explore other avenues to acquire players, like Rule 5. In the article, I predicted fewer Rule 5 selections this year solely based on the size of the talent pool. I might have to re-think that conclusion due to the crazy free agent market.

Regarding the other players, I am in the process of polling my peers from the other Scout.com sites and hope to offer a combined story next week that shows the best of the unprotected players across MLB. It is difficult to project who might catch the Cardinals’ eye, but we can at least offer the top possibilities.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned.



Tossing Some Names Around (11/23)

Where is Tony Womack if he is a free agent could he sign with us, and what are your thoughts of the Cardinals chances of signing Shannon Stewart or Jose Guillan or Woody Williams ?

Thanks,
Harold Fox

Walton’s take: Tony Womack is toast. I wouldn't be surprised if he retires. Woody Williams will likely sign with Houston, unless Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte both come back, in which case it will get crowded down there. While Woody was a fine player for the Cards, if he was getting too old to keep two years ago, where does that put him today?

Shannon Stewart and Jose Guillen would be interesting adds, if either could only stay healthy. These two are the kind of free agents I would not be surprised to see the Cardinals sign, however. Maybe a bit undervalued because of the risk, but with upside.



Pass the Trash? (11/22)

Brian,

Can you look into the rumored Cardinals trade coming out of Detroit involving Mike Maroth, Marcus Thames, Juan Encarnacion, and Braden Looper? There's a rumor that sports talk radio in Detroit is reporting that the deal is a possibility. I'd love to find out if there's anything to it.

Kind Regards,
-Chris

Walton’s take: OK, I will look into it Chris, as yours is not the first email I received on the subject. But, I have to tell you, this sounds more like it originated from a Cardinals fan with an active imagination and a wish.

It just seems way too convenient that the team gets rid of two of its biggest problems from last off-season in one fell swoop – attitude (Encarnacion) and overpaid for results and role (Looper) while addressing one of their biggest needs – a moderately-paid innings-eating starter in Maroth, who also happens to be a lefty – at the same time.

In Maroth, think Jeff Suppan's situation three years ago, but better. He has two more seasons before free agency and is under contract for 2007 at just under $3 million. However, Thames is far from proven and at the age of 29, he will likely never be starting material.

From the Tigers' side, they already had a full outfield (not including Thames) before trading for Gary Sheffield recently. Unless they plan another deal (which is always a possibility), they have no place to play Enc. (They just re-signed Sean Casey to play first base.)

In addition, reports from the Detroit papers say they are looking for lefty relief help, which would make Looper a curious choice.

If it was real, I can see why Jocketty would be interested as he would net up about $7 million in salary flexibility next season to use elsewhere. Yet, as the old line goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.



Cody Haerther and Sean Clark (11/21)

Mr. Walton,
I am a huge fan of the St Louis Cardinals and enjoyed the win in the Series this year. I am from the Southern California area and my son, Sean Clark and Cody Haerther both came from the same High School. Both were drafted in the 2002 draft. Cody was drafted high while my son Sean was in the 45th.

Cody signed and Sean went to ASU. He played for coach Pat Murphy and had some problems with his control so coach suggested he go to one of the chosen Junior Colleges in Arizona, Chandler Gilbert. He learned so much and did really well from a great coach, Doyle Wilson and participated in a very competitive league.

He chose top go to Clemson University and just as he started fall ball after playing in the Northwoods League he blew his shoulder out. He redshirted his year with Clemson, had surgery and stated rehab. He never was ready to play that season and worked hard in the off season, yet still didn't have the control or the pop he wanted.

The Clemson Tigers were rated anywhere from #1 in the country to #5. The pitching staff was hot so it was hard to find a slot in the rotation. He threw one inning against Wake Forest and set them all down and the coaches liked what they saw.

To make a longer story short, he was given the ball to start in the ACC Championship game in Florida. He won that game allowing no runs and 3 hits against the hottest hitting team in the ACC. He performed superbly in the regional's and super's and after never starting during the regular season and with an unbelievable pitching staff, he was given the start at the 2006 College World Series. He won the game and his dream came true. He has decided to return to Clemson this next season to get a ride back to Omaha.

To get back to why I wrote to you, could you explain the rule 5 and what it means that Cody Haerther has been selected and protected by being put on the 40 man roster. He is like my second son and I am just so proud of him as I am with both boys.

Please explain Cody's situation as it stands today.

I appreciate your time and expertise in the game. I also enjoy reading your articles on this site. Keep up the good work.

From a proud father and student of the game.....

Thanks !!
Gary Clark
Los Angeles, California

Walton’s take: I can understand why you are so proud, Gary. You ask a great question. I should have explained the meaning of Rule 5 more clearly.

After a player has been in an organization for four years after signing (or five years if the player was 18), their organization is faced with a decision. They must add the player to their 40-man roster to ensure the player remains their property for at least the next three years.

If they do not protect the player in this manner, then another organization could take that player away in the December Rule 5 draft. But, the catch is that the claiming organization would have to keep that selected player at the next level up the entire next season.

So, let’s take an example for illustration purposes. John Nelson is no longer on the 40-man and the Cardinals placed him on the Memphis roster. In that case, another team could select him in the Rule 5 draft, but Nelson would have to make that team’s 25-man major league roster out of Spring Training. If not, he would have pass through waivers and if not claimed, returned to the Cardinals.

As you might expect, there are other twists and turns, but those are the basics.

Net-net, for Cody, what it means is that the Cardinals see a future for him and want to ensure he realizes that potential for them, not another club.



Finding the Right Rumors (11/20)

Is the Rumor Mill the same thing as the Hawg Wild section? If not where will I find the Hawg Wild section?

Ryan
DeKalb, IL

Walton’s take: No, they’re separate. Can’t get enough interesting news and we’re very pleased to have HawgWild writing for us.

Look at the story list on the right-center of the home page in the gray area. There are three tabs - Farm News, Team News and NL News. You will see Hawg's story listed under "Team News".

Alternatively, on the black bar that runs horizontally across the page under our logo, click on "Top Stories" and "Search". You can enter any words to pull a list of stories on any topic or by any author going back several years.

Hope that helps.



Miscellaneous Topics (11/20)

I was wondering that since Tony La Russa won the NL Title does that mean he will manage the NL All-Star team for 2007? And since Alfonso Soriano is reportally signing with the Cubs ....?...... and we supossially have money to use.........are we going to sign a big name bat or pitcher anytime soon?

Thanks,
Harold

Walton’s take: Yes, La Russa will be managing the 2007 NL All-Star squad and will likely take a number of his coaches, too. I don’t think the Cardinals will react to the Cubs signing of Soriano, nor should they. Walt Jocketty has said his priority is pitching, so expect that is where the focus will be. I expect a trade is more likely than a signing of a Barry Zito or Jason Schmidt-level free agent. As hard as it is, this is the time to be patient. It wouldn’t surprise me for this to continue for another three or four weeks.



Passing Time on Our Pastime (11/17)

Brian,

This is a favorite part of the baseball year for many of us. Though the FA salaries are unreasonably high it is still interesting to project who teams will add and subtract.

I would like to know your take on a couple of possible player movements. How likely are the Cards to deal Scott Rolen? I like Scott but would understand if they needed to deal him to maintain better team chemistry. How likely are the Cards to retain Weaver? Is the Buerhle chatter legit? Lastly, do you think the Cards will add Jose Cruz Jr. for a bench role in stead of keeping Wilson or So?

Thanks for sharing your insights and interest in this great pass time.

Kevin Fetterhoff

Walton’s take: None of us were there to see it directly, but based on my past experience observing La Russa and Rolen, the miscommunication thing between them seemed to have been blown far, far out of proportion.

Unless damaging words were spoken privately, I would be stunned, like Keith Hernandez traded-stunned, to see Rolen shipped out just based on what is known publicly. By the way, people also forget that Rolen has a full no-trade clause that would have to be bought out.

I have seen nothing to change my view that Rolen is not a problem in terms of team chemistry. I sense his comments are based on his desire to play every day and win, not because of selfishness.

Did he make a mistake not fessing up to his injury status? Probably. Did La Russa err in not talking with Rolen directly? Not necessarily. Like many of us, these guys can say things in the heat of the moment they regret later. La Russa decided a cooling off period was in order.

In the past, I have been among those reporting that some players feel this organization does not communicate enough, but that is usually in the context of contracts and money, not roles on the team. All in all, I think La Russa does a pretty good job trying to keep 25 guys happy and motivated.

On to Weaver. Yes, I continue to think the Cardinals have a decent chance of getting him back. Other organizations have to still be somewhat wary based on his problems in Anaheim. Plus, Walt Jocketty and Weaver’s agent Scott Boras actually have a good working relationship.

That doesn’t mean that Jocko will overpay, but at least the agent may not be as big of an inhibitor as he could be. Who knows, maybe Boras will push a package deal with another of his clients. If I was him, I would. (Of course, if I was him, I wouldn’t be here, would I?)

Buehrle would be a good buy-(sort of)-low candidate and his affection for the Cardinals is well-documented. Couple that with the White Sox’ interest in moving a starter or two and the logic holds together. But, Sox GM Kenny Williams is no slouch, either. He knows all about Buehrle and likely has a lot of other irons in the fire, too.

So, do I think there were discussions? Yes, I do. How far they went is unclear. A lot would also depend on whether the Cardinals have what the Sox want.

I have no feeling for the interest level in Jose Cruz. I have heard a few different outfield names based on GM Meeting scuttlebutt, which I will be posting in an insider story later today or tonight…

Kevin, thanks for writing. This is a very interesting time of the year!



Spring Travel Plans (11/16)

Brian, when does camp begin? I have been down before games started and after they began and found the camp is more interesting before games actually start. Also, any "early bird" tips for hotel rooms or other bargains that you might be aware of? I have found it getting to be more and more expensive! Thanks.

Greg Siegelman
Die hard Cardinal fan since 1966 and still in heaven from 2006!

Walton’s take: The Cardinals have not released camp dates yet, but I am pretty sure everything will get underway the week of February 19-23 in terms of reporting, first workouts, etc.

While I am also making my travel arrangements today, I don’t have any standard answers. A lot depends on whether you want to be near the ballpark or on the beach, want to spend a little or a lot, stay a short while or a longer period, etc.

As you point out, spending a lot is much easier to do! Good luck in your trip planning!



Hot Stove, Cool Rumors (11/14)

Brian,

Because of my World Series hang-over, I have no idea who the Cards are interested, or even what they want. Normally, I have a few names to look for, usually Jocketty goes another direction, but at least I think I know what they want. Obviously, Mulder, Suppan, and Weaver are names to look for, but, from what I hear, if the bidding gets too high the Cardinals will look somewhere else. But I really don't know who is available the organization would want, or who they are likely to let go. If you've heard anything, let us know because living outside of the StL area (in the Chicago area) we don't hear or read much about the Birds.

Thanks
Ryan
DeKalb, IL

Walton’s take: First of all, Ryan, you are coming into this with the right mindset. No one really knows.

Think back to a year ago. None of us had any idea that key 2006 contributors like Aaron Miles, Juan Encarnacion, Braden Looper, Josh Hancock, etc. would end up being Cardinals, let alone the guys who came on board during the season such as Jeff Weaver, Preston Wilson and Ron Belliard. And, what about the flameouts like Junior Spivey, Larry Bigbie and Sidney Ponson?

Not a single one of these players had yet appeared on our radar screen last November.

In a nutshell, the Cards probably need three starting pitchers, an outfielder and a second baseman plus several reserves.

I think it is fair to assume that the Cards will continue to sign value picks, meaning good deals for the money, but lower-profile guys. (Think a Randy Wolf or Tomo Ohka, guys coming off injuries, for example.) That means adding an Alfonso Soriano-type of an impact player as a free agent is highly unlikely. That doesn’t mean trades cannot and will not be made, though.

Read down this page and you’ll get a feel for what I think about some of the Cardinals’ current free agents. I also posted a subscriber story a couple of weeks ago with my detailed predictions as to who may stay and who may leave and why - ”Breaking Down the Cards’ Free Agent Picture”.

Finally, I encourage you to head over to our Message Board and join in on the discussion on the thread entitled "Official Hot Stove Trade/Rumor/Signing post". One thing for sure; there is no shortage of ideas across the Cardinal Nation!



Jose Away? (11/11)

How come there are teams that ask and interview third base coach Jose Oquendo but yet no team will hire him as their manager? It looks like he will be the Cards new manager when La Russa is retired then. But hey I’m glad he is back for us !

Thanks
Harold Fox

Walton’s take: As far as I know, the Padres were the first team that asked to interview Oquendo. You have to start somewhere.

Regarding who might replace La Russa, certainly Oquendo would be a primary candidate, but I wouldn't consider it a lock. The general manager will make the recommendation and ownership will approve. Many things can change between now and whenever that may be.



Drew Doings (11/10)

Since we traded J.D Drew it seems like he hasn't been happy. What are chances of him coming back to St. Louis? Or maybe go to the D-Backs where his brother plays? But I think it be good to have Edmonds Drew and Juan in the outfield, dont ya think. And is there still talk about trading Juan Encarnacion ?

Thanks
Harold Fox

Walton’s take: How can you tell when Drew is happy? I don’t think I have ever seen that. Anyone who has read “Three Nights in August” should know what Drew’s chances of returning under Tony La Russa are. And, I don’t feel badly about that at all. Drew has great physical talents, but I wouldn’t want him on my team, either. The Cards can do better for $12 million or whatever the yearly cost would be to sign Drew.

I think the Cards are in a bit of a tough way with Encarnacion. I would normally think he may have burned his bridges by his actions at the end of the World Series and would be traded. The problem is that there isn’t much that could be had to replace him at $5 million next season.



Hot Stove Thoughts (11/08)

what are your thoughts on the hot stove? who gets the japanese pitcher? i have a feeling that teams like the mets will be more interested in making a moderate offer to Mulder than a bloated offer to his A's teammate Zito. i think Zito's dropping K ratio has some people concerned. what do you think?

lawrence r

Walton’s take: If the Yanks want Matsuzaka, they will get him. When the Cards were mentioned in conjunction with the hurler, I just laughed. No way would their offer be competitive.

I don’t really have a feel about how strong the Zito-Rick Peterson (Mets pitching coach) relationship is, but if I think of it, I will ask a buddy who frequents the A’s clubhouse. It is kinda interesting that the other two of the Big Three have not come close to equaling their Oakland success, isn't it?

I have heard some unsubstantiated talk that Mulder may not be ready until sometime during the 2007 season, increasing his risk. I think former Phillie Randy Wolf will be recipient of a nice second-place lefty contract and would not be surprised in the least if the Cards make a run at him if they can't ink Mulder.



Doyne Gone (Really) (11/07)

I read in Matt Leach’s Mailbag that Cory Doyne was put on the Memphis roster and might get an invite to spring training. But, I read here a few weeks ago that the Cards released him. What is really going on?

Pat Wolff

Walton’s take: You got the straight scoop here, Pat. However, Doyne was not released. He offically became a six-year minor league free agent on October 15th. We noted that possibility in a story on September 28.

Doyne might get a 2007 Spring Training invitation, but if he does, it won’t be with the Cardinals. You see, he has already signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles for 2007, so Doyne is very much gone. Guess I will have to remind Matthew to check out our site more often.

Leach’s Mailbag (Doyne reference third answer from the bottom)

Doyne signs with Baltimore (scroll down to “New to the Nest” entry)



Fantasy Time (11/07)

Brian,

This time of year, it's easy to fantasize about free agency and which players may wear the Cardinals jersey next year, but how about those players which may make it unnecessary to pursue free agents? I'm pretty sure a high, on-base-percentage type player for LF who would bat second in the lineup will have to come via free agency, but do you think Haerther, Stavinoha or Marti are close enough to make the major league roster next season? Their numbers appear to suggest another season in the minors, but stranger things have happened. I suppose another round of Ankiel suspicion is in order as well? I realize Duncan and Gall are also options, but the defense they are capable of still has me concerned. Additionally, assuming Rincon comes back (includes ability with being available), is Johnson (I'll just assume Flores stays regardless) sent back down or does TLR keep 3 lefties? Are there any other organizational moves which may contribute to the roster? It's easier to reign in expectations from free agency with a sense of how promotions may have influence.

Thank you for your continual insight!
Scott Tomsu
Omaha, NE

Walton’s take: Yes, it is again that time.

Gall is gone, and I think we know Duncan’s limitations all too well. Frankly, I don’t think any of the Cardinals outfield prospects are ready to make an impact in 2007. Funny you should mention Ankiel, who has been slow to recover from his knee surgery. I have been working on my Top 40 prospects list and was trying to decide just last night whether to list him as a sentimental #40 or leave him off entirely.

If we were to ask La Russa about his lefties, he might add Chris Narveson to the mix, but would also say, “These things have a way of working themselves out.” As recently as 2005 (Flores, King, Pulsipher), the Cardinals broke camp with three lefties in the pen. So, it is not inconceivable that it could happen again.

To be honest, I don’t see much from the farm system with a legitimate shot of making the 2007 roster other than Narveson and Skip Schumaker, perhaps. I do think Josh Kinney has cemented his spot, and that is something in itself.



In Search of Big Bucks (10/23)

Hi Brian
Do you think the Cards will sign Suppan, Weaver and Mulder? What do you think it will cost to sign each of them? Also, do you think Cards have a shot at signing Soriano?

Thanks
Romania Al

Walton’s take: See the note below regarding who I think will be signed. The market this off-season hasn’t been established yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it took in the $6-7 million per year range to get these guys.

No, I don’t believe the Cardinals will be serious players in the Soriano sweepstakes. He will simply cost too much for them.



Looking Ahead (10/20)

Brian....I enjoy reading your articles. In your opinion, what Cardinal free agents will return to the Cardinals for 07?

Thanks,
Will Carter

Walton’s take: Well, one thing for sure, the price to keep Jeff Suppan just went up. I think the Cardinals would be well-served to try to keep him plus Jeff Weaver and make sure they get one of them. Jason Marquis is as good as gone. Mark Mulder will only be back if he takes a bargain-basement deal with incentives, like Matt Morris signed two years ago.

I think Gary Bennett, Jose Vizcaino and So Taguchi will be gone. Scott Spiezio, Ron Belliard and Preston Wilson would be on my attempt-to-keep list. But, it all gets down to money.

This may get adjusted a bit one the player ratings for the season get announced in a couple of weeks, since that may affect whether the Cards offer arbitration and what compensation they could receive in return.

Check back in a couple of weeks and I will publish a story with more details on what I think will happen. Thanks for reading!



Do Not Report (10/17)

Reading your article about minor league free agents got me to thinking. I saw on Fox Sports Cardinals page that Michel Hernandez, Brian Falkenborg and Carmen Cali were called up from the minors but did not report. What does that mean, anyway, and are the two connected somehow?

Lou White

Walton’s take: Great question. It is just a technicality that has nothing to do with free agency or arbitration. Every player on option must be recalled on or before October 1. That even includes players who are not actually being placed on the Active List. The terminology used "Called Up from Minors" is misleading. It would more accurately be called "Player Recalled - Not to Report."

Assuming each remains on the 40-man and has an option year remaining, the recalled players could get optioned back out next season if they don’t make the big club.

Specifically, Cali will have one option remaining in 2007, but Hernandez is done. So, like Rick Ankiel, Chris Narveson and a few others, Hernandez would have to clear waivers before being sent down next spring.



Cubs (Ancient) History Lesson (10/17)

For being one of baseball's "biggest losers", it's a wonder that the Cubs have the 6th best all-time winning percentage in MLB history (4th in the NL), have never been under .500 as a franchise, have been at least 500 games over .500 since 1906, will soon become only the second team in history to win 10,000 games, and have won 16 pennants and two world titles, isn't it? Yeah, I know - not since 1945 and 1908. But still...

KatieCubFan

Walton’s take: Thanks for the note, Katie. I hope you understand those particular words came directly from the original ESPN story (though I don't dispute them!). All in good fun!



Lugo and DeJaynes Questions (10/13)

Hi Brian

As a close follower of our minor league system. (Editors note: Jeff Luhnow has really done a tremendous job of turning it around with his drafting etc.) I am very surprised by the release of Henderson Lugo. His performance in the organization certainly did not warrant his departure. Is this a case of a poor attitude? Otherwise it really makes no sense. Also, a couple years ago we had a fire-baller named Brandon DeJaynes in the system that was released after hurting his arm in the off-season (I think). What exactly happened to him and why did we dump him in such a hurry?

Randy Wile
Life-long Cards fan

Walton’s take: Looking at the stat sheet only, I agree with you on Lugo. I don’t have a lot of specifics on his situation, but a reputable poster on our Message Board who regularly sees the Johnson City club in action wasn’t surprised by the release. (In fact “JCInfo” is our reigning “Poster of the Week”).

Here is what JCInfo said: “Can't really say that I am that surprised... He was just too inconsistent and he was actually helped quite a bit by his defense (unlike other JC pitchers) in several of his appearances.”

In the case of DeJaynes, there were rumors of off-field problems. At least here is what our Jason Scott unearthed a year ago April (see link).

“A lot of people were surprised to see when the Cardinals released right-handed pitcher Brandon DeJaynes at the beginning of spring training. They wondered why the Cardinals would release someone that was only 24 and had struck out 106 batters in 71 innings the previous season, but I have received a report from someone who was down in Jupiter during spring training saying that the word from there was that DeJaynes tore his labrum playing ping-pong. He also said that DeJaynes was “in trouble quite a few times with the law and his coaches over the last two seasons at Johnson City and especially in Peoria.””

Early last season, DeJaynes came on our Message Board and discussed his situation with some of our readers, but unfortunately, those messages have aged off the system. I recall his unhappiness with how the situation was handled.

At any rate, after recuperating during the 2005 season, DeJaynes signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization this January, but didn’t make it out of Spring Training before being cut. He then signed with North Shore of the CanAm League in April only to be released in May. I lost his trail at that point.

Thanks for reading our website and writing!



What About Moylan? (09/29)

Among the names in Thursday's free agent list is left-handed hitting catcher Dan Moylan.

I don't know why this 27-year-old backup minor league catcher is so fascinating to me, but I assume it has something to do with one particular statistic ... on-base percentage.

Moylan has proven he can put up amazing numbers in this category, in back-up duty, at the Class AA level. He's done it several years. In fact, when he first did it he was still young enough to be considered a "prospect." However, he's never been able to get major playing time at AA or manage more than a cup of coffee at AAA.

The bad part about following the careers of Cardinals minor leaguers through boxscores is not being able to see them in person. I assume his lack of chances has to do with defense, or injuries, or something personal.

Any ideas?

Jon Seals

Walton’s take: Jon, you must have read my mind. While the discussion on our message board has been primarily focused on pitchers Troy Cate and Andy Cavazos, Moylan’s numbers caught my eye (no pun intended), albeit put up in very limited 2006 action.

What stood out to me on the downside is the fact that Moylan amassed more than 215 at-bats only once in his seven years in the system. I recall he had a hand injury earlier this season that caused him to miss two months, for example.

That plus a bad 2005 may indicate why he slowed down the last couple of seasons. Moylan had always hit well for average prior to 2005, when he batted just .208. And, of course, then his OPS suffered badly despite all the walks. In fact, according to our stats, his .588 mark was fourth-lowest in the entire system last season.

Moylan does have a great batting eye, having now walked 263 times against 1358 career at-bats over seven seasons. But, at this point, he is getting long in the tooth, as you noted.

I asked our Minor League Co-Editor Leonda Markee to comment on Moylan, though she currently on the DL herself. Her reply was succinct. “Fairly typical of the type of catchers the Cardinals prefer - good defense, capable handler of pitching staffs, can't hit much. Don't really have a good feel for how his arm is.”



One Texan’s Take on Rosenthal (09/27)

Brian,
I just want to say congratulations and thank you for pointing out Rosenthal's mistakes. I have thought for several years he is the most overrated sports writer in America. He frequently distorts opinions into facts and sites unnamed or irrelevant sources in doing so.

His frequent method is saying "A source with knowledge of the situation said..." What he doesn't say is if the source is a current player, former player, bat boy, or fan. Regardless, he takes that persons opinion, and makes it a "fact" for his readers.

I am a Texas Rangers fan and follow my team closely. He has recently reported that Rangers owner Tom Hicks made unsavory comments about All-Star MVP Michael Young. His article reads "Hicks said Young is "not a captain of the clubhouse kind of guy," presumably referring to Young's reluctance to wave pom-poms from his position at shortstop." He created the impression that Hicks was knocking Youngs leadership capabilities.

But he failed to report that Hicks entire sentence was "Michael is not a captain of the clubhouse kind of guy, he is more of a quite lead-by-example kind of guy."

If that is not distorting facts and creating new "facts" then I don't know what is. Thank you for standing up to this "reporter" for all of us,

Jim O'Connor
www.texasicehockey.com

Walton’s take: I am not on a vendetta against Rosenthal, nor am I a mouthpiece for ownership. But, I do have to speak up when people, especially ones who get a lot of coverage, misrepresent the facts. Rosenthal happened to be the one who repeated this particular example one too many times for me.

Making ones living reporting rumors is a tough vocation to choose. One can’t divulge sources if you want to keep them very long and no matter what, you’re bound to end up being wrong some percentage of the time.

Thanks for writing and here’s hoping your Rangers improve in 2007.



Tip of the Cap Right Back (09/26)

Hi Mr. Walton,

I just wanted to thank you for your gracious "A Tip of the Cap..." article on the Astros. It was refreshing to read an article praising a rival without going over the top (as you rightly say, St. Louis is still in the driver's seat). While this season has been so frustrating due to the fact that a mere 83-85 wins would likely be enough to win the division, I'm still grateful for having something to cheer for heading into the final week of the season.

Regardless of whether the Cardinals win the division or collapse down the stretch, the real tip of the cap goes to your team for leading the division with six/seven games to play despite serious injuries to Edmonds, and Isringhausen this season. The Astros only have months of poor play to blame for their mediocre season but the Cardinals can legitimately point to injury woes.

Despite having arguably the third or fourth best-run franchise in the NL in Houston, I still look up at your Cardinals with envy. I think your organization is just that much more stable from owner to GM to manager, and I suspect that your average payroll over the last five or six years has been lower than ours.

Hoping the Cards' magic number remains at five,
Aditya Banerjee

Walton’s take: Aditya, I agree with your points. Thank you for reading and commenting.



Mutual Respect from Texas (09/25)

Brian -

I agree, commend, and thank you for the very fair and accurate article you wrote this morning about the mettle of the Houston Astros and the evenness of their competitive relationship with the St. Louis Cardinals. I think it's one of the best, most mutually respectful rivalries in baseball. In fact, I can't even think of another like it. The competitive balance and respect between the players of each club for each other has no parallel. Perhaps you can think of one, but I can't. Even that umpiring safe call on Biggio avoiding the slap tag by Belliard produced no Cardinal acrimony toward anyone but the official who made the call. The Astros, of course, got to experience relief that it was a call that decided the game on the run that scored and the homer that followed.

Another irony here is that one of our TBHOF board members was a member of the last NL club to pull out a miracle pennant win in the waning days of the season. Former Cardinal outfielder Carl Warwick remembers 1964 very well and how Gene Mauch simply wore his pitching staff to death on short rest starts. In fact, the '64 Cardinals are the poster club for all the Astros fans still hoping for a miracle. I guess you will have to include me in that hoping for the improbable finish too, of course, even though the logical part of me agrees with you that the four game sweep of the Cardinals by the Astros over this long past weekend was simply a delay in the 5-game magic # countdown for St. Louis in the NLC. - Of course, the magic # for the Astros is now down to 12. From this point on Monday morning, any (ahem! ) combination of 7 Astro wins and 5 Cardinal losses will deliver the NLC champion spot in the playoffs to the Astros.

In probable reality, the Cardinals will take care of business at home while Houston continues, as they have all year, to struggle on the road. The Cardinal injury problems are going to be really hard to overcome in the playoffs, I think. Those same injuries that played a major role in their road slump this time out are going to go with them into the series with San Diego and also whatever follows. Tony is going to have to find at least two guys who aren't named Carpenter to start effectively for him and he's also going to have to hope that each starter can go deeper into the game. The Astros also won late each of 4 times this weekend because the Cardinal relievers are all named "Sieve." With Izzy out, the Cardinals' relief corps this year may as well adopt the slogan of these all-night Walgreen drug stores. You know the ones I'm talking about, the ones with the signs that read, "We Never Close?"

Kind-intentioned kidding aside, the Cardinals' pitching holes, not to mention the losses of Edmonds and Eckstein to injury, are tough obstacles to overcome. Regardless of their chances, the Cardinals remain as my 2nd favorite club in baseball and they will have my support in the playoffs should the Astros not find their miracle.

If the Cardinals get there, would you guys like to borrow Oswalt, Clemens, and Berkman - plus any other Astro - for the duration of the playoffs? Too bad we can't help each other out., at times. I can sure think of a few Cardinals (particularly one) that I wished the Astros could've borrowed for play against the White Sox last year in the World Series. Since it was our first and only World Series adventure, it would been nice had the Astros been able to come away as the Cards did back in 1926 - with a win in dramatic fashion over the dreaded Yankees.

Have a nice day, Brian. Forgive me for going on for so dadgum long, but your article really came over very well. It helped me get started on this little runaway missive.

Regards,
Bill McCurdy
President, Texas Baseball Hall of Fame
www.tbhof.org/

Walton’s take: Thanks for the note, Bill! I encourage Cardinals fans who visit Houston to take the time to visit the Hall. The past links between that area and the Cardinals organization are numerous, indeed.



Astros Daily Checking In

Just a quick note to let you know I enjoyed your piece over at TheBirdhouse.com about this past weekend's series. Being an Astros fan since their inception in 1962, I naturally enjoyed the sweep even though it's most likely a case of too little, too late for the Astros.

I tend to agree with you, and that puts me in the minority of Houston fans at present, that Angel Hernandez could've easily called Craig Biggio out for leaving the baseline in last night's game. The fact the Astros got a favorable call from Hernandez might be even more rare than having two straight games (Fri-Sat) end on Houston walkoff hits, as I suggested in my AstrosDaily.com piece.

Your article was a nice, positive piece on what has become a truly great rivalry between the two clubs. Look forward to reading more.

Regards,
Willie B Lakey
www.AstrosDaily.com

Walton’s take: Willie, thanks for the link back and the note. Considering Hernandez’ numerous problems, every bad call means there is a winner and a loser. I don’t know this for sure, but based on his reputation across the game, he very well may be an equal opportunity bad umpire. To give him yet another post-season assignment would be a travesty, but I expect it here in 2006.

Here’s hoping your Astros keep coming in second every year! By my count, 2006 would make it five straight for you’all. ;-)



NASA Alert Still in Place (09/25)

I just read your article on www.stlouiscardinals.scout.com, as it was linked from www.astrosdaily.com. Excellent take on the Cards/Astros seasons.

Not many here in Houston expect the 'Stros to win the division this year, but we consider it our duty to make the Cards work for it! Good luck with the Mets, should you meet them in post-season. I'd enjoy seeing the Cards knock them out of the playoffs.

There was a joke going around Houston last year after one of NASA's shuttle launch delays... If NASA is having trouble getting the shuttle in orbit, they should just let Brad Lidge throw it at Albert Pujols!

BTW, I grew up in the KC area and remember vividly the '85 Series. Y'all got robbed in Game 6 that year, but I'll deny I ever said it!

John Stukes

Walton’s take: Thanks for writing, John. Maybe the Astros can solve two problems in one by sending Lidge the Cardinals’ way. That way, he’d never have to face Pujols again with the game on the line. Plus, with Jason Isringhausen’s future in doubt, a new closer whipping boy is needed in these parts and I am not sure Braden Looper is up for it. After his 2006, Lidge certainly qualifies.



Make-Up Game – What to Do? (09/18)

Brian,

As I understand it, if the Cards finish 1/2 game behind the West division champs, the team has the option to make up the rainout vs. San Francisco and try to earn home-field advantage (the Cards own the tiebreaker vs. LA and could earn it vs. SD). Which raises an interesting question. Do you think it's better to play the game and try to win home field -- and make up for the lost gate receipts resulting from the rainout; or would it be better to take the day off, let the guys rest and start the DCS on the road? Pros and cons each way. What would you do, and more importantly, what do you think the owners would do?

Jeff Scott

Walton’s take: That is an easy decision for me and I think for the team, too. The Cards end the season at home. They would get to play the make-up game at home. And, if they win that game, they start the NLDS at home and have home field advantage. What is not to like about that? Less travel and disruption plus potentially more games at Busch.

I honestly don’t think gate receipts are a real consideration as whether or not to play. But, in this scenario, they receive that benefit, too.



Defensive Report (09/17)

Hey, Brian.

I was curious about Chris Duncans' defense and if he would be looked at more of as a right fielder or a left fielder. I know when he came up he said he felt more comfortable in right because he was naturely a first baseman. Does he have the arm strength, range, and glove to play right or is he better suited for left?

I was also wondering how Soriano has done with the change from second base to left field. I looked at how many errors and assists he has but that doesn't completely tell the whole story. How is his arm strength, range, and glove?

How is Mike Rose as a defensive catcher? Does he have good arm strength and blocking abilities?

How is Skip Schumaker defense? How is his arm strength, range, and glove?

Has So Taguchi's defense slipped a little this year or is it just me?

Ankiel is supposed to be better by spring training I think. If so do you think he will make the team as a left handed power hitter if he comes back to where he was last spring training? I have heard he is supposed to be pretty good defensively is this true; how is his arm strength, range, and glove?

Staff

Walton’s take: Duncan seems to have plenty of arm, but his breaks and routes have been spotty. With work, he can improve. I am told the organization will ask him to play winter ball again, but longer than the two weeks or so he played in Mexico last winter. It will be interesting to see where he plays then, but at least for now it looks as if left will be his home.

Mike Rose made his minor league name with his switch-hitting bat. Now 30, he surely is no longer a prospect and I doubt he has enough game to be Molina’s back-up next year. The informal word I picked up is that Michel Hernandez was passed up because of concerns over his defense, so Rose may have simply been the default third catcher September call-up.

Schumaker is considered an excellent defender in all aspects and is able to play all three outfield positions. The only question about him is his bat, which are the same things we said about So Taguchi three years ago. I expect Schumaker to make the 2007 Cardinals.

But, I also expect that So Taguchi will not be back. I recently asked La Russa about So’s eroding defense this year. He was very, very careful in his answer as he said that So is extremely sensitive and already makes it very hard on himself when any mistake or misfortune occurs. Simply put, I think the guy is playing like he is 37 years of age. Everyone gets old, even Japanese.

Ankiel worked hard in spring training with Dave McKay and others on his reads in the outfield. However, he is still unproven there. In fact, Ankiel’s contract situation is such that it is not assured that he will return. And even if he does, making the major league squad after so little experience and missing so much time would be the longest of long shots, in my estimation.

Finally, I have only seen Soriano on television this season because I canceled my Washington trip to see the Cards due to heavy rain and flood warnings that did not materialize. However, I have a friend in D.C. who sees the Nats regularly and writes Washington’s section of The Sporting News/STATS, Inc’s Scouting Notebook.

Without further ado, I bring you today’s guest commentator, Trace Wood of ”The Long Gandhi” with observations on Soriano’s outfield defense:

“It's been a process for Soriano. It's also an example of how flawed the scoring system is. For the first month and a half all but two of his misjudgements were labeled base hits because he wouldn't be close to making a play on the ball after his misread. As his perceptions in left improved he got closer to making plays, thus generating more error chances.

“Overall, I would say he has excellent range and a decent arm, above average for a left fielder. His reads and paths to the ball still need a lot of work, but there has been considerable improvement so he could end up as a pretty good outfielder if he focuses on doing that. He's a really bright guy and under the right instructor I don't think we've seen how good he can be in any aspect of the game.

“I suspect the high assist total is due to teams looking more at his error totals instead of scouting his actual play, and based on that trying to take liberties on the bases.“



Off-season Signings (09/14)

hi, you think the Cardinals could sign Zito this off season and sign Soriano or if not both who do you think the Cardinals would be better off signing and do you think the Cardinals will re-sign Mulder to a one year deal like Morris did in 05? And you would think if we signed Mulder, Zito would like to come and play with Mulder again that be interesting, dont you think? And also to have Carpenter and Zito and Mulder as a 1-2-3 guys would be amazing . Just would like your thoughts!

Thanks
Harold Fox

Walton’s take: Given the number of holes they will have to fill in the rotation and with position players, I doubt there will be enough money to sign two front-line free agents. After the flirtation with A.J. Burnett last winter, you might wonder if they will be able to get even one.

I don’t honestly know how good of friends Mulder and Zito are, but I really doubt it would affect where either player signs. Soriano is an offensive force, but I don’t think the Cardinals can afford another Rolen-like contract. Even that, eight years, $90 million, probably won’t be enough to get him.

Once Mulder’s health problems surfaced, I have consistently believed that his best chance of returning was if he had to go the surgery route, which he did. But, even if he comes back to the Cardinals, there is no guarantee that the old Mulder will ever resurface.

Matt Morris is the trendy player to compare Mulder with, since Matt had shoulder surgery before free agency and returned to the Cardinals for one year on an incentive-laden contract. But, Morris hasn’t come close to his previous dominance, winning 22 games again, like he did in 2001.

In fact, since his surgery, Morris has become a lesser pitcher than the under-appreciated Jeff Suppan. The last two seasons, Morris is 24-23 with a 4.40 ERA while Suppan is 27-17 with a 3.90 ERA. An afterthought a year ago, Suppan has become an important player to re-sign, in my opinion.

Back to your point; signing big free agents is just not the way this franchise operates. Think of the last big free agent signing by the Cardinals – one where early draft picks had to be surrendered. My recollection is that was almost five years ago - Izzy and Tino back in the 2001-2002 off-season.

Instead, Jocketty’s M.O. has been to restock via the trade augmented by mid-level free agent signings. The question now is which bullets he would fire to make trade. Trying to guess his acquisition targets is a fool’s errand. The failed Mulder deal has made many fans rightfully nervous, but Walt made plenty of good trades before that one and probably has a few more left in him.

No matter what, it will be a very interesting off-season for the Cardinals.



Izzy Insurance? (09/11)

If Izzie is not able to play again, what happens with the remainder of his contract? Are the Cards on the hook, or do they have insurance for these type of things? Thanks

RomaniaAL

Walton’s take: Because such policies are expensive, the Cardinals make individual decisions as to whether to insure none, some or all of a player’s contract. Given Izzy’s injury history, I can only hope they covered themselves when they signed him to his original four-year deal or his later extension.

I already knew what the official answer would be, but I asked a team official anyway right after I learned the news. Just received the reply today. The answer was as I expected. "Sorry for the delay, but as far as insurance we do not comment on those issues."



Honked Willy Honks Walton (09/07)

Hello Brian:

I can not believe your answer to Ryan.

Are you telling me that you are not down on Izzy ? Your only concern is his contract ?

How do you feel when this guy blows one save after another ? He is probably a nice man, but his pitching days as a closer are over.

The catcher is as responsible as the pitcher ? I believe that the Cards have a bunch of bad pitchers. How come Carpenter pitches well, and now Suppan is winning ? If your assertion is correct; do you credit the catcher for these pitchers as well ?

A pitcher has the option of changing the called pitch depending on how he feels about his command or location, Izzy is just trying to pitch fastballs past batters that are catching up with them because he has lost his velocity and the rest of his pitches are not falling in for strikes.

Please, stop offering lame excuses for this team.

Regards,
Willy Cortinas

Walton’s take: Willy, you are cherry-picking comments here. The whole gist of my pair of articles last week was that the Cards should have gotten rid of Izzy.

I suggest you go back and read the articles which spawned the letter you quoted. Here is the link to the first part, which was free: ”Izzy or Isn’t He Worth the Cash – Part One”.

The second part of the article is for subscribers only. ”Izzy or Isn’t He Worth the Cash – Part Two”. In it, among other things, I note that I first said Izzy should have been traded almost three years ago and still think so today. I also identify other closer options the team has foolishly chosen not to take.

So, how about you don’t lecture me on making lame excuses and I won’t lecture you on sending uninformed and inflammatory emails, ok?



A Vexing Question (09/04)

The Yankees have been vexed for a few weeks by a moose's groin (Mussina).

The Giants have been vexed all year by a horse's ass (Bonds).

Precisely what part of that goat has been giving the Cubs so much trouble for lo these 98 years?

Food for thought.
Nathaniel Skinner

Walton’s take: That’s easy – their heart!



Defending Izzy (a bit) (08/29)

I will only defend Isringhausen to a small degree. As you, and many readers, know, predicting from one season to the next who will be a good reliever and who will stink is almost impossible. Barowski, Lidge, Guardado, and Dempster are all closers who have been very good in the past and have followed up their best years with lousy years. (You could even look close to home and see non-closers effective then plain lousy: Klein, King, Taveras) That is why Isringhausen, Rivera, and Wagner are, in a way, worth the money. I know, as of late, Isringhausen has been borderline terrible. But, over his career with the Cardinals, Isringhausen has been at least reliable from one year to the next. I agree he's overpaid for what he brings to the game; he's shaky; and he's getting old; but the decision to lock him up long-term was a good one because most others carry too much risk.

Ryan
DeKalb, IL

(I don't know what the pitcher and catcher were thinking when they went inside with a breaking-ball to Beltran. And that wasn't a missed location, the ball was thrown to the catcher's mit, it was just an awful pitch selection. For the record, when I saw where the catcher was set up I said to my wife, "Home run game, game over." She said, "How'd you do that? You jinxed them." I said, no I knew from where he was set up and how good Beltran is when he's hot that he would crush it. I just didn't imagine when I said that that it would go 5,000 feet)

Walton’s take: Ryan, I am not down on Izzy as much as I believe his contract is not good for the Cardinals. I think there is still a chance to rectify that. It could mean a less-effective closer, but it also could mean a more-improved team in other areas.

On the P.S., one has to wonder if the catchers shouldn’t share more in the accountability for the performance of the staff this season. Thanks for writing.



A Little Closer Perspective Here (08/29)

Brian,
Though I like the gist of the column, it's lacking some perspective I think.

#1. Rookies and non-arbitration eligible vs. arb-eligible, vs. full free agency. This status heavily affects the cost of acquiring/retaining the talent.
#2. Is the "Bang Index" calculated by tallying saves and finding its ratio to salary? We all know the number of saves is only a partial picture.
#3. Note the inconsistency on this list. Lots of turnover prompts me to recall the wide variance in relievers' numbers, year to year. Couple that with salary issues noted in #1, and that can drive a guy off the list.

2006                   2005                       2004 
1 Bobby Jenks           Derrick Turnbow        Joe Nathan 
2 Jonathan Papelbon  Chad Cordero            Brad Lidge 
3 Joe Borowski          Francisco Rodriguez   Jorge Julio 
4 Chris Ray               Brian Fuentes            Shingo Takatsu 
5 Huston Street         Brad Lidge                Francisco Cordero
#4. The exponential cost of incremental improvement. As has been discussed on the boards, the first 60 or seventy wins are easy to come by. The next 10, 20, 30 or more each seem to cost more than the previous. Having a good closer with a good return on investment (ROI) is great. But if he's making minimum salary and saves 10 games (good value), that is less valuable than a guy who saves three times as many games, though he cost ten times as much.

Greg Wallace
Decatur, IL

Walton’s take: Thanks for the note, Greg. I’ll try to open my aperture a bit! But seriously, do realize this is a quick and dirty exercise intended to set up a point I will be making about trading Izzy in Part Two. To your four items:

1. Agreed.
2. As I tried to make clear in the story, the Index was calculated based on Rolaids points, which include wins, losses, saves, tough saves and blown saves.
3. It isn’t turnover as much as it is low salary guys, which is essentially the same point you make in #1. And, if you are comfortable with an expensive closer, you won’t be as inclined to look for lower-cost alternatives.
4. The point not mentioned is that there is a finite amount of money to spend on a team. If you tie up a lot on a closer, you have less to use elsewhere. The big rub in considering a change with Izzy was with whom to replace him to get those tough saves. As you’ll see in Part Two, there is now both an in-house option and one the Cardinals reportedly decided not to trade for.

The bottom line here is that Izzy is being paid at the going rate for an elite closer, but his results are not commensurate. Once you buy that, then the rest should follow.



When is Help Coming? (08/17)

Brian,

Hope all is well! Cards question.

Has the MLB parity belt been adjusted that the Cards cannot even make a respectable/quality lateral deals to appear interested in winning the division?

Why no deal to address the potential loss of Edmonds? Example - Shawn Green to right field if AZ would pick up a bulk of the package. Juan E. could move to center for the rest of this season. Not totally ideal but a solid effort. There is no way to expect Soriano but Green or a near type?

When the Reds, Red Sox, Mets and others continue to move some players through the wire to cut deals it makes absolutely no sense for the Cards to not make a modest Lankford for Williams type of move at least for the sake of PR. This is crazy!!

If you have a moment I would like to know your thoughts.

Thanks,
Kevin Fetterhoff

Walton’s take: Thanks for the note, Kevin. I agree with you 100%.

In fact, just last night, I posted a story about that very requirement, mentioning Green, as well as Jose Cruz and Preston Wilson, among others. See ”What if Edmonds Joins Koskie and Matheny?”.

Especially if Edmonds is going to miss any significant time, Jocketty needs to make a trade. In fact, with the team teetering on the edge of losing their long hold on first place, they could use a shot of adrenaline, anyway.

I just wish Green wasn’t such a robot, though he should fit right in…



Cotton Watcher (08/11)

Mr. Walton,

Enjoyed your article on Brandon Dickson- and you filled in some holes in my knowledge (I saw Dickson play for New Market this summer, and was surprised to see a Brandon Dickson in Johnson City’s boxscore).

One more piece I don’t understand- was Dickson eligible to sign because of his age? He just finished his junior year- did that make him eligible?

Thank you for your time,

John Leonard

Walton’s take: Yes, that is correct. Juniors can sign. Glad you liked the article. We had the news first right here!



Edmonds and Rasmus (08/10)

Jim Edmonds recently expressed frustration that his $10 million option for 2007 has not been picked up. He has also stated that he will need surgery on his right shoulder immediately following this season. Do you have any information about what kind of surgery this is and if he will be ready for spring training?

I completely understand why the Cardinals are taking a wait and see approach with a 36 year-old player with shoulder problems. If this shoulder injury is not serious then it would seem to me like the Cardinals should be able to reach an agreement with Edmonds for about 2 years and $16 Million. Do you think this discontent will prevent the Cardinals from getting a home town discount on Edmonds if we were to decline his option and offer him a two year deal?

Do you believe that Colby Rasmus could be ready to take over CF in the 2009 season?

Thanks,
Don Ford

Walton’s take: Don, thanks for the note.

In April, when he had a cortisone shot in his throwing shoulder, Edmonds said that he would have to play all season in pain. It has been reported the injury is a partial rotator cuff tear, along with bone spurs and a joint irregularity.

While that sounds really bad, as I understand it, he had a similar successful procedure on his left shoulder a few years back. I would think that if all goes well, Edmonds would be ready to go next March.

Reminding us of the nature of his injury now may be Edmonds’ way of explaining his subpar statistics this season. It also might be positioning on his part to help justify why the team should exercise his option despite the poor numbers, while fostering optimism that he will be as good as new in 2007 (advancing age notwithstanding).

I have been around Edmonds enough to know first-hand that he has been carping about his contract for literally months and months. Often, those comments are in the “poor me” vein, where he states how he wants to remain a Cardinal, but has to be prepared if they don’t want him back.

For me at least, the current story provided no new news other than the specifics of his surgery plans. And, I don’t think it changes anything in terms of his negotiating with the team. It seems that Jocketty doesn’t want to talk contract during the season and that is clearly his prerogative.

The idea of Edmonds settling for less than $10 million next season in return for a longer-term contract is not a new idea. For example, I drew parallels between Chipper Jones and Edmonds way back in January. ”Edmonds: The Unthinkable or the Chipper?.

At that time, I noted that before his contract ran out, Jones signed a longer-term deal for less money and that Edmonds’ camp had approached the Cardinals with a similar proposal, only to learn that they were apparently not ready to talk.

I closed that January article with the same words I would use today. “Given that unfinished business for 2006, my instincts tell me that despite the bluster and backroom intrigue, Edmonds will play this coming season under his current terms and his future will not be addressed until this fall.”

Looking toward the more distant future, Rasmus certainly has highest potential from among the centerfield candidates within the system. And, before it is all over, he will quite likely pass the two on the 40-man roster today (Skip Schumaker and Reid Gorecki). But, 2009 is a long, long time from now…



Optimism Attempt Fails? (08/07)

Brian,

Was reading the recent article by Chris Gift, "The Five Hole", and admit there is merit to what he writes. However much we may agree about the importance of making the playoffs, there is still another element which disappoints me as a fan. Regular season attention.

Correctly noted, some of the recent postseason winners barely made the playoffs. Is this what a team strives for or is it a way to feel optimistic when a season has not gone as well as hoped? It's early August (timing is a big point I want to make) would be my response and fans should not lose their demands for better performance during the regular season all in the name of, "we'll make the post season and anyone can win it all - if they get hot". Assuming the Cardinals do pull off a George Mason type performance, fans will revel for months with nothing else grabbing their attention, but to expect fans to continue their fanaticism (where the term "fan" came from) during an underachieving year in hopes of getting hot in the post season is unreasonable.

I'm sure there are responses to this indicating PECOTA or Baseball Prospectus projected the Cardinals to be right on with what their pace currently is. It's irrelevant when you take away the numbers and start looking at reality of what's experienced. Long losing streaks and getting swept by rival clubs is not tamed by talk of how we don't need a 100 win season to have a chance to win it all. I believe many followers are interested in quality performances by the team and front office throughout the year and not in how "lucky" we could get after we hit the post season by default.

Scott Tomsu
Omaha, NE

Walton’s take: Interesting perspective, Scott. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer, only theories.

My personal concern is that the “Play a hard nine” for 162 games may take too much out of a veteran team. I just hope the Cardinals make the playoffs and are well-rested and loose if/when that occurs. A lot may depend on whether or not they can amass enough of a lead to give the big guns a day or two off here and there.

Winning 100 games the past two seasons wasn’t necessarily the recipe for post season success, but I fear neither are rapid swings in series results. The wild inconsistency demonstrated by all the sweeps worry me as much as anything. See the recent article ”Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Sweep”.

When all is said and done, this Cardinals team may just not be as talented as the 100-game winners of the recent past, like it or not. But, history has proven that probably means little come October.

Thanks for writing.



Carp and Friends (08/05)

What do you hear about Carpenter's injury? What are the odds that Cards will let Weaver go after picking up his hefty contract? In my mind Wainright and Sosa, can be more effective starters than Weaver and Marquis? What is your opinion?

Romania Al

Walton’s take: Word on Saturday is that Carpenter is better and should not miss a start. I don’t think the Cards will drop Weaver, but they might be forced to put him in the bullpen. Marquis is here and will be in the rotation for the rest of the season. Then, he may leave as a free agent.

I view Wainwright and Sosa differently as major league starters. Sosa has had both success and failure in the role, while Wainwright is still unproven. Folks tend to forget that Wainwright’s Triple-A results were not all that dominating.

Still, I predict that Wainwright will be the first to get a chance at joining the rotation, but Sosa could also be given a shot at the #5 spot next spring. The difference is that when he makes the move, Wainwright will be given a greater chance to succeed. I suspect if Sosa gets a shot, his leash will be shorter. Still, my hope is that Sosa becomes a very valuable Al Reyes-type replacement for Wainwright next season.



Dreaming of Andruw (08/04)

Some team placed a waiver claim on Andruw Jones. Supposedly, the Braves have until 1 p.m. EST Saturday to pull Jones back, give up Jones for nothing, or make a trade with this particular team.

I'm praying this team is the Cardinals ... and they have enough yardsale money leftover to take on his salary.

I'd love to find out which team was awarded the claim. Teams in the National League would get first dibs over anyone in the American League. The Cardinals, based on record, would be near the bottom of the NL list. If he goes to anyone in the American League, it means the Cardinals didn't place a claim.

This is a longshot, but it's 4 o'clock on a Friday.

See ya,
Jon Seals

Walton’s take: You’ve got it in proper perspective, Jon. Nothing wrong with dreaming…



Engine 42 (08/04)

Hi Brian,

Interesting article on Sutter today.

However, in assessing Sutter's worthiness, while he's obviously not one of the ten greatest Cardinals ever, he *is* the greatest Cardinal *reliever* either - apologies to Todd Worrell, Jason Isringhausen, Lee Smith, and Al Hrabosky. If you look at it that way, then his worthiness is somewhat enhanced.

I suspect, however, that one of the reasons for all this is because management is trying to formalize the notion that a player has to be in the HOF before he gets his number retired, which is of course the primary argument being used against retiring McGee's #51. Remember, we're setting things up for the eventual retirement of McGwire's #25, even though he too only played four-plus seasons for us, after his election to the Hall of Fame (which is going to happen, despite ESPN's efforts to derail him).

You make a good point, though, about the fan-recognition factor. Most fans nowadays believe baseball didn't even start until McGwire/Sosa in 1998, although a few old-timers might go back to Ripken's breaking the Gehrig record in 1995. 1982 is ancient history to most fans, and very few of us remember Sunny Jim, the Fordham Flash, Muscles, and Pop.

FWIW, I agree with you that Frisch and Medwick ought to have their numbers retired. Not so sure about Bottomley and Haines, who are generally considered "marginal" Hall of Famers anyway. But also FWIW, I still think some non-HOF Cardinals as Curt Flood, Ted Simmons, and Whitey Herzog ought to be honored as well.

But the line has to be drawn somewhere, and clearly management is using the Hall of Fame as that line.

Take care,
Jerry Modene
Las Vegas, Nevada

Walton’s take: Thanks for the note, Jerry. As I said, I am fine with the Hall being drawn as the line. But, with 38 Cardinals players in the Hall, we don’t want 38 players’ images plastered across the outfield walls, either. (On second thought, if it means less cheesy advertising, maybe we do…)

Wouldn’t it be great to debate about Frisch and Medwick with someone who is in a position of authority that cares? Instead, the hottest issue of the day is whether to retire the number of McGee, who simply wasn’t the player than either of them were.

The team’s possible positioning for McGwire is a very an interesting point and something that I was considering writing about next. While his number of years in the uniform may be comparable to Sutter, his impact on the game was far greater. Of course, as you note, there are more complications with the McGwire story than just the numbers.



A Cubs Spin on Retired Numbers (08/04)

Brian,

Great read as usual. For what it's worth, I read your piece on McGee's number being retired and came out in agreement with you. Nothing against Willie Mac, I saw him in a Cardinal uniform for years as many did. From all that I've read, he conducted himself very well both on and off the field all through the years. I would liken his tenure with the Cards somewhat similar to Phil Cavaretta's with the Cubs. Cavaretta was instramental in those Cub teams of the 30s and 40s and like McGee, he made an all-star team every so often. Interestingly enough, if you go to Baseball Reference's site and look up McGee, you'll find Cavaretta's name on the list of players most "similar" to Willie.

The Hall of Fame/Player Number retirement debate is always a good one for two franchises that are as storied as the Cubs and Cardinals. You may have read this week that the Cubs invited Mark Grace to sing the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley when the D'backs were in town. While I am a harsh, well known opponent of the celebrity guest conductors and have been since the end of the '98 season, it is interesting to note the timing of this. Grace and Andy MacPhail had fueded for years since his departure post-2000 and Grace did not begin to say anything positive about his former team until our playoff run in 2003. The following year, he still took a few shots at MacPhail when asked if he would be interested in Steve Stone's old post. ("Maybe if they paid me $10 million a year," I believe were his exact words.)

I bring this up for two reasons: One being that with the uncertainty surrounding Dusty Baker, there's always a shot that the man in Stone's old seat now (Bob Brenly) would be a perceivable frontrunner for the Cubs' managerial position at the end of the year. No doubt, being in Chicago will get you a lot more recognition than Arizona, or so I would think -- especially the WGN factor and everything. The second part is, the Cubs showed that they're willing to sort of "forgive and forget" about a longstanding popular player's controversial exit following his career. Enter Sammy Sosa, who like Grace I believe will take at least 6 years before he is welcomed back with open arms at Wrigley.

Should Sosa's number be retired? That's a tough one, especially if we are forced to start talking about astericks on career numbers and general bad attitudes toward teammates and the organization. Taking it a step further, should Sosa go into the HOF, astericks or not? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Steve Holley
InsideTheIvy.com

Walton’s take: Steve, thanks for the compliment. Yes, in fact, I had included the McGee similarity list (with Cavaretta on it) in the first McGee story.

Regarding Sosa, I think we'll get a preview next winter when McGwire is first eligible for the Hall. How McGwire goes should be a decent preview of what could happen with Sosa later. I predict Mac will eventually get in, though certainly not right away due to the steroids backlash and the fact that two perceived "clean" guys, Ripken and Gwynn, are locks to be voted in next year. Maybe by the time Sosa is eligible, some of the furor will have died down. There aren't enough asterisks to go around for an entire era of the game.

Readers: Make sure you check out Steve’s website, Inside the Ivy, which is our Scout.com companion site for the Cubs. Even if you aren’t a Cubs fan (and you'd better not be!), there are plenty of great articles to read there. And if you’re a subscriber to our site, you can read all their premium articles, too. With two more Cubs-Cards series this month, there will be plenty more to talk about.



More on Numbers (08/04)

Brian,

Just some quick observations about the "Hall of Fame Nine."

• Durocher's number (2) already is retired for Red.
• Grimes' number (20) already is retired for Lou.
• Retiring 4 could take care of both Bottomley and Hornsby. Jim wore 5 one season (we're pretty sure that will be retired someday); Hornsby briefly wore 6 (which obviously is Stan's number). Neither guy wore 4 very long (they played mostly sans number), but they did wear it.
• Alexander never wore a numbered uni.
• Hafey probably had a number in 1924, but it's unknown at this point. That's the only year he would have worn a number.
• Frisch and Carlton would be easy -- 3 and 32. Medwick also would be easy (7), though he did wear 28, 21 and 12 at other times for the Cards. Haines probably would be 16, though he also wore 31, 49 and 18.

In the end, you could retire all nine numbers and only take five current numbers out of circulation -- 3, 4, 7, 16 and 32. Right now, 3 is not being used and could be retired for Frisch before anyone else grabs it. The others are in use but in no danger of being retired to honor the current wearers -- Molina, Belliard, Duncan and Hancock. They could be retired as those players move on.

If this happened, numbers 1-7 would be unavailable (assuming Pujols' 5 ultimately is retired). The numbers 8 and 0 would be the only available single-digits. You'd also be without 14, 16, 17, 20, 25 (McGwire?), 32, 42, 45, 85.

As for 51... I don't see it, no matter how you cut it. I think the Sutter thing is just a move of convenience since 42 already is out of circulation. Others certainly are more deserving.

Jeff Scott
www.birdbats.com

Walton’s take: Jeff, thanks for doing the interesting research on the numbers. I agree with your conclusions.

While I made a snide comment about soon having a whole team of Taguchis (number 99) down the road, I tried to make it very clear that my real concern isn’t about retiring of the numbers themselves, but instead about which of the former players are deserving of the recognition.

Readers: Be sure to check out Jeff’s website, BirdBats.com. He has a nifty search engine that allows you to query which numbers were worn by which Cardinals players when. It would make a great page to bookmark.



Willy Goes Off (08/03)

Hello Brian:

It is me again. And once more, I am here to tell you about our inept management which is made of a combined group of "inepts", as I have baptized them.

I am really sorry if I hurt your feelings Brian, but the Cardinals are not even worth turning the TV on to watch them play. These are the saddest bunch of unfortunate players I have seen since 1980 before Whitey took over.

Can this management team please do something with the revenue that they are getting from the "fans" or rather "visitors to Disneyworld" that are filling the new stadium every night ?

Can they please make one trade, one move, get a pitcher, an outfielder, a second baseman; someone, please ! That will make a difference ?

You will of course either disagree (with the promise that next year everything will pan out) and will say that I am mad, or that I am really frustrated, or that I drank my Kool Aid, or whatever your comment will be, I accept it. What I can not accept, or understand, is what this management team is doing to the present, and the future of the Cardinal organization.

If pitching is the key to winning for any baseball organization, and Suppan and Marquis are the best two pitchers in this staff, then the Cardinals are in real trouble. If the Cardinals management had any offers for these two pitchers by the July 31 deadline and did not move them, then they have really lost their minds. The most probable thing is that they did not get any offers. I'd rather give them the benefit of the doubt for not having any offers than to say that they are absolutely out of touch with reality.

I hope that I am wrong, and I hope that the Cards win the Division, but I certainly have my doubts, not only about this year, but the following ones.

By the way, the bullpen SUCKS !

Regards,
Willy Cortinas

Walton’s take: I hope you feel better now that you got that off your chest, Willy! There are plenty of others doing the same thing on our Message Board.

By the way, you didn’t hurt my feelings. I report about the team, I don’t own it. But, I bet we both wish I did!



Probing Waiver Loopholes (08/02)

Dear Mr. Walton:

I read your article Don’t Sweat the July 31st Trade “Deadline” the other day and last night when I heard the Red Sox disabled their starting catcher a question occurred to me. Does the July 31st trade deadline also apply to minor league teams? I'd assume, but do not know, that it does because if not there is an interesting loophole. In the Red Sox situation, for example, the Red Sox could obtain Einar Diaz, a veteran catcher, in the Tribe's minor league organization. An even more interesting example would be for a team to send down a player, such as Kelly Shoppach, who still has minor league options and then trade him to a Red Sox minor league team.

Warm regards,
Jen Blanchard

Walton’s take: Jen, thanks for the note, but please stop with the “Mr. Walton” part. Makes me feel so old.

To your question, yes, minor leaguers can be traded. In fact, most of the time those are the players on the other side of an August deal when a name-brand major leaguer moves. For example, Larry Walker for Chris Narveson, Jason Burch and Luis Martinez in August 2004.

However, Shoppach is on the Indians’ 40-man roster and would remain there even if optioned out. That doesn’t mean that the Tribe might not try to pass him through revocable waivers and who knows, he might not get claimed. But to your point, I think his presence on the 40-man now precludes him from being able to be traded unless he clears waivers.

Furthermore, Cleveland would not risk removing Shoppach from the 40-man, because that would mean he becomes exposed to irrevocable waivers and would surely be lost.

On the other hand, Diaz is not on the Indians’ 40-man, so I do think the Sox could trade for him. To use him in the majors (on the 25-man) assumes first they either have space on their 40-man or they would have to designate someone for assignment to make room.

If Jason Varitek is really only going to be out four to six weeks, the Sox would not put him in the 60-day disabled list to open up a spot. And by my quick scan, the Sox’ current 40-man is full, including ‘Tek and three others on the 15-day DL.

When all is said and done, after watching him as a 2005 Cardinal, I would find it difficult to consider Einar Diaz a difference-maker in a playoff drive. So, I don’t see much of a loophole here at all.

If you are interested in more information on the subject, I ran a four-part series in February called ”Options and Outrighting”. The first installment, linked to above, is free to all and the final three are subscriber-only. You can find all four via the black “Top Stories” bar near the top center of any of our web pages.

Thanks for the note and for joining our Message Board community!



Waiver Wired? (08/02)

Do you know what players will be waived that the Cardinals might be intrested in getting ?

Harold Fox

Walton’s take: No, not yet. Teams are starting to put players onto waivers now, but can only process seven per day. The names are not announced, but some will start to leak out by next week or so.

I did see that the Padres released Eric Young yesterday. He has some speed and can play second and the outfield. In other words, he is a prototypical La Russa player! Whether the 39-year-old could be a difference-maker is another question entirely.



Done Dealing? (07/31)

Do you think the Cardinals are done dealing and tradeing since the trade deadline is over? Who would you like the Cardinals to try and sign and I think we should get Shawn Green what ya think on that. And could we still sign Soiano or is that out of the question?

Thanks
Harold Fox

Walton’s take: No, I don’t think the Cards are done. Check back in a month to see how things went.

Funny you should mention Green. I am watching the Cubs-Diamondbacks game on TV and Green just hit an opposite-field home run off Mark Prior. I would have no problem with him as a Cardinal if the D’backs assumed the majority of his salary. Otherwise, pass.

Yes, I think Soriano is out of the question and I always have. Thanks for the note.



Unlocking the Mysteries (07/30)

Brian,
This Cardinal team is a mystery to me. They have been so consistent in the past couple of years and now this? I can't see WJ doing much at the trade deadline becuase he does not know what he has.

The pitching staff seems to need the most attention. Carp is fine; Suppan is in a nice groove (hope it lasts); Reyes is a typical rookie that should get better. Marquis - it depends on the day. He has nice talent, but you just don't know what you are going to get. Weaver is a short term fix that has a 50 / 50 chance of panning out. Mulder should be back before long, but you really can't count on him for the balance of the season.

Our bullpen is just so so. Looper, Izzy, and Wainright are solid. Hancock is serviceable, but Tyler Johnson and Flores are just not getting it done. I don't know if Kinney is going to make it either. What is up with Brad Thompson? Is he going to come back to STL as a starter? Is Cromier the answer for a left specialist?

Regarding position players, Belliard is probably a bit of an upgrade over Luna but for an additional $3 mm? Isn't he a free agent at the end of the year? What does that get us? The 2nd base position is the one postion that I thought we needed to upgrade, but not for a free agent to be that does not seem to be a big upgrade over Luna.

I think the Duncan will be a solid LF for them. If you look at his stats over the last 30 days and project double his games and at bats to simulate a full time stats, he would be in the top 20 for RBIs and HR for outfielders.

The national league does not seem strong so we can get back to the series, but I don't see us getting it done.

What are your thoughts?

Mike in Indy

Walton’s take: Sorry for the delay in responding, but deadline day is a busy one. As you made many points, I will cherry-pick the ones I want to answer, starting at the end.

Belliard won’t cost the Cards anywhere near $3 million this season. If he leaves for 2007, they get draft picks and if he stays, they get a decent player. I do not agree he is close to the same as Luna. Check back with me when Luna makes the All-Star team and hits 17 home runs and drives in 78 runs in a season while playing above-average defense. In the meantime, Luna is in the exact same as he was three years ago – unproven.

Cubs broadcaster and former Arizona manager Bob Brenly just said this on TV about the trade. “I don’t think the fans of the Cardinals are dancing in the streets, but I do think that Belliard is going to make them a better team.” I agree with him.

There is no doubt Duncan has had a nice stretch of offense. But, I believe those who are experts at drawing correlations would point to his minor league record as an indicator of his long-term results, instead of a few hot weeks of play. Not to imply Duncan is another Bo Hart flash in the pan, but consider that as a most extreme example of my point.

While I would like to see the Cards strengthen their pen from the left side (and they still can), I cooled on Cormier when I learned that he wanted a 2007 deal for $2.25 million as a condition of approving the trade.

He turns 40 next spring and if I was GM, I would not give a multi-year deal to a 40-year old reliever. Let him come in, prove himself and if he does a good job the rest of the way, I’d talk 2007 after the season. That could be why Cormier isn’t a Cardinal today.



Trading Marquis? (07/28)

do you think the Cards could trade Marquis and perhaps Larry Bigbie and John Rodriguez for a Nr. 2 pitcher. I realize Marquis is in his last year, but with his 12 wins, there may be some interest for him? Also, what are your thoughts about Tyler Johnson? In my book, we could use another left hander in bullpen. Also, what do you hear about Al Reyes. Any chance he could come back this year?

Thanks,
Alex

Walton’s take: No, I don’t think that trade is viable. Quantity does not equal quality. Other teams know just as well as we do that Marquis’ 12 wins are hollow. I think Tyler Johnson may not be fully ready. But, remember that Ricardo Rincon was supposed to be here, not Tyler. I expect left-handed relief to be addressed via trade. After having elbow surgery and not being retained by the Cardinals over the winter, Al Reyes signed with Tampa Bay. I don’t think he is coming back this season, though.



ANGRY ABOUT LUNA (07/28)

BRIAN,

LUNA IS NEVER IN POSITION TO TAKE THE THROW FROM DAVID ON BALLS HIT UP THE MIDDLE TO TURN THE DOUBLE PLAY. HE FAILED TO COVER THE BAG TODAY ON THE PLAY THAT SCOTT HAD TO GO TO ALBERT WITH THAT WAS MISSED BY THE UMPIRE .HE ADDS SOME POP ON OFFENCE, BUT HE COST YOU MORE RUNS THAN HE CAN EVER KNOCK IN . IT IS NOT ABOUT HOW MANY ERRORS HE MAKES, BUT HOW MANY ROUTINE PLAYS THAT ARE NOT MADE BECAUSE HE CAN"TO SEEM TO BE IN POSITION TO MAKE THEM.

ED FLEMING

Walton’s take: Wow! You ARE upset, aren’t you? I haven’t seen the post-game interviews yet to know whether Luna was out of position, reacted too slowly or was simply positioned so far away that he couldn’t get to the bag in time. If it is the first two, he is accountable. If it is the latter, then he’s not.

While Luna’s actions were part of a pivotal play, Rolen still had time to get the runner at first with an accurate throw.

As you note, Luna is likely playing more because he is a better hitter than Miles. But, remember that neither one of them was projected to be the starting second baseman this season. There was probably a good reason for that.

Nobody has talked much recently about second base as being a trade target for Walt Jocketty, but who knows? Thanks for writing.



What’s Happening? (07/28)

Hey Brian,

So I take from reading your article that you think July 31 is going to come and go without Jock making a move of any kind? To me WJ is one of the best in the business and if I were given a chance to be in his shoes, I would absolutely RUIN a team with my “incredible baseball operations” knowledge but one would think that he would try to make a big play before D-Day. I guess my question in all this banter is………do you think he has something cooking and if so, (obviously and educated guess) but who do you think are the likely targets.

I appreciate your informative articles, and if you need an apprentice, let me know!!!

Have a great day!

Adam Davison
San Francisco

Walton’s take: Thanks for the note, Adam. The job is long hours and the pay, well, you couldn’t afford to continue to live in the Bay Area, that’s for sure! Anyway, on to business.

To answer your question, I don’t know if a Cardinal trade will occur before the deadline – major or minor. And, I doubt that even Walt Jocketty himself knows for sure at this point. I am told he has a list which he is working, but especially given the Wild Card, I would not be surprised if the suspense continues until sometime in August.

I was just trying to remind folks not to freak out if that happens.

Think about the three trades I mentioned in the story or the Mulder trade or whatever recent Cardinals trade you’d like. How often did we have any idea about them ahead of time? Most all the time, we end up being surprised by what Walt does.

In my book, there isn’t much reason to get all worked up over trades that won’t happen or expend too much energy to try to guess ones that will.



Amaury Admiration (07/27)

What is your take on Amaury Marti? Do you think he will get a September call-up? How old is he really? I hear anything from 28 to 32. Where in the outfield does he normally play? How good is he defensively(arm strength and fielding range)? Is he just a power hitter or can he control the bat pretty good? Is he fast enough to steal 20+ bases?

Thank you for your help. I look forward to reading your reply.

God Bless,
Stephen Kraeuter

Walton’s take: As luck would have it, just today on our Message Board, reader BW23 provided an eyewitness report on Marti. “Marti is impressive at the plate. Incredible bat speed. One thing that stood out is that he doesn't use batting gloves. Only guy I can think of like that is Vlad. Swings about as hard as Vlad, too. His three hits were about as hard hit as any could be. His HR was an absolute bomb. He hit it to left-center, and it was a good 50 feet over the fence. He has a definite confidence at the plate, as if he expects to get a hit every time up. And he just about does.”

link to Message Board

Marti is not known for his speed. In almost 2000 at-bats in Cuba, he stole just 12 bases and was caught 15 times. He averaged .299 across seven seasons there, so can do more than just hit the ball hard, though.

But, I truly believe Marti is 31 years old, born September 2, 1974. I can’t imagine why multiple Cuban sites would provide an inaccurate age, despite the Cardinals’ seemingly-naïve trust of the date on his driver’s license being 1978.

Marti has been splitting time between the outfield and designated hitter at Springfield. I have seen reports that he does not seem to move at full speed defensively, but he will have to prove he can handle the glove, too, if he has any hope of playing for the big Cardinals. No, I do not think he will get a call-up this season, but he is an interesting player.



On Bryan Anderson (07/23)

How good is Bryan Anderson (Low A) defensively? Does he block the ball well, throw out runners, and have good leadership abilities? Where do you see him being in the future? Do you think he will ever take the spot of Molina since he can hit and run instead of waddle. It would help to have a left handed bat behind the plate that can produce a little.

God Bless,
Stephen Kraeuter

Walton’s take: Great question, Stephen. With all the attention on Anderson’s hitting, the rest of his game is also worthy of some analysis. To that end, I asked our Minor League Co-Editor Leonda Markee her opinion, as she has greater familiarity with Anderson’s play than I. Here is her reply.

“Bryan Anderson is certainly getting noticed. As of now his chief asset remains his bat as reports on his defense are a bit mixed. He is on a learning curve, as a catcher, particularly on blocking balls. Eye-witness reports say he has a strong arm. The thing to remember is that Anderson is the youngest player on the Quad Cities' roster. He will not turn 20 until December. He has time to work on his defense.”



Who Told Who? (07/22)

If Bernie is the source for the rumor that causes Colby's agent to call him, then why would Colby only have two names (Reyes and himself), and not 3 names (add Duncan). Bernies story had 3 names.

Colby's Dad was clear that Colby's agent only mentioned two names. Hard to believe the Bernie is the source of the agent's info, on that basis.

best,
Frank

Walton’s take: Could be. While Bernie heard the rumor, others certainly could have, also. Since his original story, there have been various versions of the trade making the rounds, including one that fingers Stuart Pomeranz as the fourth Cardinals player.

In fact, as you know, what Mr. Rasmus said was “three or four other Cardinals players” in addition to Colby were involved and “Reyes and Colby were the only 2 players Colby was told about”. So, in this version there could be as many as five Cards players in the deal.

I am not doubting Bernie or Mr. Rasmus. Bottom line, I just think the odds of any of it happening look to be very low. Thanks for writing.



Got Rumors? (07/21)

Hey Brian lots of rumors flying around out there do you have any leads on anything that is actually true?

Jamie Phillips

Walton’s take: Thanks for the note, Jamie. But, I want to make one point up front. I am not suggesting that the Willis rumor is untrue. I am just questioning its likelihood of actually happening.

In fact, this afternoon, I heard from two different sources that the Cards have asked about Willis (and Cabrera, too), but no one I have corresponded with seems optimistic at all about either of them changing addresses to here or anywhere else.

No sense getting all worked up over a trade that doesn’t look like it has any chance of seeing the light of day.

I am told that Jocketty has a priority list of deals and will work them in order until either done or undone, but at this point, I don’t know the names of the targeted players enough to even speculate. Will try to share more as I learn it, but rumor reporting is an almost impossible job for anyone to do well.



MLBTradeRumors.com on Willis (07/21)

I don't think your depiction of my Willis post is accurate.

To say a thread is started by Hawg Wild is not to say the rumor is started by him. The point is that this originated with Colby's father, and I think that's clear.

What's more, Miklasz's column is not implied to be a reaction to Hawg's rumor. Most folks are able to determine that since Miklasz's column came first, his column was not written as a reaction to a future message board posting.

There's nothing backward here. This may be a convoluted chain of events though. All we know is that Bernie wrote a column on the same day Colby's dad reported the phone call. I don't say or imply anything otherwise.

Tim Dierkes
MLBTradeRumors.com

Walton’s take: Tim, thank you for the note and for reading our site. With your agreement, I am posting your email without debate here in our Reader Mail area. That way, readers can form their own opinions.

On to other related topics. Proving the rumor has legs if nothing else, blogger lboros at Viva El Birdos says the deal “ain't no idle rumor; jock is indeed deep into negotiations for dontrelle willis. it's a fact… i'm saying that was the state of the negotiations as of late last evening.”

No idea where all that came from, but despite being challenged with the shift key on his keyboard and flagrant use of a double negative, what he is suggesting is “fact” is very clear.

VEB also added Stuart Pomeranz to the deal, though he does not identify his source. I had not seen that name mentioned anywhere else. Putting aside the fact that Stu is currently on the disabled list, his inclusion would only add to the imbalance of the rumored trade, IMHO. FWIW, VEB likes the deal and offered a very thorough analysis of it.

That is really nice except for one fact. We seem to be again ignoring the key point here. No one has provided any inkling that the Marlins are seriously considering the Cardinals overtures or those from anyone else, for that matter. In fact, evidence to the contrary from outside the Cardinal Nation continues to mount.

Add Mets GM Omar Minaya to the many who have been told that Willis is not available. Friday’s NY Post.

Same with ESPN’s Jayson Stark, as recently as this (Friday) morning. Stark chat session.

For those who don’t have an ESPN Insider subscription, here are Stark's words verbatim: “Repeat after me: Dontrelle Willis is NOT getting traded. OK, now repeat after me again: Dontrelle Willis is NOT getting traded. Good. You're now on the road to a better and more fulfilling life. Any time spent talking about trades for Dontrelle is wasted time. Period. Not available.”

I exchanged emails with Stark late Friday afternoon, who said he was told by the Marlins a very strong, “No chance”. But, that doesn’t mean that Marlins’ GM Larry Beinfest hasn’t listened. After all, he would be foolish not to.

Stark talks with more GMs and people in the know around the game than anyone likely reading this. Until I see something credible to the contrary, I am remaining firmly in the camp that this rumored trade is not going to happen.

Could it have been offered? Sure. And that is all Bernie Miklasz said, who I believe is the original source of all this. Hundreds, probably thousands of trades are in the same situation every year. Are the two sides really “deep” into negotiations? Gotta’ pass on that one at least for now.

Late addendum. The Cardinals have dropped Reyes from his scheduled Saturday start. I don’t have an official reason yet, but it could be added to the evidence in favor of some kind of a trade or it could just be rotation tinkering by La Russa and Duncan.



How About Rodrigo Lopez? (07/19)

The Baltimore Sun says the Orioles have had a scout following the Cardinals and they speculate that pitcher Rodrigo Lopez may be who the Cardinals are interested in. What do you think about that?

Mike

Walton’s take: Ugh! Thanks for the tip. This isn't the first time I have heard that name, though I have tried to ignore it until now.

Rodrigo Lopez has a record a lot like Jeff Weaver’s - 6-10 record and a 6.44 ERA and a high-water mark of 14 wins in a season before regressing. That is despite the fact Lopez has been working with pitching guru Leo Mazzone this season. I wonder how many projects Dave Duncan can handle at once? Lately, his magic has been considerably less powerful.

I can only imagine the Cards would consider adding Lopez so they can trade one or two of the current starters and drop him into the rotation instead. Hard to see Lopez as a difference-maker, but he is probably relatively interchangeable with Suppan or Marquis at the back-end of the rotation.

Lopez makes just under $4M this season and has one more year of arbitration-eligibility before becoming a free agent. So, he could be part of the proposed solution for the 2007 rotation.

Who are the Orioles scouts looking at? Maybe John Rodriguez, but more likely Chris Duncan would be my guess.

More interesting to me is who they would get in return for the departing pitchers – to hopefully fix the front-line problems, not just tinker with the fourth and fifth starters.



Trade Ideas (07/14)

Brian,

Hope all is well.

Cards thought - If Williams is set on dealing for bullpen help why not deal Looper for Vazquez & $? The Cards could bump Reyes to the pen for long relief. Wainwright could assume the set up duties left by Looper. Or, they could make a deal such as Marquis to the Phils for Dellucci and Rhodes.

Just a thought,
Kevin Fetterhoff

Walton’s take: ‘Tis the season for trade ideas, which are seemingly infinite. Feel free to join in the discussion on our Message Board, where the suggestions and “rumors” are flying hot and heavy.



Cali a Starter? (07/13)

Ray

As I was reading the Springfield Cardinals report, I noticed for the second time Carmen Cali is starting the game for them. Did I miss something regarding Carmen’s move to Springfield? Are they toying with making him a starter or are they just getting some innings under his belt?

Thanks,

Paul

Mileur's take: Paul, I talked with Cardinals Manager, Tony La Russa before the game tonight. He said that they just wanted to get some extra work in with Carmen and extend him some extra innings.

I find it interesting that he even knew what Cali was doing at Double-A. That may be a sign that Cali may return to St. Louis before the September call up.

La Russa agreed with me when I said it appears Cali could still play a role on this team down the stretch this season.

Oh, by the way, it won't be as a starter.

Thanks for the question.



Inepts? (07/10)

Hello Brian:

I hope that you are doing well and in the process of lighting as many candles as you can possibly find to ask the Saints for a speedy Cardinal recovery from the LaRussa ailment.

I, for my part, am lighting the candles to the Wizard of Oz for him to give Jocketty a heart, so that he can feel what the Cardinals fans are feeling.

I am completely baffled by the Ponson release.

How can this team release Ponson compared to the stats of pitchers Suppan, Looper, Weaver and Mulder, when he was costing the team a mere 1 million a year ?

Something bigger than pitching must have been happening, or took place. Otherwise this proves once again, that this team is being managed by a bunch of inepts.

Regards,
Willy Cortinas

Walton’s take: There are often factors involved with any organization that are not evident to those who are not there every day. Ponson did not mesh with the team all that well. That much I could see with my own eyes and other writers confirmed. There were murmurs of a poor work ethic and an unwillingness to follow Dave Duncan’s program. Whether that is true, I am not 100% sure, but it seems consistent with what I witnessed.

Still, I was surprised to see Ponson designated for assignment, which lowers his value in my opinion. But, that does not mean he has been released yet. The Cardinals had ten days to try to work out a trade for him before releasing him, assuming he would decline reporting to the minors.

Whether another team wants Ponson bad enough to make a trade, like the Angels did with the Cardinals for Jeff Weaver, remains to be seen. Other teams may wait until Ponson becomes a free agent before making a move.

While the Cards apparently will have to eat some money here, they did get a partial season of results for a low price. I suspect they moved Ponson to improve the make-up of the team.

I think few if anyone would be willing to release any of the three non-Weaver players on your list. For example, Looper has 2-1/2 years remaining on his deal and is owed $10 or $11 million. Suppan and Mulder are owed less than Looper but substantially more than Ponson. But, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be traded.



Trade Talk (07/07)

Hello Brian,

My name is Tom McArthur, and I am an avid Cardinals fan. I have recently discovered scout.com and I love it. I have been following the Cards' minor league affiliates very closely this year through baseball america, and I must say that I am quite disappointed that we traded Terry Evans for Jeff Weaver.

It would seem to me that we already have a staff full of Jeff Weavers, righties who can be lights out, or out by the fourth inning. How much is Jeff Weaver really a step up from anyone else we have? If you enter Weaver and exit Ponson, are we really that much better?

Also, we traded our best performing offensive prospect. I know he had not done much offensively in years past, but his numbers this year show great power AND great speed. At some point for a middle market team, you must develop some homegrown talent, because we don't have the payroll of the mets, yankees, angels, dodgers, etc.

Also, I don't agree with some of your examples of trades that have got it done down the stretch for the cards:

For example, the Finley trade. Yes, he pitched well for us down the stretch, it wasn't enough to get us out of the first round of the playoffs, and I think every cardinal fan would LOVE to have cocoa crisp right now, and for low $$$(considering we probably would not have brought him to the majors as early as the rebuilding Indians did). If the move did not get us even to the NLCS, was it really a success?

The McGwire trade is an obvious success, but teams weren't requiring as much for such a deal in 1997, not as many teams viewing themselves as rebuilding in 05, 06.

You compared TJ Matthews to Kiko Calero, which appeared to be an indorsement of the Mulder trade. Although anyone would be lying if they didn't think that trade WAS the right move, and would end up being successful at the time, but it hasn't been. Kiko Calero isn't a TJ Matthews-caliber middle reliever, he is the setup man for the 1st place A's,, a role he could have filled for us instead of paying Looper $5 million/year to do a lesser job. You could make a case that Haren has been BETTER than Mulder since the trade. And then if we still had Barton, we would have a major trading chip this year for a big bat.

Don't get me wrong, I think Jocketty does a good job, but you must evaluate a trade both short and long term. Long term can be forgotten when a championship is involved, but this team has not won a single world series game in the 10 seasons of the LaRussa/Jocketty/Duncan era, so I can't help but focus on the long term failures of some of your examples of short-term successful trades.

Thanks for listening, put me in my place if I'm wrong!

Cheers,
Tom

Walton’s take: Thanks for taking the time to send a note, Tom. No wrong or right, just different views.

Remember the focus of the entire story was on making improvements to the team midseason without sacrificing major leaguers. It was not on “getting it done”. With that as the criteria, no Cardinals trade since 1982 accomplished its ultimate objective. Does that mean the team should not have taken chances to try to get better, though?

Let’s get into your specifics.

There has been quite a lot of discussion on our message board about Terry Evans. I encourage you to go there and join in. Personally, I agree with those who cheer for a player who came out of nowhere to have a great half-season, which no one can take away from him.

On the other hand, Evans entered his fifth professional season in 2006 with a career .239 batting mark and a .394 slugging percentage and had that nice first-half primarily in his fourth season of Single-A ball.

Trading Evans for a proven major league starter like Weaver doesn’t bother me one bit. Did anyone have Evans on their prospect lists coming into this season? I see it as a classic example of selling high.

Regarding Weaver, people seem to forget the body of the man’s career, during which he has been a better-than-average major league starter. On the business side, he received a contract for over $8 million not many months ago. Picking Weaver up on the cheap looks like a low-risk, high-upside proposition to me.

Yes, I do think Weaver is a better pitcher than Ponson, but that isn’t the point. The Cardinals will likely need both of them, either on the mound or perhaps as trade bait to help improve the team elsewhere. Not that you suggested it, but those who think the Cards should waive Ponson are crazy, in my opinion. Plenty of teams have less-effective starters, a number of whom are making quite a bit more money than Sid. He has value, either to the Cardinals or to another team.

On the McGwire trade, I disagree with you 100%. The number of teams rebuilding in any given year is a totally subjective assessment. The facts are that the same exact Wild Card playoff format and the same trade deadline that are in place today also existed in 1997. To assert that 2006 is substantially different has no supporting facts.

Moving on, in hindsight, Coco Crisp has turned into a nice player. But he was not a major leaguer like Reyes and Wainwright, the subjects of the story. In fact, Crisp was in Double-A at the time of the deal. The year after the trade, in 2003, Baseball America pegged Crisp as only the #26 prospect in the Cleveland system. Of course, that is better than Evans, who as already noted, was not ranked at all.

In 2002, the team was reeling and not only did Chuck Finley win seven games down the stretch, he is often given credit for helping a resurgent Andy Benes, too. The fact that team didn’t make it to the World Series isn’t the way to assess the value of the trade one way or another, in my opinion. Otherwise, if one uses winning the CS as the criteria of trade success, every team except two make a boatload of bad deals each season.

Finally, since the Mulder trade was not a deadline deal for minor leaguers, it was not relevant to the subject of the story. After all, both Haren and Calero were major leaguers. I guess I could have used them as examples to support my contention that trading away major leaguers is not needed to make the team better.

But, in hindsight, even mentioning one of the players involved in the Mulder trade was like waving a red flag.

All I intended by referencing Calero is that, like Mathews, he was a role player who had cost very little initially, was making a moderate salary and was replaceable despite being a solid performer. When Mathews left St. Louis, he had a 2.49 ERA. Calero was at 2.80. Mathews was a 36th-rounder and Calero had been a free agent.

While I certainly agree with your short-term, long-term point, and no one is happy about the Mulder trade, I find it hard to believe that Calero would have been a major difference-maker in either 2005 or here in 2006. Haren, on the other hand…

Bottom line, teams sometimes have to make trades to get better. But, the recent Mulder deal has turned many against Jocketty, despite his overall track record being pretty good in the trade market.

One point on which we agree is that we want to see the Cardinals win the World Series and are disappointed they haven’t. And ultimately, Jocketty and Tony La Russa have to be accountable for that. But, that is a discussion for late October, not early July when this team is still very much in contention.



Doesn't Anyone Care? (07/07)

Ray

I have been a Cardinal fan all my life. I will be 65 on my birthday and I believe the current front office does the poorest job of any in baseball in informing their fans on the signing of draftees. Teams that draft well will have a mixture of home grown talent and the ability to sign free agents and better compete for championships. It bothers me that they don't seem to think it is important. Players are already playing that they do not show being signed on their website.

I have enjoyed my membership on Scout and wish you would find out where we are with players like Degerman, Erickson, Zawadski and Woodard. I check to see what the minor league system does before I check the major league scores.

Thanks
Ed

Mileur's take: Ed we share your concerns about the lack of coverage of the draft.

For example when the Cardinals signed 2-Time All American Lance Marcum from Centralia recently, there was not so much as a blip about this kid signing his pro contract.

We even sent our own press releases to the media and talked with the producers at FSN Midwest and the bottom line there was just no interest in even reporting this signing.

We share in your frustration. We have offered FREE background support services to TV, Radio and Print media outlets to assist in draft coverage and no one was interested in taking advantage of our FREE service.

We will continue to provide the most comprehensive coverage of the Cardinals Minor League system anywhere. We are very fortunate to have built a exceptional dedicated team here, that includes Brian Walton, Jason Scott and Leonda Markee, who are all committed to bring Cardinal Fans the best minor league coverage anywhere.

As to Edward Degerman, Blair Erickson, Lance Sawadski and Robert Woodard, they still haven't agreed to terms with the St. Louis Cardinals.

I would have hoped these guys were signed by now and we will keep monitoring the situation with drafted players that haven't signed to date.



Where’s the Edge? (07/05)

Brian – I have been a longtime reader and enjoy your hard work. I do have a comment/question – since the conversion to Scout, I have the impression that you guys have less subjective material or perhaps fewer opinionated pieces. Or perhaps you are placing it somewhere else on the website and I have just not yet figured out. I always appreciated how you guys can state viewpoints that might not necessarily toe the company line but still offer more objectivity and honesty than others. Just my view.

Thanks,
Mark Mizelle

Walton’s take: Very interesting note. It may be easier to appear to be objective about others than about oneself. But, I will take a shot. It is always a balance between providing opinion pieces and straight news.

Since we moved to Scout, about half of our content has been premium, give or take a few percent. If you’re not a subscriber, you miss a significant part of what I think is our best work. Sorry, but I hope you understand that is the way it should be.

However, perhaps you do subscribe or had read our content over our free weekend the last four days and still have questions. So, I will assume that and reply accordingly.

One thing we have done in the last year or so is beef up our minor league coverage substantially because it is an area of interest to many readers and is not covered comprehensively anywhere else.

It takes a lot of time to maintain all the prospect bios, pages and rosters as well as interview players and write regular minors-focused stories, but we think it is important to do. Counting all levels of the system, there are approximately eight times as many players to watch as on the big league roster.

Regarding the site itself, because Scout.com only allows nine stories to appear on our front page, they often fall off after just a day or so. Since our average visitor stops by only every other day, it is important to click on the black bar near the center of the home page where it says “Top Stories”, to ensure you don’t miss anything. Hopefully, there are some new site enhancements coming that should help ease this limitation.

If you are into RSS feeds, as I am, don’t forget to subscribe to our feed. That way, when you log onto your reader, all of our most recent stories are listed in one place for you.

We also cover a lot of ground in our weekly radio show, a recording of which is always posted on the site for subscribers to listen at their leisure.

Another place to check regularly is our “Reader Mail” area, accessible from the lower left of our homepage. I post a lot of opinion items there based on people’s questions. But, since you are reading this, you obviously already found Reader Mail!

I also often write stories about current topics on reader’s minds, whether raised in emails or via our Message Board. So, please keep communicating.

As the site grows, we find ourselves spending more time on business-related matters. Ray Mileur especially focuses here, sometimes at the detriment of his famous “rants”. But, from that comes progress, too. We are having discussions with some known figures to augment and increase our editorially-oriented coverage. Look for announcements hopefully soon.

Ending with a personal view, looking back at some of my non-game stories over the past two weeks, I took to task the Encarnacion bashers, looked at how hot the ChiSox were even before playing the Cards, ran a piece on Peter Gammons, analyzed the failings of the bullpen and wrote an opinion piece highlighting the Cards problems in interleague play.

I think I summed up my view best in a story on the 24th of June called “What Happened?” In it, I concluded by saying, “I am not here to insult you by suggesting you how you should feel about the 2006 Cardinals. But, my take is that the Cardinals “suits” know what needs to be done. I am for giving them a chance to do it and to save the post-mortems for October if they’re needed at all, not here in June when the team is in first place.”

I don’t like the losing, but I also am a bit weary of all the complaining. If anyone knew what it would take to guarantee a World Series victory, they’d make a fortune selling it. I’d be happy with only 90 wins if the Cardinals could just get the 11 in the playoffs that matter most. Obviously, the jury is still out on that.

I don’t think that not being overly angry at this point is toeing the company line, but I do think it is realistic. Yet, if Walt Jocketty doesn’t add that much-needed bat, I’ll have to change my view 180 degrees in a heartbeat…

Whew! Thanks again for taking the time to write, Mark.



La Russa Feeling the Heat? (07/05)

Tony has been rather vocal and agitated lately on the bench, and he's made some questionable calls, to say the least. Do you think it's been any different than normal for him?

Peter

Walton’s take: Although he would never admit it, it wouldn't be surprising if Tony La Russa was pressing a bit. It is a natural reaction to try to do more when things aren't going well. But, we know how that often turns out.

I think pressure is really on Walt Jocketty to make a deal, as much for the psychological impact as the stats a new player or players would deliver. A tough situation to be in, as there are more buyers than sellers, it would appear.



Dreams of Miggy (07/05)

Is there any sense in hoping the Cardinals will acquire Tejada and move Eckstein to second, or is that just wishful thinking?

Ryan
DeKalb, IL

Walton’s take: Wishful thinking. A player of Tejada’s caliber (former MVP, etc. in the prime of his career at age 30) would go for the very top dollar, meaning he’d surely end up somewhere other than St. Louis. He also comes with a hefty price tag, as he is under contract for three more years after 2006 and is owed $42 million even after this season.

To top it off, I have heard reports of him being a malcontent in the clubhouse. Losing can do that, but I’d rather have professionals on my team who do their jobs and don’t become a distraction. Tejada may be a better fantasy player than in real life.



Pen Revamp Coming? (07/04)

Do you think the bullpen can be salvaged at this point or are we look at an overhaul in the semi-near future? I don’t see anyone there who makes me think they don’t belong on an MLB roster but recent numbers are downright scary. In other words, does TLR have enough faith in the guys he’s got now to stay put or are they going to be looking for a solution beyond the odd Memphis call up?

Joe

Walton’s take: I think it will be somewhere in between. With pressing needs on several fronts, I suspect Walt Jocketty can’t (and shouldn’t, IMHO) put all his chips behind the pen. But, I do think he will try to make a Rick White, Mike DeJean kind of addition as in years past. Whether or not that will be a huge difference-maker – well, I think we both know the answer to that.

Thanks for writing and Happy Fourth of July!


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