The Cardinals have gone ahead and inked an aging, injury-prone Jim Edmonds to a two-year contract extension. Oops...did I give away my thoughts on this move prematurely?
Don't get me wrong: I love Edmonds. Not only have I owned him in my pool for the past couple of years (this past season, he proudly occupied one of the coveted bench spots for the San Quentin Injection), but he was probably the main reason why from the beginning of the playoffs I was pulling for the Cards to win it all. I wanted Edmonds to get his ring.
Now, he's got it and the Cards have rewarded his leadership skills and winning attitude with almost $19 million over the next two years.
We're talking about a 36-year-old outfielder who -- when healthy -- was probably a top 10 NL flyhawk entering 2006. But after a season decimated by injuries, you'd be hard-pressed to include him among the top 30 outfielders in the NL. Post-concussion syndrome limited Edmonds to 110 games and 350 at-bats this year, his lowest totals since 1999. This season, coincidentally, was his worst year, performance-wise, since that 1999 season.
So maybe we can't read too much into a declining walk rate that suggests his dropping BA won't rebound any time soon. Maybe. But it's a risk. My big concern is that Edmonds is looking more and more like a platoon player, even if he's being paid like a starter. He hit .156 against lefties this season. Assuming he plays a full campaign, you can expect, say, 150 at-bats against southpaws, so that makes it pretty hard for him to him above .260 for the year unless he rebounds from that horrible effort.
The pedigree is unquestioned. He's an eight-time Gold Glove winner who's acrobatic outfield catches are the stuff that legends are made of. Edmonds is arguably one of the three best centre fielders of our era when all is said and done. But from a fantasy standpoint, you probably don't care about that, other than the fact that his aggressive play in the outfield often leads to injuries.
Since joining the Cards before the 2000 season, all Edmonds has done has helped them reach the postseason six times, cultimating in their ending a 24-year World Series drought last month. No doubt the guy is a winner, and -- somewhat surprisingly -- has already ascended to fourth place on the Cards' all-time home-run leader list. In fact, with 26 homers next year (an attainable total assuming Edmonds is healthy), he'll match Ken Boyer, who's currently second. (Albert Pujols is now third, but needs just five to match Boyer, so expect Boyer to be in third by the time Edmonds catches him.)
Edmonds is a lifetime .289 hitter with 350 homers under his belt, but it seems pretty clear that the best seasons of his career have been left behind. He may only be two years removed from the finest season of his career, but Edmonds' free fall the past two years is alarming (especially considering that in 2005, he was moderately healthy, so there's no easy excuse for the dropoff).
Yes, he's still got some life left in his bat, but as his power declines, it becomes harder to figure out where he can best help the Cards. He strikes out too much to be a number two hitter, and is no longer a feared slugger capable of slotting into the cleanup spot. I suppose that relegates him to a fifth or even sixth place hitter, which will obviously limit the number of runs Edmonds will score.
Again, I love this guy. I respect any player who will run through a wall, and to me Edmonds has represented the combination of skill, class and hustle that makes up the ideal ballplayer. But assuming he's capable of reaching 30 homers and hitting even .275 anymore is a fool's game. Does that sound like it's worth $19 million to you?
Rob Blackstien runs www.RotoRob.com, a site featuring daily fantasy sports analysis. In addition to his baseball work on Rotoworld, he contributes to Rotoworld’s basketball coverage. Rob also writes for CREATiVESPORTS.com, BaseballNotebook.com and has contributed to Rotoman’s Fantasy Baseball Guide and Fantasy Football Guide.