Cardinals Q & A with Ray Mileur

From the city streets, the courthouse, before and after church, my voice-mail and e-mails, a countdown of the most often asked questions from Cardinal fans over the holiday season?

#10 – Trade winds blowing? – Are the Cardinals going to make any trades?

The Cardinals went into the baseball winter meetings hoping to lay the ground work for a potential trade to address their biggest needs including; adding a starter, a lefthander in the bullpen, and someone to fill the hole as the team's closer until either Chris Perez or Jason Motte are ready.

The Cardinals trading chips initially included; second baseman Adam Kennedy, outfielders Rick Ankiel & Ryan Ludwick and to a much lesser degree, outfielders Joe Mather & Chris Duncan.

There wasn't anybody interested in Adam Kennedy, so he's a sure fire bet to start the season at second base. His job to lose again. The trade rumors involving Ankiel and Ludwick have died out and Joe Mather and Chris Duncan, have no trading value until they can prove they are healthy.

I'm not aware of any potential trade talks in the works that would be announced within the next two weeks.

#9 – Are the Cardinals done? – Can we expect anymore moves this winter?

I wouldn't stay awake at night waiting for that blockbuster news to come out of St. Louis. The Cardinals have addressed a couple of their needs; picking up shortstop Khalil Greene in a trade with the Padres and signing free-agent lefthander Trever Miller from the Rays to shore up the bullpen. They could still use a closer, a starter and another lefty for the bullpen, but they are waiting for a compelling offer, one that may not come until we are much closer to reporting for spring training.

#8- Free Agents – Are the Cardinals going to sign anymore free agents?

The Cardinals still have an interest in left-handers Oliver Perez and Randy Wolf. Oliver Perez will more than likely return to the New York Mets. Randy Wolf is one of the five best starters on the market, but doesn't appear to be anyone's first choice, which means he could be available for a late signing with the St. Louis Cardinals.

#7- Chris Duncan – Are the Cardinals going to trade Chris Duncan?

Don't look for the Cardinals to trade Duncan before spring training. If he is going to be traded the team is going to have to showcase him in Florida, giving him plenty of playing time to prove he's healthy and that he can still drive the ball out of the park. I think you are looking at an outfield of, Ryan Ludwick in left, Colby Rasmus in center and Rick Ankiel in right, with Chris Duncan and Skip Schumaker as the reserves on the bench.

#6- Center Field – If Colby Rasmus makes the team, who plays center field?

I don't think there is any question that if Rasmus makes the team, he plays center field. I'd move Ankiel to right and Ryan Ludwick to left. Rasmus is the center fielder of the future, let him get on with it. Ankiel has the arm, and while he played better center field than I think a lot of people expected, he's better suited in right.

#5- Aaron Miles – Whatever happy to Cardinals loyalty, will Miles be back?

I share the frustration with a lot of fans, that Miles was not offered a contract after the season, for the second year in a row. It's possible that he could still return, though who could blame him for taking some time to test the free-agent market. My read on the Miles situation is that someone is going to offer him more money than the $1.4 - $1.6 million range that St. Louis will be willing to pay him to be a backup middle infielder, who can play third, the outfield, and pitch and catch if you ask him.

#4- What is the long Cardinals long term solution at shortstop?

The Cardinals still look at their 2007 first round draft pick, Pete Kozma, as the team's shortstop of the future. In the mean time for the 2009 campaign, they have basically rented Khalil Greene, who will be a free agent at the end of this next season. A couple of other potential major league shortstops in the pipeline include; Tyler Greene, who should get a chance to make the Cardinals roster out of spring training to fill the hole left vacant by the departure of Aaron Miles and farther down line, Niko Vasquez, who will likely begin the 2009 season at Quad Cities.

#3- Impact Rookies – Are there any rookies, that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will actually play, that can have an impact on the 2009 Redbirds?

The team did set a franchise record last season with 11 minor league players making their major league debut. So Tony La Russa will play rookies. Missing from the historic group of rookies last season was the organization's top prospect, outfielder Colby Rasmus. The five-tool prospect was stalled at Triple-A Memphis and limited to playing in 96 games because of a knee injury. Rasmus will likely be starting in the Cardinals outfield at some point next season. Chris Perez is the team's closer of the future, but its Jason Motte who appeared in 12 games for St. Louis in September, picking up his first MLB career save, while striking out 16 batters in just 11 innings, who may factor more prominently in the team's 2009 plans.

#2- Are the Cardinals better off today, than they were a year ago at this time?

I think the team is better off today than they were a year ago at this time. Chris Carpenter has to be closer to returning that he was a year ago. Ryan Ludwick will be in the outfield for the entire season. The club has guys like Adam Kennedy, Khalil Greene, Rick Ankiel, Troy Glaus and others who will be free-agents at the end of the season, all playing in hopes of getting that big payday down the road.

#1- Momentum – When is Cardinals Manager Joe Mozeliak going to do something substantial?

I think Mozeliak has done some substantial things already. Signing Kyle Lohse to a new contract in September for four years, for a reported $41 million is a significant deal that will seem like a bargain in the long run. I like the idea of having Khalil Greene at shortstop next season, if he plays to his potential, this deal will go down as one of the best trades made this winter. Signing lefty Trever Miller, may not seem important now, but the bullpen needed help and Miller should be able to add some relief to put out some fires before our hopes for another pennant goes up in smoke.

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