KMOV.com’s Brendan Marks is reporting live from Cardinals Spring Training in Jupiter. Check back with KMOV.com daily for breaking Cardinals news and multimedia coverage as the Redbirds look to defend their division title.
KMOV.com’s Michael Bittner and Dan Fredman will join Brendan a few times a week to talk about the team. And we want to hear from you, the fans, so please comment below.
Today’s question: How would you grade the Cardinals offseason?
Michael Bittner: The Cardinals are likely thrilled with their offseason, as they resigned the best free agent available and their top target, outfielder Matt Holliday. However, it’s the moves they didn’t make that could hurt the 2010 team.
The Cardinals badly need Mark DeRosa, but he left town to sign with the Giants while the Cardinals were slow-dancing with Holliday. DeRosa could have provided insurance for the Cardinals at third base and shortstop, where the Cardinals plan to feature David Freese and Brendan Ryan, who aren’t exactly proven commodities – especially considering Ryan had wrist surgery this week.
The Redbirds also need a backup outfielder, and DeRosa has spent substantial time there in the big leagues. Sure, he was slowed by a bad wrist last season after coming to St. Louis, but he would have hit 25 home runs and played five different positions for the Cardinals in 2010. DeRosa is the type of player a team needs to go deep into the playoffs and survive the day-to-day injuries that accompany 162 games of baseball. DeRosa will make $12 million over the next two years, which is quite reasonable. Also, the Cardinals overpaid for Brad Penny, signing him for one year and $7.5 million. Penny was solid with the Giants at the end of last season, but it’s amazing to think he got a big raise after being released by Boston in the middle of year. I think the Cardinals deserve a C for their offseason. This grade could be bumped up if the team signs Felipe Lopez, a guy who played for the team in 2008 and can fill in at multiple positions. However, he lacks DeRosa’s pop.
The Cardinals put all of their eggs in one basket this offseason and we’ll see if it works out. There is no doubt Holliday will be productive following Albert Pujols in the lineup. Still, with a weak bench and uncertain bullpen, as well as questions on the left side of their infield, the Cardinals have too many missing pieces to be considered a lock to go to the World Series and could be in an N.L. Central fight with the Cubs all season.
Michael’s Grade: C
Daniel Fredman: When grading the Cardinals offseason moves, you must look at three categories; pitching, position players and bench play and as we sit right now, there are still holes that have yet to be filled by John Mozeliak and Company. The large contract given to Matt Holliday has limited the amount of complimentary players the Cardinals have gone after.
Pitching: The acquisition of Brad Penny looks like a risky move, but one that will pan out. Just 3 years ago, he had a 3.0 ERA with the Dodgers, but has since struggled mightily. After a bad 2008 with the Dodgers, Penny moved to Boston and got hit hard before moving to the Giants where he regained 2007 form for a brief time. Penny has a ton of up-side and is perfect for Dave Duncan to work with. Add him to a rotation with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright and this rotation will be among the best in all of baseball. The Cardinals have decided, unsurprisingly, not to immediately sign back John Smoltz and let Joel Pineiro leave for the Angels. Once again, the Cardinals find themselves without a proven, dominant lefty in the rotation, but young Jaime Garcia could be the answer, if he gets the nod.
Position Players: Of course, the biggest move for the organization, and perhaps Major League Baseball, was the huge contract the Cardinals awarded Matt Holliday. For the first time since Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, the Cardinals have found a hitter other teams are fearful of to protect Albert Pujols in the lineup. There is no reason to think Holliday won’t have a huge year. Losing Mark DeRosa is a big deal. The Cardinals are already weak on the left side of the infield and DeRosa as the fourth outfielder would have been a great option. He would give the Cardinals 20+ homeruns and 70+ RBI’s, and that’s something David Freese and Tyler Greene probably won’t give you.
Bench play: Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus are the only two left handed hitters in the probable opening day lineup, and there’s not much help on the bench. Julio Lugo figures to get time at shortstop and third base while Joe Mather, Allen Craig and Tyler Greene could see the field as well. The bench may end up being the Achilles heel and the Cardinal’s are counting on the youth to fill in.
The Cardinals get a B- for their offseason moves. Signing Holliday is huge, but he and Albert are going to need help. The left side of the infield and the bullpen are cause for concern, but overall, the ownership has put the team in a position to win. Barring injuries, this could be a very fun 2010 for Cardinal fans
Daniel’s Grade: B-
Brendan Marks: Obviously, it's impossible to truly grade the Cardinals offseason until we see the results on the field, but for the purpose of this article, I'm going to try. The Cardinals enter Spring Training with the most legitimate 3-4-5 punch in Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Ryan Ludwig since the days of MV3 (Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds). From that standpoint, Cardinals management has to be excited. However, as anyone who follows the Cardinals probably knows, signing Holliday came at quite the price. Not only is that a lot of money to be committing to one player for 7 years (a different debate for another day), the signing had resulting implications for the rest of the offseason.
The biggest negative of the Holliday signing was the loss of Mark Derosa, who brought position flexibility like no one on the Cardinals other than Skip Schumaker. Derosa was not asking for too much money (ended up with a 2 year, $12 million deal), but he was sick of waiting on the Cardinals situation with Holliday, so he moved on and signed with the San Francisco Giants. Considering he was never at 100% health with the Cardinals, a healthy Mark Derosa would have been a great addition to the team.
Joel Pineiro’s breakout 2009 campaign (15-12, 3.49 ERA) inevitably raised his market value. Once he became a free agent in the offseason, it was only a short time before Pineiro signed a 2 year, $16 million deal with the Angels. The Cardinals must have thought last year's performance couldn't be repeated, because they never made a serious offer. With the hole left by Pineiro needing filling, the Cardinals signed Brad Penny. Both the Cardinals and (more importantly) myself think Penny can duplicate if not exceed Pineiro's 2009 numbers . A two time All Star, Penny's last four seasons have been up-and-down. He won 16 games in both 2006 and 2007, but hasn't come close to returning to that form since. But if anyone can help him get back to form it's pitching coach Dave Duncan. Duncan thrives when working on projects like Penny, as he’s shown in the past with Jeff Weaver and Jeff Suppan.
It's hard to deny that both the Cardinals bench and left side of the infield remain in question. These are things that the club did not address in the offseason like most fans hoped it would. However, the offseason is technically not over yet, and GM John Mozeliak has shown the propensity to make a late spring training signing, as he did with Kyle Lohse before the 2008 season and Dennys Reyes last year. It’s tough to say the Cardinals did a bad job in filling these needs because we do not know how David Freese, the favorite to win the job at third base, is going to pan out. If he breaks out, no one’s going to complain about the lack of moves the team made. We also don't know if Allen Craig and Jon Jay are ready for the big leagues. Management sure hopes they are.
When grading the offseason, though, I can only look at the proven commodities. While there is a ton of proven talent on the 2010 Cardinals, the bench and left infield leaves some to be desired. The Cardinals did nothing to fill those holes, which hurts the overall grade.
Brendan’s grade: B-