Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Makeover in the Cards

-Yesterday, I write that the legions of Cardinals baseball fans were all giggly about creaming the Reds 13-1 Monday....but what if they lose the rest of the series?? Well, they got spanked last night thanks to another useless outing from Jason Marquis. You'd like to think with Chris Carpenter and Anthony Reyes pitching the remaining two games the worst might not happen. Regardless, my thinking now about our favorite team is beginning to go into "long term" mode.

As I wrote before, it doesn't appear that this team has much chance for success in the post-season. And basically the results have proven that over the last several years. They're good enough to win in the NL...maybe even get to the World Series. But everybody knows that right now the AL is just a better league. So, if you're not going to win the big trophy with this bunch, does it really make sense to keep the oldest pieces, and unpredictable starting pitching staff, together much longer? It seems to me the Cardinal brass is poised to give this bunch a serious makeover.

You've got 4 of the 5 starting pitchers who are question marks for the future. Only Carpenter is under contract beyond this season and will likely be joined by Reyes and Adam Wainwright as starters next year. Marquis continues to write his ticket out of town with each start. I'm thinking he might be trade bate soon for one of Walt's waiver-wire deals. Jeff Suppan? like his reliability...but he's not going to scare anybody. Jeff Weaver? Gone. If I had to guess right now, I'd say they might try to sign Suppan to a new deal...but not more than two years. He would then be a "bridge" to the next generation of starters. They've got 4 or 5 solid prospects in the offing. (Chris Narveson at AAA-Memphis, Stuart Pomeranz(pictured), Blake Hawksworth, Chris Lambert, and maybe more, at Springfield) A couple of those guys could be ready for the bigs by '08. With that future to bank on, hopefully, "Mr. J" can pick up a nice free-agent in the off-season, or re-sign Mark Mulder to be the number 2 starter...with Carp at 1, Reyes, Suppan and Wainwright at 3,4 and 5...not necessarily in that order. Who knows...maybe Jorge Sosa can re-emerge as a factor from the scrap-heap that the Braves threw him on.

As to the position players, you would want to hold on to Pujols, Rolen, Molina and probably Eckstein. Juan Encarnacion has two more years on his deal...but could be traded if the deal is right. Chris Duncan is starting to look like a keeper for an outfield spot. Ronnie Belliard doesn't appear to be a long-term solution at second base. So, I'm thinking Walt is looking for deals that could bolster two outfield positions and, at least, one infield spot for next year until some of the minor-league guys develop. I say probably David Eckstein...only because his current slump has become worrisome. And, if he's not setting the table, the team struggles. He seems to have not recovered fully from that concussion he suffered earlier this year. There is no doubt he's a 100% all-out player.

Jim Edmonds hasn't helped himself by talking contract with Post-Dispatch beat writer Joe Strauss. Strauss ran a story in today's paper in which Edmonds came off as whining about his contract situation. Edmonds has a 10-million dollar option for next year that, at this point, Walt Jockety and associates would be silly to pick up. And Edmonds, especially since he's not setting the world on fire, should just shut up until the pennant race is either won, or lost. The team doesn't need that kind of distraction right now. Colby Rasmus (pictured), a former first-round draft pick now playing at Class-A Palm Beach, is thought to be a replacement in center-field sometime in the next couple of years. His stats are nothing to get wound up about right now though. (.270 BA with 14 HRs this year)

There are some real potential answers in the minors. That hasn't always been the case. And, I like that the team didn't trade away too many of those guys at the deadline. You'd like to think that we have some excitement in store for late September and October. But, it's also possible that the Cardinal brass is willing to swallow hard this year to keep the promising players in the minors who will be filling the big league roster...and hopefully the not-too-distant future. Spending money on free-agents, and spending prospects for established players, only goes so far.

I'm bracing for some serious roster changes before next April. And I'm expecting a youth movement.

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