I’ve had several requests for the Cardinals in this series, so here we go.
C – Yadier Molina
1B – Albert Pujols
2B – Adam Kennedy
SS – Brendan Ryan
3B – Scott Rolen
LF – Chris Duncan/Ryan Ludwick
CF – Jim Edmonds
RF – Rick Ankiel
SP – Adam Wainwright
SP – Braden Looper
SP – Chris Carpenter (half season at best)
SP – Mark Mulder
SP – Brad Thompson/Anthony Reyes/Todd Wellemeyer
Setup: Ryan Franklin
Closer: Jason Isringhausen
For starters, the Cards might need a shortstop. 25 year-old Brendan Ryan is hitting .302/.355/.426 in 169 ABs, better than his Triple A performance (.272/.328/.341 in 323 ABs). I spoke to Viva El Birdos’ Larry Borowsky on this topic today. Assuming Tony La Russa is around, Larry doesn’t expect Ryan to get starting gig at short next year. You may recall La Russa’s benching of Ryan recently for swinging at a 3-0 pitch and his general lack of patience with youngsters.
Larry speculated that David Eckstein would be allowed to walk and the team would try to make a splash by acquiring a shortstop via trade, perhaps Rafael Furcal or another go-round with Edgar Renteria. Makes sense. The Cards have some interesting young players: Duncan, Ankiel, Reyes, Colby Rasmus, Bryan Anderson, Jamie Garcia, Blake Hawksworth, Jarrett Hoffpauir, and Mark Hamilton. Obviously you don’t want to gut the farm system for one year of a decent veteran shortstop. Reyes is a young player who is out of options and has had some chances already. I could see him with the Braves.
The other need is, of course, starting pitching. The Cardinals revamped their rotation this year, and the two bullpen converts stuck. They can hope for but not count on Carpenter and Mulder. They can fill the fifth slot with whoever. Don’t pencil in Joel Pineiro’s $4MM player option for ’08 just yet – he might prefer to hit the open market. It seems that one or two decent starters must be imported. Borowsky discusses trade candidates here, and here’s the free agent list. It’d be nice to sign a healthy free agent, but Kyle Lohse is going to want $40MM. There are many other intriguing gambles among the free agent starters.
I’m not confident that the Cardinals have a surplus of anything. It’s true that they have a lot of outfielders, but they all have issues. Duncan can’t hit lefties or play defense. Ludwick is a 29 year-old journeyman. Ankiel has the HGH stigma. Edmonds is old, expensive, and ineffective. Encarnacion’s terrible injury may be career-threatening. Rasmus isn’t ready. Still, if a big trade is made, it might have to include Duncan.
As I said earlier, Reyes is out of options and a prime candidate to be dealt. He turns 26 soon; plenty of clubs would like to try to turn him around. He might be part of a package for a shortstop or veteran starter.
In any other division I’d recommend this team cash in its chips and go for a full-blown rebuild. But this is the NL Central, and if a few offseason gambles work out they can be right back in the thick of things.