Thursday, December 09, 2004

Transaction Analysis

We finally have some Cardinal player movement to talk about, so let's get to it.

Matt Morris

The Morris signing, in my mind, was the best news of yesterday. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the contract is worth $2.5 million, which could reach $7 million with incentives based up on starts.

If you've been reading my blog for the last couple of months, you know that I didn't expect Morris to be back, nor was I exactly upset about it. However, with the revelation that he was in fact having shoulder problems combined with the low dollar amount of this deal? It should be a win/win situation. The Cardinals win by saving money, unless Morris hits incentives - which means the Cardinals have a healthy starting pitcher. And Morris wins by having a shot at proving he can still pitch, and thus improving his market value next year.

Morris flashed signs of his former self from time to time this season. And while it's hard to imagine him reverting to 2001 form (137 ERA+), I dont' think 2002-2003 type numbers (11 to 14% above average) would be out of the question. Those kind of numbers would likely make Morris the teams #2/#3 starter in 2005.

John Mabry

Mabry was another player that I wanted to see back. Granted, he had a career year last year that he is unlikely to repeat. But a left handed hitting corner infielder/outfielder with some pop is worth signing - especially when you can do so for $725,000. And he has been above average 2 of the past 3 seasons. Mabry joins Roger Cedeno as the current members of the Cardinal bench, giving them a good start.

Cal Eldred

I didn't expect Eldred to be back. Between his age and Tony's apparent lack of faith during the playoffs, I thought he was long gone. In fact, I was a bit concerned when I heard that the Cardinals were bringing him back. However, he's only being paid $600,000 next season. Not bad for a guy that posted a 111 ERA+ in each of the last 2 seasons, and who just turned 37 last month. Best case, he's only going to be expected to be the #6 guy out of the pen. Worst case, he's not as good this year and is replaced by someone from the minors, thus being released with the Cardinals eating his low salary. (Low in baseball terms, of course).


Edgar Renteria, as expected, was offered arbitration. I think that was the correct move, as they can still sign him for next year. The Cardinals might end up with him back next year at $9 or $10 million. The Cardinals might end up getting draft picks for losing him. The Cardinals might end up signing him for 4 years at a somewhat reasonable rate. I have no problem with any of those three options.

Matheny was also offered arbitration, which surprised me a bit. After all - I don't want the Cardinals to be stuck paying him $3 million or more next year to play half of the time. However, according to the Post-Dispatch (same article listed above) Matheny has already agreed to reject arbitration. He'll either be back next year under a multi-year deal, or the Cardinals will get some draft compensation. That's not so bad. And supposedly, the Cardinals are offering Matheny 2 years at $2 million per. I could live with that, if they can get it done.

Not offered arbitration were Steve Kline and Tony Womack. Neither of those moves surprised me. Ray King is the #1 lefty, with Carmen Cali likely ready to step in for Kline at a reduced rate. And the Yankees signed Womack for 2 years at $2 million each? I'm not exactly what they're thinking up there, but I can say one thing - I'm glad the Cardinals can't be tempted to sign him now. Bring on Polanco.

Other News

Randy Johnson, according to Newsday, has told the Diamondbacks that he'll take a trade to the Yankees and the Yankees only. Of course, they were the ones talking about the Cardinals giving up Haren, Ankiel, and Calero, too. Take it for what it's worth. Whatever the case, it's looking more and more like Johnson isn't going to be in St. Louis next year, unless he's wearing his road jersey.

The Yankees appear to be ready to sign Eric Milton to a 3 year, $24 million contract. First Womack, now Milton? The Yankees are being a big help this off-season.

Personal Predictions

I'm now expecting the Cardinals to end up signing Renteria and Polanco, with them apparently no longer needing to free up the ton of cash required to bring in Johnson. That would give the Cardinals an upgrade both defensively and offensively over the 2004 version of the team in the middle infield - which is nice.

The actual signings they've already made - Morris, Eldred, and Mabry - total $3.825 million, not counting incentives. That leaves the Cardinals with approximately $15 to $17 million to spend this off-season. That should leave them enough money to fill out the bench, sign Renteria and Polanco, and still have enough cash to acquire one more starting pitcher, either via trade or free agency. I suspect that the Cards first choice would be one of the "Big Three" from Oakland, with someone like Matt Clement being the backup plan.

And even if the Cardinals can't get that extra starter? I think they may be in good shape anyway as long as they do in fact bring in Renteria and Polanco. Their current rotation is Carpenter, Morris, Suppan, Marquis, and Haren/Ankiel. Personally, I expect Morris to be better next year, with Haren/Ankiel being an upgrade over Williams. And having both Haren and Ankiel around provide for depth due to injury.


At 2:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do agree that Morris can't be much worse than last year, but I still believe he's an injury risk coming off surgery, as are Carpenter and Marquis with their late-season problems last year. So, I'd recommend adding another starter for depth purposes -- my first choice is Clement, second Derek Lowe, depending on cost. If that happens and nobody gets hurt, either Haren or Ankiel (or both) could be really nasty out of the bullpen.

In order to sign another pitcher, though, you've gotta cut costs somewhere -- that's why I'm all about signing Pokey Reese to play second, letting Molina catch, and signing either Polanco or Renteria long-term at short (and leading off). It's not like we won't score a gazillion runs anyway with Renteria/Polanco-Walker-Pujols-Rolen-Edmonds-Sanders at the top of our lineup, so why not prevent a few more with an excellent defensive 2B and another very good starting pitcher?

At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would go out and say that Renteria/Polanco would be a better MI than Polanco/Reese, plus much much better offensively.


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