Posts Tagged ‘St Louis Cardinals’

The Five Best Free Agent Hitters Left On The Market

February 6, 2010

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than two weeks. Can you believe it!!! It seems like yesterday the World Series was being played.

Despite the fact that spring training starts in less than two weeks, there are still a lot of quality major league hitters who still have not found a home. Due to the economy, teams are trying to wait out players as much as possible (unless you are the Houston Astros, who gave $15 million to Brandon Lyon).

Everyone is looking for a bargain these days.

Here are the five best free agent hitters remaining on the market.

Hitters

1. Johnny Damon, OF. Damon hit .282 with 24 home runs, 36 doubles, 12 stolen bases, and .365 OBP in 143 games for the New York Yankees last year. Damon priced himself out of New York and now his options are limited.

Damon is a terrible defensive outfielder and his power numbers were just a product of playing in a ballpark perfectly suited to his swing. His agent Scott Boras is trying to get the Detroit Tigers to bite on Damon, but I see the Atlanta Braves as a darkhorse for his services.

2. Felipe Lopez, 2B. It’s pretty remarkable that a guy who is only 29-years-old and is coming off a season where he hit .310 with 9 home runs, a .383 OBP, and played outstanding defense (7.8 UZR) can’t find a job. That is the dilemma that Lopez is facing right now.

Lopez should find a home soon

You don’t hear too many teams in on his services, but this guy is too good not to have a starting job in the major leagues. The St. Louis Cardinals might be a landing spot for him, if they don’t feel comfortable with David Freese at third.

3. Hank Blalock, 1B/DH. Blalock hit .234 with 25 home runs and a .277 OBP in 123 games in 2009 for the Texas Rangers. The 123 games were the most Blalock played in since 2006.

Blalock can hit a home run, but other than that, he doesn’t do anything else particularly well. He doesn’t get on base, he is injury prone, he is not a good defensive player, and he faded in the second half last season.

He did hit 19 of his 25 home runs off of right-handed pitching, so maybe a team can use him like Mike Scioscia did 2003 All Star Game. That being a left-handed power hitter off the bench.

4. Russell Branyan, 1B/DH. Coming off of a career year, Branyan thought he would finally get paid. So far this has not been the case.

Branyan could end up with the Marlins

Branyan hit 31 home runs last year in just 116 games, but teams have been mostly scared off by Branyan’s back. A 34-year-old with a bad back and no track record prior to 2009 is not attractive to most teams.

I thought he would end up back with the Seattle Mariners at some point, but now it looks like the Florida Marlins might be interested in him.

5. Jermaine Dye, OF. Dye has finished in the top-15 in American League MVP voting two out of the last four years, but his market has been really quiet this winter.

Dye hit .250 last year with 27 home runs and a .340 OBP. Which isn’t the worst hitting line in the world. However, there are a couple of things working against Dye this offseason.

He is 36-years-old, he can’t field a lick anymore, and he is coming off a second half where he hit .179 with just seven home runs. His options are limited, so he might end up on a team as a fourth outfielder or DH-type player.

Tomorrow, I will cover the five best remaining pitchers on the free agent market.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Jim Edmonds Ends Unofficial Retirement, Signs With Brewers

January 28, 2010

Yesterday, I talked about Jim Thome and whether or not he will be a Hall of Famer five years after he retires. The Thome HOF debate is certainly a fascinating one.

Another potential HOF candidate that will strike up a debate five years after he retires is outfielder Jim Edmonds.

One of Edmonds' many great catches

Edmonds is known as one of the better defensive center fielders of all-time. His acrobatic catches are stuff of legend. I still believe his back to the ball, giving catch against the Kansas City Royals as a member of the California/Anaheim Angels is the best catch I have ever seen by a center fielder.

Offensively, Edmonds has quietly amassed 384 home runs, a .284 average, and a .377 OBP. He is a four-time All Star and has two, top-five MVP finishes in his 16 year career.

It’s a classic argument of is the player SO great defensively, that it elevates him to HOF status even though his offensive numbers might not be there?

If you ask most St. Louis Cardinal fans, they will tell you Edmonds is a first-ballot HOF’er. The reality is, while Edmonds has had a nice career, the only way he will ever see the inside of Cooperstown will be if he goes with his family on a visit.

Now, I am sure I will get some less-than-friendly comments from Cardinal fans telling me how Edmonds is worthy of HOF consideration. Of course, it wouldn’t be a normal day without Cardinal fans crying or whining about something.

But Edmonds is not a HOF’er. He doesn’t have the offensive numbers. They are not even close. Defensively, while Edmonds was great, was he better than Devon White, Torii Hunter, or Andruw Jones?

The reason why Brooks Robinson and Ozzie Smith made and Omar Vizquel will make the HOF is because they were so much better defensively than anyone else who ever played their position. You can’t say that about Edmonds.

Whether you believe Edmonds is a HOF’er or not, there is no denying he was a very good player, for a good period of time. I thought Edmonds was going to be forced into retirement after not playing the entire 2009 season, but Edmonds isn’t done yet.

According to Tim Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, via Twitter, the Milwaukee Brewers have signed the Fullerton, CA native to a minor league contract. Edmonds can make $850,000 if he makes the team and another $1.65 million in incentives.

Edmonds last played in the majors in 2008 with the San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs. It looked like his career might have been over with the Padres after hitting only .178 with one home run in 26 games.

Edmonds was released and found is second wind with the Cubs and was really good for them. He hit .256 with 19 home runs and had a .937 OPS in just 86 games. He certainly gave the Cubs a spark and helped them to the best record in the National League.

Why the Cubs or any other team for that matter didn’t at least give Edmonds a shot to make the team in 2009 always was a mystery to me. A team could have certainly used him against righties in a pinch-hitting role.

If Edmonds makes the Brewers out of spring training, he could be used in a pinch-hitting role against righties and a fourth outfielder. Edmonds really slipped defensively in 2008 (-14.1 UZR), so I would doubt the Brewers would use him in a platoon with newly acquired center fielder Carlos Gomez.

The Brewers have to grant Edmonds his release if he’s not on the major league roster by March 25th.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ thghostofmlg

MLB Network Announces Top-50 Prospects In Baseball

January 28, 2010

Last night, MLB.com announced their top-50 prospects in baseball through a special on the MLB Network. While there were few surprises on their list, there were a couple of players that caught my eye.

No. 8: Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates. When the Pirates promoted Andrew McCutchen to the major leagues last season, Alvarez became the jewel of the Pirates’ farm system. The Pirates really need Alvarez to become the player they think he can be.

No. 24: Tim Beckham, Tampa Bay Rays. Beckham was the No.1 overall pick in the 2008 draft. As a matter of fact, Alvarez was the No.2 pick in that draft.

The Rays took a chance on the less polished Beckham and he struggled somewhat in his first year of professional baseball. Beckham is only 19, so he has plenty of time to figure things out, but 2010 is a big year. The Rays could have drafted Buster Posey.

No. 28: Casey Kelly, Boston Red Sox. Kelly and the Red Sox organization were faced with a big decision in 2009. Where was Kelly going to play full-time moving forward? Shortstop or pitcher? Kelly is now a full-time pitcher and it was the right decision.

Kelly had a 2.05 ERA in 95 minor league innings last year. He could be in the Red Sox starting rotation by 2012.

No. 30: Yonder Alonso, Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are going to be faced with an interesting decision a year or two from now. Alonso is a first baseman and the Reds already have a star in waiting at first in Joey Votto.

Alonso isn’t as athletic as Votto, so I suspect Votto will be moved to the outfield. A broken bone in Alonso’s hand limited his power in 2009, but this guy can rake. Once he figures out how to hit lefties, he will be good to go.

No. 40: Drew Storen, Washington Nationals. Not only is Storen fun to follow on Twitter, but he is also on heck of pitcher. Stephen Strasburg is getting all the hype, but Storen isn’t far behind him.

Storen is being groomed at the Nationals’ closer of the future. He could be their closer by 2011.

The Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals led the way with four players in the top-50. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago White Sox, New York Mets (Ike Davis could have been on this list), and St. Louis Cardinals were the only teams not to have a player in the top-50.

You can find MLB.com’s complete list of top-50 prospects here.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Royals Add Another Outfielder, Sign Rick Ankiel

January 26, 2010

Update

I had originally thought Ankiel would play right field for the Royals in 2010. Apparently, I was wrong. Ankiel will be playing center field for Kansas City in 2010.

“Center field. That’s why we acquired him. David (DeJesus) will move over to right and Scott Podsednik will play mostly left and Rick will be our center fielder,” GM Dayton Moore said through MLB.com.

As expected, Jose Guillen will move to DH.

Original Post

During my fantasy draft last year, I had the enviable decision of drafting either Rick Ankiel or Johnny Damon. It was my pick and I needed an outfielder and Ankiel and Damon, in my opinion, were the best on the board.

Do I draft the almost sure thing in Damon or do I draft Ankiel, who was entering his walk year and was in line perhaps for a career year? I really agonized over this decision.

I even sent my friend Tom (resident St. Louis Cardinals fan) a text during a corporate meeting to ask him what type of year he thought Ankiel would have. When it came down to it, I decided to go with Ankiel.

Ankiel moves across the highway

Whoops a daisy.

Ankiel was terrible for the Cardinals in 2010. He was hurt all the time and even when he did play he was pretty unproductive. In 122 games, he hit .231 with 11 home runs and just a .285 OBP.

Even though Ankiel has been largely unproductive since the start of the second half of the 2008 season, he was still able to land a major league contract and even perhaps a starting job in 2010.

Ankiel agreed to terms with the Kansas City Royals on Friday to a one-year, $3.25 million contract. There is also a mutual option for $6 million for 2011.

Ankiel becomes the second outfielder signed by the Royals this winter. Earlier in this offseason, the Royals signed Scott Podsednik presumably to play center field.

With Jose Guillen being a liability in right field and more of a DH at this point, I am guessing Ankiel will be the Royals’ starting right fielder in 2010. If you are a team like the Royals, you don’t pay a guy $3.25 million to sit on the bench.

Ankiel could easily make the switch from center to right. While his range isn’t what it used to be, he still maintains one of the strongest arms in the game.

I still remember the throw he made from the warning track in center field in Colorado to nail a runner going to third. He was one of the more impressive throws I have seen.

Offensively, Ankiel’s OPS has dropped three years in a row (.863-.843-.672). From what we have seen from Ankiel over the last couple of years, the Royals can’t expect much from him.

His .285 OBP last year almost fits right in with what the Royals are trying to do offensively. With Ankiel, Guillen, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Jason Kendall, the Royals have a lot of guys who refuse to walk in their lineup. Not a way to win games in this day and age of baseball.

Ankiel will be entering his eighth season in the major leagues and has a career .251 average with 49 home runs and a .311 OBP with the Cardinals.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Starting Rotation: National League Central

January 22, 2010

Today, I am going to take a look at the starting rotations for each National League Central team.

Pitchers like Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Roy Oswalt call this division home. This division has quality pitchers throughout.

Here are the starting rotations for each National League Central team as presently constructed.

St. Louis Cardinals

1. Chris Carpenter, RHP

2. Adam Wainwright, RHP

3. Kyle Lohse, RHP

4. Brad Penny, RHP

5. TBD

Quick Take – This rotation is very top heavy with Carpenter and Wainwright leading the way. Carpenter’s health is key. If he is healthy, the Cardinals will be favorites to win the division. I like the Penny signing. The Cardinals don’t have a candidate for the fifth starter right now, so look for them to sign someone.

Milwaukee Brewers

1. Yovani Gallardo, RHP

2. Randy Wolf, LHP

3. Dave Bush, RHP

4. Doug Davis, LHP

5. Jeff Suppan, RHP

Quick Take – With the additions of Wolf and Davis, this rotation is vastly improved from 2009. Wolf and Davis will give the Brewers innings. Look for Gallardo to continue to develop into an ace. Suppan will battle with Manny Parra for the No.5 starter spot.

Chicago Cubs

1. Carlos Zambrano, RHP

2. Ryan Dempster, RHP

3. Randy Wells, RHP

4. Ted Lilly, LHP

5. Tom Gorzelanny, LHP

Quick Take – This might be the most overrated pitching staff in baseball. Dempster has had one good year in the last seven years and was not worthy of his contract. It’s up in the air whether or not Lilly will be ready for Opening Day. I am starting to wonder if all those innings Zambrano threw earlier in his career is coming back to haunt him now?

Cincinnati Reds

1. Bronson Arroyo, RHP

2. Aaron Harang, RHP

3. Johnny Cueto, RHP

4. Homer Bailey, RHP

5. TBD

Quick Take – This rotation will really miss Edinson Volquez in 2010. Volquez might pitch in 2010, but not until towards the end of the season. Arroyo and Harang are prime trade candidates. The Reds’ No.5 starter spot is open right now. I don’t think it will be Aroldis Chapman to start the season.

Houston Astros

1. Roy Oswalt, RHP

2. Wandy Rodriguez, LHP

3. Brett Myers, RHP

4. Bud Norris, RHP

5. Brian Moehler, RHP

Quick Take – From where this rotation was at the beginning of 2009, the Astros have come a long way. Astros need Oswalt to have a bounce back year. Norris showed potential last season, but needs to cut down on his walks and needs to show development next season.

Pittsburgh Pirates

1. Paul Maholm, LHP

2. Zach Duke, LHP

3. Ross Ohlendorf, RHP

4. Charlie Morton, RHP

5. Kevin Hart, RHP

Quick Take – I really feel bad for Maholm and Duke. If they were on better teams, they would be more recognized and people would know how good they are. Morton came over to the Pirates in the Nate McLouth trade and at 26, he needs to step up and prove he belongs in the major leagues.

Tomorrow, I will have the final installment of this series and take a look at the division where pitching dominates–the National League West.

Angels Add To Their Rotation, Sign Joel Pineiro

January 21, 2010

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are one of the best run organizations in baseball. From top to bottom, the Angels do things the right way. From the way they develop players to the way they treat their fans, the Angels are a first-class organization.

However, even the best organizations make mistakes.

When it comes to signing free agents, the Angels really haven’t been on top of their game over the last couple of years. Outside of the solid signings of Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu, the Angels have made suspect signings like Justin Speier, Gary Matthews Jr., Brian Fuentes, and Fernando Rodney.

And now, the Angels have made another suspect signing.

Pineiro got a two-year deal from Anaheim

According to various sources, the Angels have signed RHP Joel Pineiro to a two-year, $16 million contract. Pineiro will undergo a physical today and the deal should be officially announced shortly.

As many of you know, I am not a fan of Pineiro. I believe he is just another Dave Duncan reclamation project. Here is what I wrote about Pineiro back in September:

“Ironically, Pineiro is looking for a contract similar to Lohse’s this offseason. We all know what is going to happen. Some idiotic team is going to give him a three-year, $28 million contract and guess what is going to happen?

In his first year Pineiro is going to go 9-12 with a 4.65 ERA and his contract is going to hamstring that team for the next three years. It’s inevitable.

That’s why if I was a GM, I would stay away from Pineiro in the offseason.

I don’t need to see advanced statistics or any other stats for that matter. I will just use the “eye test” on this one. And the eye test tells me, once a mediocre pitcher, always a mediocre pitcher.”

Now, I can’t completely kill the Angels on this deal because they only signed Pineiro to a two-year deal. A two-year deal is clearly not as bad as the three or four-year deal that I thought he might have gotten. But I just don’t see Pineiro having two successful years in Anaheim.

It’s amazing to me when pitchers and their agents can’t see where their bread is buttered. Pineiro is a National League pitcher and he had success last year pitching in the NL. So why go to the American League West?

It makes no sense.

This reminds me so much of what Jeff Weaver did after the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in 2006. Weaver got a second life in the National League and with the Cardinals, but signed with the Seattle Mariners the following offseason.

Weaver was a disaster in Seattle and I think Pineiro is headed down that path.

What is amazing is that despite all of the Angels suspect moves and losses this offseason, I still think they have enough to win the AL West. The Angels are proving that no matter who they lose and who they bring in, they can win with what they have.

That’s why they are one of the best run organizations in baseball.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Starting Nine: National League Central

January 15, 2010

Next up in our Starting Nine series is the National League Central. Outside of the St. Louis Cardinals re-signing Matt Holliday, there haven’t been any big-time offensive additions to this division. As a whole, this might be the weakest offensive division in baseball (yes, even passing the NL West).

Let’s take a look at the starting lineups for all six teams in this division as presently constructed.

St. Louis Cardinals

1. Skip Schumaker, 2B

2. Brendan Ryan, SS

3. Albert Pujols, 1B

4. Matt Holliday, LF

5. Ryan Ludwick, RF

6. Yadier Molina, C

7. Colby Rasmus, CF

8. David Freese, 3B

9. Chris Carpenter, P

Quick Take – Re-signing Holliday was crucial to this lineup. Despite having Holliday and Pujols in the three-four spot, this lineup will only be as dynamic as Rasmus and Freese takes them.

Milwaukee Brewers

1. Rickie Weeks, 2B

2. Alcides Escobar, SS

3. Ryan Braun, LF

4. Prince Fielder, 1B

5. Casey McGehee, 3B

6. Corey Hart, RF

7. Gregg Zaun, C

8. Carlos Gomez, CF

8. Yovani Gallardo, P

Quick Take – The Brewers sacrificed some offense for defense in 2010. This isn’t the powerful Brewers’ lineup of the last couple of years. There are a lot of automatic outs from seven through nine.

Chicago Cubs

1. Alfonso Soriano, LF

2. Kosuke Fukudome, RF

3. Derek Lee, 1B

4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B

5. Marlon Byrd, CF

6. Geovany Soto, C

7. Ryan Theriot, SS

8. Mike Fontenot, 2B

9. Carlos Zambrano, P

Quick Take – This lineup is getting old in a hurry. If Soriano, Ramirez, and Soto can come back from disappointing 2009 seasons, the Cubs could be in business in 2010. However, I still think they are going to be hard pressed to score runs in 2010.

Cincinnati Reds

1. Drew Stubbs, CF

2. Brandon Phillips, 2B

3. Joey Votto, 1B

4. Jay Bruce, RF

5. Scott Rolen, 3B

6. Ramon Hernandez, C

7. Paul Janish, SS

8. Chris Dickerson, LF

9. Bronson Arroyo, P

Quick Take – This lineup looks good for now and even better for the future. If Bruce can stay healthy, he could have a breakout year in 2010. I would like someone better than Janish at SS, but top prospect Todd Frazier isn’t ready to take over just yet.

Houston Astros

1. Michael Bourn, CF

2. Kaz Matsui, 2B

3. Lance Berkman, 1B

4. Carlos Lee, LF

5. Hunter Pence, RF

6. Pedro Feliz, 3B

7. J.R. Towles, C

8. Tommy Manzella, SS

9. Roy Oswalt, P

Quick Take – This six through nine is brutal. It’s hard to have a top offense when the bottom part of your lineup is this bad. Top catching prospect Jason Castro is not too far away, so this is Towles’ last stand with the Astros.

Pittsburgh Pirates

1. Andrew McCutchen, CF

2. Akinori Iwamura, 2B

3. Garrett Jones, 1B

4. Ryan Doumit, C

5. Andy LaRoche, 3B

6. Lastings Milledge, LF

7. Ryan Church, RF

8. Ronny Cedeno, SS

9. Zach Duke, P

Quick Take – I think in order to maximize their offense’s potential, the Pirates will play Jones at first and Church in right instead of playing Jones in right and Jeff Clement at first. The Pirates’ offense will be better in 2010, but will still have a hard time scoring runs on a consistent basis.

Last, but not least, tomorrow we will take a look at the National League West.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Mark McGwire Admits To What We Already Knew; He Used Steriods

January 11, 2010

For years, many speculated that former St. Louis Cardinals’ slugger Mark McGwire used steriods. Well today, all that speculation came to an end.

In an interview with the Associated Press, McGwire admitted to what most people already knew–he used steriods. In the interview he claimed to have used steriods on and off for about a decade.

McGwire admitted to using steroids today

Here is the full statement from McGwire:

“Now that I have become the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, I have the chance to do something that I wish I was able to do five years ago.

I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It’s time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the ’90s, including during the 1998 season.

I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.

During the mid-’90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years. I experienced a lot of injuries, including a ribcage strain, a torn left heel muscle, a stress fracture of the left heel, and a torn right heel muscle. It was definitely a miserable bunch of years and I told myself that steroids could help me recover faster. I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries, too.

I’m sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids. I had good years when I didn’t take any and I had bad years when I didn’t take any. I had good years when I took steroids and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn’t have done it and for that I’m truly sorry.

Baseball is really different now — it’s been cleaned up. The commissioner and the players’ association implemented testing and they cracked down, and I’m glad they did.

I’m grateful to the Cardinals for bringing me back to baseball. I want to say thank you to Cardinals owner Mr. DeWitt, to my GM, John Mozeliak, and to my manager, Tony La Russa. I can’t wait to put the uniform on again and to be back on the field in front of the great fans in Saint Louis. I’ve always appreciated their support and I intend to earn it again, this time as hitting coach. I’m going to pour myself into this job and do everything I can to help the Cardinals hitters become the best players for years to come.

After all this time, I want to come clean. I was not in a position to do that five years ago in my congressional testimony, but now I feel an obligation to discuss this and to answer questions about it. I’ll do that, and then I just want to help my team.”

So the question many have is why now? Why didn’t McGwire just say all this during the congressional hearing five years ago?

My opinion on this–and this is just my opinion–McGwire is desperate to get back in baseball and desperate to get into the Hall of Fame. McGwire got terrible legal advice during those hearings and I don’t think he ever realized how much damage he would do to himself by doing what he did that day.

He took the first step to get back in baseball by becoming the hitting coach of the Cardinals in 2010. Admitting he took steroids he is the second step.

Now that everything is in the open, he will be more accepted in baseball circles. Admission worked for Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez.

Do I think betters his chance of getting into the Hall of Fame? No I don’t.

I don’t see how anyone can justify voting for someone who admitted 10 years of his career probably should have never happened. He admitted to using steroids in 1989 to 1998. Take away those stats from his career and then look at what you have.

While I give McGwire credit for coming clean and coming clean about exactly what he did (unlike Giambi, who apologized for doing nothing), I do have a problem with one of the things he said.

Looking back, I wish I had never played in the steroid era.”

Mark, the steroid era didn’t make you do steroids. This was your choice and your choice alone. There were plenty of other players who didn’t do steroids during this time.

Don’t blame the era, blame yourself.

McGwire will speak publicly tonight for the first time on the MLB Network. The interview will take place at 7:00 pm ET tonight.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Cardinals To Go With David Freese At Third Base

January 8, 2010

Instead of going after free agents like Miguel Tejada or Felipe Lopez to play third base for them in 2010, the St. Louis Cardinals will go with an in-house option instead.

In an interview with KSLG 1380 radio in St. Louis, Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak said the plan right now is to go with David Freese at third base in 2010. These are the type of options you have to go with when you have almost half your payroll tied up into three players (Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, and Chris Carpenter).

Freese will start for the Cards in 2010

So now that it appears Freese will be given every opportunity to win the Cardinals’ third base job in 2010, lets take a look at just who he is.

Freese was a ninth round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2006 and a year later was traded to the Cardinals for Jim Edmonds (I’ll check that one off as a win for the Cardinals) Edmonds was useless in San Diego and was released in May after only hitting .178 in 26 games.

Freese on the other hand, has impressed at every stop in the minor leagues.

In four minor league seasons, Freese has a career .308 average and a .384 OBP. In 2008 for Triple-A Memphis, Freese hit .306 with 26 home runs and a .910 OPS in 131 games.

That is pretty impressive.

Freese’s 2008 season in Triple-A was so impressive that he earned a spot on the Cardinals’ opening day roster in 2009. Freese however, struggled at the major league level in April hitting only .158 in 22 AB’s.

Freese was sent down and once again tormented Triple-A pitching. In 56 games, Freese hit .300 with 10 home runs. He was called back up in September and hit .583 with a home run in 12 AB’s.

Defensively, based on his minor league stats, Freese should be an above average defensive third baseman in 2010. He also has some experience playing first base if the Cardinals should ever decide to give Pujols a day off.

Going into 2010, Freese ranks fifth amongst the Cardinals’ top-10 prospects according to Baseball America.

In order for the Cardinals to compete at a championship level now and in the future, they need low-cost prospects like Freese, Daryl Jones, and Colby Rasmus to step up and make solid contributions.

Rasmus made a solid contribution to the Cardinals in 2009 by hitting 16 home runs and playing a very solid center field. There is no reason to think Freese can’t follow in Rasmus’ footsteps and make a solid contribution for the Cardinals in 2010.

Freese will go into 2010 as an early National League Rookie of the Year candidate.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Cardinals Keep Matt Holliday, Sign Him To Seven-Year Deal

January 6, 2010

It’s really hard to keep a good man down.

After super agent Scott Boras was only able to get Adrian Beltre a one-year deal for $9 million, you just knew he was going to come back with a vengeance in his next contract negotiation.

And come back with a vengeance, Boras did.

As first reported by SI.com’s Jon Heyman, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Boras client Matt Holliday to a seven-year, $120 million contract. The seventh year is a vesting option and each year of the contract will pay Holliday $17 million.

This is a huge win for Boras’ camp.

If you really think about it, Boras got the Cardinals to pony up $120 million when there was no other team even remotely interested in Holliday. Essentially the Cardinals bid against themselves.

Boras was hell-bent on getting Holliday more on an annual basis than what Jason Bay got. As usual, Boras got what he wanted. Holliday’s annual salary is $500,000 more than what Bay will get.

Holliday is staying in St Louis

I understand the money, but I don’t understand the years. Seven years is a lot to commit to Holliday, who will be 30-years-old next week. If no one else was bidding for Holliday, then why give him the two extra years?

For the Cardinals, I get why they had to sign Holliday.

At the beginning of the offseason, I had the Cardinals, along with the New York Mets and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as the three teams whose offseason was more important than any other teams.

I felt the Cardinals’ offseason was extremely important to the overall direction of the franchise because not only was Holliday a free agent, but manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan were free agents as well.

Not to mention that Albert Pujols is a free agent in two years and the Cardinals have to show a commitment to winning in order for Pujols to stick around after the 2012 season. So far, the Cardinals have done everything you could possibly ask them to do in terms of showing a commitment to winning now and in the future.

They re-signed LaRussa and Duncan (who might be the biggest key to the Cardinals’ success), they replaced Joel Pineiro with Brad Penny, which I like, and they made a serious commitment to Holliday. Holliday gives the Cardinals a legitimate bat to hit behind Pujols.

Holliday did hit .353 with 13 home runs and a Pujolsian 1.023 OPS in 63 games last year for the Red Birds, so it’s not like the Cardinals gave $120 million to Craig Paquette.

The Cardinals still have some holes to fill, like a third baseman (Miguel Tejada?), but they have filled all of their important holes this offseason.

The question that remains for the Cardinals is can they compete on a long-term basis with two players taking up a majority of their payroll?

The Cardinals aren’t a big market team, but they aren’t a small market team either. They are right in the meaty part of the curve. Their payroll usually settles in around the $95 million mark.

Pujols is a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. He will make $16 million in that final year. Pujols can realistically ask for $35 million a year if he wanted to.

If Alex Rodriguez is worth $32 million, then Pujols has every right to ask for more than ARod. But lets say that Pujols accepts a home-town discount and signs an extension for $25 million a year and the Cardinals’ payroll bumps up to $110 million in 2013.

With Holliday making $17 million and Pujols making $25 million, can the Cardinals compete with two players taking up 38 percent of the team’s payroll?

I think they can.

However, it’s going to take a major commitment to restocking their minor league system. They traded away the majority of their top prospects in the Holliday and DeRosa trades.

The Cardinals right now have a farm system that ranks towards the bottom in baseball.

The Cardinals are going to need some young talent to come through their system in order for the Cardinals to be competitive with a $110 million payroll and two guys taking up a significant portion of that payroll.

Holliday has a career .318 average with 152 home runs and a .933 OPS in six seasons with the Colorado Rockies, Oakland A’s and Cardinals.

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