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Figuring in raises for Skip Schumaker and Ryan Ludwick, the Cardinals have about $7-8 million left to play with. tom s. already looked at some of the options the Cardinals might consider for third base or as 4th outfielder and concludes the in-house options of Freese, Craig and Jay are strong enough to not merit signing another position player. I tend to agree, but consider me less than sold on Freese.

I think I’m all for signing Joe Crede, but not because Freese isn’t ready. At 27 years old, he better be ready. However, I think that might just be the point about Freese. While his MLE’s look solid enough, Sickels has him down as a borderline B-/C+ prospect, a grouping that has a notoriously high failure rate. Let’s just be generous and say Freese is a B prospect. B grade hitting prospects have a 60% failure rate, and on average produce just $5 million worth of WAR during their first six seasons in the majors.  Not each season, the entire six. While I think Ruben Gotay might be the Ken Phelps All-Star pick-up of the year, him seeing regular time would be bad news.

There’s also the dicey issue of Freese’s run-ins with the law. (We’re talking Homer, Ozzie and the Straw…) One DUI isn’t the unforgivable sin. But there’s a previous DUI, a public intoxication and his mysterious car wreck that left him hobbled last year. I’m not trying to come off as a self-righteous jerk, but is this the kind of behavior the Cardinals want to reward with the starting third base job, considering the cases of Josh Hancock and Scott Spiezio? Seriously.

Another year, another back surgery for Crede, but when healthy he’s still a productive player. Crede’s averaged just 94 games the past two seasons, which is not good, but he has been good for 1.8 WAR and 1.9 WAR in that short time, thanks to his outstanding defense. UZR has him worth 25 runs saved above average in ’07-’09, outstanding considering he played in only 217 games. The Fielding Bible has Crede down for 30 runs above average. Steve’s Projections have  Crede good for  a +10/150 games next season. Let’s WAR.

Batting Wins Above Average (.319 wOBA, league wOBA .334): -.8 wins
Defensive Wins Above Average: +1 wins
3B Positional Adjustment: +.25 wins
Replacement Level: +2 wins
—————————————–
= 2.5 wins * .6 (or about 335 PA’s for PT) = +1.5 WAR

Crede made just $2.5 million with the Twins last year, and will likely sign for no more than that this year. $1.7M per win is bargain basement. Now let’s take a look at how Freese projects out, using CHONE.

Batting Wins Above Average (.340 wOBA, league wOBA .334):  +.3 wins
Defensive Wins Above Average: 0 wins
3B Positional Adjustment: +.25 wins
Replacement Level: +2 wins
—————————————–
= 2.6 wins * .88 (or about 550 PA’s for PT) = 2.3 WAR

“OK, you nut. If Freese is going to be this good, why are you stumping for Crede?” Point-by-point, 1, 2, 3:

  1. I think CHONE’s projection is rather generous. Freese’s projection calls for a .329 BABIP to help him get to a .340 wOBA.
  2. The low success rate of 27-year-old B-/C+ prospects.
  3. Freese’s Barney Gumble-like behavior.

Crede at $2.5M is a solid signing, and it tells David Freese to get his act straight if he wants to play in the majors with this organization. If/when Crede gets injured, then start Freese, who by then will have hopefully got the wake-up call. Crede comes with his fair share of risk as well, but he’s been productive the past two seasons despite only playing around 60% of the season. He’s not cheaper than Freese, but he’s still cheap and it decreases the risk to a degree while giving Freese a much needed jab for being dumb.

Next, the club could use some Ryan Franklin insurance. .380 on-base average against in the second half is not something I have forgotten about. While I think it’s cool he found some success early last season with a cutter, Franklin’s still just a middle reliever getting an opportunity to close. With his low K/9 rates, he’s dancing on the edge of a knife.  Outside of Valverde, who would cost money the Cardinals don’t really have, and a draft pick, the market for relievers is pretty thin. That said, here’s the in-house and outside options for some Franklin insurance, by their CHONE projected FIP. I gave everyone other than Franklin a leverage of 1.3, and everyone 65 innings for the sake of ease of comparison:

Pitcher IP FIP K/9 LEV FA $ WAR
Franklin 65 4.11 5.86 1.5 $2.5 0.7
Gregg 65 4.32 7.66 1.3 $1.5 0.4
Dotel 65 3.72 10.70 1.3 $3.5 1.0
Calero 65 3.99 8.41 1.3 $2.6 0.7
Springer 65 3.98 7.98 1.3 $2.6 0.7
Motte 65 3.77 9.44 1.3 $3.4 0.9
McClellan 65 3.89 6.86 1.3 $2.9 0.8

Dotel is 36-years old, but he still gets plenty of whiffs and could be easily had, with Pittsburgh showing to be the only seriously interested party. Calero had a 1.4 WAR season in Florida last season and it would be nice to see one part return from Mulder-gate. Gregg doesn’t project to be better than anything in-house and Springer’s 41 years old. Give me Calero or Dotel. I like Mac and Motte in their own way, but I think they might be better served as 1.0 leverage relievers with either Kiko or Dotel setting up.

With $7M the Cardinals could easily snap up a couple of insurance policies such as these and still would have Gabe Gross/Ryan Church money left over if they want a left-handed hitting 4th OF. It’s not a must considering how weak the rest of the division is, and the Cardinals have 91 win talent in-house, right now. But if they can hedge their bets a bit, it wouldn’t hurt. The other route might be signing John Smoltz. If that’s the route available, then I think I’d be all for it.

Erik Manning

Erik became addicted to Cardinals baseball as a young lad growing up on the mean streets of O'Fallon, MO. He moved away to Tulsa to attend Bible College, where he met his wife, who talked him into moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also known as the Bermuda triangle of baseball. His dream is to see the MLB.tv blackouts end, and his other interests are theology and philosophy of religion. He is the parent of two young boys.

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