Here at PAH9, we’re going to start a series of posts in which a question is asked about various baseball topics (mostly Cardinals related though we may dip into other MLB subjects such as the major awards) and each contributor will offer their opinion. Hope you enjoy the first installment.
Right before the end of the season, Bernie had an article that detailed John Mozeliak’s wishlist for 2011 in which Mo first mentioned desiring, “…a couple of guys who can hit 15-20 homers.” Now that the hot stove season is officially burning up, who do you see as legitimate free agent possibilities? Who would be your number one choice? I dealt with this a little bit already in this post.
Below is a table with those free agents who hit at least 15 home runs in 2010; I made exceptions for a few players who had high home run totals despite accumulating few at-bats and those that have a history of hitting more than 15 but didn’t for whatever reason last year. Taking a look at such hitters is reasonable since the Cardinals are presumably trying to lock up Pujols long term and will try to save as much money as possible when filling other needs. In the UZR/150 column, I used players’ total defensive RAR (not per 150 innings) for utility players logging innings at multiple positions. Lastly, I eliminated all 1B/DH types because they don’t have a place on this team, mang.
Andy: It’s always good to start with a process of elimination. On whom will the Cardinals NOT spend money? Exit Crawford, Werth, and Beltre. Next, we can rule out any outfielders unwilling to accept a bench role if we’re comfortable with a cost-efficient platoon of Jay/Craig in RF (are we?). Exit Manny Ramirez (but gosh how I’d love to hear the Busch Stadium jeers turn into cheers) and Adam Dunn. The most obvious choice is Miguel Tejada, for whom TLR has been a long time advocate. I’m sure that Mozeliak will kick the tires on this possibility but I’m hopeful that he resists the urge to placate the manager once again by adding another veteran (see Miles, Winn, and Suppan) whose ceiling offers average contributions at best. Such an acquisition runs the risk of being advertised as SS/3B insurance but, in actuality, enables TLR to deprive Ryan, Freese, and Greene of at bats. I don’t like the inconsistency of Hall or Cantu. Wiggington’s bat has been useful in the past and he is supposed to play several positions… but UZR rates him dreadfully at every infield position and other metrics aren’t much kinder. This seems to leave us with Juan Uribe who I trashed in the post linked to above. Though his home run totals look better than his actual offensive output, Uribe’s fielding has been surprisingly steady (at 2B, SS, and 3B) over the years… which suggests that he would also be a fit for Mo’s vow to improve infield defense. Remember, 1.0 WAR on the free agent market is generally valued at approximately $4 million. Having posted ~3.0 WAR seasons for the past two years, Uribe should easily be worth his contract assuming it doesn’t exceed the $3-4 million neighborhood he received in 2010.
Erik: I’m with Andy, Uribe makes a lot of sense for a lot of the reasons I thought Felipe Lopez made sense last year. Unfortunately, Flip flopped, but I think Uribe is a relatively safe bet to hit some dingers and play a decent enough defense at several different positions. He has his shortcomings – OBP – but he has been worth about 3 WAR per season the past two seasons. Of course the previous two seasons, he was worth only .5 WAR. He could be a little overvalued now in this market, but he makes a lot of sense for the Cardinals given their needs. Bill Hall might be Uribe light, and at a fraction of the cost, but it’s hard to see him as anything more than a spare part.
Having watched quite a few White Sox games this past season, I guess wouldn’t mind seeing Andruw Jones if it’s on the cheap. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want him to be signed because that means blocking Allen Craig, but I won’t cry if the Cardinals did sign him. Jones is always swinging for the fences, and I have some sort of odd feeling he’d be a fit under McGwire, not that Big Mac is some sort of fix-all. I’m just saying I have a hunch. Andruw still has some power and a cannon of an arm in RF, and Jones and Jay could form a decent platoon.
Steve: Just to try and change things up I thought long and hard to come up with a name that isn’t Juan Uribe. That said, my amigos above know what they are talking about and he is pretty obviously the best option of those listed. I think Cardinal nation would be extremely happy if he were picked up to be a infield depth guy with the chance to step in and start at various positions when needed. As Erik said he’s basically a power hitting version of Flip, with a little better defense.
I think the other options to add power are probably either redundant (Hall = Tyler Greene, Kearns=Allen Craig), out of the Cards price range (those Andy mentioned), or just not a great fit. If Uribe goes somewhere else the Cards would likely be best served to try and add OBP and defense instead of 15+ HRs.