Before we get started here, I want to make one thing clear: I am not giving up on this team in 2010. I still hope this team can succeed and move forward, hopefully deep into October. That being said, there are some things that are becoming evident as this team chugs along up and down a roller coaster that has fans reaching for the Tums, Alka Seltzer, and Pepto Bismol.
While hosting the weekly radio program I-70 Baseball Radio, the subject came up: how do you fix the Cardinals prior to 2011? There are some simple things, some complex issues, and some long term decisions facing Mr. Mozeliak. I cannot say that I am envious of his position, but I also do not think this team needs a major overhaul. Here are the ideas that I have for the Cardinals that will take an off season to ensure they are implemented correctly.
Return Skip Schumaker To The Outfield
I, much like most Cardinal fans, really like Skip Schumaker. He is a solid player that benefits the team on and off the field. He is that scrappy player that Tony LaRussa likes to have on the field. He is not, however, a second baseman.
Honestly, I am proud of Skippy and the strides he has made to improve at the position, I really do. But when it comes down to it, I would rather have a natural second baseman and Skip as the team’s fourth outfielder next season. A starting outfield of Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus, and Jon Jay with Skip Schumaker getting some time in the various positions as the utility type player that LaRussa likes to trot out on the field and get 400+ at bats throughout the year. He can even be allowed to play second during some mop up work if that is what the team desires.
Sign Or Trade For A Legitimate, Sturdy Third Baseman
I have said it over and over this season, Flip Lopez at third base magnifies a problem in this team. He is fine for a game or two to give a break to the starting third baseman, but he simply cannot be the answer at that position on a daily basis. David Freese, for all of his production, seems to be fairly fragile. Zach Cox, the newly signed draftee, is the future for this team at third base, but someone has to get the team there. I do not feel that person is a part of the franchise currently. Matt Carpenter is an interesting name that comes up in these discussions, but he is not ready for the big leagues, nor will he be in 2011, in my opinion. What player, from what team, and for how much, is the real question that I simply do not have an answer to at this point. I hope Mo does.
Keep Felipe Lopez
Lopez has a legitimate spot on this team, just not at third base. He is a solid option for the Cardinals as the player we all were told he would be this season. A back up second baseman, shortstop, and corner outfielder who may see some time at third base as well. The same type of player that I suggest Skip Schumaker should be next season, grabbing a large amount of at bats at various positions for the team. I feel he has a place on this roster, and hopefully the Cardinals will identify that prior to Spring Training next year.
Find Someone To Play Second
This one may be answered within the organization. The name Daniel Descalso jumps off the page as a guy that may finally be ready to take that jump to the big leagues. A young player that has struggled at times with his defense, he is a solid professional that provides a cheap option to a spot on the roster that has not seen much production this year anyway. Bring him up, give him the time to prove himself, knowing that there is Lopez to fall back on if necessary from time to time and give the team a boost in a much needed area.
Keep Jake Westbrook Or Bring In Someone Of Similar Talent And Price
This one may be a bit premature, but Westbrook has impressed me long before he came to St. Louis. If he can be had for a legitimate price, say in the range of $7 to $10 million, he is a excellent option as a number three or four starter. If the team wants to plug a rebuilding project pitcher in at the number five spot in the rotation, so be it, but solidify the top four spots with good arms that are not a crap shoot of a fix. While we are at it…
Cut Ties With Kyle Lohse
He has been bad. I’m not talking about since his injury or recently, but with the exception of 2008, he is not a solid pitcher. His inability to bounce back from the injury has simply added to that frustration level. He built a contract off of a positive season in 2008, but it is time to acknowledge that this team has young pitchers, veteran pitchers, and other options that have made his necessity on this team obsolete at best.
Finally, And Most Important, Make Albert Pujols A Lifetime Cardinal
Notice that nothing that I have suggested points to an extreme increase in payroll. This off season is the time for this team to sit down and acknowledge the fact that the best player on the planet is playing first base at Busch Stadium III and wearing the birds on the bat throughout the season. Letting him even get a whiff of free agency, more than he already has, is borderline irresponsible. It is time to sit at a table, hand number five a blank check, and tell him to fill out the amount to his liking. Once the contract is done, then the team can evaluate the amount of money left to build a roster and figure out the next step accordingly.
On that subject, let me say the words that no one wants to hear: If you cannot afford Albert Pujols, it is time to evaluate what you can get in a trade for Albert Pujols. I do not want to see Albert put on another uniform in his career, but if he is pricing himself out of the range the Cardinals feel they can afford, then they have to do the responsible thing and move him for half of some team’s roster. Let us all take a moment and hope this never happens.
There you have it, nothing profound or extreme, just some minor adjustments that will take an off season to put together.
Don’t agree with me? I would love to hear your comments below.
Bill Ivie is the founder of I-70 Baseball, the host of I-70 Baseball Radio, the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com, and a proud member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.