The Cardinals added a couple veteran arms Friday to begin addressing an area that crippled the 2010 squad: depth.
The Cards signed Miguel Batista and Ian Snell to minor league deals and invited them to Spring Training. Batista, 39, and Snell, 29, figure to compete for the “sixth starter” role, which means they will be asked to pitch long relief and make a spot start in the event one of the rotation mainstays need a break. Snell also may put some pressure on Kyle Lohse in competing for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Hopefully the team is not done adding pieces like this. A good number of quality free agents remain on the market, and as Spring Training approaches their asking prices will only go down.
The biggest area of concern continues to be third base. I don’t think anyone wants to give up on David Freese, but he is returning from ankle surgery and has yet to prove he can stay on the field for an entire season. I don’t even have a problem with Freese being anointed the starter before he takes the field; what I do take issue with is the Cards going into the season without a true third baseman as his backup. The Joe Thurston/Felipe Lopez/Pedro Feliz stuff isn’t going to fly anymore. But I also understand the Cards don’t have millions to throw around until they know the outcome of the Albert Pujols contract situation. So the signing will need to be of the low-risk, high-reward variety. Perhaps a bounce-back candidate like Joe Crede would be a good move.
Another bench move should be to get a “damage” bat; a known presence that gives other teams pause. I like the idea of Dan Descalso, Jon Jay, and Allen Craig getting a chance but no one will consider them to be guys that are lurking as a pinch hitter in the late innings. Jermaine Dye and Jorge Cantu are a couple of players who could re-gain their power strokes if given a shot.
I know these are not guys who are going to win MVP awards anytime soon. But the Cardinals already have a full starting roster for 2011; they need pieces and role players. Friday’s signings are a first step in what appears to be the right direction. But thinking they are done would be a mistake.