Heading into Tuesday night’s matchup with the Brewers the Cardinals had 28 games remaining. There is a menu of options for how this club can approach the rest of the schedule. Whichever approach is taken will say a lot about this club and the direction management is looking to go in 2012.
Tony LaRussa and John Mozeliak can stick with the status quo and finish out the season. Management can field the offers that are already coming and will come their way, shipping off performing veterans for young talent and draft picks. TLR can play up the idea that he is smarter than everyone mixing and matching lineups to his hearts delight. Or Mo can convince him that what’s in the best interest of the club is to put out the young talent after the September call ups and see what the future holds.
These are only a handful of I’m sure the endless number of possibilities being talked about behind closed doors. But my best guess is these are the ones most seriously being considered. At some point Mozeliak is going to have to step out from Tony’s shadow and show himself to be in charge of the future of the Cardinals roster. Mozeliak’s future with the Cardinals is directly tied to the 2011 off season so why not get an early start and make your move.
If you are Mo pick your best option or put together a combo off the menu and pull the trigger. Either way, make a decision and stick to it. The Cardinals are out of the playoff hunt but the season is not lost. To not use these last five or so weeks to its fullest would be a disservice to the team and Cardinal Nation.
The approach is to take these 28 games and set up your off season shopping list. To start…assume Albert Pujols is not going to be a Cardinal in 2012…cue gasp. I know, I know…but I think the Cardinals are set up better for the future without Pujols taking roughly 30% of the payroll. Now if he decides seven years and $23 million per is enough then I might change my tune. But neither his agent Dan Lozano nor Pujols himself has indicated a willingness to do this.
First step is not trading Lance Berkman. As Derrick Goold points out in Tuesday’s column Berkman is potentially going be a Type A free agent this winter. Keeping him around for 2012 gives the Cardinals a potential 1B and part time outfielder for 2012. Losing him to another team brings you back at least one high draft pick, potentially two. Trading him now more than likely brings much less.
Step two is inserting Jason Motte as your closer for the rest of the season. If the 2011 season taught us one thing it is that the Cardinals are not set at closer. Franklin, Boggs, Sanchez and now Salas have had their chances and well…Salas has held on admirably but it is apparent he is not the long term answer. Give Motte the chances and knowledge that it is his role and his alone until October. See you have and maybe that is one item that can be crossed off the winter wish list.
Next is to get Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso as many innings and At Bat’s as possible. If this means putting them into a rotation with Freese, Schumaker, Furcal, Jay and Berkman then so be it. Freese and Jay are safely on the 2012 roster as is Berkman if he wants to stay. Schumaker is in limbo but the next 28 games are not going to change managements mind one way or another. And Furcal, while a nice pickup is a health risk and will not be back next season. And by not giving up much to get him you are not “wasting” him if he sits from time to time.
Craig and Descalso will be around in 2012 but their roles are not yet defined as are the expectations. Get them out there, move them around and see what you have. Try Craig at 2B and RF, move Descalso all around the left side of the infield.
Wherever you plug them in, do so, and gather the data for the off season.
This season is over, but it is not lost. Preparations for a playoff run in 2012 begin now. Your move Cardinals.
These are just my thoughts…keep on reading and you’ll get up to speed.
Derek is on Twitter @SportsbyWeeze and also writes for the Rams at RamsHerd.com
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