UCB Fall Roundtable: The First Pitch

The United Cardinal Bloggers come together a few times a year for a great project known as “The UCB Roundtables”. The fall edition starts today, and it starts right here on i70baseball.

I asked UCB Founder and the man we call The Godfather, Daniel Shoptaw, for a few words about the project. Here is your history lesson for the day:

Back in the spring of 2008, I was invited to do a roundtable with another Cardinal blogger on a general baseball site. While I don’t believe it was exactly how we see the roundtables today (hey, I found an archived link!), I enjoyed it enough that I thought I could adapt it to the nascent UCB. We took our first crack at it in June of 2008 and it’s been a regular part of the UCB rotation ever since. Now we do one before the season starts as our February project and one after the season ends as an October project. This year we have roughly 30 bloggers scheduled to participate.

So, I get to throw out the first pitch. I figured, honestly, that we would not be able to avoid talking about Albert Pujols for long, so I jumped in head first with the question on everyone’s mind, prior to Tony LaRussa announcing his retirement and making my question obsolete prior to publishing. I asked the UCB the following:

Albert Pujols is no longer a Cardinal and has moved on to greener (see what I did there?) pastures. Put your General Manager hat on for me and tell me what moves you feel need to be made if the team desires to be competitive in 2012. Is there a key free agent or specific position that Mo should attempt to upgrade? Should he stand pat? Anything other than reacquiring Pujols is on the table.

The answers, which have been edited a bit, both for space and to keep them on point, are as follows:

Aaron Hooks, Cards Diaspora
Sign Edwin Jackson.

I know, not nearly as sexy as signing Prince Fielder, but having a quality 4th starter to go with Wainwright, Carpenter and Garcia…
then Jake Westbrook as the Cardinals 5 is a very, very sturdy rotation in 2011.

The Cardinals will have to get increased production on a more regular basis from Allen Craig and Jon Jay and something from SS. But they can win, albeit, not as spectacularly as with #5, but they can win.

Also, I’ll never mention Prince Fielder and ‘sexy’ in the same answer ever again. Promise.

Ray DeRousse, STL Cardinals Baseball
Personally, I’m all for not re-signing Pujols. While he has a competitive attitude, I think he is too self-absorbed, arrogant, and fragile to have that kind of money or that many years.

I’d love to install Allen Craig at first base. He would give you 25-30 home runs and somewhere around a .300 average. Many have suggested Berkman at first and Craig in RF, but Berkman seems adamant on remaining the outfield (and we want him as happy as possible).

I would NOT re-sign Furcal, Theriot, Rhodes, or Patterson. I’d install Tyler Greene at short, or bring up Ryan Jackson (though he’s probably still a year away). I’d hang on to Punto if he’s around a million. I’d possibly keep Laird, although my inclination is to give Tony Cruz a shot.

What I really want is a true leadoff hitter on this team. How about we trade Matt Holliday and get a young lefthanded reliever and a stud second baseman (or shortstop) who can lead off? I was salivating over the idea of having an Ian Kinsler on our team, or nabbing someone like Jose Reyes. This lineup needs more oomph from the top.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t change much. The starters are set (unfortunately, and there’s nothing that can be done about it) and most of the bullpen is set. It’s time to transition into the youth movement we know is coming in 2013/2014, and this would be a way to

Kevin Reynolds, Cards N Stuff
One thing 2011 taught us is that SS is not an “offense first/routine play” position. On UCB day at Busch, I asked Mozeliak about our depth at SS in the system if Theriot doesn’t work out. That remains my concern. This team now has offense. It has chemistry. What it needs is a SS with solid defensive ability and good plate discipline.

Perhaps the most intriguing question beyond that – assuming no trade/signing is made to upgrade the rotation (heard the Roy Oswalt rumor) – revolves around Skip Schumaker. Jon Jay is a decent CFer…but he’s shown himself vulnerable to prolonged droughts. The team needs to carry at least one other option at CF. Skip Schumaker could be that option…but he’s also left-handed. Perhaps the best way to shake Jay out of slumps is to platoon him in LH/RH matchups until his bat adjusts again. That is much more difficult to do with two LH CFers. It would be nice to have a RH option.

Of course, the second base question looms large for Schu as well. As it stands, this team has 3 regular options at 2B – Theriot, Punto, and Schumaker. That’s 1 too many. Again, Tony likes the RH/LH options. Punto has proven valuable at multiple positions…and he’s a switch-hitter, satisfying Tony’s “flexibility” pre-requisite. Schumaker is a valuable super-utility man…able to play all three outfield spots, 2B against RH pitchers, hit leadoff on occasion, and even pitch in a pinch ;). As much as I hate to say it, Theriot is the odd man out here. He performed well offensively in an everyday role early in the season, but his defensive issues – which are not related to playing SS – limit his availability in 2012. How much does that degrade his offensive contributions?

I think the team needs to focus on signing a SS first…defensive stability and plate discipline…and then attempt to sign a bench, RH option in CF…and that may mean dealing Theriot somehow. Oh…and FYI…Allen Craig in CF scares the bejeezus outta me! So let’s not entertain thoughts of him as a CFer. Plus, Craig is a stud…so far…let’s not put him in the “replace Albert with 25 – 30 HRs” category until he logs a few everyday at-bats. He killed in several at-bats in the postseason…he’s looked entirely vulnerable in many other at-bats – and I say this having watched Craig play in Springfield quite a bit.

Jon Doble, Redbird Dugout
If Albert Pujols is leaving, I don’t think that there is very much that the Cardinals’ organization needs to do in free agency to make the team competitive. Part of this is that I feel that the free agent class beyond Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder is extremely thin.With Pujols gone Allen Craig will get the opportunity to play every day. Lance Berkman will make a nice bridge until Matt Adams is ready to get his chance at the big league level. All the major spots are filled.There are really three things that I feel like the Cardinals need to do this offseason to solidify the team and the roster.First, address the middle infield situation. My preferred solutions are Clint Barmes at shortstop and Jamey Carroll at second base. Both
are exceptionally good gloves with Barmes putting up a +14 runs saved this season at short and Carroll was a +2 in 81 games at second base, and a career +15.Barmes’ bat also provides some good pop deep in the lineup to give another potential double-digit home run threat. Carroll’s bat might give you something that you can use as a leadoff hitter. He hits lefties and righties well and should put up about a .350 OBP, which is very solid for a leadoff-type hitter in today’s MLB.Second, find a right handed outfielder that can play all three outfield positions. Jon Jay, Skip Schumaker, and Adron Chambers. The
Cardinals’ best three options to play center field are currently left handed hitters. That doesn’t bode well for any need to platoon someone in a slump. Someone like a Jerry Hairston whose utility ability would come in quite handy and would give Jay a spell in CF whenever he needs one.And finally third, find a left handed reliever to compliment Rzepczynski. Last year would have been the best time, considering that
there were several top quality left handed relievers on the market. Mike Gonzalez is about the only left hander on the market that
interests me.

Beyond that the team should hold onto it’s young talent and they’ll be set for 2012 and beyond with or without Pujols. Amazingly, the team is exceptionally well positioned either way.

Starting pitching should be the focus. After Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright, there’s a need for more depth behind Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook. Shelby Miller isn’t ready. I don’t see Lance Lynn or Marc Rzepcynski being converted to a starter. Edwin Jackson likely will leave via free agency. Kyle McClellan doesn’t seem to be the answer either.
Aaron, El Maquino
Use the cash you’re not paying Pujols and get a free agent rightfielder (DeJesus, Ludwick, Nady) and closer (Bell, Rodriguez, Soriano).
Diane Schultz, Diamond Diaries
If Albert remains a free agent and leaves, the Cards should take the money and get a good quality starting pitcher.

JE Powell, Stl Fear The Red
I am not so sure that if Albert does leave that going out and getting Prince Fielder or some other high priced power hitter is such a good idea. Matt Adams hit 32 HR and had 101 RBI in 115 games for AA Springfield this past seasn and depending on how he does in AAA he may be very close to being ready to take over at first. The Cards could use Allen Craig at 1st in the short term.

Again, IF Pujols were to leave, I think the best course for the Cardinals to try and upgrade at short stop and 2nd base. Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins filed for free agency, although getting either one of them would be a long shot. I’d rather the Cardinls just pay Pujols (of course, what Cardinals fan wouldn’t?) and Kelly Johnson is a 2nd basemen who filed for free agency. That’s just a few names that are our there. Upgrading at both positions could cover (between the two positions) the gaping offensive hole that losing Pujols’ bat would leave.
Daniel Shoptaw, Cardinal 70
I’m thinking along the same lines as many others here. I’d probably use the payroll surplus, such as it is, to absorb Jake Westbrook’s contract (though I wouldn’t argue with Kyle Lohse, I think Westbrook’s contract was even more ill-advised) and see if I couldn’t get Roy Oswalt to come play for the team he’s always wanted to join at a price that worked for both of us. Use Tyler Greene at short, either Berkman or Craig at first, find someone to play second, and I think this team contends yet again.
Steve Sommer, Gas House Graphs
My to-do list looks exactly like Jon Doble’s. I haven’t done the research to know if my solutions would be the same as his in the middle infield, but I definitley agree on the holes to fill. Interestingly those holes look similar to those of last offseason. Shortstop (Theriot), Left Handed Relief (Tallet), RH CFer (left unfilled/Jon Jay as proxy), 2B (Skip seen as the solution). Unfortunately the “name” free agents in middle infield will likely command more than their value, especially in terms of contract length.

I could be persuaded that the right starting pitcher at the right contract length (read 1 year) could be a fit, but I also think that Lynn could provide sufficient first level depth.

Chris Mallonee, Birds On The Bat 82
I’m a fan of moving Berkman to first and letting Craig play right. Interestingly, not many seem to be giving him credit for his outfield play in the World Series. I thought he did a fine job and will continue to improve. He’s a good athlete.If I was GM and Pujols walks, I don’t resign Theriot, and keep Punto/Schumaker at platoon split 2B with Descalso still available to sub in for Freese when his ankles start hurting. I would then look to trade Lohse or Westbrook for a good prospect and sign a top tier outfielder and Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson. That would really shore up the back end of the rotation…the question is would anyone take Lohse or Westbrook. But not paying AP would allow the Cards to try and throw money at a guy like Matt Kemp, spend for a good pitcher, and take a Type B free agent at short. I like the name Barmes that has been thrown around.
Tom Knuppel, Cardinals GM
If Albert does not return I hope to re-sign Furcal for a bit less than he is owed and then I sign some oldies like Beltran to play right, Berkman to first and Craig stays in his current fill-in role. Then if money is still available I look at pitchers like Jackson, Oswalt but likely entice Buehrle to St Louis with the money left. This means we attempt to trade Westbrook most likely and add in McClellan for a deal if anyone takes them.

Miranda Remaklus, Aaron Miles Fastball
First off, with Albert gone, you’ll need an all-star bat to take the pressure off Holliday and the young guys. I don’t think you can depend on Matt Holliday to handle being “THE” star. He did well behind Albert and ahead or behind Berkman. I don’t think he can be the one. And this will be David Freese’s third season. He’s not ready to be shoved into that role, even though he made a GREAT case for himself this post season. And Allen Craig is kind of a younger Skip Schumaker. He’ll always have place in the lineup. I don’t think he likes having a set spot. He seems to thrive being where he is needed.

You don’t sign Prince Fielder though. I initially didn’t believe he would mesh with Tony, but now I’ll just say, he doesn’t mesh with the fan base!

Sign EJax or another quality 4th starter. Keep Jake. I just like him. Gutsy and classy during the playoffs. Move Lohse to the pen for longish relief or try to trade him. Zepper can work on becoming a long reliever or another rotation arm if needed. My baby bird farm favorite John Gast might even make an appearance this season!

Sign Rafael Furcal. He was such an upgrade at SS. I don’t know if you’ll find a better player and teammate for the cost. Tyler Greene is not our SS next season. He’s super inconsistent. I saw him play at Memphis this summer, where he was supposed to be getting consistent playing time. He wasn’t consistent even then. I’d really like for him to succeed in St. Louis. I loved that he was the one that got the steal that started the rally comeback against the Cubs at the end of the season. It was beautiful. Although, with Tony gone THIS might change now.
Tara Wellman, Aaron Miles Fastball
Like Miranda, I like Rafael Furcal. I like his energy, his intensity (though it hurts him at the plate sometimes) and his qualities as a teammate. The intangibles make him more than his .195 batting average. That said, character alone doesn’t win championships. There’s always the Daniel Descalso option, though not as popular with some. If he gets the work at SS, I’m one of those who believe he could do it … and do it well.

A post-Albert team will likely have to rely on strong pitching if the offensive gap can not be filled (and who, exactly, could fill number five’s shoes?). I like the prospect of a Wainwright, Carpenter, Garcia, Jackson starting four, so I resign Edwin. Westbrook is another one of those guys that may not always have the goods, but he has the heart. I can see him doing just what he did in the World Series — coming in to relief situations that may be longer, but more concentrated than a full start. Lohse has the stuff to be a good 5th man, but I’m not opposed to seeing what we could get for him.

I’m one of those who likes the idea of Berkman at 1st base with Allen Craig — or even Craig/Schumaker — in right field. Lance held his own out there, but I’d rather have his experience at 1st, at least for now. As others have said, Matt Adams might make good progress over the off season, and that presents a more … “youthful” option for the future.

Speaking of Skippy, I want him on this ball club. Not only can he go in at several positions, but he’s a competitor and will do whatever is needed to help the team win. Yes, if you want him in center field, it doesn’t align with the RH/LH matchups. But without Tony, that may not be as necessary as before. I know somebody is going to have to walk, but if I’m setting up a winning team, I don’t want it to be him.

Oh, and above all, I echo those who have said it — don’t sign Prince Fielder! Yes, he might be good. But he’s not a Cardinal.
Erika Lynn, Diamond Diaries
Should Albert leave, I like what we already have and see no reason to run to the market. The Cardinal talent is deep – it just won us a CHAMPIONSHIP after all.

However, in that scenario, I would predict Berkman moves to 1st and Allen Craig gets his deserving place as a regular in the lineup, playing right field.

I love these guys. I love this team. With Adam Wainwright in 2012, the sky’s the limit (again). In my perfect world, we keep everyone…. even the turtles and squirrels. ;)

I guess find a replacement for Tony should be priority one. I won’t elaborate further as I’m sure someone will want to further this discussion via a round table question.

For me the middle infield and bullpen are my two highest priorities behind the Pujols extravaganza. “IF” Albert Pujols does not return and Craig and Berkman fill RF and 1B respectively I believe that puts emphasis on a more stable middle infield both defensively and at the plate. Not a lot of suggestions except if the worst case scenario is bringing back Furcal at short with a platoon of Schumaker and Theriot at second then I guess I’m fine with that. No Tyler Greene at short please. Otherwise some names previously mentioned by others are on the board as well. “IF” Albert comes back maybe send Allen Craig to second base camp this winter?

As for the bullpen I have no idea or recommendations. I thought we had a solid pen going into last season and the next thing I knew I was wishing we still had Dennys Reyes. Not really.

The only real wrench I’ll throw in is the starting rotation. I’m on the same page as some who have responded with replacing a current piece in our rotation. Edwin Jackson will not be back based on the contract offers he’ll be receiving but both Roy Oswalt and Mark Buerhle are available. I could see either of them here on a short term deal but my lean is Buehrle. Mark is an innings guy and would be a very nice addition to the rotation. And no offense to Jake Westbrook but he would be my choice as the odd man out. Figuring out a way to do so either via trade of otherwise is the hurdle obviously. Wainwright, Carp, Garcia, Buehrle and Lohse. I’m good with that.


Dathan Brooks, Good Morning Good Afternoon Goodnight
Let me say: I’ve never been a fan of making moves just for the sake of making moves. I’m sure we all have “those friends” that will complain all winter about how Mo “needs” to do this or that, sign this guy, or release that one. Frequently, these are the folks who are most vocal leading up to, and in the days after the trade deadline.

For me, if Pujols departs, I’m not freaking out about going into spring training with the squad looking a lot like it does now. There could be a couple of minor things that could be changed, though. If (and that’s not a big if) Arthur Rhodes doesn’t come back, we’d be left with Garcia & Rzepczynski as our only southpaws. If your OF consists of Holliday-Jay-Schumaker-Craig, your IF has Freese-Descalso-Furcal-Punto-Berkman, and your rotation is 29-50-54-26-35, that leaves Motte, Boggs, Lynn, McClellan(?), Salas, Sanchez for the ‘pen. I think going after another LHP is the play. If they think scrabble can start, go after a ‘pen guy. If not, maybe pursuing a LH starter is the way to go. No C.J. or C.C., please. Buehrle would be nice, but I have to believe the hometown discount it would take to get that done is on the border of putting it out of reach. Not impossible, but unlikely, IMO.
I’m not uncomfortable with the lineup we’d run out there, even if it didn’t contain Pujols (though, obviously the preference is to include him). I think, as with almost all years, pitching should be at the top of the list. After a manager. Middle infield defense might need to be addressed also, but I’m not convinced that can’t wait until the season is underway to address.
And I agree with Tara, Prince Fielder isn’t a Cardinal.
Malcom Pierce, The Redbird Menace
The Cardinals need to focus on the middle of the field. Even with Pujols gone, the team has good options at the corners. Berkman can shift to 1B while Craig finally gets a shot at starting in RF. Is he good enough to play full time? Maybe. Maybe not. At least he provides a reasonable option.
Arguably, the Cardinals are going into 2012 without a middle infield. Furcal and Punto are free agents. I have no faith in Tyler Greene to be more than a quad-A player. Schumaker was never really a 2B and when his offense is judged as an outfielder, it is found wanting. Theriot isn’t a SS anymore and figured to get a raise in arbitration. Both of them should probably be non-tendered. I wouldn’t object to bringing either of them back at a steep discount, but I suspect there are other teams willing to pay them or play them more than the Cardinals should consider. Descalso will still be around and it would be nice to see if he could play SS, where his bat is far more acceptable, but the manager willing to perform such experiments retired today.
It is tempting to suggest that the Cardinals pursue Reyes or Rollins with a portion of the money set aside for Pujols. If Albert is truly gone, they’ll have the money. Unfortunately, either of them have the potential to turn into liabilities from injury (Reyes) or a deteriorating skill-set coupled with a general lack of plate discipline (Rollins). I’d almost rather take a gamble on the inconsistent Kelly Johnson at 2B, then look to the trade market for a SS.
Stephen Drew of Arizona might be a good target. They could take a gamble with Reid Brignac from Tampa, looking to buy low and hope he bounces back. Or they could go with the veteran Mike Aviles, a non-tender candidate from Boston. Shortstop is a weak position across the majors, so they’ll be issues with any player the Cardinals could realistically acquire.
I don’t have a great amount of faith in Jon Jay as a starter, so bolstering CF would be nice as well. But the options in FA are almost as bleak as the options for middle infielders. They boil down to hoping that Grady Sizemore is finally healthy or pray that David DeJesus stops aging. I’d almost rather improve on RF (Beltran, perhaps) and test Craig in CF
One more thing: is getting Brendan Ryan back out of the question?
Daniel Solzman,
If Pujols doesn’t resign, then I would play Lance Berkman at first and place Allen Craig in RF. I would do what I can to bring Skip back to the team, seeing as how is due for arbitration. I’m not sure I would resign Theriot. Furcal, I would resign but I would work and bringing him on at lower than the $12 million that he would make.
Rob Darnell, Rob Says Really

I believe the Cardinals need to find a place to play Allen Craig and I mean every day! I remember when Jeff Kent was the hard hitting second baseman of the Giants. He was not the prototypical second baseman either. I compare Allen Craig somewhat to Dan Uggla in Atlanta, a power hitting second baseman who may not field the position with grace but is in the lineup for his bat. As for Skip, I try to keep him as Craig’s back up and potentially a 4th or 5th outfielder. I like the nucleus of the young talent mixed with the veterans. This played a huge part in the Cardinals WS run. I also would like to see the Cardinals keep Furcal, as I believe he would stay and not break the bank doing so.

I would definitely make sure the staff is deeper going into 2012. Believe it or not, I would like to see both Edwin Jackson and Jake Westbrook back. I’m not so sure about Lohse, but I believe the Cardinals are “stuck” with him. The chemistry this team developed with the staff was very good, and it in my opinion does not to be tweeked to much.

Finally and only because of today’s events: The manager. When it comes to who will be the next Cardinals manager, I think that this job is one of if not the best gigs in all Major League Baseball. I think anyone, who’s anyone would be calling Mo wanting to manage the team that just won the World Series. But this is very important, I believe they whoever they are absolutely needs to keep the bulk of the coaching staff (Dunc, McGwire, McKay and if he’s not the manager Oquendo). That is an absolute must. My personal thoughts are that Oquendo gets first crack, but any proven skipper (Riggleman, Maddon, Francona), is more than fine by me. I don’t believe this hinders Albert re-signing as much as many others believe.

Pip, Fungoes
Part of the wisdom of re-signing Lance Berkman was to provide insurance for just this scenario, so the pieces rotate into place: Berkman plays first, Allen Craig goes to right field. That of course still leaves a firepower gap for the offense, which was the team’s strong suit in 2011. Happily, for whatever productivity loss the team incurs with Craig, it gains in payroll, so the Cardinals could afford to buy some offense.

The open spots then are shortstop and second base, with the possibility of centerfield. The rotation of Wainwright, Carpenter, Garcia, Lohse and Westbrook has some high highs and low lows, but overall is actually set up better than 2011’s was. I’m not convinced that a secondary LOOGy should be high on the shopping list, given their relatively low replacement value (for example, take Arthur Rhodes — please!).

Going outside the organization, the Cardinals might end their shortstop revolving door by bucking up for Jose Reyes, though his 2011 OBP of .384 belies his .341 career average. The price tag obviously matters here. Maybe it’s the former Mets fan in me, but Reyes would revive some of that top-of-the-lineup thrill from the Herzog years. And if Cardinal fans can embrace lifetime Astro Lance Berkman, surely they can warmly receive Reyes, right? Otherwise, I agree with Malcolm that Drew would make lot of sense at shortstop, but clearly Arizona, who extended his contract earlier this year, thinks so too. I’m not sure Mozeliak has any more high-talent ne’er-do-wells to offer in trade. Thinking outside the box a bit, Carlos Beltran (yes, the hated Beltran and another ex-Met) would be a fascinating late-career short-timer (had the fourth-highest WAR among RFs last year). The only problem would be positional, since he probably couldn’t return to center.

Certainly finding a new manager is a important, but the pool of would-be managers isn’t as scarce as top players, so I would actually deprioritize it. And given that the team likely wouldn’t need to spend as much on its manager as it did La Russa (~$5 million), they could use the extra payroll on the field.

Joe McBrayer, McBrayer Baseball
For now I would put Berkman on 1B and move Allen Craig to right, but I would put in motion Matt Adams. If I could bring Furcal back at a cheaper price I would, if not I would go after FA Jose Reyes. I would put an end to the Schumacher experiment and put Descalso at 2B. I would keep the SP/MR the same and leave Motte as RP. A must sign would be Dotel.

Nick, Pitchers Hit Eighth

Middle of the field – both infield and outfield.

The left and right sides are well-covered – Freese, Craig, Holliday, Berkman, Craig, et al.

The question is the middle.

Bring back a critical utility part – Nick Punto.

From there, it gets murky. I’m afraid of Jose Reyes being a cash-sink. Jimmy Rollins is past his prime. Can Tyler Greene put it together and finally earn the shortstop job? If not, does Rafael Furcal come back at a reasonable number?

With the corners providing power in the lineup, the middle infield has to somewhat set the table, but can spare at least one position to defense. Orlando Cabrera comes to mind as a guy who can field both middle infield positions as a great complement to Furcal.

Get a right-handed complement for Jon Jay. Jay projects as the starting center-fielder, but I’m still wary of his slumps. Grady Sizemore is probably wishful thinking, but maybe a right-handed guy to check him would be worthwhile – Reed Johnson or Coco Crisp?

How about a left-handed power bat off the bench and to spell at first base? Russell Branyan?

Keep in mind that the new manager (whomever that may be) may or may not require the services of a second LOOGY.

For my money, either of the Hairston’s would be welcome in St. Louis.

Finally, Roy Oswalt.


Thanks to all who participated in the first question, stay tuned to Retro Simba for the next question in the series.

5 thoughts on “UCB Fall Roundtable: The First Pitch

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