The St. Louis Cardinals come into the 2012 offseason having won a World Series in 2011 and falling one game short of returning to the Fall Classic in 2012. The team, for the most part, is set at almost every position. They have publicly said they will be exploring the option of upgrading the middle infield, the only two spots on the team that anyone can easily look at and say “they could be better”.
But that bothers this writer. I do not like a team that simply “stands pat”, no matter how successful they have been in the past. This team can be better at a few spots on the field and with today’s notebook, I look to the top of the free agent class and ask the simple question: Why not look at Michael Bourn?
Now, hear me out before you jump on me for not being a Jon Jay supporter, for wanting to throw money around just for the sake of spending, or for blocking prospects as they progress through the Cardinals’ system. I assure you, there are good reasons to examine the possibility of one of the top outfielders available on the market wearing the Birds On The Bat.
Defense Is Key
Personally, when I look at the middle of the diamond (catcher, second base, shortstop, center field), I prefer to have guys that will solidify the defense.
Now, I’m not trying to say that Jon Jay is a bad defender. Quite the opposite really. That’s the point here, if I can look at a player and say that he is an upgrade in defense at a key position where I feel the team is already strong, that shows a lot of respect for the other player. Michael Bourn is a two-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field and has the speed to help cover the gaps that are left by having power guys like Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran at the corners.
This Bench Needs Help
It was Chris Reed who mentioned in a recent discussion the lack of faith in the bench. Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson are average players, but pinch hitting late in a game when the Cardinals need runners, they do not inspire a ton of confidence.
Jon Jay has proven in the past that he is more than capable of coming off the bench during a ball game and producing. In addition, he has proven in the past that he can produce when not in the lineup consistently. He is the type of player that can jump into the starting lineup at any point but can also be a weapon late in games.
It Is Not Financial Suicide
Looking at what the Cardinals have coming off the books for this season (Lance Berkman, Kyle Lohse), reinvesting that money in a player like Bourn is not the end of the world.
Many experts project Bourn to get a contract very similar to that of Torii Hunter when he signed his former deal with Anaheim. That projects to a 5 year/$90 million contract or an average value of $18 million per year. Puma’s 2012 contract was for $12 million while Lohse was earning just under $12 million himself. Personally, I feel that Bourn will land closer to $15 million a season for around four years, though either number is within reason for the Cardinals.
The youth of this franchise offers some financial flexibility over the next few seasons. With key positions being patrolled by home grown talent and other prospects being projected to take over other positions, the time for being able to take on a bit of salary is now.
It Doesn’t Block Prospects
The Cardinals key prospect in the outfield is Oscar Taveras, who has spent most of his minor league career patrolling center field.
That being said, Taveras has been projected by many to have a future at the corner outfield positions and the Cardinals, most likely, see him as the right fielder of the future after Beltran’s contract plays out. The only person displaced by the addition of Bourn over the next four to five years is Jon Jay.
It Solves The Top Of The Lineup
It has been a long time since the Cardinals have had a player that can solidify the leadoff position the way Michael Bourn can.
Yes, he strikes out a lot. I do not like that in the leadoff role any more than the next guy. But he steals a lot of bases, walked a career high 70 times last season, was able to show occasional power with nine home runs, and is a commodity that the Cardinals have not had in a very long time.
Sometimes you have to be willing to upgrade even when you are satisfied with what you have. The Cardinals have a chance to improve themselves defensively, on the bench, and at the top of the order in a big way by taking a look at Bourn as a key component of the future.
While I do not feel the Cardinals have to make a move like this to continue to be successful, it would be nice to see the team make a move like this in an effort to get better. After all, it would be nice to win the division instead of fighting their way into the playoffs through the wild card.
Bill Ivie started i70baseball to write about his love for the game and the teams he enjoys watching most, the Cardinals and the Royals.