Tag Archive | "Contract Extension"

The Top 5 Moves by Mozeliak

Last Thursday, the Cardinals ensured that perhaps the most crucial brick its foundation would remain in place. The club reached an agreement with general manager John Mozeliak to a three-year contract extension that will carry him through the 2016 season, which will be his ninth serving the team in his current capacity.

John Mozeliak

During those nine years, he has guided the team through two crucial restructure phases, both built around World Series victories. The first came when he assumed his role after the 2006 victory and former GM Walt Jocketty departing for the Cincinnati Reds, and the second after the 2011 season and the departure of both manager Tony LaRussa and three-time MVP Albert Pujols.

Yet throughout these times, the team’s overall roster has continued to improve. Due to a combination of smart Major League level moves and a reinvestment in the minor league system, building resurrecting it from the among the most depleted to one that has been ranked the best in baseball entering 2013. While his place in St. Louis is secured, Mozeliak is facing yet another crucial turning point in equipping the team to continue to keep its relevance. Adam Wainwright’s pending free agency and extension negotiations are the top order of personnel business for him. This would be one of the signature moments of his career, keeping the club’s top arm in tow for likely the rest of his career.

It is a good opportunity to reflect on the most signature moments of his tenure, which has both seen bold moves, as well as some notable concessions.

 

5. Trading Colby Rasmus, Trevor Miller and Brian Tallet to the Toronto Blue Jays for Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Corey Patterson and Octavio Dotel

This was a trade that had to be done, yet was still slightly stunning when it happened in July 2011. Rasmus had been long hailed as the club’s future franchise player, but his explosive relationship with LaRussa, then the fans, made it a must that a change be made. Mo made it the first big move that turned around that season for the club, and received back plenty of strategic depth. Edwin Jackson stabilized the starting rotation and Octavio Dotel was a crucial late inning veteran. Rzepczynski was a revelation in the playoffs that season, posting a 1.26 ERA over the NLCS and World Series.

4. Trading Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres for David Freese

Edmonds was one of the great Cardinals of all-time, a six-time Gold Glove winner in the Busch Stadium outfield and a fan favorite for eight seasons. But by the winter of 2007, he was in his decline coming off a season where he struggled to hit .252 and hadn’t played in over 120 games in two years. It’s always tough to trade a franchise cornerstone, and when Mo dealt him for a 24 year old that was still in Single-A in 2007. Although he had hit .307 with 96 RBI the previous season, it was still a considered a reach at the time. Freese responded by jumping Double-A completely, and responded by taking the regular reins at third base for the big league club just two years later. This transaction has gone on to represent the first of Mo’s string of moves dedicated to building through the minor leagues for future MLB payout.

3. Trading Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson to the Oakland A’s for (and subsequent resigning of) Matt Holliday.

In the post-Edmonds and Scott Rolen days of 2009, Albert Pujols had been left to carry far too much of the offensive load for the team. In his first blockbuster move, Mo pulled the trigger on a deal based around the team’s top prospect at the time in Wallace for Holliday. Wallace had hit .311 while rapidly rising through the Cardinal organization since being made the 13th overall pick in the 2008 draft. However, he wasn’t truly a fit at the MLB level in STL, and his high regard as a prospect made him an ideal trade chip. Holliday on the other hand, was a high priced rental in Oakland with an expiring contract. The Cardinals needed a bat, Oakland wanted more youth as usual. It was a match made in heaven.

Holliday went on to hit .353 after the trade, helping to push the team into the playoffs. However, the concern was that the team wouldn’t be able to keep off the Yankees or Red Sox to keep him in town. However, Mo aggressively finished out the high stakes dealings with acquiring Holliday by inking him to a seven-year, $120 million deal. It remains the largest in team history, and also a move that showed much needed foresight, due to a future for the organization he likely had already envisioned looming…

2. Not resigning Albert Pujols

Not being able to retain a player of the status of Pujols never sounds like it could be a tally in the great accomplishments list of a GM. Yet in the case of the departure of Pujols in December 2011, it was high mark in Mozeliak’s tenure for the shear boldness and overall organization insight in showed. If the Cardinals had issued a 10 year deal at over $200 million to Pujols, it would have effectively killed the ability to retain any depth for the club over the next decade. Deals for Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina would have been impossible, and staying competitive when Freese, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, Jason Motte and virtually any other player hit the open market. By refusing to do the big move in the moment, he set up the future.

1. Resigning Yadier Molina

The concern after the loss of Pujols was that Molina wouldn’t be far behind. Amongst the fan base, there were murmurs of the Cardinals not willing to put up the money to keep its cornerstones intact. In the whirlwind of changes that happened leading into the 2012 season, an extension for Molina was a priority, and one he delivered on. Yadi’s five-year, $75 million deal kept the club’s new most valuable player in tow and showed the team was prepared to spend where it needed to. It was a calming signing for both team and fans, and showed Mo’s grasp on the big picture is always on point.

 

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Salvador Perez May Be Making Crucial Error

The Kansas City Royals made a strong case last year that Salvador Perez was worthy of a long term contract extension.  After sustaining an injury in the spring, Perez returned to action during the season and seemingly proved that the organization was right.  A rebuilt pitching staff puts a larger focus on Perez’s ability behind the plate in 2013.  As the season looms in the horizon, Perez is preparing to leave the team to play for the Venezuela World Baseball Classic team.

SalvadorPerez2

Perez will be counted on to provide the Royals with two key components to the 2013 season.  He will provide an offensive threat in the lower part of the lineup, a consistent bat that can provide some pop and some run production beyond the middle of the order.  Secondly, and probably most importantly, Perez will be a field general and a leader on the defensive side of the field.

Perez has proven his presence on the field commands respect.  He has shown a strong work ethic and an ability to handle a major league pitching staff at a high level.  He did this last year while working with, primarily, players that he had a strong relationship with prior to the season.  The pitching staff and the young catcher seemed to be on the same page and working very well together.

This season, however, the team has taken drastic moves to improve the starting staff.  Early projections figure that the opening day rotation for the Royals will feature at least four players that were not on the opening day roster last season.  One of those pitchers, Jeremy Guthrie, pitched for the Royals in the last half of the season.  James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana have joined the team during the offseason and will be looking to Spring Training to get better acquainted with their new surroundings.

To paraphrase Stan Lee, with new pitchers comes great responsibility.  In essence, that is what Spring Training is about for most catchers.  Getting to know the pitching staff, their habits and tendencies as well as learning to watch the player to ensure that you know when he is struggling or cruising along is a key component to a successful battery.  Perez is highly regarded for his work in this area but for the first time in his career, he is faced with a challenge of working with players that he does not know and have vastly more experience then he does.

In the midst of this important Spring Training exercise, Salvador will head out to play for the honor of his country in the World Baseball Classic.  One can hardly fault the young man for taking this opportunity to play for national pride on such a large stage.  Many of the other players that will participate, however, have publicly stated that they felt it was a good time to do so based on their current role with their team and the familiarity with the current makeup surrounding them.

Perez will serve his country well.  The question is, does it serve his role with the Royals well to choose to participate in this exhibition?

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Felix Hernandez megadeal should actually help St. Louis Cardinals in Adam Wainwright negotiations

The St. Louis Cardinals enter spring training this week with another star player entering the final year of his contract just two years after the Albert Pujols contract circus. But the Cardinals suddenly have leverage in these negotiations they never got with Pujols.

AlbertPujolsAdamWainwright

Adam Wainwright will be a free agent at the end of the season if he and the Cardinals can’t agree on a long-term contract before the end of the season. This sounds similar to the Pujols situation, but the Cardinals should suddenly be more optimistic this time around thanks to an American League team on the West Coast.

The Seattle Mariners are close to signing pitcher Felix Hernandez to a huge contract that could range from five to seven years and $135 million to $175 million. Either way, Hernandez is going to be a very rich man, but he probably helped the Cardinals in negotiations with their own ace pitcher.

Hernandez could make somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million to $27 million annually, which is close to the price tag many people figured it would take to keep Wainwright in St. Louis beyond this season. However, the Cardinals have a few good reasons not to pay Wainwright that much money, or at least not for that long.

See, Hernandez is just 26 years old even though he’s pitched in the big leagues for eight seasons, but he has never had a major arm injury. Wainwright is 31 years old, missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and struggled at times in 2012 to regain his dominant form.

The bigger concern for the Cardinals was when the San Francisco Giants signed righthanded pitcher Matt Cain to a six-year, $127.5-million contract extension before the beginning of the 2012 season. Cain was 27 years old at the time he signed the deal, but he also had a career record of 69-73.

Granted, the deal worked out last year as Cain led the Giants to a World Series title with a 16-5 record and a perfect game along the way, but Wainwright still looked like the better pitcher at the time.

Maybe it’s been good for the Cardinals to let negotiations with Wainwright drag on into the final year. The constant questions about the contract won’t be pleasant if they don’t get a deal done before the season begins, but the Cardinals would’ve certainly had to pay more for Wainwright if they had signed him to an extension two years ago, and probably even last year. There was a chance Wainwright could have made between $25-30 million per year up until the Hernandez deal.

Wainwright could still shoot for that type of money as a free agent in the offseason if he has a Cy Young Award-caliber 2013 season, but teams will likely be much more unwilling to give a 31-year-old pitcher with a history of arm problems more money than a 26-year-old pitcher who has never spent an appreciable amount of time on the disabled list.

Of course, time will determine if the Mariners made the right decision to sign their righthanded star pitcher. Hernandez could have a Cain-type season, or he could turn into Barry Zito, who hasn’t pitched above .500 since the Giants signed him to a $126-million deal in 2007.

No matter the long-term outcome, news of the Hernandez deal should make Cardinals fans more optimistic their team’s own righthanded star pitcher will take the mound at Busch Stadium in a Cardinals uniform to open the 2014 season, and God-willing, several more seasons beyond that.

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Dayton Moore, You Genius!

I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.

What looked just a couple of weeks ago like a disastrous roster move is starting to look like a resume builder.

Last off-season, Dayton Moore dealt away the National League’s second leading hitter and in exchange got a pitcher who posted a 7.76 ERA and a 2.044 WHIP. You really can’t do much worse than that trade.

But sometimes life is stranger than fiction.

Now the Royals have in their rotation one of the hottest pitcher in the game (with a chance to sign him to a contract extension) and the San Francisco Giants have… nothing.

For any of you who haven’t been paying attention, what transpired is this: KC traded Melky Cabrera after a bounce-back season, and acquired from the Giants Jonathan Sanchez and a minor leaguer named Ryan Verdugo.

The whole thing blew up in Moore’s face in a career-threatening manner. In short, Cabrera was great for the Giants, Sanchez was a complete disaster for KC.

Things couldn’t have gone any worse if the Royals were breaking mirrors and walking under ladders. But what happened next belongs on an episode of CSI.

Maybe the Royals were just due for some good luck. It seems every move they make flops. Every attempt to trade for pitching has proved a disaster (see a detailed list of such trades here).

The good luck came when the Colorado Rockies were actually willing to trade veteran starter Jeremy Guthrie for Sanchez. You think Rockies fans aren’t ticked off about that move? Bad as Sanchez was in KC, he’s been worse in hitter-friendly Colorado – 0-3 with a 9.53 ERA and a 2.294 WHIP. All Guthrie has done recently is throw 22 consecutive scoreless innings.

Cabrera’s saga, on the other hand, defies summation. Not only has he turned out to be a cheater, he’s turned out to be a creepy pharmacologist. He’s also become a despised new character in the juiced-ballplayer era. While there seems to be forgiveness for some of the dopers and enhancers of history, Cabrera seems to have no apologists.

After failing a drug test, Cabrera actually created an elaborate ruse to mislead investigators – what he did may turn out to be criminal. Cabrera is suspended for the rest of the season, and it’s hard to believe the Giants will want him back.

Perhaps Moore just got lucky. But we don’t know all that he was thinking when he traded Cabrera last November after the outfielder’s languishing career had a one-year renaissance.

Do you think maybe Moore suspected something was up with the resurgent Cabrera? Did he suspect Cabrera was doping while in KC? Or did he just think he was playing with house money and decided to move Cabrera before the bottom dropped out?

How Moore got Colorado to take Sanchez at all is remarkable. Maybe Guthrie’s luck will run out and it will wind up nothing more than a trade of two rotten pitchers.

But right now, Moore looks like a genius. Hollywood couldn’t produce a better script than what’s just taken place with Cabrera and Guthrie.

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2012 Key Player: Le quartier français

A cannon of an arm from right field, electric power from the right side of the plate, and a veteran leader in the clubhouse, Kansas City Royals right fielder, Jeff Franceour, is without a doubt a huge component for the Royals in 2012.  Coming off of a couple of less than average years, the Royals took a chance on Franceour last season.  A chance that seemed to pay off for both him and his ball club.  Not only did the Royals get a sound outfielder but also a consistent bat that has the ability to get hot and drive in a lot of runs in a short period of time. Franceour also showed the Royals enough for them to sign him to a contract extension to become the present and future part of a very strong outfield.

Over his career Franceour has shown that he has all of the tools to be a very good hitter.  Though his statistics throughout his career have been up and down he is one of those players that will not get cheated on pitches.  He swings for interstate 70 and shows pitchers that he is not afraid to take a good rip at a pitch that they are just willing to put in the zone.  On the other hand, this kind of mentality has hurt hi, at the plate because of his over 100 strikeouts per season on average throughout his career.  So, at the plate with Franceour what you see is what you get.  A lot of pop at times and a lot of misses at times.  But it is the times that he does connect that he needs to bring up to be a key player for the Royals offensively this season.

Not much has to be said about how he plays out in right field.  he is as solid as they come when it comes to being able to get to balls, reading the plays and knowing where to throw the ball, and then throwing that ball on a line to whomever the receiver is.  In his seven seasons in Major League baseball Franceour has averages just under 14 outfield assists per season.  This is a stat that throughout his career may be his most consistent stat.  The guy just has a knack for cutting down runners on the bases. He did flash a little bit with the leather last season but it was his arm that had and has everyone excited for future years for him in Kansas City.

The biggest part that Francouer will play for the Royals in both 2012 and future years is his experience.  Though he is still considered young by many accounts he has been through it all.  He was a highly sought after draft pick by the Atlanta Braves in 2002, where he and Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals General Manager, first began their relationship. Then he became one of the top prospects in the game along with then Royals third basemen Alex Gordon. Both of whom have gone through the struggles of being a young and upcoming ballplayer but seem to be turning it around just in time for a big push the Royals seem to be making.  After Atlanta, he signed the huge deal with the New York Mets and fell of the face of the Earth a little bit.  His most important experience, which will be essential to the Royals success now and in the future, is when he was traded to the Texas Ranger and was able to get experience in not only postseason play but also in the World Series.  These experiences all add up to being the clubhouse leader for this ball club.  He will be able to help with the highly touted prospects in the Royals system of which he used to be.  And also when the Royals are able to take that next step into October and November he will be able to calm guys down and show them how to be a a postseason player.

So all this being said, at the plate he may not be the best guy at his position but his consistency is key for both him and the Royals this season.  He needs to continue with his hose of an arm out in right field which he has not lacked his entire career.  But he needs to be the guy in the clubhouse.  He needs to be the guy to step up when the team in hot and also when they are losing.  He has solidified right field at Kauffman Stadium as “The French Quarter” but what else will he conquer as the Royals make their run towards championship seasons in the future.

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Yadier Molina is this generation’s Ozzie Smith

The St. Louis Cardinals confirmed Thursday that Yadier Molina will be the franchise’s catcher for at least the next five seasons, marking the second time the team has kept the best defensive player in the game.

The Cardinals signed Molina to a $75 million contract extension that will keep him in St. Louis until at least 2017. However, unlike most big-money contracts dished out around the league these days, Molina will receive the bulk of that money because of his glove, not his bat.

Molina’s deal also harkens back to the 1980s when the Cardinals paid a shortstop named Ozzie Smith to often-miraculously cover the middle of the infield. Smith never made more than $3.5 million in a single year, but that is more because of the different eras than because of talent. From 1978 to 1996, $3.5 million was still considered a lot of money, especially for someone with a .262 career batting average.

During his career, Smith reshaped how defensive players were valued. He averaged just two homeruns during his 19-year career, but he saved countless runs with his dazzling glovework.

Sure, other eras also had terrific defensive players, but Smith made defense exciting to watch. The crowd at Busch Stadium would actually cheer when a ball was hit toward Smith’s shortstop position because there was a pretty good chance it might be the most memorable moment of the game.

Molina is the same way behind the plate. He’s not the first catcher to receive a big contract. Catchers such as Joe Mauer, Jorge Posada and Mike Piazza also received huge paydays, but the difference between those catchers and Molina is how well they hit. Each of the three previously mentioned players were paid because of what they could do standing next to the plate more than what they could do behind it.

That’s not the case with Molina. He has a .274 career batting average and hits about nine homeruns each season. But, he leads a pitching staff as well as anybody and has gunned down 44 percent of the baserunners who dare to try and steal second base when Molina is in the game.

Molina gets a similar reaction at Busch Stadium III when he throws out a baserunner as Smith did at Busch Stadium II for making a diving play or leaping grab.

Defense is often undervalued in Major League Baseball. Teams pay more for homerun hitters because the stats are more black and white. A batting average will show how good a hitter is, but fielding percentage is much more subjective and misses a large part of the defensive game. Sure, there are new defensive sabermetrics coming out each year, but defense is still tougher to value than offense.

Given the holes in the statistics, defensive prowess must be defined by observation. Regardless of how many baserunners Molina throws out, the intangibles he brings to the field are vital to the success of the team. He is the lynchpin that holds the team together, even more so than Pujols when he was a Cardinal.

Smith was the same way. He played on all three of the Cardinals World Series teams in the 1980s and provided stability at one of the most important positions on the field.

Cardinals fans should appreciate watching Molina play defense. It is an art form that is often overlooked until it is gone.
Defense will likely never be valued as much as offense, but players such as Molina and Smith show that terrific defense wins a lot of ballgames, and quite a few championships, as well.

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Is It Really Time For A Gordon Extension?

I want to be as clear as possible from the start: I am a huge Alex Gordon fan. I was there before the Kansas City Royals even drafted him, watching You Tube clips of that dreamy swing and praying Allard Baird didn’t mess up the chance to draft the prodigy that was Awesome Alex.

Alex Gordon courtesy of Minda Haas

I was also there on Opening Day, with the bases loaded, a sell-out crowd on its feet, and expectations very few would have any chance of meeting. My wife has his jersey, my kid has his rookie card…our family is all-in on Awesome Alex. That being said, I do have to wonder; is now really the time to give him a contract extension?

For a Royals’ fan, this question may seem equivalent to blasphemy. We waited so long for him to become what we’d dreamed he could. We went through ridiculously long slumps, excruciating injuries, broken promises and position changes. So before I go any further, I want to say I am not questioning if the Royals should extend Gordon at some point. I hope Gordon is a Royal for life and proves to be every bit the savior we anointed him back in 2007. But think back just 12 months ago, before his breakout season of 2011. Gordon was on his last leg and it would not have been completely absurd to suggest the Royals give up on him ever becoming the player they’d drafted him to be. Then came the declaration. Many scoffed and almost all of us felt uneasy when Gordon told the world he planned to “dominate” in 2011, but then he went out and did it. Gordon in 2011 was everything we’d hoped he’d be from the beginning. I don’t think I need to recite his statistics any more than they already have been but just consider a couple:

- His 140 OPS+ was the highest by a Royals’ everyday player in 10 years

- His 5.9 WAR (per baseballreference.com’s metrics) was the highest in 8 years

- He not only won a Gold Glove but actually received 3 votes on the MVP ballot, for a team that lost 91 games

- He set career highs in every single major offensive category

That seems like a good time to stop, because it brings me precisely to the root of my question. Did Alex Gordon just have a breakout season or a career year? Baseball history is full of players who have put together seasons as good as, and much better than, Gordon without ever really coming close to repeating the performance. Even Royals history has a few shining examples. Of the 11 Royals to put up an OPS + of 140 or better, only 4 (George Brett, Danny Tartabull, Hal McRae, Willie Aikens) did it more than once. The other 8?

Amos Otis – 31
Mike Sweeney – 28
Bob Hamelin – 26
Bo Jackson – 27
Darrell Porter – 27
Wilson Betemit – 28
Richie Schleinblum* – 29

*Schleinblum may be worthy a post of his own some day. He put up his 140 OPS in 1972 in the only season in which he was ever given more than 500 at bats. He also made the All Star game that year. He was then sent to the Reds as part of the Hal McRae deal, traded to the Angels 6 months later for a PTBNL, and traded back to the Royals in ’75 for Paul Schaal. From 1970-1975 Schleinblum played for the Indians, Senators, Royals, Reds, Angels, Royals, and Cardinals.

The numbers you see by the players’ names are their age when they had their career year. Notice how none of the one-timers are under 26? All of the players to do it more than once were 26 or younger, other than McRae. Does this mean Alex Gordon, who was 27, will never put up another season this good? No, not at all, but I do think it points out the probability is better that he just had his career season.

This matters for many reasons, most notably being that the Royals really don’t need to be in the business of signing players to multiple year deals based on the numbers put up in their career year. I expect Gordon to be a good player this year and moving forward, but I don’t expect him to do as well, relatively, as he did last season. If that does turn out to be the case, why the rush to pay him now when you still control him for two more seasons? Jeff Francouer is already locked up for 2 more years, Lorenzo Cain for the next 5, and you have phenom Wil Myers hopefully making a push to join the club in 2013. There are so many possible outcomes with those four players heading into 2012, why lock yourself into a long term deal? Well there are 2 reasons:

For one, this fan base, while energized and optimistic, is also leery of owner David Glass. Glass is viewed as cheap by many and detached by even more. If fan-favorite Gordon were to leave Kansas City and find the same success that Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, and Jermaine Dye did nearly ten years ago it would be a hard pill for the fans to swallow. Not signing Gordon, after all the talk about it this offseason, could signal to fans that this is the same old Royals that can’t afford to keep any of their homegrown talent.

The second is related to that, if not directly. No one really knows what Gordon’s mindset is. I know he has said publicly that he wants to stay a Royal…Damon said the same thing. What I do not know is whether or not Gordon and his agent are pushing hard for an extension this winter. Is he going to be insulted if the Royals do not put something together for him? If he is, how will he react? Many a player has had a career year trying to prove to management they are worth the extension they did not get. Just as many have pouted and their performance has suffered because of it.

Personally, I see Gordon as the type of player to excel in this situation. The struggles at the beginning of his career have hardened him and I have a hard time seeing him pouting, especially if this team is successful early. Many clubs would have given up on Gordon after his terrible 2009-2010 and wanting to wait until next offseason to get an extension done should not totally erase the goodwill that has been built. If I were Dayton Moore, I would wait to sign Alex Gordon, knowing that if he duplicates, or improves upon, last season I will be digging even deeper into David Glass’ pockets next winter.

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Beltran Becomes a Royals Legend

By signing a five-year extension with Kansas City, Carlos Beltran ensures that he will finish his career as a life-long Royal and will be firmly established as the second best player in team history.

Having spent 14 years patrolling centerfield of Kauffman Stadium, Beltran hopes his career will end on a more competitive note.

“We’ve lost a lot during the last decade here in KC, but with all the talent we’ve got coming up, I really think we’ll compete for championships before I’m done,” Beltran said.

Despite being slowed by injuries, Beltran has been one of the few bright spots for the Royals. When outfield mates Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon sought greener pastures in the early 2000s, Beltran chose to stay in KC, joining George Brett and Frank White as the faces of the franchise.

“Sure I could have made some more money somewhere else, but I always wanted to be a guy who played his whole career for one team,” Beltran said upon signing the contract extension. “Some things are more important than money. Who knows where I’d be right now if I’d listen to that money-grubbing Scott Boras.”

Ok, so the reality is that Beltran is now a Cardinal. He’s also an ex-Giant, ex-Met, ex-Astro, and of course, ex-Royal. Beltran is now 34 and might possibly finish his career in St. Louis.

Beltran left KC at age 27, having played five and half seasons in a Royals’ uniform. Because of injuries and the natural decline of skills, Beltran played his best baseball before the age of 32. About half that time was spent in Kansas City.

Sadly, KC just missed out on some of Beltran’s best seasons – 2006 to 2008. In those seasons he won three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, made two All-Star appearances, and in 2006 finished fourth in the MVP balloting.

I really shouldn’t blame Beltran for his departure from KC. The team wasn’t paying top talents at the time, and they knew they had to deal Beltran when they could get a good return. It’s not his fault that the three players KC got in the trade (Mark Teahen, Mike Wood and John Buck) didn’t help the team rebuild.

What Beltran can provide the Cardinals and where Beltran stands among the greats of history are topics for another article.

But what interests me is just where Beltran would rank if he had played the same seasons, with all the same production, and with all the same injuries and decline of skill, in KC.

Here are Beltran’s career numbers compared to the best in Royals history:

Games – 1768 Beltran would rank 6th currently and could move to 3rd this season behind Brett and White.
At Bats – 6767 Beltran would currently be in 5th place.
Runs – 1184 Beltran would already be in 2nd place on the team list, with only Brett’s 1583 to shoot for.
Hits – 1917 Racking up hits isn’t exactly Beltran’s game. Even so, he would rank 6th on the team list and could move into 2nd this season. Only Brett and White collected more than 2000 hits.
Doubles –390 Beltran would be in 4th place at present.
Triples – 73 Beltran would be a distant 3rd behind Brett’s 137 and Willie Wilson’s 133.
Home Runs – 302 Beltran’s home run total might be different if he’d spent his entire career playing in Kauffman stadium. But for the sake of this game, we’ll give him full credit. Amazingly, only one other Royal has more than 200 homers – Brett with 317. Beltran would, in 2012, become the Royals all-time home run leader.
Runs Batted In – 1146 Beltran would trail only Brett, who drove in 1595 runs.
Stolen Bases – 293 Beltran is one of the most efficient base stealers in the game, but thievery numbers are down from the Royals golden years. Even so, he would rank behind only Wilson (612), Amos Otis (340), and Freddie Patek (336). In reality, Beltran ranks 6th in team history.
Average – .283 Of players with more than 4000 at bats in a Royals uniform, Beltran would sit fourth, behind Brett (.305), Mike Sweeney (.299), Hal McRae (.293), and Wilson (.289).

Without a doubt, Beltran would rank as the second greatest player in Royals history, and by some measures could be considered THE greatest.

It’s been hard over the past decade for Royals fans to resist delving into a lot of “what ifs:” what if the Royals had kept the outfield of Beltran, Dye and Damon together; what if they could have held onto Joe Randa and Raul Ibanez, what if Mike Sweeney had stayed healthy…

I’m sure millionaire professionals like Carlos Beltran don’t waste time on “what ifs.” But if Beltran did, he might wonder what his legacy would be had he stayed in KC. He might think that players who jump from team to team during the prime of their careers are quickly forgotten. But players who grow up and grow old with the same team can become legends.

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No Albert, Twenty-Four Hours Later

Anaheim is the only major league city Albert Pujols has never played a full game in. Ironic, isn’t it, that he how calls that city home.

As fans we hoped Pujols would play his entire career in St Louis. As fans we ignored the signs he probably would not. When the Cardinals and Pujols’ agents could not find common ground prior to the 2011 season it was a sign they likely would never come together. Given Albert’s insistence on not discussing a contract extension during the season, there was no way the two sides could use the time during the season to meet and try and close the gap. Essentially the negotiations picked up exactly where they left off last February, with the major difference being Pujols was now a free agent and could entertain offers from anyone.

We ought to give the Cardinals credit for facing reality and not building their 2012 roster on the assumption Pujols would return. Re-signing Lance Berkman for another year was a prudent move. Signing Chris Carpenter to a new contract solidified their rotation for 2012. The team still has some holes – shortstop needs a permanent answer, and there’s a need for another outfielder, to name a few – but the team has a chunk of capital available now to fill those holes and they can move quickly since the Pujols question has been answered.

We can be bitter with Pujols for saying he wanted to remain in St Louis ‘for life’, then signing somewhere else, but what good would it do? Baseball is a business. Fans are significantly more loyal to teams than players are. Attend a major league game in San Diego or Phoenix and see how many locals root for the visiting team. Many of those people inherited their attachment to that team from their parents and refuse to give it up. Many of them will pass that loyalty on to their children. Would we have liked Albert to have stayed in St Louis until he retired? Absolutely. Will his departure dampen our allegiance to the team? Maybe the enthusiasm will be muted for a while, but in the long run we will still be vocal members of Cardinal Nation.

And now we won’t have to watch Albert Pujols’ inevitable decline as he ages.

Instead of assigning blame for why he left, let’s remember what we was while he was here. Rookie of the Year. Three-time MVP of the National League. A decade of amazing offense and superlative defense. The best 10 year start to a career in the history of the game, and arguably the best right-handed hitter since the Second World War. And, three National League Pennants, and two World Championships, with him on the roster.

Thanks for the memories Albert. It was fun.

Mike Metzger is an I-70 contributing writer. He blogs about the San Diego Padres. Follow him on Twitter @metzgermg.

 

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What Should The Cardinals Do With Craig?

At one point during the World Series, Fox broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were discussing Allen Craig’s breakout performance in the postseason, and one of them said, “He’ll be starting somewhere next season.” I remember thinking at the time: “Really? Where?”

The Cardinals have $120 million invested in left fielder, Matt Holliday, who is under contract through 2016. So he’s not going anywhere. Lance Berkman was named the 2011 Comeback Player of the Year and St. Louis rewarded him with a 1-year, $12 million contract extension to play right field (note: Berkman could move to 1st base if Albert Pujols leaves, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume #5 re-signs with St. Louis). In center field, you have Jon Jay, who quietly led the team with appearances in 159 games this season, hitting .297 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. He also has the best defensive range of all the outfielders on the team, so center field is out of the question for Craig as well. Craig’s natural position (at least the one he played through the Cardinals’ minor league system) is 3rd base, but that’s monopolized by a guy you may have heard of – World Series MVP, David Freese. Tony La Russa tried playing Craig at 2nd base about a half-dozen times last season, but was quick to take him out for a defensive replacement in the middle-to-late innings. That’s mostly based on Craig’s reputation he built up in the minors as a lousy fielder (it’s why he was moved from 3rd to the outfield to begin with) and though he’s only made 1 error in over 100 big league games, he likely won’t be considered as a legitimate starter at 2nd base.

In other words: there’s no room at the inn for the Cardinals’ hottest young bat. So that brings us back to the original statement that Craig would be starting “somewhere” next season. The Cardinals know he can be an everyday player in this league, and they know that likely within the next 12 months they’ll have an open spot to play him (either in 2012 if Pujols leaves, or 2013 when the Cardinals can let go of the aging Lance Berkman). No matter what scenario plays out, the Cardinals have a very valuable commodity in Craig and they also have a decision to make: Keep him as a long-term piece of the franchise’s future… or trade him and bolster and already potent championship team in hopes of repeating in 2012.

Why They Should Keep Him
Allen Craig has enormous potential. In 200 at-bats last season (roughly 1/3 of a full-season), the 27-year-old batted .315 with 11 HRs and 40 RBIs. That, in theory, could translate to 33 HRs and 120 RBIs over a full season… which would have made him 2nd best behind Albert Pujols in HRs on the Cardinals last season and the team leader in RBIs by a wide margin.

Craig would also provide big insurance for the Cardinals should Pujols, Holliday, or Berkman go down with an injury. Those three impact players missed a combined 70 games due to injury last season, so obviously having a player like Craig ready to fill in for injured players while being one of the most dangerous pinch-hitters in the game would be a huge plus for the Red Birds.

Why They Should Trade Him
There’s really only a couple of reasons the Cardinals would consider trading him. Thanks to his clutch postseason performance and his potential we just talked about, his value is through the roof. If the Cardinals keep Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright returns to form, the team will once again be World Series contenders. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have some holes to fill. Since the outfield is pretty much in place without Craig, the team could trade him to bolster some weak spots like the middle infield or the bullpen. It’s not that the Cardinals “need” another lights-out starting pitcher with Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Jaime Garcia lined up, but it never hurts to have another great arm on the team. So that would be one reason to trade him: trade a strength to create improve a weakness.

The other reason the Cardinals might consider a trade is if they’re afraid Craig won’t pan out and be the type of hitter many think he can be. Living in Springfield, Missouri over the past 5 years has given me a chance to see the Cardinals’ AA team in person. I probably saw Allen Craig play 15-20 times over the 2 seasons he played in Springfield and I honestly never envisioned him being an impact player in the big leagues. Obviously, he’s already proven me wrong… even if he retires right now. But let’s say he doesn’t pan out. If he is a one hit wonder so to speak, his value will never be greater than it is right now. Cardinals fans might remember a pitcher by the name of Kent Bottenfield. In 1999, the journeyman pitcher had a breakout season, going 18-7 with an ERA of 3.97. Heading into the spring of 2000, the Cardinals’ starting rotation was viewed as a strong point, so the team traded Bottenfield when his value was highest and landed center fielder Jim Edmonds in a trade with the Angels. Edmonds went on to win numerous Gold Gloves with St. Louis, leading the team to 5 playoff appearances, 2 NL Pennants, and a World Series championship in 2006. Kent Bottenfield won a total of ten games the rest of his career.

As things stand right not, it appears to be in the Cardinals’ best interest to keep Allen Craig. Whether Pujols leaves or not, Craig could have a big impact once again for the Cardinals in 2012. He could platoon with Berkman, fill-in for injured players, try to learn how to play 2nd base, or just be the deadliest weapon coming off the bench in all of baseball until he finds a starting role in 2013. He’s currently the lowest paid player on the roster at $414,000… and with a pay raise still a couple years away, that makes his bat that much more valuable to the Cardinals moving forward (especially if they give Pujols a payroll-shattering deal). All things considered, it appears to Craig’s jersey would make a nice stocking-stuffer for the Cardinals fan in your life… though I’m sure Cardinals’ General Manager John Mozeliak knows that Craig’s status as perhaps the most sought after outfielder in the game is too compelling to completely ignore. It should be a very interesting offseason.

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