Cardinals sign two to minor league deals

The Cardinals added some minor league depth on Wednesday when they announced the addition of utility man Eugenio Velez and left handed pitcher R.J. Swindle.

Velez, 29, is potentially most noteworthy for his -77 OPS+ he posted last season thanks to going hitless in 40 plate appearances. A switch hitter, his best season came in 2009 for the San Francisco Giants where he put together a line of .267/.308/.400 in 84 games. He has played second base and all three outfield positions in his major league career between the Giants and the Dodgers.

Swindle, 28, last pitched in the major leagues in 2009 for the Milwaukee Brewers. In two seasons, he has thrown a total of 11 1/3 innings at the major league level and has compiled a 12.71 ERA. Last season with the Durham Bulls, Tampa’s Triple-A affiliate, he made 39 appearances and posted a 4.15 ERA. He does have a career 2.37 ERA in the minor leagues and could be considered as one of the Cardinals’ alternate options should J.C. Romero struggle in St. Louis this season. He is most notable for a 55 mph curveball he throws.

Both signings are simply minor league depth at this point.

Cardinals sign LHP Romero

In a move that will likely complete the projected bullpen for 2012, the Cardinals have signed LHP J.C. Romero to a one-year deal worth $750,000.

Romero, 35, pitched for the Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies last season. However, he spent time in the minor league systems of the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals between those major league stints. Between the two teams he made 36 appearances with a 4.01 ERA. He will likely split the left handed specialist role with Marc Rzepczynski, who the Cardinals acquired via trade last season.

Romero has solid numbers against left handed batters in the last year, holding them to a line of .231/.318/.231. That’s pretty good, not as good as Rzepczynski though, and the Cardinals do have right handed relievers with better numbers against left handed batters, namely Eduardo Sanchez.

He has a reputation of being good against left handed batters, but has a habit of losing his control at times. Needless to say it should be an adventure. However, he is likely the second option out of the bullpen against left handers and the high leverage situations will likely (and hopefully) fall to Rzepczynski.

I think the most missed piece about his acquisition is that it adds another switch hitter to the lineup.

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UCB Roundtable

I asked my question earlier this week and should have posted it Tuesday, but I was busy trying to wrap up the necessary work I needed to do in order to make sure I can walk in graduation on Sunday. It’s been a long 8 and a half years trying to cram four years of school work into it. Finally almost ready to call it complete.

If you’re wondering what the UCB Roundtable is, it’s when us UCB writers kick around a question via our Google Group for a day. Each day a different writer poses the question and the rest of us answer and discuss it. It’s been going on for quite some time, if you want to see the cumulative post on the UCB site, here it is.

Anyway, my question for the day was: If you are the Cardinals’ GM, considering where we’re at financially and strategically, what free agent would you pursue to add to the team and why?

Here’s how it went.

Daniel Shoptaw, C70 at the Bat:

The more I read about it, the more Carlos Beltran just makes sense, at least on a limited contract. Not sure if he’d do a one-year deal or not, but that’d be ideal. Beltran can (at least in theory) play center and also right, covers us while Allen Craig is out plus gives us some insurance in case Jon Jay slumps. His bat was stronger in the second half than in the first last year as he continued to get healthy. Switch-hitting helps the flexibility and it makes for fewer decisions for Mike Matheny. All in all, it seems like a perfect fit to me.

Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants:

At the current moment, I would go after Carlos Beltran but not for a long term deal. At his age, I would ask if he would even be willing to play right field even if he would prefer CF. At the same time, I would want to figure out a way to keep Allen Craig’s bat in the lineup once he fully recovers.

I’m assuming Skip Schumaker comes back and likely plays almost every day at second base.

I know Rob Rains brought up the idea of Derrick Lee to play first but that makes no sense as we would be platooning someone in the OF, which I thought was the reason as to why Rasmus was traded (along with his attitude).

Don’t get me wrong though… I’d love to see Rick Ankiel or Ryan Ludwick back but at the right price.

Ray DeRousse, Stlcardinalbaseball.com:

If I’m the GM, the only big thing we pursue is a lefthanded reliever, which we’d obtain through a trade given the dearth of lefties on the market.

The only other deal I’d like to make is nabbing Ryan Ludwick on the cheap to shore up our outfield depth and platoon with Jon Jay.

Mark Tomasik, Retrosimba.com:

I’ve pursue the best available left-handed reliever and best available starting pitcher. Cardinals need a proven left-handed reliever who is effective against left-handed batters in late-inning situations. I believe Cardinals need more starting pitching in case of an injury to one of the five in the rotation or in case a Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook is ineffective.

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball:

We’ve been discussing a bit on Twitter this morning and i will say, four names jump out at me:

Nate McLouth
Ryan Ludwick
Rick Ankiel
Carlos Beltran

I believe this team would be best served by adding a sure outfielder on a short term deal while the younguns are learning a bit. Ankiel and Ludwick are more “bench bats” and extra outfielder types at this point. McLouth is an interesting “does he really have much to offer” and Beltran jumps off the page at me.

Beltran has a good chance to be 2012′s Lance Berkman. A short term, one or two year deal, that is not financially crippling but allows the team to grab some upside while he proves he is healthy and sets himself up for one more decent payday.

An Opening Day outfield of Holliday/Jay/Beltran that eventually becomes Holliday/Beltran/Craig would be a satisfying lineup to me. Install Daniel Descalso at 2nd and off we go.

Chris Mallonee, Birds on the Bat:

I like all the names Bill threw out except for Ankiel. Maybe that’s just a personal bias, but I feel like he had one great September and has been replacement level or just above since. But I think the Cardinals need to be smart and not try to make a “big splash” post Albert. Get a decent/good bat to absorb some AB’s and provide bench help until Craig gets back.

I think the Cardinals need to keep the flexibility they just gained from Pujols and wait for the big bat via trade or 2013 free agency. Inevitably there will be a spring training or early season injury or non-performing player (see 2011) and the team will need to have flexibility to meet needs that pop up early in the year.

Tom Knuppel, CardinalsGM:

McLouth signed with the Pirates already.

I like Ludwick as a cheap replacement if at all possible. No on Ankiel and I would take Beltran for no more than 2 years.

JE Powell, STL: Fear the Red:

I have to agree with the rest of my fellow bloggers on this one. I think Carlos Beltran is probably the best choice as long as it’s short term. If he can bat .280/20-25/80-85 I think he would be a good bat to have in the line-up. A near-full season of Allen Craig (assuming he can come back from the knee surgery with no lingering effects) and Beltran in the line-up would be a good outfield and I think would be a good replacement bat-wise for He Who Shall Not Be Named (and I don’t mean that snake guy from Harry Potter).

Malcom Pierce, The Redbird Menace:

I won’t break any new ground with my reply. Beltran’s the best option available. He can take over in RF and provide another quality bat to help fill the Pujols-sized hole in the lineup. And it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to see how well he can still handle CF, either.

Anything more than two years is a risk for a guy with his injury history and age, but I wouldn’t mind overpaying in a short-term contract. I’m not sure what else we can do with the money in the current market.

As an aside, I nearly hit my head on the keyboard today when Bernie Miklasz suggested that the Cardinals wouldn’t necessarily promise Beltran a starting job in the OF because of Craig and Jay. Carlos Beltran had a higher OPS than Albert Pujols last year. 219 somewhat overachieving plate appearances from Allen Craig shouldn’t even be a consideration when signing Beltran who, when healthy, is still one of the best hitters in the game.

Matt Philip, Fungoes:

Certainly Beltran makes sense, even if he is currently polling at Fungoes as the Cardinals’ #1 late-season public enemy!

Even playing only 142 games last year, Beltran gained 4.7 WAR (Albert Pujols has 5.1). Fangraphs’ fans project him to be worth at least three wins next year, and that’s estimated at a mere 124 games (that’s more than Jon Jay earned in just about as many plate appearances). He would not be an option to play centerfield, given that he’s only slightly better than Lance Berkman in right field. But he would indeed be the answer to what to do in Craig’s absense and may afford another second-base experiment by Craig when he returns.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham would be better fits. The Cardinals should avoid at all costs Ludwick and Ankiel, both of whom may give some fans some warm feelings, but neither of whom projects to be much more than a replacement-level player (Ludwick had 0.3 WAR last year, Ankiel 1.4)

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball:

If I may (and this is not aimed at Pip, just in general), why do we insist that players do not deserve a look based on their stats LAST year?

In 2010, Lance Berkman had a -0.2 WAR, in 2011 for the Cardinals (who took a chance on the guy based on past performance) Berkman posted a 5.2 WAR (that’s 0.2 less than the second coming that just went to Hollywood last season). Albert posted a 5.4 last season, by far the worst of his career, but got a very lucrative contract.

Stats are nie, they tell us how a player performed in the past. Why do we assume they can tell us how a player will perform in the future. If that was the case, we could never say anything about a “chance of scenery.”

Matt Philip, Fungoes:

That’s a good and fair point bill. To give a better shake to Ankiel and Ludwick, both of whom I wrote off using the small-sample size of last year’s stats. I’ll apply a 3-2-1 assessment (weighting last year at 3, two years ago double and three years ago as one).

Beltran: 3.1 average
Ludwick: 1.2
Ankiel: 1.0

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball:

Which, if I’m doing the math correctly, Jon Jay and Ludwick are fairly even? Might not be a bad, low cost pickup for a bench bat.

Matt Philip, Fungoes:

I’d put Jay well above Ludwick. Jay has had WARs of 1.4 (in a half season), 2.8 and projects for 2.6 next year.

Malcolm Pierce, The Redbird Menace:

You’re totally right about that Bill. “Last season” stats are sometimes given way too much weight. See especially: the contract Seattle gave Chone Figgins. I only compared Pujols and Beltran last year to ridicule the thought that Beltran should be a part time player anywhere. He’s not a better hitter than Pujols but I think he’s a starter on any team in the majors. Cards fans should be thrilled to see him replace Jay or Craig in the projected lineup as long as the contract is reasonable.

Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner:

I take the contrarian side of this discussion, not because of the first part of what you said (I do agree with that), but the reasonableness of his contract. Isn’t Scott Boras his agent?

I don’t want to see Beltran for 3 or 4 years in St. Louis and I don’t think he’s worth Lance Berkman money. We’ve already overpaid for Furcal (which I’m OK with), just don’t want to see us force a “name” on the roster. I don’t see him as an upgrade over Craig offensively, and defensively, I don’t think he’s an upgrade over Jay.

Save the money that the Beltran contract will require and pick up somebody of impact at the trade deadline, when more is known.

Pass on Beltran, find another lefty for the bullpen and then let’s get ready for Spring Training.

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball:

For what it’s worth, Beltran is represented by Lozano…let that one simmer for a few minutes.

Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner:

Oh, goodness. That’s right, he switched agents heading into this free agency season. Wow, that would be… awkward.

And what is my take?

First off, I think Carlos Beltran is the absolute wrong fit for the Cardinals. He can’t play center field every day anymore. How do I know this? There doesn’t seem to be a single team that is pursuing him to be a center fielder. Everyone wants him on a corner and he’s even simply average there now.

Second, My choice would be Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick’s best years came in St. Louis and he’s had a couple really bad ones in San Diego. His numbers perked up after his trade to Pittsburgh a little bit. I think he’d make an excellent choice when you’re looking for someone to play for a month and then take a spot on the bench. He’s right handed (which immediately makes him a better choice than a guy like Ankiel) and he can play all three outfield positions. And he’s far cheaper and might be looking for a good year to reclaim some value.

Third, If you were bring Carlos Beltran in to start over Craig in right field, you find yourself blocking Craig for someone whose bat is just as good, but for probably more than 25 times the money. He’s not going to come in here cheap for one year to prove his health. That’s pretty much what he did last year when he established he was still a capable player. Berkman was coming off a horrendous year .248/.368/.413. Beltran is not, .300/.385/.525.

And if you block Craig, you simply find yourself once again in the location of not knowing what he can do. You can’t ask for more out of a player than what he did last year. His 219 plate appearances, if he’d gotten 650 plate appearances at those levels were MVP caliber and he is on par with the best hitters in the National League. He has earned his opportunity to start. I think you can justify bringing Pujols back and sitting Craig behind Pujols and Berkman, but I don’t see how you can justify to Allen Craig bringing in a guy like Beltran on a multi-year deal. If you do that, Craig needs to be dealt and he’s a guy I’d much rather have on my team.

Cardinals finalize arbitration offers

The Cardinals had four arbitration cases to deal with this offseason: Ryan Theriot, Skip Schumaker, Kyle McClellan, and Jason Motte. The Cardinals announced that they have non-tendered Ryan Theriot, agreed with Skip Schumaker on a new two-year contract, and have tendered contracts to Kyle McClellan and Jason Motte.

Theriot, 32, was acquired by the Cardinals last offseason to start at shortstop. However, following a disastrous start to the season, the team explored other options and brought in Rafael Furcal to play the position. Theriot also struggled to rebound with his bat as the team had hoped, putting up a line of .271/.321/.342 with 1 HR and 47 RBI in 132 games for the World Series Champions. He was in his final arbitration year, but will instead immediately become a free agent with a handful of teams already expressing potential interest in his services.

Schumaker, 31, agreed to terms with the Cardinals yesterday on a new two-year contract. The 2 year contract worth a total of $3 million is a good deal for the Cardinals. The former outfielder turned second baseman might be done as a starting player for the Cardinals though, as the team’s GM John Mozeliak has Daniel Descalso penciled in as the starting second baseman. Schumaker rebounded after a tough 2010 to post a line of .288/.333/.351 with 2 HRs and 38 RBI in 117 games.

McClellan, 27, and Motte, 29, were both tendered offers from the Cardinals.

McClellan spent time in both the rotation and the bullpen last season before developing arm fatigue near the end of the season. In 141 2/3 innings for the Cardinals, he posted a 4.19 ERA, making 17 starts and 26 relief appearances.

Motte established his place as the team’s closer down the stretch thanks to a lengthy scoreless inning streak through the summer. He posted a 2.25 ERA in 68 innings for the Cards, along with 9 saves during the season.

So what does “tendered offers” mean? It means that the Cardinals have told them they will be back for 2012 as they are both still under team control. The two sides will continue to talk to see if they can avoid arbitration hearings in February of next season. If not, both sides will determine a value and an arbitrator will determine who has the best value for the player. The Cardinals have rarely gone to arbitration hearings with their players in the DeWitt era, rather coming to an agreement with the players somewhere in between the two numbers.

World Series DVD set winners

I want to thank everyone for their entries in the first ever contest that we’ve held here at Redbird Dugout. Coincidentally it was on the first anniversary week of the blog as it was just a little over a year ago that I made my first post, a missive on why defense at short stop was important and trading Brendan Ryan was a mistake.

When I came up with the concept of the contest, I thought it was going to be easy determining who had the best Cardinals’ memory.After my first three stories and I had three really good ones, I realized it was going to be a lot harder than originally planned.

How I ran it is I took a blind system. I assigned each story a number and printed it out. This way I didn’t know who had written it since there were names that I recognized in the entrants. Out of the 15 entries that I received, I came up with a pile of 5 that I felt were above the rest. Then I sat down and over the next hour read and re-read each trying to come up with the best two. It really makes me wish that I could have given away sets to everyone.

The big winner of the best Cardinals’ memory story was Andy Leeser of Huntington Beach, CA. He shared a story about convincing his parents to take a trip to St. Louis for Games 6 and 7 of the World Series. He will be receiving the 8-disc Collector’s Edition that I posted my review of earlier today.

The runner-up of the best Cardinals’ memory story was Mike Wald of Ankeny, IA. His family has some correlation between births in the family and Cardinals’ World Series appearances.

Andy’s story will be scheduled for Tuesday with Mike’s appearing on Wednesday.

And the random draw took place yesterday afternoon and I video taped it, if you choose to watch it, you can find it on YouTube here. Or you can read on below to find out who won by the random draw.

The first random draw winner is Jocelyn Alegre of Granite City, IL. The second random draw winner was Jeremy Ellis of Mt. Vernon, IN.

Thank you all for your participation. It was a far greater success than what I expected. Hopefully I will be able to bring you all more contests in the future. Nothing better than putting Cardinals’ merchandise in the hands of Cardinals’ fans.