As Spring Training is right around the corner it’s time to get to know some of our key non-roster invitees. As all of these players are here for a reason there are some that have more attraction than others. To get a full list of non-roster invites visit the Cardinals Official Site. If you’re lucky enough to be a Spring Training this year make sure to take the time to not only focus on our MLB stars but also keep an eye on some of these guys. Sometimes it’s all about the lesser known players playing a big role throughout the season that pushes a team over the edge to stardom.
We’ve been silent this last week at Redbird Dugout. I know I’ve been exceptionally busy, but with a little more time now I’m back to writing. So as Pitchers & Catcher’s Report on Monday, let’s continue with the Preview. Hopefully we can wrap this up this week and have some fun stuff to pay attention to as Spring Training begins to rev up this week. There were a couple pictures posted on the Redbird Dugout Facebook page this week though as we look at getting spring training going. I’m excited for 2011 like I haven’t been before.
On to the #2 pitcher. This is the guy on your staff that you hope is just your second ace. The best teams usually have a second ace, anyway. The Cardinals have been lucky in recent years to have this, but I think in 2011 the spots have finally swapped for the Redbirds.
6. James McDonald, Pittsburgh (3.51, 4-5 in 11 starts)
I almost put McDonald as Pittsburgh’s #1 because he was the best performing member of the staff in 2010, despite making just 10 starts. Before the 2009 season, McDonald was listed as the #59 prospect in baseball by Baseball America while in the Dodgers’ system. He was part of a deadline deal that sent Octavio Dotel to the Dodgers last season. He’s no stranger to that level of success either, posting a 4.00 ERA in 45 appearances for the Dodgers in 2009. He struggled in four appearances for the Dodgers in 2010 before being eventually dealt. At 26, he’s definitely a young pitcher I’ll be keeping an eye on.
5. Wandy Rodriguez, Houston (3.60, 11-12 in 32 starts)
Rodriguez performed well and was rewarded with a 3 year, $34 million contract with the Astros over the offseason. It’s become the norm for Rodriguez, who might be one of the underrated pitchers in the NL. You rarely hear his name in discussion of some of the best pitchers, but his last three seasons have been very solid for Houston.
4. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati (3.64, 12-7 in 31 starts)
Possibly the most hated active player by Cardinal nation, though Brandon Phillips could be in that discussion too, I think. With a kick of the cleats, Cueto ended the career of Cardinals’ backup catcher Jason LaRue. Many will remember that game, but Cueto turned in a solid season and was rewarded by signing an extension of his own this season. 4 years, $27 million was the deal for Cueto who posted a career best year last year.
3. Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee (3.64, 13-8 in 31 starts)
He was supposed to be the Blue Jays’ #2 pitcher behind Roy Halladay, but an injury cost him his 2009 season. Then Halladay was traded and Marcum became the staff ace. He responded with 13 wins and in his first complete season, that was a great season. The Blue Jays rewarded him by trading him to Milwaukee, who has a much improved starting rotation this season. For Marcum it should be a good move. He’ll get a chance to contend for the NL Central title, whereas there was really very little chance of the Blue Jays sneaking into a playoff spot in the AL East.
2. Carlos Zambrano, Chicago (3.33, 11-6 in 20 starts)
I wanted to move him down the list because of his meltdown, but 11 wins in 20 starts for the struggling Cubbies last season and I couldn’t bring myself to. While researching these, I was surprised to find that he is just 29 years old right now. He used to be viewed as one of the top pitchers in the National League, but I think that last season’s tiff that result in him starting just 20 games has labeled him a bit unstable. I’m sure regaining that position as one of the top pitchers in the NL is one of his main focuses this year.
1. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis (3.22, 16-9 in 35 starts)
Though some of my fellow Cardinal fans have had their confidence shaken in Chris Carpenter last season, and I’ll admit I was worried too after watching his September fall off. But then I looked at the stats. He had a 2.92 ERA and was 14-5 in the first five months of the season before falling off in September, going just 2-4. He started an MLB high 35 starts and threw more innings than he had since 2005. Carpenter might not be the 240 inning workhorse anymore, but he’s still capable of being an ace pitcher in this league. He was my no doubt number 1 #2 pitcher.
And tallying up the results so far:
St. Louis — 44 pts
Milwaukee — 43 pts
Cincinnati — 41 pts
Chicago — 33 pts
Pittsburgh — 26 pts
Houston — 23 pts
In the 4 part series we looked at the overall systems pitching, outfielders, infielders and catchers respectively. Now we will recap the system and give a brief write-up of the top prospects of each category. The trend across all categories is we have some exciting raw talent with minimal pro experience. Some of these guys will pan out, some will come out of nowhere to put themselves on the prospect map and some will flop. The thing about prospects is there is no such thing as a “sure thing”. Some of the most coveted prospects in baseball have never panned out (recent years look at Alex Gordon, Cameron Maybin and Brandon Wood to name a few). But the excitement for the next wave of young talent is undeniable and the best you can do is put together your best assessment based on in person scouting, video clips, other analyst write-up and anything else you can get your hands on to review the talent of a specific player. I love prospect hunting and hope the articles can get others excited as well!
Star Power – 2.5
Birds Depth – 3 Birds
Overall – 3 Birds
Top Outfield Prospects:
Top Infield Prospects:
Top Catching Prospects:
It’s Friday! I was all prepared to sit down and write the NL Central Preview for Starting Pitcher #2, but all my research and notes are on my desktop computer. And seeing as I’m traveling this weekend visiting my parents, I don’t have access to it. So I sat and wondered what might Cardinal fans be interested in reading. So how about meeting your bench players for the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals?
First off, I’m going to start with the people we know are due bench spots and move down the line to the more questionable and competitive spots. Presuming that we’ll carry 13 position players, that leaves 5 bench spots to be filled.
C Gerald Laird
Gerald Laird is about the only lock of the bench players. With $1,100,000 being spent on him, it’s one of the two factors as to why that is. The other being the heavily rumored proposition that Duncan, LaRussa, and one of the Cardinals’ starting pitchers doesn’t really like the way Anderson handles the game behind the plate.
After John Mozeliak telling the media after the season that they wanted a backup catcher with offensive potential, my mind immediately when to Bryan Anderson who has had a decent bat in the minor leagues and has potential to do more with it. Apparently, that wasn’t going to happen and Gerald Laird was eventually signed. It was put to me on the CardsClubhouse forums, if Laird is good enough to be Jim Leyland’s (LaRussa’s buddy) everyday catcher, he’s good enough to be Tony LaRussa’s backup. That made the move ultimately make sense.
But after honking for an offensive catcher, the numbers tell us we got anything but. In his last two seasons in Detroit as the primary catcher, Laird hit .218 with 9 HR and 58 RBI in 224 games. His combined OPS+ was 61. Which is actually better than Houston’s starting catcher, Humberto Quintero’s 59. Not exactly the offensive player I was hoping for, but still better than Jason LaRue.
Laird is also no slouch behind the plate, posting a 1.6 defensive WAR over the last two seasons.
Can we say though, there is some hope for offensive production out of him. In 2006 Laird his .296 with 7 HR in 78 games and then in 2008 he hit .276 with 6 HR in 95 games. Those are his two best seasons in his 8 years as a professional baseball player.
What I was really hoping for in a backup catcher is someone who provided enough of an offensive punch that it made sense to give Yadier Molina more time off. After posting the most innings at catcher in 2009 and being close to accomplishing that same feat in 2010 until knee issues shut him down, Molina will eventually wear out and go down. Playing him in 120-130 games a season could delay that and extend his career. Not to mention, this could be a catcher making $7 million next season. Does he get a raise beyond that? That worries me.
INF Nick Punto
Punto is the kind of player that Tony LaRussa will love. He plays several positions, he hustles, and he slides head first into first base. He’s like a better defensive version of Skip Schumaker.
Minnesota fans rejoiced when Punto wasn’t re-signed this offseason mainly because he was Gardenhire’s pet player, or so they claim. He got plenty of ABs in Minnesota and he seems to fit the mold of a David Eckstein. A scrappy player who works hard, which is a lot of what this Cardinals infield needs.
His $750,000 signing was my favorite new player acquisition of the offseason. Finally we have someone who can actually play above average defense in the infield. He’s a career .247 hitter who has 13 homers in 10 pro seasons, so he’s not here for his glove. In his career he averages a yearly +19 defensive RAR at third base, -3 at shortstop, and +3 at second base. So he’s pretty much the best defensive we’ll have in the infield this season. Plus, he’s a switch hitter who has 52 innings of experience in the outfield too? I give Punto about a 99% chance of making the roster.
OF Jon Jay
Jay was the surprise of 2010. He didn’t make the team out of spring training, but provided a good boost off the bench in May in pinch hitting roles. Then in July when given the opportunity to play everyday in July, Jay pounced on it. In the month of July he started 18 games and appeared in 5 more and hit .438 with a pair of home runs.
It was enough to help the Cardinals feel they could trade Ryan Ludwick and not lose much performance out of right field by handing Jay a fairly regular job. Unfortunately, Jay slowed down as the season went on. Hitting just .266 through August and then .218 in September. However, he still was buoyed enough by his July numbers to be officially rounded to .300 for his 2010 season.
I figure Jay is a lock to make the roster considering he can play all three outfield positions. The downside for him is that he is a left handed hitter and they are looking for a right handed hitter to backup in center field. Otherwise, that would lock him onto the roster. I’d give him about a 90% chance of making the opening day roster.
INF/OF Allen Craig
I don’t know what to list Allen Craig as on this list. Is he an infielder or an outfielder? Centerfield, shortstop, and catcher were the only three positions he didn’t appear at in the major leagues last season. In the minors though, he’s played 246 games at third, 133 in left field, and 93 at first base. So is he a third baseman or an outfielder?
For the longest time the talk was that he wasn’t good enough to play third base in the majors, so the effort was to make him into a player at another position. However, the news is that they’ve asked him to work out at third base in the hopes to give them another option at the position should David Freese go down again. The story is also that they aren’t happy with his arm strength while playing third base. If that’s the case, that should be fairly easily remedied by strength training, I would think.
Craig has plenty of potential. In 5 minor league seasons, Craig has hit .300 in the last four, and hit 20+ HR in three of them. He would have hit 20 homers again in 2010, but spent an increased amount of time with the big club that limited his minor league at bats. And while Craig struggled in the majors early, he was given the opportunity to play consistently in September and he responded. In 9 starts and 3 additional appearances he hit .382 in September with a pair of HRs. Showing just a glimpse of his ability at the major league level. Enough so, that several people (myself included) penciled him in as the opening day starter in right field. Then we signed Lance Berkman. I give Craig a 75% chance of making the opening day roster.
INF Tyler Greene
Tyler Greene is one of those players that might best be described as a AAAA player. Great in AAA, but can’t find it in the Majors. He has a .264 batting average in the minor leagues and has shown definite power potential, but he’s been unable to find any of it in order to stick in the major leagues.
The last two seasons he’s gotten cups of coffee at the major league level. 116 plate appearances in ’09 and 122 in ’10. He’s been a consistent .220 hitter with 2 homers in each of those seasons. In fact, looking between the two seasons he has been remarkably consistently with his performance. The only major change in 2010, his walks went from 4 in ’09 to 13 in ’10. A big change.
Some hope might be given that Greene got a chance to play nearly everyday with 14 starts in the month of July and hit .286 with a .400 OBP. However, for me, Greene has a lot to prove in order to make his glove worth it.
That’s always been my downside with Greene is that he’s not a plus defender at any position. His fielding percentages are low and so are his range factors, two defensive statistics that I look at. Are you getting to balls (range) and are you making solid plays when you do (fielding percentage)? But Greene looks to be the next pet project of Tony LaRussa as there’s talk of him being the backup center fielder to play the tough lefties when Colby Rasmus sits. Outfielders playing infield and infielders playing outfield, only on a Tony LaRussa ball club. I give Tyler a 75% chance of making the opening day roster.
Now those are my top-5 and my expected bench for the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals opening day roster, but there are some other names that you should be aware of as Spring Training moves forward.
INF Daniel Descalso
The minor league second baseman, many are hoping that he plays well enough to displace Skip Schumaker at second base. However, when he got the September callup, Descalso played mostly third base. A position he hadn’t played since 2007 in low A ball.
In his 11 games with the major league club, he hit .265 with a .324 OBP. He also played 9 games of perfect defense at third base. In Memphis last year, he hit .282 with 9 HR and a .350 OBP. He’s also been viewed as one of the Cardinals’ top infield talents in the minor league system from what I can tell.
It was good to finally get a look at him in the major leagues, but I don’t expect him to stick on the major league roster out of Spring Training. He will likely be one of the final ones sent out and one of the first to be brought up. I expect him to have the Tyler Greene role this season. That if they need an infielder for a few weeks, they’ll bring Descalso up to fill that role. I give him a 25% chance of making the opening day roster. If someone’s going to jump someone else onto the roster, it’s probably Descalso.
INF/OF Jim Edmonds
Who can forget Jim Edmonds and how instrumental he was viewed to the 2006 World Series run. Or his position in the MV3 of the mid-2000s. News came out earlier this week that Walt Jocketty, who Edmonds played for with the Cardinals and then last season with the Reds, was leaning towards retirement. Edmonds was saying that he was looking for a backup first baseman role or he was going to look at retiring.
Then, not an hour ago, it was announced that Edmonds signed a minor league contract with the Cardinals and will receive an invitation to Spring Training. The 40 year old Edmonds is going to try to make a go of it with his former team.
His outfield defensive stats are still pretty good, but once again he’s a left hander, which doesn’t make him the favorite to have any kind of platoon with Colby Rasmus. He hit .286 with 8 HR in 73 games with Milwaukee this season before being dealt to Cincinnati, where he hit just .207 with 3 solo homers in 13 games.
This could be viewed several ways. Personally, I lean towards the idea that it’s just a ceremonial invite. He’ll play and get one final chance in Cardinal red before retirement. I would also love to see him take the young Colby Rasmus under his arm and mentor him a bit during Spring Training, and hopefully Rasmus will be receptive to it. Either way, I’ll give him about a 5% chance to make the opening day roster. Because I could see him getting an Opening Day start as he heads to retirement with a first week roster move to bring someone else up.
Some 1% chance guys as well.
3B Zach Cox was the Cardinals’ first round draft pick and signed a major league contract. He also participated in the Arizona Fall League, usually one of the last stops for players on their way to the majors in short order. He totalled .262 in 18 games in the AFL, but started just 1-for-17 before putting it together after having essentially not played since the college baseball season ended. He is one player who could make a strong case during Spring Training for a spot on the roster, but I don’t foresee that as long as David Freese stays healthy through the spring.
OF Adron Chambers is a guy that is much beloved, from what I can tell, by the resident Redbird Dugout minor league expert. Jerry described Chambers as the outfielder in our system that’s the closest to being major league ready. He has speed and gap power, plays solid D with some highlight reel potential. Jerry also says he has leadoff hitter tools and has skills that we haven’t seen from a prospect in some time. Personally, I’ve not heard much about Chambers but Jerry knows his stuff.
In the first 3 parts we looked at the overall systems pitching, outfielders and infielders respectively. In 4th and final part we will focus on the catchers. Overall we have great depth and upside with the catchers in our system. We have a mix of offensive and defensive oriented catches along with a few that will be solid on both sides. Here’s a closer look into this category…
Star Power – 4 Birds
Depth – 4 Birds
Overall – 4 Birds
Thanks to some insomnia, there’s going to be an early morning post here at Redbird Dugout. I’m going to try to answer a question, what is Albert Pujols truly worth? I’ve been doing some research and consideration on this topic for months now, but I recently came up with something that I felt could value him as accurately as possible. But maybe I just wanted to find a spot in Pitchers Hit Eighth’s Daily Pujols for today!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Geez, another Albert Pujols post. Can I go a day without seeing one? Probably not, and I apologize. But I hope to add something to the Albert Pujols discussion with this post.
It’s a difficult thing to figure out and everyone has an opinion on it, but where are the facts? We have many people saying he’s worth $30 million per year and we have Bobby Cox saying he’s worth $50 million per year. With so many big numbers thrown around, many of which no teams can really afford while keeping a winning ball club around him. Truth is though, no information as to what both sides are looking for has come out.
There have been rumors that Pujols is looking for 10 years, $300 million. Meanwhile the Cardinals are rumored to either be willing to give 10 years or the $30 million average annual value, but not both. Whether these are true, we may never know.
The first thing we need to realize when looking at the Albert Pujols situation is that we are not a winning team right now. In the last four seasons, the Cardinals have made the playoffs once. They got swept by the Dodgers in 2009. This is probably the worst opening day roster we’ve had from 2007 until now. I would consider putting the 2008 Cardinals below the 2011 team right now simply because we knew we were going to miss Chris Carpenter for the first half of the season.
So we can’t say that we need Albert Pujols to stay a winning ball club because the Cardinals simply aren’t winning right now. I think that’s something that’s easily missed in these discussions. Now, onto some valuation numbers.
When you look at player comparables, you have to look at the biggest contract in baseball. That would be Alex Rodriguez’s 10 year, $275 million contract he signed in December of 2007 at the age of 32 years old. So just how comparable are Rodriguez and Pujols?
In Rodriguez’s 10 years prior to signing his 10 year, $275 million contract, his numbers break down to a 162 game average of .304 batting average, 48 home runs, 133 runs batted in, 130 runs scored, a .394 on base percentage, a 151 OPS+, and an average WAR of 7.6.
In Pujols’ first 10 years in the league, his numbers break down to a 162 game average of .331 batting average, 42 home runs, 128 runs batted in, 123 runs scored, a .426 on base percentage, a 172 OPS+, and an average WAR of 8.6.
The numbers are pretty close. Albert was the better hitter and Rodriguez provided more thump in the lineup. The OBP difference is pretty much absorbed by the difference in batting average as well. Once you take into account the market Rodriguez plays in and the fact that he plays a position where defense is at a slightly higher premium than first base, the contract is pretty much the perfect comparable.
You also need to consider that, in baseball, you are only as good as your last year. It’s why Adrian Beltre keeps getting big contracts. He puts up a great year during a contract year and pulls in far more than he’s worth and then rides. Now, maybe that’s unfair to him, but looking at the stats the correlation is definitely there.
In 2007, Alex Rodriguez posted a 9.9 WAR. In 2010, Albert Pujols posted a 7.2 WAR.
Personally, the $27.5 million average annual value would be my limit in negotiations with Albert. If I needed to sign the 2007 Alex Rodriguez or the 2010 Albert Pujols, I would sign the 2007 Rodriguez. He’d played better up until that point, and played a premium position that would allow me to get a guy who really can’t play defense but can hit the lights out of the ball to play first base or outfield, the two positions you traditionally put a player who can’t play defense.
However, thanks to our friends the Philadelphia Phillies, we also have to consider the new contract of Mr. Ryan Howard. Howard is nowhere near the player that Pujols and Rodriguez are, yet there he is with a freshly signed 5 year, $125 million contract that goes into effect in 2012. I guess that the buyout of $10 million is included in the contract because his salary averages $23 million over those five years according to our friends at Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
I’ll agree with the crowd that claims that we have to make Albert Pujols the highest paid first baseman in the league. Even though Howard is being overpaid by the Phillies, we are pretty close with Mark Teixeira’s 8 year, $180 million deal he signed with the Yankees in December of 2008 that pays him, on average $22.5 million per year.
So using comparables, I can see that a fair price for Albert should be between $23 million and $28 million.
This also stands up against other comparables from this season’s free agent signings as well.
What I did was take some of the top free agent signings on ESPN’s free agent tracker and break them down on average annual value and the Wins Above Replacement of that player. I ended up with a total of 25 signings. I broke it down three different ways in the end.
The first thing I did though, was remove the outliers. The five highest and five lowest Dollars/WAR were removed. We can all agree that we aren’t going to give Albert $13 million per WAR as the Yankees did with Derek Jeter, and we can all agree that we aren’t going to give him $357,000 per WAR like the Giants did with Pat Burrell. This ensures that we get a good, solid average.
First, I took the average cost for the top-10 in WAR. I figured that as your WAR got higher, your Dollars/WAR would decrease. This held true as it came out to just over $3 million per WAR.
Second, I had an age defined average. I took the players that were within two years of age of Albert and figured out that, and that was the highest valuation at $3.7 million per WAR.
Third, I took the straight up average for position players, which was $3.5 million per WAR.
That comes out to an average cost of $3.4 million per WAR. So if you base his contract on his 7.2 WAR from 2010, since most free agents get contracts based on their last season, that’s a value of $24.48 million for Albert. If you base it on his career average WAR of 8.4, that’s a value of $28.56 million. That’s with valuations from this offseason.
That puts the value for Albert Pujols between $25 million and $29 million, pretty much on par with the last valuation.
Ultimately, I believe that every single Cardinals fan would like to see Albert Pujols back in a Cardinals uniform in 2012 and beyond. There is no doubt the if he stays he would be a legend in St. Louis for the rest of his life, much in the way that Stan Musial is today.
The question that remains to be answered is: What is too much for Albert Pujols?
Certainly the Cardinals could offer him a 10 year, $350 million deal and guarantee that Albert would be in Cardinal red for the rest of his career. In that situation though, he would likely be surrounded by the Memphis Redbirds for the rest of his career and the Cardinals would struggle as a team.
I’m all for re-signing Albert, but he is just one man. There are 24 other players on the team that will make or break this team’s success. We need to be able to maximize their quality with or without Pujols.
What kind of deal would I offer Albert?
Albert Pujols is 31 years old, but he’s shown signs of decline. His strikeout rate is up and his walk rate is falling. I don’t agree with the school of thought that you have to overpay him because we’ve underpaid him the previous 8 years of his career. Albert knew what he was doing when he signed that contract and he even said that he wanted to play it out and not renegotiate it early when he could have had the chance. He was also the second highest paid first baseman at the time he signed that contract.
Management also has to look beyond just 2012. They will need to make a decision on whether to give Chris Carpenter his $15 million option next season. They’ll also need to figure out how to keep Adam Wainwright, who has pitched like a pitcher who will command a $20+ million contract. Meanwhile you have key young players like Jaime Garcia and Colby Rasmus who will likely both hit arbitration next year.
It’s easy to get tunnel vision and say, “We need Albert Pujols to win.” But the truth is that we haven’t won the last four seasons with Albert Pujols in the lineup. Because it’s the players around him that are lacking. And if we can’t put those players around him while he’s making $16 million, why would we suddenly be able to when he’s making $30 million?
The fear for some Cardinals fans, and I agree with it, is that the Cardinals will turn into the Texas Rangers after they signed Alex Rodriguez. After putting that $25 million on the books, they struggled to build a team around him and ultimately spent the better part of that entire contract as a losing team. Until this season, the final year of that contract, where Rodriguez helped send the Rangers to the World Series when he got the final out of the ALCS for the Yankees.
I really can’t know what I would offer Albert. I would love to offer him an 8 year, $225 million contract that would give him an MLB record $28.125 million in average annual value, placing him just above Roger Clemens’ 2007 contract. But can the Cardinals truly afford that?
When you look at the list of highest average annual values, there have been 14 contracts handed out to players that are worth more than $20 million per season. Three were given outside the top-4 media markets. One was given outside the top-10 media markets. That other one, the $23 million per season deal given to Joe Mauer before last season by Minnesota, the #15 media market. The Cardinals come in #21 on the media market size list.
His contract is certainly deserving of being at the top of the average annual value list. His individual on field performance backs that up. I don’t think you can go much higher than $28 million. I understand that he’s the best player in baseball right now and perhaps all-time, but you can’t pay him based on his position in the history of the game. Pay him for the on-field production and let history make it’s own judgements. His being the best player in baseball isn’t winning us any extra games.
So where are we now?
I don’t know. Same place we were before I started writing this an hour ago. Hopefully I haven’t rambled on and I’ve actually contributed something to the Albert Pujols discussion.
I want Albert Pujols back in Cardinals’ Red for the rest of his career. What I worry about is whether the Cardinals can truly afford to do that. I would much rather see the Cardinals win than Albert Pujols playing for us.
I’m a Cardinals fan. I was before Albert, I am during Albert, and I will be after Albert.