Tag Archives: Rafael Furcal

Jackson making his case

Cue the Edwin Jackson stories, it seems. Had all my notes out to write this and in the last 24 hours I’ve seen three or four stories on him and his impending free agent status.

Since coming to the Cardinals as part of the 8 player trade with the the Toronto Blue Jays that involved Colby Rasmus, Edwin Jackson has blinked once and been phenomenal the rest of the time. In his 8 starts, he has a 3.44 ERA, a 4-2 record and averages 6.54 innings per start. If you take out the one start in Milwaukee where he got bombed for 8 earned runs over 7 innings, that ERA drops to 2.36. That’s a sparkly small ERA.

It also makes him the Cardinals’ best starting pitcher in those last 8 starts.

Jackson: 4-2, 3.44 ERA, 6.54 IP/GS
Westbrook: 3-3, 3.99 ERA, 6.21 IP/GS
Carpenter: 2-2, 4.44 ERA, 6.58 IP/GS
Lohse: 4-2, 4.95 ERA, 5.00 IP/GS
Garcia: 2-3, 5.12 ERA, 5.70 IP/GS

However you stack it up, Jackson has done exactly what the Cardinals needed him to do.

So he gives the Cardinals an interesting question going into 2012. The typical idea is that the Cardinals will need to acquire another starting pitcher, whether that is retaining Chris Carpenter or Edwin Jackson, giving a young guy a shot in the rotation, or finding someone in free agent to fill the slot.

Over the last month, Jackson has pitches his way into the 2012 plans, in my opinion. He is making $8.3 million on a two-year contract that bought out his final two years of arbitration. This is his first splash in free agency and has Scott Boras as his agent. Because of that, I doubt we get any action on him before the start of free agency. Unless Jackson directs Boras to make him a Cardinal, he’s likely going elsewhere because a player doesn’t keep Scott Boras as his agent unless he wants big money.

Just a few days from his 28th birthday, Jackson could command decent money, especially with his strong finish to the season. However, I’d be willing to offer him about a 3 year, $35 million deal. It’s a raise and locks him in. If he turns into the pitcher Dave Duncan thinks he can be, it will be a heckuva deal for the Cardinals.

Look around the league at the best teams. They all have great starting pitching. The Cardinals need to solidify that rotation, even if it is at the expense of their offense, in order to contend.

Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak recently told the Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss that they hope to retain Rafael Furcal next season. Is there similar interest in retaining Edwin Jackson? Personally, I’m not sure the Cardinals can afford to let him go. I know, I led the “Just say No to Edwin Jackson” campaign when the trade rumors came up. His performance has changed my mind.

Looking at 2012: Part 2

As the Cardinals near staring a 10 game deficit the topic of 2012 has once again crept into the minds of their fans. There are some huge questions hanging over the franchise as the season begins to wind down and I don’t know if there is another franchise with as much uncertainty towards next year.

In part 2 of this four now five part series, I will be looking at the players who have contract options for 2012.

The two contract options that I think may as well be considered picked up are those of Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina.

Now, just a week shy of his 30th birthday, Adam Wainwright will be coming off Tommy John surgery next year. It was reported by the Post-Dispatch that Wainwright has recently begun long toss from 120 feet, a big step in his recovery. He is expected to be cleared to throw from a mound at some point in September. A big question posed by fans is why would you take the risk of assuming the option years on Wainwright’s contract that total $21 million over the next two years and not try to renegotiate something with him to be flexible seeing as he’s coming off of injury.

The simple point is that Wainwright has all the power in that process. If the Cardinals choose not to pick up his option for 2012, he becomes a free agent at the end of this season. While many teams will be wary of the injury, there will be teams willing to spend more than the $9 million he’d be due next season to put a man who has won 39 games and posted a 2.53 ERA over his last two seasons.

In my opinion, the talent per dollar drop off for pitchers is much greater for pitchers and with the way that Tommy John surgery is becoming more and more routine these days, you don’t screw around with the potential of turning off a Cy Young caliber pitcher. You would think, at worst he’s a fifth starter pitcher which you’ll spend $9-$11 million on anyway. At best he’s the Cy Young caliber pitcher he’s been the last two years and retakes his place at the top of your rotation next year.

For Yadier Molina, he is coming off of his best season. He’s hitting over .300 and has a career high 11 HR. He has a $7 million option that would put him in the top-3 highest paid catchers in the league next year. To me it would be a no brainer to pick up the option, but there is some talk that he and the Cardinals may talk about an extension that would add years and lessen that 2012 salary number.

In my opinion, I’m nervous about the number of innings on Molina’s knees. He is on pace to put up another 1,130 innings at catcher, that’s less than the previous two years. However, under the 4 years of the last contract he signed, he will have turned in nearly 4,500 innings behind the plate. I’m willing to guess that that is the most in the majors. Can he continue to stay healthy? My guess is that he has probably 3-4 more effective years at catcher before he will need to be dialed back. The sooner you dial him back too, the longer you should be able to use him.

Now onto the question mark options. Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, and Octavio Dotel.

Carpenter, 37, had a slow start this season, but much of that was attributed to a shaky defense behind him. He’s stepped it up through the summer to once again become the staff ace. There are two questions to Carpenter. First, can the Cardinals afford that $15 million option and Albert Pujols? Second, is Carpenter slowing down or can we expect 2-3 more solid years out of him and is he worth extending?

There is a lot of fan talk that the Cardinals should consider with Carpenter what the Reds did with Rolen last year. They threw in a little more money and extended him. A 1 year, $15 million contract for Carpenter makes many fans tense up. However, there is great support putting together a 2 year, $20 million deal with another $10 million option. That would extend Carpenter into his 40s and I think that he’s the type of player who would leave money on the table if he wasn’t playing as well as he should be.

Rafael Furcal is a tougher question. As of right now, the 33 year old short stop has played in 339 games since 2008. The teams that he’s been on have played 614 games. That means he played just 55% of the potential games due to injuries. He received another freak injury over the weekend at Wrigley Field by tripping over a rope in the batting cages there. The team holds a $12 million option on him that seems like a no-brainer to not exercise.

There are large health concerns with Furcal, but there is no doubt that if he’s healthy he could solidify the short stop situation for the next couple years. The pool of quality middle infielders is extremely shallow (if the Nationals have a trade market for Ian Desmond, you know the pool is shallow) so there will definitely be a market for Furcal’s services in the offseason. Ultimately, I think that will be why the Cardinals do not pursue him. If they get matched up against multiple teams wanting him, he will cost more than they are willing to invest in him. Especially when it seems Daniel Descalso can play a pretty good shortstop.

For Octavio Dotel, he is quite a cheaper option for the Cardinals at $3.5 million. It still makes him potentially the most expensive bullpen arm for the Cardinals. Dotel will be 38 next season. He has a 3.71 ERA over 165 innings the last three seasons between the White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Blue Jays and Cardinals. Yes, that’s right. Six teams in three years. And he spent all of 2009 with the White Sox to boot.

I think Dotel is one of the pitchers you have to bring back for next season. With the way the bullpen is stacking up for next year, he would be one of the only true veteran relievers and that might be worthwhile having out in the bullpen with the young pitchers. Plus, if the team is intending to pull an existing reliever into next year’s rotation I would be more confident with Dotel in the bullpen than someone from Memphis. But, I’ve been surprised in that aspect before.

Since I’ve already written a ton more than I intended to for this article (I shoot for 1000 words, and I’m almost at 1100 at this point), I’m going to extend the series by a part. Tomorrow I will discuss the young, in-house talent that we can expect to contribute to the Cardinals in 2012.

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Looking at 2012: Part 1

As the Cardinals near staring a 10 game deficit the topic of 2012 has once again crept into the minds of their fans. There are some huge questions hanging over the franchise as the season begins to wind down and I don’t know if there is another franchise with as much uncertainty towards next year.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Albert Pujols is question #1 for the Cardinals entering the offseason. He is playing this year on the option year of the 7 year, $100 million contract he signed before the 2004 season. His impending free agency has been offseason topic #1 for all of baseball. It’s not every day that the best player of the last decade becomes available on the market. Because of that, it’s a topic that everyone has covered deeply, not just myself.

Manager Tony LaRussa also finds himself at the end of a contract this season. He does have an option for next year, but there always has to be the uncertainty until he says that he’s picking up that option.

Chris Carpenter is in the final year of his contract, but has a $15 million option for 2012. Adam Wainwright, who underwent Tommy John surgery in February, has missed this season and probably won’t make it back. That means his $21 million option that keeps him a Cardinal for the next two years doesn’t automatically vest, however the team has indicated they plan to pick up the option regardless.

Their catcher, Yadier Molina is in the final year of his last contract as well. He has an option for next season that could net him $7 million. However, there are rumors that they might renegotiate for more years and reduce that salary number for next year.

Lance Berkman, who is probably the best signing of the last offseason, will also be a free agent after his 1 year, $8 million contract expires. Berkman currently has the 25th highest batting average in the National League. He is also 3rd in the NL in home runs and 9th in runs batted in.

You also have a handful of guys that we traded for that are also eligible for free agency. Rafael Furcal has a $12 million team option for next year. Octavio Dotel has a $3.5 million option as well. The final piece would be starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who many see as having a lot of potential as a pitcher, is also a free agent at the end of the year.

There’s also the arbitration question. Do you try to trade Skip Schumaker or Ryan Theriot before their final arbitration year? Do you non-tender them? Do you keep them around?

John Mozeliak will definitely earn his paycheck this winter with all the work he has ahead of him. It is the most busy that I can remember any offseason being.

The Cardinals officially enter next season with $41 million committed to Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, and Jaime Garcia. I think it’s safe to assume that the Cardinals will pick up the options of Wainwright and Molina, which pushes the number up to a cool $57 million.

In part two, I will discuss the contract options that are on the table for the Cardinals and what internal talent can we expect to contribute in 2012.

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Approval Ratings: July

In this series, I poll all the Cardinals fans that I can get to take my Approval Rating survey, utilizing Cardinals’ forums and Twitter. Unfortunately, July’s ratings were much delayed form where they should have been, with the polling taking place in the second week of August. Obviously that will effect some of the results with a week and a half of performance from August. However, I will make every effort to get August’s ratings up at the correct time.

For Cardinals’ fans, they loved some Lance-Squared as I’ve heard them referred to. That would be the combination of Lance Berkman and Lance Lynn. The pair were the highest rated Cardinals of July, receiving an 8.8 rating. For both Berkman and Lynn it is the second straight month that they have maintained their position atop the ratings for hitters and pitchers, respectively.

And who can really blame them? Lance Berkman has been the best free agent signing of last offseason. He’s currently hitting just under .300, nearly 30 home runs, and will have a shot at 100 RBI. I think it’s safe to say that absolutely nobody outside of a psychiatric ward expected that kind of performance out him this season, including himself.

For Lance Lynn, he got two spot starts in St. Louis before being recalled a few weeks later to pitch out of the bullpen. Lynn owned that move. While some pitchers might have been effected by the perceived “demotion” to the bullpen, Lynn took his position and dominated. It wasn’t rare for him to come into games, blazing that upper-90s fastball across the plate, and getting strikeout after strikeout. It really hurt the bullpen when Lynn went on the disabled list.

The three highest rated position players are Berkman, Holliday with an 8.6 and Yadier Molina with an 8.0. The player who moved the needle the most this month? Positively, that would be Albert Pujols who is up 0.4 to a 7.6. On the down side is Ryan Theriot who lost ground for another month, losing 1.5 points to a 5.0.

The three highest rated pitchers were all out of the bullpen. Who really thought they could have said that a month ago? Lynn leads with his 8.8. Fernando Salas received an 8.5 while Jason Motte‘s scoreless streak that extends back into June received him an 8.0. The biggest shift was Motte, who jumped 1.8 points. The big loser on the pitching staff was Kyle Lohse, who fell 2.7 points to a 5.5 after a rough month.

Management took a hit this month. Despite pulling off a trade that moved Colby Rasmus that received a mixed response and bringing in someone to potentially solve all the major problems that faced the 2011 Cardinals, John Mozeliak dropped 0.2 points to a 6.6. Probably close enough that it could be considered a push. However, it was Tony LaRussa whose approval rating plunged 1.1 points to a 5.5, his lowest score of the season.

We also had five debuts on the list this month. Rafael Furcal debuts with an 8.0, Octavio Dotel with a 7.5, Marc Rzepczynski with a 7.3, Corey Patterson with a 5.8, and Edwin Jackson receives a 5.6.

As with every approval ratings, I like to ask some questions to gauge the response of Cardinal Nation. We will start with the trade deadline talk.

The Cardinals made two moves at the deadline. One involved a package headed by Colby Rasmus being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jackson, Rzepczynski, Dotel, and Patterson. The trade is also rumored to include cash or 3 players to be named later. You also have to consider the potential draft picks that the Cardinals will receive in compensation for Jackson. The response on this trade was a complete push with Cardinal Nation split on the idea. For 2012 and beyond, I question it’s value, but for 2011 it was the best option the Cardinals had on the table.

Rafael Furcal’s trade was received much more favorably. The Cardinals dealt minor league outfielder Alex Castellanos (who is killing it in AA for the Dodgers since the trade, by the wya) for the veteran Furcal who was designed to solidify the defense at shortstop. 90% of responders liked the trade with 10% saying that they didn’t.

As the August 31st waiver trade deadline approaches, the question is obviously posed whether the Cardinals will attempt to make another deal to further solidify the team. As the potential double-digit deficit stares the Cardinals in the face, they may not now. 57% of responders think the Cardinals will not make another move, with the remaining 43% expecting at least one more acquisition.

Then, to the question that is on everyone’s mind as the end of the season looms. Are the Cardinals destined for the playoffs? 95% of responders think that the Cardinals will not win the NL Wild Card. However, 62% of responders think that the Cardinals will win the NL Central. Combining the two figures, that gives us 67% of fans who think the Cardinals will still make the playoffs. You gotta believe!

Keep an eye out for the August Approval Ratings survey coming late next week.

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After the dust has settled

The MLB non-waiver trade deadline came and went at 4 p.m. eastern time yesterday afternoon. It seemed like every contender added pieces from non-contenders as they attempted to solidify their position on top, or as a challenger of, a division. After the dust has settled and the moves have had a chance to percolate, who made the best moves in the NL Central? Certainly the Cardinals were active, but so were the other teams in the NL Central. Each one making a trade over the last week. Let’s take a look at their moves and determine who was the big winner. We’ll start at the bottom, just to build up the suspense.

Houston Astros (24.5 games back)

The Astros were one of the busiest teams on deadline day, but they weren’t buyers. The NL Central’s cellar dwellars made big moves, dealing both Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn over the last three days. The Astros made out like an arms dealer selling to both sides, sending Pence to NL East leading Philadelphia and Bourn to NL East runner-up Atlanta. The two trades will bring the Astros a total of eight prospects, seven of them named and one other that will be named later.

They were even very close to dealing their #1 starter, Wandy Rodriguez, to the Indians at the deadline before that deal fell apart. However, many expect that Rodriguez could still be moved during the waiver trade deadline. However, with that contract, I’m thinking he will have a hard time reaching a division leader. He has a very club friendly contract and may not be heading anywhere this year because of that. A pitcher with his history, talent, and contract will be very attractive to a handful of clubs, some of which may not even be in contention.

For the Astros, this won’t help them this year, but there is hope that it will help them in the years to come. Houston is clearly rebuilding right now and 3 years down the road, this trade could pay off big time. The question will be, will Ed Wade and Brad Mills be around to reap the benefits? Continue reading

MLB Trade Deadline Decisions

It’s this time of year that trade rumors are flying left and right and rarely do any of them get executed. GM’s all across baseball are working endless hours with their top deputies to inquire on any player they feel would help their club and gauge the asking price. So with a week left before the deadline what are the Cardinal’s needs? Who should be be targeting? What players/prospects should be off limits? I will try to break down this very complex process to define the Cards biggest needs and players we should be targeting.

Cards Needs

Anyone who watches the Cards on a regular basis can identify our weaknesses. We need to upgrade our rotation, bullpen and SS. My gut feeling says the Cards have identified our rotation as the biggest need so we can move McClellan back to the bullpen which kills 2 birds with one stone. McClellan is very effective against lefties as well so he could be used when needed as a lefty specialist (as weird as that sounds). If we can’t find a fit that is within a price we are willing to pay for rotation help we will certainly find a bullpen arm to provide stability and depth. The last and hardest area to address is SS. Theriot’s offense was making up for his defensive woes early in the year. Well his offensive is suffering of late and today’s game is the reason why we need someone that can sure up the defensive side.

The Untouchables

1) Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and Oscar Taveras – The first 2 are names that most everyone knows about and its been publicized that we are not going to trade them. Taveras is another guy I see as an untouchable product. By far our best upside offensive prospect. He has 5 legit tools and is tearing up opposing pitchers this year (over .400 avg). He has been on the DL twice but nothing concerning long term. he can play all 3 OF positions well.

2) Colby Rasmus – With all the talk of teams being interesting in Rasmus and Mo stating he is not looking to deal Rasmus I will set the record straight. I don’t think Mo is going to sell low and no team will be willing to give a package of MLB upgrades in the rotation as well as 1-2 upper tier prospects to get a deal done. Maybe he isn’t untouchable right now but because the price “should” be very high no team is going to come close. Continue reading