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Who will the Cardinals sign, if anyone?Posted Tuesday, December 20, 2011, at 8:53 AM
By COREY NOLES
With hot stove season in full swing, as Cardinals fans know well, anything can happen. The bad thing is, the Cardinals front office does an amazing job of keeping news quiet compared to many other organizations.
I don't know how many times we've signed someone without anyone having a clue it was coming. Take for example, Lance Berkman. I was shocked when I heard that, but excited at the same time. Some of my friends thought $8 million was a bit steep, but I figured that if it goes bad, your only out the money for one season. However, if it goes good, then you got a bargain. The way Big Puma played in 2011 we didn't just get a bargain, but a red-tagged clearance item. If only my retirement fund paid those kinds of dividends.
Well, once again it is the season. Following is a list of several possibilities the Cardinals have looked at.
Carlos Beltran-He is the first, and from what the rumor mill says, most likely choice. Beltran, remembered by Cardinals fans for crushing the team in the 2005 NLCS with homers in four consecutive games, is now 34 years old and the number two remaining free agent on the market. While not at the peak of his career, Beltran put up impressive numbers last season batting .300 with 22 homeruns, 84 RBIs and a .385 OBP. Not too shabby. All of those numbers were above his career average. What is unsure is what it would take to get him. He is believed to be seeking a three-year deal. Under normal circumstances I wouldn't expect the team to go that long on him, but this year is different. After losing Pujols to free agency and possibly Craig in the short-term on the disabled list, I think the team feels pressured, and rightly so, to bring another threat to the lineup.
Coco Crisp-This is an intriguing possibility. Originally drafted by the Cardinals, Crisp spent last season with the Oakland Athletics and has bounced around a bit over his career, but don't under estimate him. Last year's numbers generally lacked a real punch from him (.264/.314/.379), it should be pointed out that he led the American League in stolen bases: a category the Cardinals haven't even looked at in more than a decade. If he signs with the Cardinals, he would likely bat first and be able to help create runs through his speed alone. Definitely another intriguing possibility.
Prince Fielder-I know some of you will slap me for mentioning him, but if you don't at least consider this slugger, then you're being naive. His numbers last season speak for themselves: .299/.415/.566 with 95 at bats. While his weight is a concern, if he could be had in a much shorter deal than he is reportedly requesting then he might be a bargain. Don't forget, he played in all 162 regular season games in 2011. That's a feat that even Albert Pujols never reached. He got very close, but never quite made it. My one final argument: have you seen this guy crush a baseball? If he would take four, possibly five years, you have to at least consider the possibility. At five years, he would complete his contract at 32, the same age Albert will begin his first of 10 seasons as an Angel.
As far as offense goes, those are the only three names that really interest me. I've always really liked Roy Oswalt and he's still available with a little gas left in the tanks I believe. I know he didn't have a career best season, but Duncan lives to revive guys just like the "Wizard of Os." While we don't necessarily "need" him, he would free up the ability to trade maybe a Westbrook. Tell me how good this rotation sounds: Wainwright, Carpenter, Garcia, Oswalt and Lohse. I like the sound of that. If he can be had for the right price, I say you grab him.
There was some noise on various social networking sites Monday evening about the possibility of Crisp being near a deal, but that appears to be slightly overstretched.
Another interesting tidbit this weekend had Joe Strauss eluding (generically, but definitely eluding) to the possibility of the Cardinals having more interest in Fielder than was originally reported. The method of secret negotiations would certainly fit the Cardinals mode of operations. They seem to have a flare for the drama.
The other possibility to all of this is that maybe they wait it out. Mozeliak and Co. could be waiting to see what happens by way of trades mid-season or could even be shopping players now as we speak. We have a decent farm system at the moment and some big draft picks coming next season. Maybe they feel the team could afford to shed a prospect or two to pick up another bat or middle infielder.
There's still 60 days (and counting) until pitchers and catchers report to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. so who knows what could be done in that amount of time? I wouldn't hang up your nerve medications just yet, because I have a distinct feeling that there's more to come.
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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