The title of this post is a question I’m sure a lot of us have asked ourselves recently in regards to the team the St. Louis Cardinals will be putting on the field in 2011. It’s also a blanket question of sorts regarding our competitors in the NL Central and the league as a whole. More so now that the Milwaukee Brewers have added former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke via trade from Kansas City. Thanks for that KC.
With the off season additions of Zach Greinke and former Blue Jays pitcher Shaun Marcum the Brewers have placed their rotation among the elite in the National League while almost certainly taking strides to close the gap between themselves and the Cincinnati Reds, who have essentially stood pat this off season with their roster. Assuming that the Reds don’t regress from their 91 wins a season ago, the Cardinals and Brewers have 5 and 14 games to make up in the win column respectively.
With that said the purpose of this post is to give myself a platform to ramble with my thoughts both positive and negative in regards to what the Cardinals have constructed this off season.
Over the course of last season and right into the current off season when asked my opinion on the Cardinals struggles regarding their non playoff campaign I always seemed to echo the front office: The inability to score runs and put guys on in front of Albert and Matt. We can also add the countless games in which our offense was shut down by mediocre and fringe starting pitchers (Karstens, Bush, Narveson, Norris, etc.)
The checklist for this winter seemed fairly straight forward from my view:
Sign Jake Westbrook to complete the rotation.
Acquire a more offensive minded middle infielder.
Add roster depth.
Of course there were some other odds and ends to address, but I’ve deemed the list above the most important. So how have we done?
The Cardinals were able to sign Jake Westbrook to a 2 year 16.5 mil deal. It was a nice sign as I think he could’ve obtained an additional year had he held out and went elsewhere. On the negative side it added additional payroll to an already expensive rotation. A couple weeks later the Cardinals and Dodgers swapped Blake Hawksworth for Ryan Theriot. Initially when the trade was announced I incorrectly assumed Theriot would play second and move Skip to a utility role. Wishful thinking for sure. In fact, Theriot was quickly announced as the starting shortstop which smashed Brendan Ryan’s trade value into pieces. So I guess Brendan’s going to come off the bench and possibly compete for starts right? Then less than a week later in a semi-surprising move the Cardinals signed free agent Lance Berkman to a one year 8 mil deal to play right field. This bumped the Jon Jay and Allen Craig platoon to backup rolls and added much needed depth on the bench.
Looking back at last year’s opening day roster we’ve replaced Penny, Ludwick and Ryan with Westbrook, Berkman and Theriot.
Projected 2011 Opening Day Lineup:
- Theriot SS
- Rasmus CF
- Pujols 1B
- Holliday LF
- Berkman RF
- Freese 3B
- Molina C
- Wainwright P
- Skip 2B
We’ve absolutely sacrificed defense for offense with Theriot and Berkman, but also have addressed a couple glaring offensive needs. Theriot fills the leadoff need while Berkman can be slotted in the 5 spot which takes some pressure off Colby and should give him the opportunity to see good pitches in front of Albert. So all is well right? TLR has his veteran leadership in place and there’s good mix of young talent coming off the bench along with Brendan Ryan as a late inning defensive sub. Dave Duncan also has a complete rotation and bullpen to work with. Jupiter here we come!………..Not so fast.
A little over week later after acquiring Berkman the Cardinals traded Brendan to the Seattle Mariners for a guy who supposedly throws really hard batting practice. We all knew it was still coming though, right? I think we did.
So who will replace Brendan on the bench? Yep, Tyler Greene. Instead of getting all sorts of pissed I’ve chosen to view this as an opportunity for Tyler. He’s got the tools to hit at the MLB level he just needs to put it together. I wish Boog all the best in Seattle. (End Subject)
While we continue to look forward to the day in which the Cardinals announce that Albert Pujols will be a Cardinal for life we can at least look ahead to next season. To be honest I’m actually happy that the Brewers have brought in Greinke and Marcum to the division. As a fan of the Cardinals and the game in general I want to see competitive baseball in the Central. Do you want to win the division? Earn it.
In closing I’ll just say I’m putting my trust in the front office. With such a thin free agent class I believe they did what they could to address the team’s needs. Before I go I wanted to share some quick footage of Skip Schumaker working on his defense here. The new team slogan: Just Hit Baby! Until next time.
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