Bennent Will Be Back in 2007

Gary_bennett_030506_2 Good move Cardinals!  Gary Bennent will be back as the back up backstop in 2007. He signed a one year contract for 2007, with an option for 2008.  He will make $850,000 next year, and $900,000 in 2008 if the option is excercised.  The buyout is %50,000. In my article entitled, "Bring Back Bennent" (you can find in my archives from Nov. 3), I listed 4 reasons for bringing him back.  First, he is affordable.  Next, he has chemistry with the pitching staff.  I realize that will will have many new faces on our staff next year, but a well traveled veteran that fits in well with the staff is important.  The same wasn’t true of our last backup, Einar Diaz.  Many of our pitchers FAR preffered Molina to Diaz.  Bennent is a suitable back up option for the Cards.  The next quality was his veteran leadership.  His experience, maturity, and leadership are qualities you can’t put a statistic or dollar sign to.  He carried the team for a weekend in the dog days of summer, winning with a game ending hit one day, and a walk off grand slam the next night on national TV.  The Cardinals are his 7th team and that experience is valuable.  Lastly, his offensive potential is far greater than other backups.  Back up catcher, you almost take what you get offensively, but as I just mentioned, Gary has the ability to carry a team that needs a shot of occasional energy.  I like him, he fits our team well.  And obviously I am not alone.  Walt, Tony, and Dunc must like him too.

So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree? Let me hear from you out there…
Thanks,
Josh
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Addition By Subtraction

Jason_marquisJason Marquis…Where Do I start?  It was pretty much an obvious conclusion that Jason’s days in St. Louis were over, when he was left off the post season roster this year.  I am not going to start in and bash him like every other Cardinals fan on the internet, but I will say that I have NEVER seen a more inconsistent pitcher.  When he got his sinker down in the zone and had decent movement, you could make the arguement that he had some of the best "stuff" on the staff the last couple of years.  And when he didn’t, well, we won’t go there.  Suffice it to say that Duncan must also think he is unsalvagable or either will never live up to his potential.  I really liked him, especially when he would come up as a pinch hitter.  He had a great attitude and represented the Cardinals with Class.  But having said that, we will be a stronger team minus Jason in 2007.  So that was my mindset I adopted shortly after my thoughts shifted from the World Series to our offseason needs.  I had heard that he resisted some of Duncan’s teachings, relying too much on his fastball to get him out of jams when his sinker wasn’t sinking.  Now, right when I decide that he is more of a liability than an asset despite that fact I like him, guess what happened next.  Not only did we become better by losing him, the CUBS sign him for 3 years, $21 Million. WOW, are the Cubs on Crack?  They seem to be spending a LOT of money for mediocrity.  So knock yourselves out Cubs.  You can have Jason and his 6.02 ERA (2006) and his record of 14-16.  I guess they think he can revive his career.  All I know is that we have many more options that to continue to invest in someone that so far hasn’t really lived up to their potential as a Cardinal.

But in closing I would like to say again, that I enjoyed having Jason as a Cardinal.  He is a classy guy, with a great family and loads of talent.  I wish him nothing but the best in life, except when he takes the mound for the Windy City.

So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me hear from you out there.
Thanks,
Josh
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Goodbye and Good Luck Jason, we will miss you.

The Case For Kennedy

Adam1013 It seems as if a homecoming of sorts may be in order, and from a couple of standpoints actually.  Adam Kennedy, the double play partner for David Eckstein on the 2002 World Champion Aneheim Angels, as well as a former St. Louis Cardinal, is rumored to be a possibility at 2nd base.  Multiple unconfirmed rumors have led me to believe that the Cardinals have made offers to Mark Loretta, Ronnie Belliard, and Kennedy, basically to see who wants the job bad enough.  Assuming those rumors are true, my choice is Kennedy.  He strikes out WAY less than Belliard.  Kennedy is a lifetime .280 hitter, with two seasons of .300 or better.  He has excellent chemistry with David Eckstein.  Loretta lines up comparable to Kennedy, but is five years older.  He is a lifetime .299 hitter.  He would also be a good choice.  But in my opinion Kennedy is a better option.  Kennedy has played everyday for a World Champion, he has wonderful chemistry with Eckstein, and was brought up through the Cardinals system.  He was just on the brink of catching on with the Cardinals, when he was traded along with Kent Bottenfield to the Angels for some guy named JIM EDMONDS.  Personally, if I were Walt Jocketty, I would have considered giving Aaron Miles a shot at the everday job.  He would be my first choice.  But he will provide a good player off the bench hopefull since we seem intent on filling the job via a free agent.  It is becoming a pattern in St. Louis where we don’t spend much on 2nd base, and get a good caliber player only for them to move on.  Fernando Vina, Placido Palanco, Tony Womack, Mark Grudzeilanek, Ronnie Belliard, etc.  Belliard would be ok, but I have heard he wants to go to the Mets and will be too much money for too little results.Adam_kennedy_1  He had wanted to go back to Cleveland but then they went out and snagged Josh Barfield, so that would seem unlikely.  No matter who ends up at 2nd base, I am sure of one thing and that is that the Cardinals aren’t as concerned about that as they are about their pitching.  In my opinion Kennedy is the man, assuming that Miles is destined to be a bench player.  Miles did an excellent job filling in at shortstop for Eckstein this past year, and would provide a great back up at either position should injuries occur.  It is obvious though, that Walt is looking to bring in a bigger name though, and leave Miles in that role.  It is probably going to cost in the ballpark of 3.5 million to get Kennedy, but that is a good price if he continues to produce.  My prediction is that very soon you will see Adam in the Cardinals uniform.

So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me hear from you out there….
Thanks,
Josh

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The Future of Chris Duncan

Chris_duncan_083106_4From the moment we first saw Duncan, my wife and I nicknamed him "Slop".  The only thing more mammoth than his Homerun potential was the gigantic wad of tabacco always being jostled around in his mouth.  His tounge was always moving, and thus "Slop" was born.  Being from Memphis, I got to see a lot of him, and just knew that he was destined to be great.  "Slop" and John Gall provided some pop in the Memphis Redbird’s lineup.  So when Duncan finally got his chance this year, I was smiling as I told everyone, "I told you so…".  I am getting a little sick of people saying we should trade him, or that he ***** defensively.  I am here to tell everyone:  Duncan is a big piece of the Cardinals’ future.  His defense will improve.  You have to remember, his natural position is 1st Base, and he is learning the outfield in the Major Leagues for the most part.  Yes, he looks like a drunk ballerina at times going back on fly balls.  Nothing that a little fungo bat and some practice can’t fix.  I am telling you, he is not only going to be a good player, he will be All-Star callibar.  In only 280 at bats, he shelled out 22 HR’s.  Some players get twice that many at bats, which would have put him at 44.  He probably plays rightfield a little more skillfully than left, because of the similar angle from that of playing 1st Base, but with Encarnacion in Right, he will probably see a lot of time in Left.  I love Tony LaRussa, but I am very critical about the way he would often sit him against lefties.  Give the man a chance to play….EVERYDAY!!  He isn’t a strain on salary, he provides power, and his defense can only improve.  Just think if the Twins had given David Ortiz more of a chance, what he could have done to their lineup.  He came up with a similar reputation, a less than average defensive player with incredible power.   Chris Duncan should patrol our outfield for years to come.Chris_duncan_060506_2
I have read a lot of people suggest that we dangle him as trade bait for a pitcher to an american league team where he could play DH.  In my opinion, that is silly.  Whoever you get that would be worthy of a Chris Duncan would no doubt cost a lot more, and then you have to replace him in the outfield.  Tony LaRussa used Speizio, Duncan, Wilson, Taguchi, Schumaker, Encarnacion, Edmonds, among others, and everybody still got their at bats.  Along with Wainwright and Reyes, I think Duncan is our among our top prospects.  His power and batting will no doubt provide some pop alongside Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, etc.  Give the guy a break, I can’t think of anyone who became a skilled outfielder overnight.  Chris Duncan, has developed into the kind of power hitter that we need in St. Louis.  His defense will improve, mark my words.

So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me hear from you out there….
Thanks,
Josh

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The 2007 Bullpen

Logoalternate19491959Earlier, I addressed the starting rotation, in my article entitled "Pitching, Pitching, Pitching".  Now I would like to start a series of articles where I will address what I would like to see happen regarding the bullpen.  After yesterday’s signing of Randy Keisler, we now have four lefties in our bullpen that are on the active roster: 1.Tyler Johnson 2. Randy Flores 3. Ricardo Rincon (That’s right, he should be healthy) 4. Randy Keisler.  I don’t see all four on the opening day roster, but I do see possibly three of them making the team.  I have to say that the role of Steve Kline/Ray King should fall on the shoulders of Tyler Johnson.  The Left handed specialist/set up role, where LaRussa has always had a go to Lefty that can come through big should be given to Tyler.  Anyone that watched the post-season saw that NASTY curveball he threw up there.  He is VERY exciting to watch, and I am glad we have him on our team.  I watched him a lot this year in Memphis, and I think he wil be a member of our team for a long time.  Tony LaRussa has said, "He has plus stuff.  Many of his pitches are unhittable.  He’s just got to be consistent getting them over the plate." So  let me work the bullpen backwards.  In my opinion, the clear choice for closer is Adam Wainwright.  He is a much cheaper option than Izzy, has shown to perform in the clutch (World Series Closer), and biggest of all is that Izzy probably won’t be ready to pitch till later on in the season anyway.  If I were Walt Jocketty, I would trade Izzy NOW for whatever you could get, to unload his salary.  You might end up with a surprise like we did in Aaron Miles, when we traded Ray King to Colorado last year.  Not only that, but the cash freed up by dumping Izzy’s salary would enable us to go after a top quality starter.  So, Wainwright is my closer.  Braden Looper is my right handed set up man.  The above mentioned Tyler Johnson would have the left handed specialist/set up duties as well.  Also in the pen I would have Josh Kinney, Josh Hancock, and Randy Flores.  The remaining spots could be filled out by Ricardo Rincon, Randy Keisler, Brad Thompson, and possibly Chris Narveson.  That is assuming we don’t pick up a free agent of a higer caliber than those just mentioned.  I am sure my bullpen will evolve as the off season does, but if I had to pick it today, these would be my choices.  I would get Jorge Sosa out of town so fast that he would pass Jason Marquis on the expressway out of St. Louis.  He showed me NOTHING.  Yeah, so he can throw fast.  Big deal, most of the Major League hitters I saw tee off on him weren’t that impressed either.  Neither were the Braves when they got rid of him.  So here you go here is my 2007 Bullpen if I had to set it up today:
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Randy

Ricardo

Wainwright    Looper         Johnson      Kinney            Hancock         Flores         Rincon
Closer            Set Up         LHP/Set Up  RHP               RHP                LHP             LHP

This still leaves out some people that could make the squad, like Brad Thompson, Randy Keisler, Chris Narveson (who led the 2006 Memphis Redbirds in Wins),Brian Falkenborg, and Andy Cavazos.  Chris Narveson could even prove to be a starter one day, so maybe you leave him down in Memphis.  And don’t forget Alan Benes, who I wrote about yesterday.  Should he not make the rotation, he could contribute from the bullpen, similar to a Cal Eldred role, a veteran comeback player with a lot of knowledge.

So there you have it, so far.  My thoughts may change as the season nears.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me hear from you out there….
Thanks,
Josh

Cardinals Ink A’s Lefty for Bullpen

Randykeisler_main_1The Cardinals picked up a left handed arm to help in their bullpen Thursday.  Randy Keisler is a 6’3", 190 lb. Texan, who played college ball at LSU, being named to the All SEC World Series team his Junior Year.  He only pitched 10 innings last year, and only has 133.1 innings in his entire career, sporting a career ERA of 6.82. Randy_keisler_2
He has already been with the Yankees, Padres, Reds, and A’s, with most of his action coming in 2005 when he pitched 56 innings for the Reds.  Not knowing much about him, I will reserve commenting too much other than to say that in my opinion a left hander is always something you look at these days.  The Cardinals have signed him to a one year, $425,000 split contract.  That means if he doesn’t make the squad and ends up in the minors, he will make $110,000.  If he doesn’t make the club out of spring training, maybe he could end up in the ‘pen in Memphis.  I would look for him to be a Randy Flores/Tyler Johnson type as far as how LaRussa could use him.
The ERA looks a bit high, but with the limited amount of innings pitched, it is hard to judge him by stats.  Time will Tell.  Overall, in my opinion it sounds like a good pick up.  Not very expensive, and very little risk.

So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me hear from you out there….

Thanks,

Josh

Hidden Starter for Cards in Memphis?

Alan_benesWith Walt Jocketty being forced to work miracles due to the modern economics of the game, coupled with the fact that the Cardinals only have 2 of the 5 starting pitcher roster spots filled, I can’t help but wonder if the Cardinals are overlooking a talent that is right under their nose.  Alan Benes is a name I am sure all of you remember.  He was a member of the Cardinals staff from 1995-2001.  He came in 7th in Rookie of the year voting in 1996.  The little brother of Andy Benes, they helped form a valuable part of the Cardinals rotation for much of the 90’s.  He has certainly not lived up to his potential, but he is still plugging away as a pitcher for the Memphis Redbirds.  The 6’5", 215 pounder from Indiana pitched in 30 games for the Redbirds in ’06, starting 4, and sporting a 4.75 ERA.  Those aren’t exactly numbers that get you called up, but the fact that he was a major league starter for 7+ years for the Cardinals/Cubs has to count for something.  In my opinion the Cardinals should consider him an option under certain scenarios.  Let’s pretend that we are lucky enough to land a top teir free agent pitcher this off season like Zito or Schmidt (see my article entitled "Pitching, Pitching, Pitching").  Well landing a pitcher like that would no doubt strengthen our rotation, but it would also mean that we would have much less to spend on the other spots in the starting rotation. Alan_2 And I don’t need to tell you what kind of miracle worker Dave Duncan is with reviving pitchers’ careers in the past.  Players that have lost the edge or fallen into the pit of mediocrity, have come to St. Louis, and flourished and shined brighter than ever.  Players like Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley,  Woody Williams, Cal Eldred, and most recently Jeff Weaver have found themselves again under Duncan’s tootilidge.  All I am saying is that if we find ourselves in that good position of landing a Zito or Schmidt caliber pitcher, the money required to round out the rotation will be critical.  Why not give a shot to Benes. Alan_3
Why not invite him to spring training, and see how it goes.  Worst case scenario, if it doesn’t work out, you have little to no investment.  And if the Cardinals find themselves in need of bullpen help, I could see him easily taking Jorge Sosa’s spot.  It would be difficult to **** as bad as Sosa did this year. I have seen him pitch this past year, and I can tell you he still has that competitive drive.  So I say, give ol’ Alan another shot, at 34 he just might still have some left in his tank.
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So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree? Let me hear from you out there….
Thanks,
Josh