Cards not waiting for Meetings
Redbirds beginning to fill holes week before Vegas get-together
An overview of the Cardinals heading into next week's Winter Meetings, which open on Monday at the Bellagio in Las Vegas:
Second base: Adam Kennedy has requested a trade. Aaron Miles and Brendan Ryan have their uses, but neither is really a starting-caliber player at second. A return for Felipe Lopez may be possible, but Lopez's defense is questionable and his offense has been inconsistent. Kelly Johnson of the Braves has been rumored as a trade target, while Orlando Hudson seems to be the most promising free agent.
Left-handed relief: The signing of Trever Miller at least partly answers this issue, and may turn it from a front-burner to more of a secondary concern. The Cards do have Randy Flores still under control, though he could be non-tendered, and Tyler Johnson might return strong from shoulder surgery. But even with Miller and those two, the Cardinals may want to add one more southpaw.
"Swing" pitcher: If Chris Carpenter is available, then St. Louis has a pretty nice starting five: Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer and Joel Pineiro. But Carpenter's health remains a question, so the Cards may add a sixth starter, someone who can offer innings out of the bullpen or spot starts.
Closer: This is the luxury item. Big-time ninth-inning pitchers tend to cost a lot of money, and signing one might preclude addressing other needs. Besides, the Cards have a closer-in-waiting, or perhaps even two, in Chris Perez and Jason Motte. So if something works out cleanly -- perhaps a one-year deal with someone -- it would be great. But it's not impossible that St. Louis might open 2009 without adding a designated ninth-inning man.
Kennedy: The second baseman bounced back some at the plate in 2008 but still not to his previous levels, but he did enjoy a fine year defensively. He's owed $4 million in 2009 and has asked to be traded someplace where he can play every day. The Cards would be happy to accommodate him, but the question is how much trade value he has.
An outfielder: This is the greatest area of organizational depth. The Cardinals had three outfielders enjoy fine seasons last year: Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick and Skip Schumaker. They also have top prospect Colby Rasmus knocking on the door, once-feared Chris Duncan trying to return from a back injury and several other young players with promise in Joe Mather, Brian Barton and Nick Stavinoha. They can't all be on the roster. Ankiel is a year away from free agency but has added value because of his center-field skills, while Ludwick is farther away from free agency but not the defender Ankiel is.
C Bryan Anderson: The very definition of a blocked prospect, Anderson has hit at every level and still has yet to turn 22 years old. However, Yadier Molina is signed through 2011 with an option for 2012, and Jason LaRue re-signed for another year as Molina's backup. Anderson generates surprisingly little prospect buzz, but he surely has value as a lefty-swinging catcher who can hit.
3B David Freese and Allen Craig: Whereas Anderson is blocked, Freese and Craig are squeezed. Ahead of them is Troy Glaus, who is signed for one more year. Behind them is 2008 first-round Draft pick Brett Wallace, who raked at two levels plus in the Arizona Fall League and is coming fast. Freese had a big year with the bat in '08 and made huge strides defensively, leapfrogging Craig in his first year in the system.
OF Daryl Jones
RHP Jess Todd
Big contracts the Cardinals might unload: There aren't many, unless they get creative. One interesting notion is the possibility of dealing Glaus, which would free up $11 million for the 2009 payroll for other uses. But that's highly unlikely, especially given that Glaus has no-trade protection. Besides that, the Cards probably wouldn't mind getting out from under Pineiro's $7.5 million if they could find a taker and a replacement. Kennedy's deal isn't big, but still it's tough to imagine the Cardinals finding a taker for him without eating at least some of it.
RHP Brad Thompson
OF Chris Duncan RHP Todd Wellemeyer
Flores and Johnson may be non-tender candidates, Flores more likely than Johnson.
Summary: The Cardinals' payroll is expected to be somewhere between $100 million and $110 million in 2009. Depending on the outcome of arbitration cases, they're likely committed to a little less than $90 million right now. So they have roughly $12-15 million to spend.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.