The off season in St.Louis so far has been calm, yet tumultuous. Fans and players alike were primed and hoping for the return of left fielder Matt Holliday who did end up back with the ‘Birds, signing a a 7 year deal for $120 million. Though the price may seem steep to some (okay, most), it does guarantee a potent middle of the order.
Ryan Ludwick quietly signed on for 1 more year at a shade under 6 million, which gives a drool inducing 3-4-5 of Pujols, Holliday and Ludwick. The lineup is still in need of a left handed power bat as Colby Rasmus, as good as he is/can be, will not be filling a power role. Jim Edmonds has recently expressed interest in coming back to St.Louis, challenging Tony LaRussa to invite him to spring training for the league minimum. I personally would like this move as Edmonds would add much needed left handed power off the bench and some veteran leadership that every team seems to covet.
Third base appears to be more open than initially thought. David Freese is the front runner, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see prospect Allen Craig at least make an appearance or two. Craig, 24, was an 8th round pick in the 2005 draft. At AAA Memphis last year Craig hit .323/26/83, but does strike out a fair amount(95 in 421 ab’s) and doesn’t walk much(37). A bat like his is too good to be wasted, but with a clogged infield third base might be the only logical fit. He did see limited action there last year, making 3 errors in only 30 chances however.
The two primary concerns of the club now though, should be pitching. Ryan Franklin, as great as he was in his all-star form last year, is not an elite closer and another full year of Dennys Reyes as the go to lefty is enough to exponentially increase revenue from fans running to the beer lines. This is assuming that Trevor Miller’s arm doesn’t fall off during the season, but we’ll have to wait and see. Kyle McClellan emerged this past year as quite a valuable asset and can set-up or provide innings of long relief. Along with the rocket-armed Jason Motte to round out the ‘pen the rest of the spots seem open for anyone.
The rotation is a different story, however, filled with right-handers that give all too much of the same look. Carpenter and Wainwright will be one of the better 1-2 punches in the game, but after them it’s a bit of a wildcard. A gamble on Brad Penny could pay off, but could also see 33 innings before several prolonged DL stints. Kyle Lohse, even if he puts up his average numbers, is just that. My personal hope would be looking into someone like Jarrod Washburn, a lefty who has never pitched in the NL and quietly had a great season last year.