The Sunday Night Hot Stove League Report

Are you already itching for spring training? Get your baseball fix this winter with the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday Night Hot Stove Report. A weekly report of offseason transactions, deals, trades and rumors of trade, right here, "In the House"

Do you think the season is over?

Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no offseason.

The 2006 season has already begun and if you are hoping the Cardinals can win a 100+ games again, for the 3rd consecutive season, and a third consecutive Central Division Crown, if you are hoping for a return to the World Series in 06, it is going to be what happens between now and opening day, that will determine the fate of the St. Louis Cardinals.

It was Wednesday night, just about two weeks ago, on October the 19th, in Game six of the National League Championship Series, that Cardinal fans saw their season and hopes for another World Championship in St. Louis, come to an end. The Astros behind 20 game winner, Roy Oswalt defeated the Cardinals 5-1, to stop the Redbirds just two wins short of their second consecutive NL pennant.

Before the final out was made in the 2005 season, the 2006 season, was already underway. Behind the scenes, in the inner sanctum of Busch Stadium, work had already started in preparation for the inaugural season of the new Busch Stadium.

There is no offseason, there is just a different lineup.

There is Walt Jocketty, the Cardinals Vice-President and General Manager. A two time Executive of the Year Award winner, leading off.

His team includes names unfamiliar to most Cardinal fans, but are critical to the team's future success;

Jerry Walker, Vice President, Player Personnel

Jeff Luhnow, Vice President of Player Procurement,

John Mozeliak, Assistant General Manager,

Bruce Manno, Director of Player Development

and Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa and his coaching staff.

Most major media outlets have indicated that there is little to be done with the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason. A reporter from the St. Louis Post Dispatch went so far as to say that, the Cardinals just need just a little tune up.

You can be sure, Jocketty and his team aren't sitting back on their laurels, with back to back 100 win seasons and consecutive Central Division Crowns, under their belts, thinking they can get by with a little tune up this winter.

Like the team that we saw grind it out for 162 games this season, playing "9" everyday, you can expect the same grind, attitude and determination out of Cardinals' management this winter. From the first swing of the wrecking ball at Stadium Plaza, until the first gate opens at the new Busch Stadium, they will be committed to building the foundation for a championship season.

Free agency will take it toll on the Redbirds, in spite what some may tell you. If for no other reason than the club's pocketbook, will take a hit.

On the list of 11 players eligible for free agency, C Einar Diaz, RP Cal Eldred, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, OF John Mabry, SP Matt Morris, INF Abraham Nunez, RP Al Reyes, OF Reggie Sanders, SP Jeff Suppan (team option), RP Julian Tavarez, and OF Larry Walker (team option).

To me this is a lot of deals to work out before next season or at best, it is a lot of holes that the Cardinals will potentially have to fill.

This week, Cal Eldred, Mark Grudzielanek, Matt Morris, Abraham Nunez and Reggie Sanders have filed for free agency.

It's very possible that they have all played their last game in a Redbird uniform.

The Cardinals have options on Jeff Suppan and Larry Walker, that they can exercise. Most likely they'll bring Jeff Suppan back but Larry Walker has announced that he is going to retire.

Al Reyes, one of the best relievers for the Cardinals this season, will miss all of the 2006 season because of Tommy John surgery and could get a deal from St. Louis, just to keep him in the family while he is in rehab. Hopefully it pay off a lot like the deal did for Chris Carpenter.

Fan favorite John Mabry is expected to return next season, there shouldn't be any doubt in that. Think back about how many times you have heard Cardinal manager, Tony La Russa and Walt Jocketty say, what a mistake it was to ever let Mabry go in the first place, let alone a second time and now it would be a third time.

Mabry was a part of the Cardinal organization from 1994 through 1998, before he signed with Seattle in the offseason. He came back in 2001 and played five games for the Cardinals, before being sold to the Florida Marlins.

Mabry came home where he belongs in 2004 and it is expected he'll get a new deal this winter.

For those that filed for free agency this week, to include; Cal Eldred, Mark Grudzielanek, Matt Morris, Abraham Nunez and Reggie Sanders, they may all command more on the free agent market than the Cardinals are willing to fork out for next season.

The Cardinals will several needs to address that may include, a second baseman, a left fielder, right fielder, a couple of members of the bullpen, and perhaps even a starter or two.

Scanning the potential major league free agents this winter and it is hard to believe that we may be able to replace what we are going to lose free agency.

Around the horn;

At second, our own Mark Grudzielanek, leads the list in my opinion. Some names that might be familiar to you, include; Joe McEwing, Miguel Cairo and Marlon Anderson. Pokey Reese, Todd Walker and Ray Durham are potential free agents, depending on the exercising of options.

Look for someone to fill the role of Matt Morris and or Jason Marquis (potential trade bait) and the head of the list includes the likes of Kevin Millwood (isn't he always suppose to be coming to St. Louis), A.J. Burnett, Jeff Weaver and potentially Jason Schmidt.

Other potential suitors to start for the Cardinals include; Kevin Brown, Paul Byrd, Jose Lima, Brett Tomko and Ismael Valdez.

In the outfield of course there is Johnny Damon, Brian Giles, Matt Lawton, Jacque Jones, Richard Hidalgo, Preston Wilson and I'll just shoot myself if they ever bring Sammy Sosa to St. Louis.

Looking at the starting lineup now, as of today, you would have to say it looks something like this;

LF - John Rodriguez & So Taguchi

CF - Jim Edmonds

RF - Free Agent / Trade

1B - Albert Pujols

2B - Abraham Nunez

SS - David Eckstein

3B - Scott Rolen

C - Yadier Molina

Starting Rotation

SP1- Chris Carpenter, SP2- Mark Mulder, SP3- Jeff Suppan, SP4- Jason Marquis, SP5- Anthony Reyes

Bullpen C - Jason Isringhausen, BP - Brad Thompson, BP - Randy Flores, BP - Ray King, BP - Cal Eldred, BP - Tyler Johnson,

Bench INF- Hector Luna, UTL- John Mabry, OF - So Taguchi, OF - John Gall, OF - Scott Seabol, C - Einar Diaz

I'll be the first to tell you, I'm not sure what the Cardinals are going to do.

It's hard to predict or project what someone is going to do, when in fact they don't know what they are going to do.

Potentially this winter the Cardinals may have to find;

  • Two starting pitchers
  • Two corner outfielders
  • Three new members of the bullpen
  • A second basemen
  • A back up catcher
  • A couple new members for the bench

    Basically a minor tune up.

    No matter what happens, we'll keep you posted here, with the Sunday Night St. Louis Cardinals Hot Stove League Report.

     

     

    Ray Mileur can be reached at raymileur@yahoo.com

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