Part four of a five part series of Walt Jocketty's ‘Things to Do List' - This Week 'The Outfield'
Looking back in this series;
The Cardinals have a couple of holes fill in the outfield and according to Brian Walton of the Birdhouse, one of them could be filled within a week.
In left field, Reggie Sanders, a free agent, is probably gone after spending a couple of seasons with the Cardinals. His two seasons with St. Louis will qualify him though for a return of his rent security deposit when he moves this winter, something that rarely happens, considering he seldom plays for more than a single season with any team.
I doubt that the Cardinals will be willing to offer Sanders more than a one year contract, plus an option year meaning, he's likely to be playing somewhere else again next season, yet another move and more security deposits.
It's not that the Cardinals wouldn't like to have Sanders back, who wouldn't? It just not a priority with the team at this time.
Mike Powers, the agent for Sanders said, "I talked to (the Cardinals) last week, and the Cardinals are trying to fill other gaps first," and "They plan to move on to other priorities later. Let me be clear that doesn't mean there isn't an interest in signing Reggie, they just have identified other priorities. At this point, we're going to go out and see what's out there. "
The word is that Sanders is attracting a "boatload" of interest this winter, an American League general manager told ESPN.com Insider Jerry Crasnick. After signing five one-year deals with different NL clubs from 1999-2003, Sanders should have enough leverage to command a second straight multi-year contract.
The Cardinals, Twins, Marlins, Royals and Mariners are among the teams thought to be interested in Sanders.
Sanders was on track to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases before he suffered a hairline fracture of his right leg shortly after the All-Star break. He still finished with 21 homers in 295 at-bats, and hit .333 with 10 RBI in 12 at-bats against San Diego in the NL Division Series.
Sanders, who turns 38 in December, needs eight homers and three stolen bases to join Willie Mays, Andre Dawson and Bobby and Barry Bonds as the fifth player in history with 300 of each. I could do without being associated with Barry Bonds, but Willie Mays and Andre Dawson is pretty good company to keep.
The Cardinals in my opinion should at least make an offer to Reggie, a one year contract with an option for 2007 is probably the best deal that is going to be put on the table.
You would have to ask Sanders, where would you rather play, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, or Seattle?
To me it's a no-brainer, let me see;
The Twins finished 16 games back of the World Champions, Chicago White Sox.
The Royals, finished 43 games back in the AL Central Division, just two games ahead of my Church softball team.
And Seattle, now I love the city, but the long flights cross country, with the Aunt Bea, with a bad attitude, flight attendants. What ever happened to stewardesses? Seattle finished 26 games back of the LA Angels, or the Anaheim Angels of LA, or the California Angels of Anaheim. Wouldn't you love to be the guys selling the Angels, stationary and business cards? Every year a new name, a new order.
There is no doubt that Sanders will likely get decent offers from these three teams, among others - but the Cardinals should at least make an effort to get Sanders back for another season.
Other options in left include; the platoon of So Taguchi and John Rodriguez. They saw a lot of playing time there this season. With So and J-Rod in left, that would give the Cardinals some financial flexibility to address their needs at second base, right field and the bullpen.
There is worse things out there, than having Taguchi and Rodriguez in left. Of course, if all else fails, there is still Rickey Henderson, playing in the independent leagues waiting for Cardinal Manager, Tony La Russa to call.
If Rickey's line is busy, you call always call the other Rick. Cardinal fans will still pay and still come to the ballpark to see Rick Ankiel do anything. According to some fans and sportswriters, the kid can play left-field, right-field or even in center. He could pitch and start a game, relieve, or even close a game. The diehard Ankiel fans, believe, he could sing the national anthem, pitch seven strong innings, move to center in the eighth and hit the game winning home run in the bottom of the ninth and all this without the benefit of steroids.
The bottom line is, don't expect the Cardinals to go out and spend big bucks to put somebody in left, they have options they can exercise in left. If there is going to be a big deal made, it will be to replace Larry Walker in right, not Reggie Sanders in left.
In right field, Larry Walker, has announced his retirement and is technically a free agent. I appear to be the only person in the universe who thinks there is a chance Walker may be playing baseball somewhere else next season.
I just don't see why, if Walker wanted to play another season, why couldn't he be the designated hitter for an American League team?
The Cardinals appear to be the front runners in the pursuit of free agent, Brian Giles. Giles has made 646 career starts in left field, 402 in right field and 300 in center. His ability to play center field makes him a very valuable addition to the St. Louis roster. It would give the Cardinals additional flexibility to deal with the injuries that come during the long haul of a season.
The Cardinals tried to trade for Giles before the trade deadline this season and need a left-handed hitting outfielder to take the place of Walker in right and Giles is the best option in a shallow free agent pool.
For the record, Giles hit .301 (164-for-545) with 15 homers and 83 RBI this year. He hit 38 doubles, eight triples and led the big leagues with 119 walks. The Cardinals would expect him to come in and play in right field in the place of the departing, retiringLarry Walker. Walker hit .289 (91-315) with 15 homers and 52 RBI this year. Larry hit 20 doubles, 1 triple, walked just 41 times.
Giles certainly has to be considered an upgrade over the retiring 38 year old Larry Walker. Giles had an on base percentage of .423, significantly higher than Walker's .384 OBP.
There is some concern about the drop off in Giles' home run production. Giles hit 23 home runs in 2004 for the Padres, after averaging 33 home runs in five seasons with thePittsburgh Pirates. He should hit more than 15 for the Cardinals with guys like, Edmonds, Rolen and Pujols batting around him, but don't expect him to hit 35-40 home runs ever again.
Giles turned down a reported three year deal for around $25 million with the Padres again this past week and Cardinals GM, Walt Jocketty will have to be very creative with another one of his back loaded contracts, if Giles is going to play in St. Louis.
Brian Walton, here atwww.thestlcardinals.com, is telling readers not to be surprised if the Cardinals announce the signing of Giles, within a week. The basic construct of a three year deal may already be in place.
But, what if Giles returns to San Diego or goes somewhere else?
If the Cardinals make one big deal this winter it will be in the form of an outfielder. There have been published reports that the Cardinals are among those teams interested in the availability of Los Angeles Angels outfielders Steve Finley and Darin Erstad in addition to the Cincinnati Reds' Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn. Jocketty has also confirmed that the Cardinals are also interested in free agent, Jacque Jones of the Minnesota Twins.
Filling the holes in the outfield, may be the toughest things for the Cardinals to get done this winter.
The Cardinals will have So Taguchi, John Rodriguez and hopefully John Mabry on the bench next season to sub in the outfield as needed.