Touching on the Untouchable

A look at Cardinals players under contract and/or control and which ones might be trade bait this off-season.

We know that the Cardinals will not be able to meet all their needs in the free agent market. As a result, some trades to help fill major holes in the outfield and on the pitching staff will have to occur. We also understand the general belief of the Jocketty-La Russa administration is to use younger players as trade bait to restock the majors.

As a result, a reader asked me "What are the odds that we'll see John Rodriquez, Randy Flores, Brad Thompson or even Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright being used to snag veteran low-to-mid range players? Put another way, who do you think is expendable on the roster and who is untouchable?"

I've never had a specific conversation with anyone in the know about who is untouchable. But, it is an interesting exercise. So, I will group the entire 34-man roster into nine different categories solely based on my opinion.

Low-price players needed to step up and plug holes in 2006:
Anthony Reyes – Expected to step into the rotation for Matt Morris. As close to an untouchable as any Cardinals' prospect could be.
Randy Flores – If Ray King is traded as expected, Flores could step in as the #1 man from the left side. Low salary is another benefit.
Brad Thompson – Proved he belonged in 2005. With the retirement of Cal Eldred, Al Reyes out and Julian Tavarez a free agent, second-year man Thompson surprisingly represents bullpen continuity.

Wouldn't fetch much via trade:
Carmen Cali - Having a good winter ball campaign, which can help erase memory of a lost 2005. Could help the King backfill problem if he can find consistency.
Mike Lincoln - Still hurt; always hurt.
Chris Narveson - Back home after stints in Colorado and Boston systems. Sometimes lefties are late bloomers, and still just turning 24.
Rhett Parrott - Rapidly losing prospect status. Candidate to be removed from 40-man.
Mike Mahoney - Shouldn't see time in the majors in 2006. Also, 40-man removal candidate.
Chris Duncan - Will get chance to prove if he belongs.
Bo Hart - His time has passed.
Scott Seabol - May be a victim of numbers game. Likely others do what he does, but better.
John Gall - Finally got his shot, but unless he comes on strong in March, he may be back in Triple-A again.
John Rodriguez – Nice story and all, but could be the Bo Hart of 2005 until he proves otherwise.

Too young to consider yet:
Travis Hanson - Just added to 40-man in November.
Brendan Ryan - Just added to 40-man in November.
Reid Gorecki - Added to 40-man a year ago. Looking for a bounce-back 2006.
Skip Schumaker - Coming back from October knee surgery.

Just signed – Can't be traded
Michel Hernandez - Should compete for Einar Diaz' job.

Trade possibilities:
Jason Marquis - The biggest name the Cardinals have to offer will be needed to net an outfielder.
Ray King – Don't believe the make-nice words in the press. King is outta' here, IMHO.
Adam Wainwright - Lack of progress is becoming a concern. Could be moved if another team shows significant interest, especially in a larger deal.
Tyler Johnson - A possible reason Johnson was unprotected a year ago raised its head again when he declined the opportunity to pitch in winter ball. Too bad because we all know the Cards need lefties. The good news is that every other team does, too.

Untouchable:
Scott Rolen - Will be a part of the core of the team for many years ahead.
Albert Pujols - Ten-year, $100 million contract proving to be a bargain.
Chris Carpenter - Horse of the staff and a below-market contract on top of it. What's not to like!

Virtually untouchable and too risky to trade:
Jim Edmonds – Heading into the later years of his career, but still very, very good. As a ten and five man (ten years as a big leaguer and five on the same team), Edmonds cannot be traded without his consent. Instead, he wants an extension to end his career a Cardinal.
Jason Isringhausen – Don't look now, but Izzy also hits ten and five status following the 2006 season. Under contract through 2008 (with option) and no obvious replacement.

Not easily replaceable, so virtually untouchable:
Yadier Molina - May prove to be the second-best player developed from the system in the Jocketty years. Five more seasons to enjoy him before he can first become a free agent.
David Eckstein - Added a much needed go-go factor to the team and proven to be a bargain, too.

Intriguing:
Mark Mulder - Talented lefty is in the final year of his contract, but who would replace him if traded? Doesn't seem likely to go anywhere unless it was part of a blockbuster.
Jeff Suppan - Also in the last year of his current deal. So steady, but has a decent contract and could return value in trade.
Rick Ankiel - No one has ever mentioned a trade, but why not consider it? Ankiel has to pass through waivers if he can't make the big club in the spring. Assuming he will not be ready, then what? Getting something now may be better than nothing later.
Hector Luna - The nagging question remains as to whether or not Luna will ever be a major league quality starter. Could another team be more willing to find out?
So Taguchi - A valuable reserve, but what if some other team wants him as part of a bigger deal? How could you say "no"? Taguchi turns 37 next season, and while in good shape, can't play forever.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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