Cardinals' Offseason Report Card

Rating the top 30 Cardinals actions this offseason to date

Like all clubs, the Cardinals have been busy in recent weeks, saying good-bye to some players while adding others.


In this article, I will provide my assessment of most of the moves made by the team since the end of the season, looking at two factors. First, considering everything, I rated each move as good (+), neutral (=) or bad (-). That is the primary sort of the 30 actions listed.


The second rating is that of impact in 2006 – high (H), medium (M) or low (L). Obviously, the best moves are those which are both good as well as high impact for this coming season (+H). The worst ones would be bad plus high impact (-H).


Not surprisingly, a quick scan of the list supports my contention that considering the environment around them, the Cardinals have generally made decent moves this offseason. Of course, this is one man's opinion.


Good moves (+)


+ H      Picked up 2006 option on Jeff Suppan.

This was a no-brainer. Keeping a pitcher of Suppan's ability for $4 million will continue to pay dividends and also leaves open the potential to move another starter via trade.


+ M     Traded Ray King to Colorado for Larry Bigbie and Aaron Miles.

I call this medium impact because King was damaged goods already and would have needed to have been replaced, anyway. Miles will compete for a spot on the 2006 squad, but the key to the deal was Bigbie. He should come into spring training as the leading candidate to start in left field. If Bigbie is decent, it would be a fine return for the lefty specialist, especially when you consider that Bigbie cannot be a free agent for three more years.


+ M     Lost Matt Morris to San Francisco as a free agent.

Morris was a fine pitcher for a long time for the Cardinals. Yet, last season, he was arguably the fourth-best starter on his own team. Letting him go was the right decision, but it should have been done more quickly. Morris can and will be replaced by players younger and far cheaper than the three years, $27 million he received from San Francisco. But, I felt the Cards strung him out too long.


+ M     Signed Junior Spivey to a one-year contract.

In the tradition of bargain pick-ups at the position such as Tony Womack and Mark Grudzielanek, bringing in Spivey to be the 2006 second baseman on one-year deal may end up just like the last two guys. Either Spivey will play so well that he will price himself out of the Cardinals plans for 2007, or he will be injured again and not be worth keeping. Still, for a single season, this could turn into another great buy.


+ M     Signed Sidney Ponson to a one-year contract.

See Spivey above. The one difference in Ponson's case is that in 12 months, he may feel an allegiance to the Cardinals for giving him a chance after he was released by the Orioles. Of course, the assumption is that he performs well enough that the Cardinals would want him back in 2007.


I don't think that is a stretch at all. Remember that Ponson won 17 games in 2003, 14 of them through July for an Orioles squad who only won 71 the entire season. While some consider him a long shot just to make the roster, in my view the only question is when Ponson will join the rotation. My money is on April.


+ L      Lost Mark Grudzielanek to Kansas City as a free agent.

It had to happen. The two years, $7 million that Kansas City is prepared to shell out is far too much for a player of this stature at this point of his career. Thanks, Mark, and best wishes.


+ L      Lost Einar Diaz to Cleveland as a free agent.

For whatever reason, Diaz was not trusted behind the plate and lost his formerly trustworthy bat somewhere on top of it, making him close to worthless to the Cardinals. Losing significant playing time to journeyman Mike Mahoney was the writing on the wall for Diaz.


+ L      Lost Cal Eldred to retirement.

Cal was a nice addition to the Cardinals late in his career and is a fine man. Yet, his decision to hang up his cleats seemed timely.


+ L      Declined option on Larry Walker. Lost to retirement.

I hope the rumor started by Walker's agent of his potential interest in returning in 2006 to be a designated hitter-part time outfielder does not come to pass. He doesn't need to hang on. In his prime, Walker was a great player, but his neck and back problems have sapped much of his effectiveness. For sure, he won't be back in St. Louis.


+ L      Non-tendered Mike Mahoney.

The journeyman catcher signed a minor league deal with the Cubs. Best of luck to him, but the Cards can and should have a stronger backup behind Yadier Molina in 2006.


+ L      Non-tendered Bo Hart.

No one can take away those shining moments in 2003, nor can they ignore the two-plus seasons of sheer Triple-A averageness that followed. It was past time for Hart to move on and try his luck elsewhere.


+ L      Non-tendered Scott Seabol.

Seabol is another journeyman who received far more at-bats in 2005 in St. Louis than he should have.


+ L      Non-tendered Mike Lincoln.

The Cardinals have already invested a lot in Lincoln over the past two years in return for 17-1/3 innings total. Perhaps spending a few hundred thousand more is just throwing more good money after bad. I just don't know if he can come back, hence I am calling this a good move.


+ L      Outrighted Rhett Parrott to Memphis.

Parrott's star has fallen, so his removal from the 40-man roster and exile to Triple-A did not surprise anyone. Perhaps he can return from surgery and restore some of his lost luster in preparation for 2007, but the team needed his roster spot now.


+ L      Signed John Riedling to a non-roster deal with spring training invite.

Riedling had a couple of decent years with the Reds once upon a time but the last three, two in Cincinnati and one in Florida, were not good. Low risk, low reward signing.


+ L      Signed Dennis Tankersley to a non-roster deal with spring training invite.

Whatever happened to Mr. Tankersley, anyway? He was the #2 prospect in the Padres' system and #16 in all of baseball in 2002, according to Baseball America. (Jim Journell was #44 that year.) Then, it all fell apart. No reason to believe Tankersley will find it here, but no harm in looking.


Neutral moves (=)


= H      Signed Juan Encarnacion to a three-year contract.

$15 million sounds like a lot of money now, but I suspect by the end of this three-year contract, the 29-year-old will have been a bargain. Mark my words - I predict that Juan's 2006 and 2007 stats as a Cardinal will be superior to Reggie Sanders' in Kansas City.


= H      Signed Braden Looper to a three-year contract.

Like I have said before, it is all about whether the 2004 Looper model (good) or the 2005 model (bad) is the one who signed with the Cardinals. The team badly needed an Al Reyes replacement and may have picked up Izzy closer insurance as part of the package, too.


= M     Lost Reggie Sanders to Kansas City as a free agent.

No disrespect to Reggie, but with his history and at his age, the decision to let him go was easy. Still, I listed this as medium impact since Sanders was a starter and because the Cardinals wasted a good chance at a first-round draft pick in return by not offering arbitration.


= M     Lost Julian Tavarez to TBD as a free agent.

Another one where I have no problem with what was done, but instead in how it was accomplished. If Scott Boras actually gets Tavarez a four-year deal somewhere, he is even better than I thought. But, the Cards chickening out on arbitration blew a very high likelihood of receiving two first-rounders in return.


= M     Signed Ricardo Rincon to a two-year contract.

A little old, a little expensive, but should be passable. If Tyler Johnson and Carmen Cali could step up behind Randy Flores, Rincon would be unnecessary. More likely he will be needed, though.


= M     Did not sign then-free agent Brian Giles.

I really have mixed emotions about this one. Did the Cards lose out on Giles because of the Burnett flirtation? We'll never know, but we do know that Giles was the impact outfield free agent bat this offseason. However, his price was high and his age may become a significant issue before his contract is up. Still, a career .413 on-base-percentage player in the #2 hole would have been sweet.


= M     Added Travis Hanson to 40-man roster.

Arguably the highest-ceiling position player in the system who is anywhere near the majors, Hanson is still at least a year away. He needs to shine in Memphis in 2006. Personally, I would still prefer to see Hanson back at second base. I called this medium impact since he needed to be protected and there is an outside chance injuries would give him a shot this year.


= L      Lost Al Reyes to TBD as a free agent.

On one hand, Reyes was arguably the best pitcher in the Cardinals' pen in 2005. However, one year before, he was a 33-year-old journeyman signing on with his sixth team. He will be difficult to replace, but still, the Cards got something for nothing. Reyes still could be back on a rehab contract ala Lincoln last year, hence the neutral risk. In reality, Reyes can't help anyone in 2006 except maybe his wife in the kitchen or around the yard.


= L      Signed Brian Daubach to a non-roster deal with spring training invite.

Getting Daubach isn't quite as bad as the Greg Vaughn signing a few springs ago, but it is along the same vein - guy near the end of the line soaking up spring training at-bats that should go to a younger player. We're not talking Will Clark here. Heck, I'd rather see Chris Duncan in there than Daubach. The only saving grace is that Daubach can be dispatched to minor league camp if he shows little.


= L      Selected Juan Mateo from Cubs in Rule 5 draft.

Low risk move and low impact in 2006. Jumping from A-ball to the majors is quite a step, though. I am not sure the 2006 Cardinals can afford to be that patient.


= L      Added Brendan Ryan to 40-man roster.

A bit of a surprise to have been added to the 40-man roster, as Ryan doesn't yet seem to be that close. Still, if he can demonstrate that he can handle both second base and shortstop and can hit at Triple-A, the promise may come to pass. Even so, it shouldn't be in 2006.


Bad Moves (-)


- M      Did not sign then-free agent A.J. Burnett.

Why bother chasing free agents that you don't have the resources to capture? While the Cardinals wasted no money here, a lot of time and energy was, along with the bad publicity that comes with being a loser. Only when the postseason arrives, could the possibility of Burnett being missed arise.


- M      Signed Deivi Cruz to a one-year contract.

Frankly, I am not wild about this deal. There is no upside with Cruz at this point. He'll be 33 years old in his tenth season. The only reason I called this medium impact is that despite having played only 13 career games at third base, Cruz may be coming into camp as Scott Rolen's backup. Actually, I hope Hector Luna becomes the Abraham Nunez infield supersub, rendering Cruz expendable.


- L       Signed Gary Bennett to a one-year contract.

$800,000 that could have been better allocated elsewhere. Give Michel Hernandez a shot and if he can do the job as backup catcher, send Bennett packing.


Brian Walton can be reached via email at


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