What if Edmonds Joins Koskie and Matheny?

Rule of thumb analysis of St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder Jim Edmonds' post-concussion complications from baseball injury expert Rick Wilton of Baseball-Injury-Report.com, fantasy baseball's most experienced injury analyst.

After leaving Tuesday's game against the Cincinnati Reds during the fifth inning, centerfielder Jim Edmonds was out of the Cardinals line-up on Wednesday, still under the weather. He reportedly underwent an MRI and blood tests during the day and was late arriving at the ballpark as a result.

Post-concussion syndrome may be the cause of Edmonds' dizziness and blurred vision, reportedly having persisted for up to three to four weeks now. Speculation is that the malady is related to a play during interleague action when the centerfielder hit his head on the turf while attempting to make a catch against the White Sox' Joe Crede in Chicago on June 21st.

Just like Tuesday night, Edmonds left that June contest before its conclusion and remained sidelined for the next three games afterward. Still, following the Chicago injury, Edmonds experienced his best month of the season offensively in July with nine home runs and 19 RBI.

But, will Edmonds return to action as quickly again this time?

I posed that question to our resident baseball injury expert, Rick Wilton of Baseball-Injury-Report.com.

While none of us, including Wilton, have seen the results of Edmonds' medical tests, the clarity and severity of Wilton's educated assessment of the situation surprised me.

"How it happened isn't important; the fact that two months later he's still struggling with it is. After Mike Matheny and Corey Koskie this season, I'm guessing he's done for the year," said Wilton bluntly.

After experiencing as many as half a dozen or more concussions in his 13 major league seasons behind the plate, including five years with the Cardinals, Mike Matheny's body may have said "enough".

As foul tips turned into 90 miles-per-hour projectiles slammed into his face mask countless times, Matheny could no longer focus on his job, let alone the ball.

"I'm slow in processing things, and my focus is kind of off," Matheny said back in June. "I'm still a little behind. It's not quite right."

About ten days ago, the Giants, Matheny and his doctors jointly came to the sad conclusion that the catcher's 2006 season, and perhaps his career, is done.

Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Corey Koskie may be on a parallel path. Koskie banged his head back on July 5 and hasn't played since. Said his manager Ned Yost shortly thereafter, "It has really shocked me the way it has turned out. It has shocked everybody. It didn't look serious at all, at first."

Koskie was then examined by Dr. Michael Collins, who also treated Matheny for his post-concussion symptoms. A week ago, the official recommendation from Collins was that the third baseman should wait another three weeks without exertion before being even being tested again. Needless to say, when Koskie could play in a major league game after that is anyone's guess.

While Koskie's season has not been officially christened as over, his team's actions since the injury made their expectations very clear. At the non-waiver deadline, the Brewers added not just one, but two third sackers via trade, Tony Graffanino and David Bell.

So, there is enough substance here to wonder "What if?" What if Edmonds' season is truly over or at least he is put on the shelf for an extended period?

First, one has to start looking at in-house options.

Cardinals regular right fielder Juan Encarnacion has played centerfield in 321 major league games, including nine innings Wednesday night. With formerly-defensively dependable So Taguchi behind him, it would seem the Cardinals can adequately handle the position with the glove.

But, who could play in the newly-opened corner position, then? None of the Cardinals bench choices seem capable of contributing consistent results offensively over an extended period. That includes Scott Spiezio, Timo Perez and Taguchi plus John Rodriguez, currently in exile in Memphis.

The forgotten man, Larry Bigbie, despite perhaps having the best pedigree of the pretenders, hasn't proven he can stay healthy long enough to merit serious consideration.

Could an extended absence by Edmonds be the final straw that finally drives general manager Walt Jocketty to bring in an experienced outfielder from the outside? If so, who might it be?

For example, the Arizona-based pair of Luis Gonzalez and Shawn Green would seem to be possibilities to move because of their hefty contracts.

But, the combination of Gonzo being the face of the Diamondbacks franchise and his improved second-half play means he is probably staying put.

On the other hand, the emotionless Green would seem to make a perfect compliment to the passion-challenged 2006 Redbirds. Whether Arizona would pay enough of the 33-year-old Illinois native's salary to make the deal work is a huge question, however.

The left-handed hitter is currently hitting .283 with eleven home runs and 50 RBI, including a long ball on Wednesday night. He is owed over $12 million for the remainder of this season and next (including an out for his 2008 option) and has a no-trade clause in his contract.

Green has reportedly cleared waivers, making an August trade at least conceivably possible. He has also hinted that he might waive that no-trade clause. But at least one rumor has him headed to the New York Mets.

What about free agent options, then?

The most the Cardinals would have to pay a free agent would be a prorated portion of the major league minimum salary, likely under $100,000 or thereabouts. So, why not take a chance?

Jose Cruz, cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers recently, is still only 32, yet his 34 home run-peak season was five years back. Still, he has decent power and can also cover centerfield if needed. Cruz has mashed lefties this season, but as he has his entire career, struggled mightily against right-handers, hitting just .199 in 2006.

After the Houston Astros committed $4.5 million to Preston Wilson, they unceremoniously dumped the outfielder last week, still owing him at least a million dollars. Wilson, also 32, can play center, too, though chronic knee problems have limited him in recent years.

Offensively, the right-handed Wilson's .269 batting mark with nine home runs and 55 RBI may look pretty good to the Cardinals. After all, Edmonds is hitting just .261 with 65 RBI.

Though in fairness to Edmonds, due to platooning and injury, he has about 60 fewer at-bats than Wilson this season and still has a much better OPS, including twice as many home runs. And, of course, even at this stage of his career, Edmonds is defensively superior to any of these players mentioned.

Yet, if the Cardinals end up needing a backfill for Edmonds, at least when compared to the other options highlighted here, Wilson might be a fit – both for the team and perfectly in concert with Jocketty's other 2006 bargain-bin additions.

Let's watch the injury smoke signals and hope a Jim Edmonds replacement isn't needed – just yet, anyway. Walking off the Busch Stadium field with head trainer Barry Weinberg Tuesday night shouldn't be the swan song to Edmonds' 2006 season, let alone his Cardinals career.

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

© 2006 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.

Make sure you check out The Baseball Injury Report, fantasy baseball's injury authority at Baseball-Injury-Report.com.

The Baseball Injury Report is published by Rick Wilton, fantasy baseball's most experienced injury analyst. Rick, with background in radiology, pharmacology and physical therapy, has been a contributor to STATS Inc., Sports Weekly Hot Sheet, and BaseballHQ.com.

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