2007 Cards - Buy, Sell or Hold? – Part Two

Part two of Brian Walton's analysis of the value of 16 members of the St. Louis Cardinals' roster who may be ripe for trade. If the team's results do not improve soon, some of these scenarios could become reality.

Welcome to Part Two of this article, where we are looking at 16 members of the 2007 St. Louis Cardinals who might be considered trade prospects later this season.

This link will take you to Part One of the story for the appropriate background information.

Here, we will look at each of the 16 players included in the "Trade Bait" and "Add Money" categories. In Part One, these players were listed alphabetically. Here, they are split into three categories, based on the projected level of trade interest in them – high, medium or low.

Pitchers
Trade Bait Add Money
High Looper - 2008  Izzy - 2007/08 - 5NTC
Mulder (DL) - 2008/09
Medium Flores - 2010 (A)
Franklin - 2007
Thompson - 2011 (A) 
Low Springer - 2007 
Wells - 2007 
Hitters
Trade Bait Add Money
High Eckstein - 2007  Encarnacion - 2008
Medium Kennedy - 2009  Rolen - 2010 - FNTC
Miles - 2009 (A)  Edmonds - 2008 - 5NTC
Spiezio - 2008/09 
Low Bennett - 2007/08 

Code:
year/year=Cardinals can control player through this year/option year (if applicable)
DL=disabled list
A=arbitration eligible
FNTC=full no trade clause
5NTC=full no trade protection as "ten and five" year player

Now, let's get into each player's situation and prospects, starting with the Trade Bait ones.

Trade Bait pitchers

Braden Looper - High interest. 24 or even 12 months ago, such a characterization would have been met with disbelief and derision. In a short period of time, the failed Mets closer cleaned up his shoulder, signed a three-year contract, and spent a year in the pen in a non-stress-generating role only to encounter unexpected success as a starting pitcher here in 2007. Looper is under contract through next season and with a tad over $8 million due over the subsequent year and a half, may represent the organization's best (or perhaps least complicated) trade chit.

Mark Mulder - High. The assumption here is that Mulder returns to his pre-surgery level – which was inconsistent, but better-than-average. That Mulder would be interesting to many teams. On the other hand, if somehow, the old Oakland Mulder showed up, he would undoubtedly be a keeper. The lefty is owed $9 million for the next 18 months, plus either a $1.5 million buyout or an $11 million 2009 salary. My gut says he remains with the Cardinals to team up with Chris Carpenter at the top of the rotation.

Randy Flores - Medium. The lefty reliever became arbitration-eligible this off-season due to a little-known rule called "Super Two". Because he was among the top 17% in service time among two-year players, Flores is basically entitled to four years of arbitration eligibility. He is signed through 2008 and is due $1.4 million for the rest of this season and next. An arbitrator could decide his 2009 and 2010 salaries. Even so, an effective and inexpensive left-hander is always in demand. If Troy Cate demonstrates he belongs, it could hasten Flores' departure.

Ryan Franklin - Medium. Despite the fact that Franklin was ineffective in Seattle, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, he has seized the Cards' eighth-inning set up role. However, just like Josh Kinney, Al Reyes, Kiko Calero and many more before him, Franklin is expendable and should have decent value in the market. He is owed just half-a-million for the second half of the season. If times get tough, he could surely be moved.

Brad Thompson - Medium. The fact that Thompson cannot be a free agent until at least 2012 argues in favor of him being on the "Keep Youth" list instead of here. However, I am not convinced that Thompson's role could not be taken by any number of equally-talented major leaguers. In his defense, Brad is only making slightly more than the minimum, making it very important to get a good prospect for him if he is traded.

Russ Springer - Low. I am probably dissing the veteran by guessing low interest in him. To be totally honest, "low" is my level of interest in him. I am not sure why he was brought back and I doubt I would miss him in the least. The fact that he is owed just under $900K for the second half plays into his low ranking.

Kip Wells - Low. Yeah, I know his stuff is great and all he needs is health and a chance. Well, he has had all of that this season and did nothing with it. What team would want to take on $2 million for two or three months of the kind of results the Cardinals have seen? Wells is probably going to be around the rest of the way in 2007, then sayonara.

Trade Bait hitters

David Eckstein - High interest. I ranked the Cardinals shortstop "high" in terms of potential interest. The scrappy player has had an up and down 2007, but could be a great addition to a pennant contender for the stretch run. While he is not under contract for 2008 and beyond, that would allow a new team to decide whether or not he is a keeper. A half-season of Eckstein would cost $2.25 million. A member of the Post-Dispatch staff recently reported a rumor that Eckstein is unhappy being in St. Louis.

Adam Kennedy - Medium interest. While the second baseman has been a 2007 disappointment, he has a proven track record, especially in the American League, where interest in him could be greater. The 2.5 years remaining on Kennedy's contract is worth about $8.75 million. While that is considerable, I don't think it would be an inhibitor if the acquiring team needs a quality second baseman.

Aaron Miles - Medium. In the immediate term, the switch-hitter has proven his ability to play both second base and shortstop and would be a good backup infielder on any club – the same role he had with the Cardinals before moving into a quasi-starting role. With over three years of experience, Miles is heading into his final two arbitration-eligible seasons, so could get a bit more expensive to sign down the road. However, increases should be relatively modest.

Scott Spiezio - Medium. The switch-hitting Spiezio is a proven major league batter, and coupled with his defensive versatility (ability to play both corner infield and both corner outfield positions) it should put him in demand as a solid bench addition to a contending squad. Spiezio has a reasonable contract for 2008, with his 1.5 seasons of remaining salary due totaling about $3.5 million. He also can be kept via team option for 2009 at the price of $2.5 million, which is a fair price if he continues to be productive.

Gary Bennett - Low. I continue to scratch my head over the Cardinals signing the well-traveled (played for seven MLB teams) career backup (averaging about 130 at-bats per season) to a two-year deal last off-season. Still, some club may be in the market for an ok-hitting, defensively-solid catcher and be willing to invest about $1.35 million for a year-and-a-half of Bennett. Or, maybe not.

Add Money

Now we come to the really interesting part. The Cardinals have four veterans with large contracts, most with declining results and all with health concerns. Three of them have no-trade protection. Some would argue that given all that, no deals could be done.

I don't agree.

While each situation is different, trades could be made, especially if the Cardinals are willing to assume some outstanding salary obligation, either from the players traded or the ones received back in trade.

This raises an interesting question. If the current trajectory continues as the trading deadline nears, should the Cards be anxious enough to turn over their roster that they'd pay to do so? And if so, how much?

Heading toward the exit door, many Cardinals fans remember the Tino Martinez situation. Even though he was no longer wanted in his long-time home, Yankee Stadium, starry-eyed Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty still doled out $21 million over three years to the first baseman. The sad reality is that the Cardinals paid the final $7 million in 2003 for Martinez to play baseball in Tampa Bay.

Coming back, Roger Cedeno is a recent example. Getting a huge four-year contract from the Mets after swiping 55 bases for Detroit in 2001, he was simply awful. After two years, Cedeno was swapped to the Cardinals, who were also given $9 million of the $10 million he was owed for the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Cedeno didn't last than long before being waived for terminally indifferent and ineffective play.

Jason Isringhausen - High interest. Few would have believed it last fall, but Izzy is back and is as effective as ever. In his five-plus years with the Cards, he has been a good organization man, keeping his mouth shut and just pitching, even deferring money and restructuring his contract to provide the club salary relief.

Izzy is fairly pricey, being owed just under $4.5 million for the remainder of this season with a club option for $8 million or a $1.25 million buyout for next. Assuming he can remain healthy and effective, his deal is still a relative bargain for 2007 and 2008.

This summer, some playoff-contending club will surely ask about Izzy's availability. The questions include whether the player would be willing to consider a trade and whether the Cardinals would risk trading him. I think if Adam Wainwright continues to struggle as a starter, it would make the decision whether or not to consider trading Izzy easier. After all, Wainwright has proven he can handle the ninth inning if needed. For him, it is the first eight that is the problem.

Izzy is a proud and sensitive man. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that if the Cards came to the conclusion they would trade him, once he was approached to gauge interest in waiving his no trade protection, Izzy would state his preference to leave, rather than stay where he might feel he was no longer wanted. Still, to make a deal work, the receiving club might expect the Cardinals to pay however much cash it would take for Izzy to waive his NTC.

Juan Encarnacion - High interest. The right fielder is not spectacular, but he is consistent and has been for some time. Encarnacion is due $9 million for the second half of this season and next. In a market where 40-year-old Moises Alou fetched $8.5 million just for one season, Juan's deal might be palatable for some hungry club. I suspect the Cards would be glad to move him out if presented with the opportunity, maybe so much that they would contribute some cash if necessary to make it happen.

Scott Rolen - Medium. It pains me to acknowledge that 1/3 of the 2004 "MV3" seems to be on a downward career spiral from which he may not recover. While some other clubs may be very happy with one of the best defensive third basemen in all of baseball, his bat and health remain question marks. Rolen is on pace for his worst season ever in average and in the power departments, too.

The 32-year-old is still owed a lot of money - $42 million for the next 3 ½ years. Unless Rolen rebounds somewhat, it is difficult to see another organization swallowing this entire contractual obligation. Yet, it is equally unlikely that the Cardinals will want to pay another team to take Rolen off their hands. Tony La Russa's future with the club might also play a factor, if you think the discord between the two remains a problem.

Jim Edmonds - Medium. Even though the centerfielder has played better recently, he still seems slow and lethargic, and like Rolen, is on track for his worst career season in most offensive categories. Contractually, Jocketty's decision to offer the 36-year-old a two-year contract instead of just assuming his 2007 option looks to have been a mistake.

Edmonds is owed $13.5 million for the second half of this season and next and cannot be traded without his consent. At some point, Edmonds and the Cardinals could agree that he would be better off ending his career in another location, but I suspect not.

If Edmonds was to come onto the market, I think there would be moderate interest – if the Cards pull a Tino. When all is said and done, I think Edmonds will retire as a Cardinal, however.

So there you have it. I am not saying all or any of these will actually happen this season, but if the 2007 St. Louis Cardinals continue to lose roughly six games of every ten, they sure should.



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

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