Cardinals 2008 Outfield Options

Dustin Mattison looks at free agent and trade options if the St. Louis Cardinals decide to shore up their outfield for 2008.

As referenced in an earlier article, "Cardinals Pitching Trade Targets", the St. Louis Cardinals are in desperate need of starting pitching.  With the free agent market being thin, the Cardinals will most likely have to go the trade route to upgrade the rotation. 


Left fielder Chris Duncan seems to be one of the team's best trade chips to acquire pitching help.  Duncan provides a lot of power at a very low cost, close to the minimum until 2009 when he most likely will become eligible for arbitration as a Super Two.  The past two seasons, Duncan has hit 43 home runs and drove in 113 while learning to play the outfield.  What stands out is that Duncan has done this in only 655 at bats, or what amounts to only a little over a full season. 


So why would the Cardinals want to trade away such a valuable commodity when this team struggled to score runs?  Per the previous article, the Cardinals will have to overspend to get any help for the rotation.  Recent off-seasons have shown the Cardinals organization puts its own values on players and is not willing to overpay, no matter the market value of the player. 


Right or wrong, if this is the free agent philosophy the Cardinals continue using when approaching free agents, seemingly the only way to upgrade the rotation is by trade.  For the Cardinals to get value, it will necessitate them giving up value. 


What may hurt Duncan's value is the surgery for a sports hernia he had at the end of September.  Even though he should be ready for spring training, surgery could cause some buyers to approach Duncan with a little more caution.


If Duncan is used to bring in pitching, the Cardinals will have another hole to fill in the lineup.  So let's look at the options in that case.  We'll look at free agents and possible low cost options via trade.  The following are in no particular order but I did start with Japanese standout Kosuke Fukodome, a recent topic of conversation on The Birdhouse message boards. 



Free Agents


Kosuke Fukodome (Japan)


Left-handed hitting outfielder who is best suited for right field but can play any of the three positions. His numbers suggest he is a patient hitter and is said to have doubles power but not home run power.  Fukodome, who missed significant playing time in 2007, is coming off endoscopic elbow surgery but should be ready by spring training.  


In 2006, he had a career year, hitting .351/.438/.653 on his way to an MVP award.  The reason the Cardinals could get involved is that he will not require a posting fee.  All the usual suspects have been mentioned to have interest; the Red Sox, Yankees, Mariners, Giants, Cubs, and White Sox.  The 30-year-old is probably looking for a deal for 3-4 years at $12-$15 million annually which would most likely price the Cardinals out of the competition.  His numbers suggests he is a lot like Hideki Matsui but his swing looks a lot like Ichiro's. 


Jose Guillen (Mariners)


Jose Guillen is expected to decline a $9 million option as he is reportedly looking for a multi-year deal in the $10-$11 million range per season.  The 31-year-old hit .290/.353/.460 with 23 home runs and 99 runs batted in.  Even though he was productive at the plate, he left quite a bit to be desired in the field posting an abysmal .972 field percentage.   The moody outfielder has been productive in three of the last four years but with the baggage he brings to a clubhouse and the price he is sure to command, I don't see the Cardinals making a serious run at Guillen. 


Luis Gonzalez (Dodgers)


The 40-year-old was linked to the Cardinals last off-season but nothing ever came of the rumor.  "Gonzo" could still be valuable in a platoon situation, as he finished with a respectable line of .278/.359/.433.  As the Cardinals look to get younger, his age should make the Cardinals leery.  But, if he came at the right price, he could make a valuable platoon partner with Ryan Ludwick. 


Milton Bradley (Padres)


The highly-talented yet combustible Bradley is recovering from knee surgery and probably won't be ready for spring training.  He will have to sign a one-year deal to prove himself no matter where he ends up playing.  The 29 year-old is extremely talented in the field and at the plate; it's just he can't be counted on due to his injury history and erratic behavior.  Bradley has averaged only 93 games per year over the past seven seasons. In only 209 at bats in 2007, the switch hitter finished with a tremendous line of .306/.402/.545 and 13 long balls.  Depending on the price, it could be worth taking a flyer on him.  He would definitely add fire to the ball club. 


Barry Bonds (Giants)


A long shot at best, the Home Run King has been linked to La Russa and the Cardinals in the past, most recently at last year's winter meetings.  The 43-year-old hit 28 home runs in 340 at bats during his record-breaking season of 2007.  At this point in his career, Bonds makes much more sense in the American League as a designated hitter.  La Russa was quoted recently as having interest in Bonds but believes that he will require too much money.


Brad Wilkerson (Rangers)


In his first year of free agency, the 30 year-old is coming off a disappointing season and should be looking for a one-year deal.  Wilkerson hit only .234/.319/.467 in 338 at bats.  His on base percentage and power have declined in recent years but Wilkerson is not too far removed from a career year.  In 2004, the lefty hit 32 home runs and 29 doubles for Montreal.  At this point in his career, Wilkerson is probably no better than Cardinals' Skip Schumaker. 


Aaron Rowand (Phillies)


The 30-year-old is coming off his finest season in which he played in a career high 161 games and registered some of his best totals at the plate.  Rowand hit .309/.374/.515 with career highs in hits, runs, home runs, and runs batted in.  The Phillies have interest in bringing him back, but the two sides are reported to be far apart in early negotiations.  The Phillies are said to be in the 3-year/$30 million range while Rowand reportedly is asking for 6 years/$84 million. 


With so many holes, it is hard to believe the Cardinals would approach those types of numbers.  Plus, Rowand has his most value in centerfield and I don't believe the organization would want to block Colby Rasmus. 


Scott Podsednik (White Sox)


With talk of signing a big name centerfielder and the White Sox moving talented prospect Josh Fields to left, Podsednik seems to be the odd man out.  The arbitration eligible lefty most likely will not be offered a chance to return to the South Side.  The 32-year-old was injured for most of 2007, appearing in only 62 games and really struggled when in the lineup.  In 214 at bats, Podsednik hit .243/.299/.369 while stealing 12 bases. 


Podsednik has struggled with injuries the past three years, appearing in 139 games and 129 games in 2006 and 2005 respectively.  Injury free for most of 2004, he stole a career high 70 bases.  If healthy, he would provide a true speedster at the top of the lineup, something the Cardinals have not had in over a decade. 



Via Trade


Carlos Quentin (Diamondbacks)


Once heralded as the top prospect in the Diamondbacks' system, Quentin has lost some of his prestige due to injury troubles that have allowed other talented outfield prospects in the Arizona system to pass him on the depth chart.  The 25-year-old hit only .214/.298/.349 in 229 at bats in 2007.  The former first-round pick had surgery on his rotator cuff and labrum of his non-throwing shoulder earlier in the month and a timeline for his return is unknown after also missing time this year with a hamstring problem. 


Quentin made his Major League debut in 2006 with nine home runs in only 166 at bats.  It would be a gamble to take a player coming off an injury with a history of not staying healthy, but his value has probably never been lower.  A possible trade of the Cardinals' former top prospect, Anthony Reyes, for this former top prospect seems to make sense. 



Rocco Baldelli (Devil Rays)


The emergence of B. J. Upton and an extremely deep farm system makes the super fast Baldelli expendable.  In 2003, his rookie year, he appeared in a career high 156 games and then followed with 136 in 2004.  Baldelli then missed the complete 2005 season and then played in only 92 games in 2006.  2007 was much of the same as the burner appeared in only 35 games.  The 26-year-old hit only .204/.268/.358 in 137 at bats.  If healthy, Baldelli would instantly make the Cardinals a faster, more athletic team.  But that's the problem; he can't stay healthy. 


Manny Ramirez (Red Sox)


Admittedly, Ramirez coming to St. Louis is quite far fetched, but as other off-seasons, Manny will most likely be available.  The 35 year-old will earn $20 million in the last year of a $160 million contract.  The contract also contains options for 2009 and 2010 that Ramirez will surely want exercised to waive his no-trade clause.  No matter if you like the flamboyant Ramirez or not, his power bat would be tremendous protection for Albert Pujols in the Cardinal lineup.  If the Red Sox were to make Manny available, his price could be cheap, as the team would probably just be satisfied getting rid of the contract and the headache.   


Elijah Dukes (Devil Rays)


Dukes is a true five-tool player with tremendous upside.  The 23 year-old switch-hitter showed tremendous power in his first season in the big leagues. Of his 35 hits, 10 were home runs.   In spite of the power display, he did struggle to make consistent contact.  He struggled even more to stay on the field. 


Dukes' trouble is that his rap sheet is even longer than his list of abilities.  In January, he was arrested and pleaded no contest to marijuana possession. Dukes supposedly threatened to kill his wife and sent a photo of a handgun to her cell phone in May.  June saw Dukes having to sit out for three days for supposedly impregnating a 17-year old foster child who was living with one his relatives. During divorce proceedings in July, his wife claimed he smoked marijuana daily and drank to the point of passing out.  The judge ordered that he submit to random drug tests.    In August he was charged with violating his ex-wife's protection order. 


Those are just the happenings from this season.  Dukes is not the type of guy the Cardinals would bring in, but his talent makes him an interesting topic of conversation.



Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at


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