On the Cardinals Losing Haerther

Brian Walton addresses reader comments and questions about the loss of outfielder Cody Haerther to the Toronto Blue Jays via waivers.

I have received several emails with comments and questions about why the St. Louis Cardinals seemed to give up on Cody Haerther so fast without getting anything in return for him. In addition, this has been a lively topic on both our premium and general message boards. Some asked why other corner outfielders like Nick Stavinoha, Amaury Marti and even So Taguchi are still around when Haerther is not.

It was just last November that the Cards added Haerther to their 40-man roster in the first place. Since then, he had an injury-laden season and others have passed him in the corner outfield pecking order, including Rick Ankiel and Joe Mather.

In addition, there has been a well-publicized major shake-up in the Cardinals' hierarchy that stretched from the GM to the former farm director to both the minor league pitching and field coordinators and on down the line. Though to be fair, there is no way to know for sure if that was a factor in Haerther's case and if so, how much it figured into the decision.

When I was doing my first draft of the Cardinals Top 40 Prospects recently, I ranked Haerther just after Stavinoha while Marti didn't make the cut this year. It is worth noting that Stavinoha has at least progressed to Triple-A while neither Marti nor Haerther are there yet.

However, it is important to remember that neither Marti nor Stavinoha have enough years of service that they need to be protected on the 40-man roster. So, the Cardinals are not pressed into immediate decisions on their futures.

So Taguchi is another matter. He is one of nine outfielders still on the 40-man roster. (It was ten until Haerther was dropped.) The problem as I see it is that the Cardinals have a glut of guys on the roster who are back-up outfielders (Ryan Ludwick, Skip Schumaker, Joe Mather, John Rodriguez, Taguchi, perhaps Rick Ankiel) with a precious few capable of being above-average Major League starters. Haerther was at the tail end of that list.

Speaking of corner outfield comparisons, David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range work is being rolled out, with Chris Duncan's defense in this measurement ranked second to last among all MLB left fielders. Even Barry Bonds, who can hardly move these days, beat out Duncan.

For years, I have been staunchly against the expansion of the designated hitter rule, instead preferring it be abolished entirely. With Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan staying on with the Cardinals, and therefore Chris likely remaining, too, I may need to reconsider my long-standing position on the matter.

At any rate, let's return to the subject of Haerther. Looking back, I now think that the Cardinals made their decision on him some time ago. Because Cody played in only 41 games during 2007 but was fully recovered by the end of the season, he seemed to have been in the ideal situation to play winter ball.

I admit that I had been quite surprised that didn't happen. I asked Haerther about it several times, as recently as last week. He told me that he wanted to play this winter and continued to work out, but didn't yet have any takers for his services.

If the organization had him in their plans, they would have found somewhere for Haerther to play. After all, if Dan Nelson can play winter ball, so could he.

Heck, why didn't they send him back to the Arizona Fall League? We had seen a revolving door of outfielders there, from Colby Rasmus (who was the initial selection before Team USA came calling) to Mark Shorey to Mather to Marti. Seems to me that if the Cards wanted to give Haerther one more shot, they would have sent him to the AFL to get some at-bats and playing time.

That didn't happen and now, Haerther is gone. Clearly the Blue Jays think he can be a productive major leaguer or they wouldn't have grabbed him. Their roster spots are precious, too, though Haerther becomes only the sixth outfielder on Toronto's 40-man.

It should be noted that only 15 other teams passed on Haerther before he was claimed by the Blue Jays. We don't know how many of the other 13 MLB organizations (other than St. Louis and Toronto) might also have had enough interest to put in a claim on him.

Waiver priority this time of year is based on aggregate MLB reverse won-loss record in 2007, so Haerther was gone before clubs like San Diego or Seattle, for example, would have had a shot at him.

Though this was a baseball decision, I want to close by acknowledging Cody Haerther's willingness to reach out the Cardinals fan base, whether during his time at Springfield or off the playing field. (The photo above was taken when our friend and baseball humorist Billy-Ball visited Springfield in 2006 on a fact-finding mission with a group looking to bring minor league ball to the Boston area.)

Haerther told me on several occasions that he felt that being accessible was an important part of his job as a professional ball player. This is quite admirable in an environment where "me-first" attitudes are commonplace.

At any rate, what is done is done. The staff of The Birdhouse wish Cody Haerther nothing but the best as he continues his career in the Toronto Blue Jays system.

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

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