Sunday Morning Coffee with Ray Mileur

The Cardinals lived up to my expectations this past season winning 86 games, but I'll confess, I had factored the return of Chris Carpenter into that equation and I thought 86 wins would be enough in the National League Central Division to finish in second place, rather than a distant fourth.

The consensus is the Cardinals still need to get at least one more starting pitcher outside of the organization after they retained Kyle Lohse, who recently agreed to a four-year $41 million contract.

The club's staff ace, Chris Carpenter underwent elbow surgery on November 4, receiving the same ulnar nerve transposition procedure that Albert Pujols had in October. Cardinals' general manager John Mozeliak told reporters in a recent interview "I think when we get to the end of November we should have a better idea where he is.

Having question marks remain about your staff ace is certainly cause for concern, but certainly it isn't a crisis at this point. Granted, Carpenter hasn't been a factor in the rotation since 2006. Following three outstanding seasons, from 2004-06, he was limited to just one appearance in 2007 because of an elbow injury. He returned from Tommy John surgery to make only four appearances in 2008, before being shut down at the end of the season because of the shoulder problems.

The Cardinals were able to keep playoff hopes alive in 08 through August, even without Carpenter. At the close of the 2008 campaign the Cardinals rotation consisted of; right-handers; Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer and Joel Pineiro. Sitting on the sidelines for the 08 season, starting pitchers; Chris Carpenter and left-hander Mark Mulder.

Looking ahead to next season, the Cardinals are hoping that Carpenter is healthy sooner than later. They have cut ties with Mark Mulder, by failing to exercise their option on him for next season and Braden Looper is a free agent. In addition, Todd Wellemeyer is arbitration-eligible. That leaves a standing rotation at this time of; Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and Joel Pineiro. Two holes to fill, three if you are like a lot of others, including some in the organization that would like to move Pineiro, the 2008 version of Jason Marquis.

At this point I don't think you can count on Carpenter being ready by spring training and I would be cynical of reports otherwise. Remember, Carpenter, Mulder and former Chicago Cub star, Matt Clement were all suppose to be ready for the 2008 season, from opening day through the middle of May, depending on reports you read and statements made from the organization.

Based on the information currently available, I'd take a pass on getting in a bidding war for Braden Looper and spend it on Todd Wellemeyer, who going to command big money in arbitration, if it gets that far before a contract is signed. A done deal with Wellemeyer, would give the Cardinals, Wainwright, Lohse, Wellemeyer, and Pineiro, with Carpenter still being a question mark, without having to make a big trade or signing a free agent.

According to the rumor mill, the Cardinals are considering a trade for a starting pitcher that might include outfielders Rick Ankiel and or Ryan Ludwick, an option, in my opinion that should be taken off the table, unless the Cardinals are going after a CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett or a Jake Peavy. My take, is why trade two potential MVP type players, who are in the lineup everyday, providing protection in the lineup for Albert Pujols, for a pitcher, if it isn't one from the high-end of the scale?

The Cardinals have internal options, including moving Kyle McClellan, from the bullpen into the rotation, until Carpenter is ready to return to take the helm as the staff ace. Certainly McClellan or even Mitchell Boggs from Memphis would be options I would consider before trading Ankiel or Ludwick.

BRAIN SCAN (what's on my mind, if anything)

Matt Holliday - a trade rumor that would require the Cardinals to deal outfielders Ryan Ludwick, Skip Schumaker and right-hander Mitchell Boggs to Colorado for left-fielder Matt Holliday, I'd take a pass on this deal as well.

At best it is my understanding we would get Holliday for a season before having to deal with Scott Boras for a contract extension. I'll take Ludwick for three more years, Schumaker for four and six years of Mitchell Boggs, rather than renting Holliday for a season. Holliday and his agent, Scott Boras, is going to be looking for a seven or eight year deal, something that the Cardinals would likely take a pass on next year.

Adam Kennedy - there are very few teams who will be interested in Kennedy's services for the 2009 season, so don't be surprised to see him in a Cardinals uniform next season. Kennedy wants to play everyday and that will limit his options. Arizona is probably the only National League team that would have more than a lukewarm interest in him as an everyday second baseman.

The Diamondbacks are considering moving third baseman Mark Reynolds to second as an option, if for no other reason; it's a good position to take, to keep the demands in potential trades for a second baseman in check.

Jack Wilson - the Pirates are looking to get younger, and could be willing to move Jack Wilson, another former Cardinal prospect, that could be an option to be considered.

Chris Duncan - is recovering from surgery on a disk in his neck last summer, and he should be able to participate in spring training. He'll need to show some pop in his bat to make the club out of spring training. Until he can show he can still hit the ball out of the park, his trade value is at an all-time low.

Joel Pineiro - could be moved and should be moved this winter. He's the 2008 version of Jason Marquis and why drag it out. Pineiro shows signs of near greatness at times, other than to disappoint most of the time.

Aaron Miles – get this kid signed, he's always done everything asked of him and he had the best season of his career in 2008.

Of the free agents; OF Juan Encarnacion, SS Cesar Izturis, INF Felipe Lopez, RHP Jason Isringhausen, RHP Braden Looper, LHP Ron Villone, LHP Mark Mulder and RHP Russ Springer, my take is bring back Felipe Lopez and Russ Springer, if he's not going to retire. I'd take a pass on Izturis, Isringhausen, Looper, Villone and Mulder.


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