The Cardinals will finish up the 2005 year with another division championship, a trip to the NLCS, an MVP, a Cy Young and with no completed stadium. Busch stadium was finally knocked down several weeks ago following a whole season of hype and drama. Undoubtedly the Cardinals had an extremely exciting season but the offseason has the team looking to field a very different team in ’06. Gone are Reggie Sanders, Mark Grudzielanek, Matt Morris, Julian Tavarez, Ray King, Larry Walker, and Einar Diaz to name a few. In are Larry Bigbie, Aaron Miles, Braden Looper, Ricardo Rincon, Devi Cruz, Gary Bennett, Brian Daubach and now–introducing–Sidney Ponson?! Yes, that’s right the Cardinals have added the former Baltimore ace straight out of a five day jail stay. According to ESPN.com it is a 1 year deal worth 1 million and an additional 1.5 million in performances incentives are possible as well.
Former Mets and Marlins closer as well as a former Cardinal, Braden Looper has returned to the Birds on the Bat as a setup man and marks the most significant signing of the offseason to date, in terms of dollars spent. He received a 3 year deal worth over 13 million. The Cards were chasing Octavio Dotel to shore up the ‘pen as well but he went to the Yankees for presumably more cash. The Redbirds are still interested in Felix Rodriguez as another right-handed reliever. Bigbie looks to be serviceable as a leftfielder in 2006 and, while Aaron Miles will get a chance to win the second base job, Walt Jocketty has hinted at Hector Luna getting the first shot. The Cardinals will attempt to once again win the increasingly competitive NL central with a whole lot of new faces in the starting lineup, ‘pen…well everywhere. Ponson is intriguing but do the Cardinals truly intend to keep promising young righty Anthony Reyes in the minors any longer or are they considering trading either Jason Marquis or Jeff Suppan for a corner outfielder? St. Louis seems intent to play it "cheap" so to speak, and let Dave Duncan work his magic with the pitchers and hope that LaRussa can get all he can out of his 5 solid regulars (Edmonds, Pujols, Molina, Rolen and Eckstein) while filling in the various holes in the lineup with inexpensive parts. Cards’ fans are not particularly thrilled with the direction of the organization’s offseason thus far as it heads into a brand new ballpark but rest assured, GM Walt Jocketty has pulled plenty of rabbits out of the hat in the past months of January. Heck, December’s not even over yet…
2005 Season Grade: "B+"
LaRussa and Duncan got a lot out of their best healthy players while leading the league in wins but falling short again in postseason play ("A-"). Despite various key injuries, GM Walt Jocketty made no moves at the July 31st or August 31st deadlines("B")
2005 Offseason Grade: "C"
It remains to be seen if the early weeks of 2006 can raise the entire offseason grade a bit.