The Cardinals have a large handful of free agents this offseason, which instantly creates potential holes in both the lineup and starting rotation. The Birds on the Bat have already started making minor changes to their roster, releasing spot starter Brad Thompson and sending backup Joe Thurston to Memphis. With Rick Ankiel, Troy Glaus and Jason LaRue all potentially leaving as free agents, the Cardinals bench looks particuarly thin at this point. From the starting lineup, Mark DeRosa could leave and many predict LF Matt Holliday to depart as well, perhaps seeking greener pastures on one of the coasts thanks to his merciless agent, Scott Boras.
Losing Matt Holliday would be a huge blow for the Cards, having traded 3 key prospects for him mid-season. There are some other options if he departs, such as the sure to be expensive Jason Bay. But to me, a very intriguing candidate to replace the slugging left fielder is defensive wiz/power bat, Mike Cameron. Cameron, a free agent, is almost certainly not in the Brewers’ plans now that they’ve traded shortstop JJ Hardy for center fielder Carlos Gomez. Gomez will be both a defensive and offenive downgrade from Cameron, and the Brewers’ loss could be the Cardinals gain. Cameron has topped the 20 HR mark 8 times in his career, and his total from last year is equal to Holliday’s. Sure, Matt hits for much better average but outside of Coors Field, will Holiday ever again top 30 or 35 homers? If not, his power numbers are much more similar to Cameron’s. Cameron’s defensive prowess would make him the strongest Cardinals outfielder since Jim Edmonds and despite being 36 years old, fans and management alike would never have to worry about the type of error Holliday made in the 2009 division series.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d very much like to see Matt Holliday return. But if he doesn’t, Jason Bay could be a long term solution and if willing to play a corner outfield position, Cameron could be a 2-3 year solution.
It’s been amazing and disappointing to see how the Cards fans have seemingly turned on Holliday, in part due to his key error but also because they assume he’s going to go to LA or NY or Boston. Why is that assumed? What has Matt said that makes everyone automatically think he’s headed for such “greener” pastures? I’d like to think that the response he received when he came to bat in game 3 at Busch is far more indicative of how Cards fans love their players as opposed to the sports talk boards showing how fickle the fans may be.
Other options in the outfield include Xavier Nady, Vladimir Guerrero and Jermaine Dye but they all present age and/or injury concerns that surpass those Cards management may have about Cameron or Holliday. Third base is also a question mark, should DeRosa and Glaus both leave and the Cards must secure John Smoltz if they want to starting pitching to come close to matching last season’s effectiveness.
In my next column, I’ll further address the Cards pitching staff as well as third base. Hopefully the 2010 team will be slightly more in focus by my next column.
Thanks for reading.