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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

 

Infield Pathology: The Case for Grudzielanek's Return

Just back from a nice little break, sorry avid reader(s). Nevertheless, Diaspora hiatus is over. Anyway, this is probably something of an exercise in futility, but I want to go back to playing GM for the 2006 team. The big changes for next season, clearly, lie in the outfield and among the pitching staff. The question of the starting infield seems to answer itself, except for one key spot up the middle. A healthy Scott Rolen (whether he can stay healthy is always a good question) mans the hot corner. I think you know the first baseman. Eck returns at short. Yaddie continues to make catching look easy. But what about second base? Grud, the 2005 second baseman, was working on one year, $1 million contract with bonuses. Given the poor market for free agent second basemen and big hole(s) to fill in the outfield, getting Grud back would be the easiest, safest thing the Cards could do. Grud plays consistent defense, turning in a Rate2 of 99 last year, and a career Rate2 of 98. And his overall numbers at the plate were solid, .294/.334/.407 with 8 home runs and 8 SB. His WARP3 was 4.2, EqA .258, and his VORP 23.1. Essentially, the Cards could do much worse than Grud at that spot...remember talk of signing Roberto Alomar last winter. There really is nobody at 2B on the FA market that represents an upgrade. The most exciting player is Cleveland's Ronnie Belliard, who does represent an upgrade (2005 VORP 31.5, WARP3 7.8 and .267 EqA), but Cleveland's management would have to be drinking the Lake Erie water not to pick up the $4 million option they have on him for '06. Who else is available? Tony Graffanino is probably the best, but presents a worse option than Grud. D'Angelo Jimenez belongs in a bench role, and Bret Boone has no place in the post-roid era. I said the infield debate was relatively simple, but there is one complication. If you will recall, the Cards and Grud agreed that the team would not offer him arbitration after this season, making him a free agent. Because they will not offer him arbitration, they will not be able to negotiate with or sign him until May 1 (my understanding of the complex FA rules, please correct me if I am wrong). If I am correct about this part of the Cards agreement with Grud, then they will have to negotiate with him in that 15-day period after the World Series ends, before players can file for free agency. I say Jock works it out with Grud in that window. If he doesn't, then he has to get creative. What about Luna? Luna turns 26 before the start of next season, and at one time was talked about getting a shot to play more for the big league team. I harbor doubts about his ability to be a full-time major leaguer. There was debate before last season started around this topic. Of course, if the team doesn't work something out with Grud, Luna would get a long, hard look for the job this spring. In this scenario, the Cards could go for one of the cheap free agents, like Graffanino, and platoon him and Luna and hope that Luna develops some versus major league pitching. Luna probably would have benefited from a full season in Memphis this year, but the team's need for bench players who could play in the infield superseded his development. He could also sweeten the pot in a trade down the line. ADDITION- There's another option here for second base, Abraham O. Nunez. Without question, Nunez proved his worth to the team this season, filling in quite capably for Rolen, and he certainly has the ability to play second. My personal feeling, in spite of the heroic turn he put in this year, is that Nunez is still no more than a bench player. Grud's bat carries a more value. Keeping Nunez to spell infield injuries, particularly lenghty ones, probably offers more value than resigning him to start at second. Could also be a potential trade chip. Keep checking the news wire in throughout those 15 days after the Series wraps up, and expect some answers to the 2B question. I saw several people on Sickels' Minor League Ball site's "You're the GM! Redbird Edition" throw out the possibility of signing big money free agent SS Rafael Furcal and moving Eck over to second. The problem I have with this is primarily, an injudicious use of funds. In Eck we have a solid lead off hitter. He got on base at a better percent than Furcal, striking out much less, and out hitting Furcal. Furcal's advantage is in the stolen base department. Why spend as much as $9-10 million on Furcal when get a great on-base guy for under $3? Why tie up that much cash with an aging outfield with one or two gaps in it? For 2006, sign Grud, remember his bat wasn't the only silent one in the playoffs, and deal with the OF and pitching needs. Beyond 2006, stay tuned.
Comments:
My vote? Luna vs. Abe (who we have to resign first, obviously. Maybe two or three years, couple mil per, would that work?). Winner gets the second base job (hopefully because they were good, and not because the other guy stunk more), the "non-winner" (can't hurt the modern day player's delicate feelings) is the primary back-up at 2nd, 3rd, and SS (for when they get days off). The one caveat is, if Scotty or Ecky is out for a long period of time, Abe takes their spot and Luna goes to second, because I have no interest in Hector at third more than once in awhile. The NLCS taught me that.

I don't know if you were going to discuss the bench spearately, but I'd let Mabry go, let Duncan be Albert's backup (you know that 1 day a month Albert doesn't start or gets ejected in the third inning), and how about Bengie Molina as the backup to Yady? He's a free agent, has power, I'm sure Tony would have more confidence in him than Einar, but he'd have to be willing to BE the backup.
 
My feeling is that given the poor market for 3B and 2B, Nunez will get a decent contract to be a full-time player somewhere else.

The talk on Bengie is that someone will pay him way more than he is worth to start somewhere.

Good call on the Mabes.
 
Why not sign Garciaparra or Furcal to play SS, and move Eck to 2B? The latter will probably cost way more than he's worth, but Nomar is potentially a huge deal
 
Nomar's defense is a potential liability. Why risk moving Eck, if the position switch messes with his offensive performance the deal's a bust.

Eck also is better at SS with a strong 3b in Rolen. His range would be a limitation at second.
 
I have been campaigning for the signing of Grudzielanek since June. I want him back.
 
I want Grudzy back too, and I want Luna to disappear. It's going to take awhile for that throw to fade from memory.
 
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