Several days ago, I unveiled the St. Louis Cardinals’ “Let ‘em Go” Team, made up of 18 players that were allowed to leave by the Cardinals via free agency this decade. The common thread was that once out of St. Louis, most all of the players were paid more money than they were worth and delivered less results.
I received some comments about the choice of the team, questioning whether I wasn’t ignoring several players the club let go that did better after leaving.
I would say that sticking to the original criteria of free agency, the answer is “no”. When also including players involved in trades, the list of solid players increases slightly in size, but the ultimate conclusion remains the same. One must also remember that those traded Cardinals did not represent a total loss to the organization, since players also came in the other direction.
Major league losses
In creating the “2008 All Ex-Cardinals Team”, the goal was to be complete by listing every former Cardinals major leaguer that suited up for any one of the other 29 major league clubs in 2008. With considerable assistance from Cardinals Best News Links’ Josh Jones, I was able to identify at least 41 such players.
I then selected my starting nine, noted in bold below. I submit that only four, Placido Polanco, Edgar Renteria, J.D. Drew and Dan Haren (pictured) would be starters if they were members of the 2009 Cardinals. Yet, only one of them left St. Louis as part of what I would now call a bad move.
With the benefit of hindsight, of the four, only Haren was a deal that I would not do today. Of course, he went to Oakland with two other players for Mark Mulder prior to the 2005 season. Haren has all the makings of being a star for years to come.
The others ultimately worked out fine for the Cardinals, as Polanco was part of the price of Scott Rolen. Rolen was once an All-Star, but was significantly outplayed in 2008 by Troy Glaus, who the Cardinals received in trade for him from Toronto.
Renteria went into a decline and didn’t earn his $40 million, while the Cards picked up 2006 World Series MVP David Eckstein instead at about half the price plus got top organizational prospect, outfielder Colby Rasmus as part of the compensation for losing Edgar.
Drew went to Atlanta for just one season as the Cards received Adam Wainwright as part of the take. Cardinals fans still thank you very much, John Schuerholz!
Including my other five “starters” in bold below along with the remainder of the 41 names, there are few that would even make all that great of reserves on the 2009 Cardinals. In other words, the majority of the still-active players that have left St. Louis aren’t that badly missed.
|Player||Pos||Yrs StL||2008 MLB|
|David Eckstein||SS||2005-7||Blue Jays/Dbacks|
|Hector Luna||SS||2004-6||Blue Jays|
|Scott Rolen||3B||2002-7||Blue Jays|
|Julian Tavarez||RP||2004-5||Red Sox/Brewers/Braves|
|Mike Timlin||RP||2000-2||Red Sox|
Minor league losses
In addition to the 41 former Cardinals major leaguers above, another 15 ex-Cardinals minor leaguers appeared somewhere in the majors during the 2008 campaign.
We can’t quite field a full lineup from this group, as there is no third baseman, for example. In addition, the number of former minor league outfielders and starting pitchers that put on an MLB uniform last season is very small at two and one, respectively.
With the exception of Jack Wilson and Coco Crisp, traded away almost a decade prior, eight and nine years ago respectively, there are no real impact players among this group. As such, any real damage the Cardinals caused by minor leaguers being traded away was initiated a long time ago.
For all the gnashing of teeth at the time over prospect Daric Barton going to the A’s in the Mulder deal, to date Barton has arguably been as big of a disappointment in Oakland as Mulder was in St. Louis. As noted above, Haren was the big loss.
|Player||Pos||Yrs StL||Highest level||2008 MLB|
|Outfield||Coco Crisp||OF||1999-2001||Potomac||Red Sox|
The newest ex-Cardinals
The final group presented is the new additions to the first list for 2009 – at least the ones that can find MLB jobs next season will be. This group of 15 players all saw action for the 2008 Cardinals (or were on the disabled list all year) but left the organization following the season.
Other than outfielders, of which there is only one, Juan Encarnacion, a full lineup could be fielded from these departed 2008 Cardinals. One, Kelvin Jimenez, left via a waiver claim. Three, Rico Washington, Mark Johnson and Josh Phelps, became minor league free agents after they were also dropped from the 40-man roster. Two more, Aaron Miles and Tyler Johnson, were arbitration-eligible, but were non-tendered instead.
The other nine were granted free agency, of which six are pitchers, two are infielders and the last is outfielder Encarnacion, who suffered a career-ending eye injury late in the 2007 season.
Of the nine, it is most interesting to note that all six free agent pitchers are still looking for a place to play in 2009. The only two to have signed are the middle infielders Felipe Lopez (Arizona) and shortstop Cesar Izturis (Baltimore). Non-tendered middle infield utilityman Miles also wasn’t out of work very long.
That seems to be a combination of a soft pitching market and the relative scarcity of decent middle infielders. Otherwise, it is pretty safe to say demand has been weak for the more recent group of departing Redbirds.
|Kelvin Jimenez||RP||White Sox|
While there are a handful of still very fine players among the 71 ex-Cardinals organization players listed here, most are not difference-makers. Instead, for the vast majority, it is probably better both for them and the Cardinals that they are playing their future ball elsewhere.
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