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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Cardinals hot stove update: 12/07/10

A series of quick updates on St. Louis Cardinals subjects currently in the news.

Infield done?

GM John Mozeliak says the Cardinals roster is about set for 2011 with the possible exception of trading away shortstop Brendan Ryan. The intention is to proceed with some combination of reserve infielders Tyler Greene, Daniel Descalso and Allen Craig. It also seemed to quash what was a resurgence of Jason Bartlett trade rumors.

My take: The pros and cons of dealing Ryan have already been adequately analyzed. Putting aside off-field matters, Ryan would be an ideal late-game defensive replacement, but it seems clear the other issues have him heading out of town, a move that Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith criticized on Monday.

Based on past Tony La Russa teams, it seems unlikely the manager will be satisfied with a cast of unproven reserves filling his bench. One might think he’d be far more comfortable if a veteran like Edgar Renteria is added for the middle. While reports are positive regarding David Freese’s recovery, recent lessons learned the hard way would seem to point to the value of adding someone, perhaps an NRI third baseman, in case Freese is injured again and Craig cannot handle third.

Reserve catcher

The Twitter world was abuzz on Monday with word that free agent Gregg Zaun is on the Cardinals radar to replace Jason LaRue as the club’s backup catcher. Seattle was mentioned as another possibility for the soon-to-be 40 year old, who missed most of 2010 while with Milwaukee.

Last summer, Zaun suffered a torn labrum that was thought to be potentially career ending. He had surgery last June. Milwaukee had a $2.25M option on his service for 2011 that they bought out for $250K.

My take: MLB.com’s Matthew Leach’s tweets indicate he likes the idea. I am considerably less excited. I hope if the Cardinals are serious that Dr. George Paletta checks Zaun out very carefully. Obviously, he is not a pitcher, but catchers need solid arms, too.

It is clear the club does not have confidence in Bryan Anderson, but if a veteran reserve is desired, there would be better choices than Zaun. One option appears to be off the table as the Mets have reportedly signed Ronny Paulino.

Pujols discussions begin

Mozeliak reported a meeting with Albert Pujols’ representatives was held in Orlando, but the GM made it clear he would not be offering a play-by-play account of the negotiations to extend the first baseman’s contract beyond 2011. SI’s Jon Heyman added via Twitter that Pujols may be looking for an A-Rod-type deal, 10 years and $275 million.

My take: The Cardinals have no real choice but to try to get it done. It may take creativity and a lot of deferred money. As a reminder, Pujols is not tradeable without his consent.

Uehara for the pen?

A Baltimore Sun staffer spoke with a Japanese writer at the Winter Meetings about Orioles free agent reliever Koji Uehara, who ended the season as their closer. There is supposedly interest from six teams including the Cardinals. The 35-year-old right-hander appears to be looking for a multi-year deal.

My take: Right-handed relief is both the most plentiful resource on the market as well as one of the Cardinals’ current strengths. Unless they plan to trade away relief to address another need (which public comments indicate is unlikely), then I don’t see why they would look at Uehara. I’d prefer another proven left-handed option beyond Brian Tallet and Raul Valdes.

Update: I just saw a Mozeliak comment to B.J. Rains that the club is not in the bullpen market.

No Hall for Simba

In the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee vote this week, former Cardinals catching great Ted Simmons was not elected, nor were favorites Marvin Miller and George Steinbrenner. Pat Gillick was the only one selected by the Veterans Committee, which included Smith and Whitey Herzog. Individual votes were not released, but Smith indicated Simmons’ difficulty in the election had to do with his defense.

My take: I wonder how Mike Piazza will fare when eligible, then. I would have voted for Gillick, Miller and Simmons.

Promo for Riggins

Mark Riggins has been named the new pitching coach of the Chicago Cubs. He had been the Cubs minor league pitching coordinator since leaving the same job with the Cardinals a few years back. Riggins replaces Larry Rothschild, who moved to the Yankees.

My take: In Riggins, the Cardinals had lost a good baseball man who had been committed to the organization, having been employed by them for almost three decades. Here is hoping he is successful in his new job, except when his pitchers face St. Louis.

Van Slyke interview

Former Cardinals outfielder Andy Van Slyke is one of several candidates interviewing for the New York Mets hitting coach job. Van Slyke had been Jim Leyland’s first base coach in Detroit from 2006-09.

My take: Van Slyke has many talents. He also co-authored a new book with Rob Rains entitled “The Curse – Cubs Win! Cubs Win! … Or Do They?” I have a copy and recommend it.

Hot stove radio show

Hosted by Kevin Wheeler and Mike Claiborne, the “Cardinals Hot Stove League Show” will air on 1120 KMOX and select Cardinals Radio Network affiliates from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Central Time) every Tuesday night beginning on December 7th and running through March 22nd.

My take: They will have name-brand guests and offer more news for those who just can’t get enough! La Russa, Mozeliak and Mike Shannon are among the first guests. KMOX is available via live internet feed for those outside the signal area.

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