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Bird Watching

Bird Watching: Beltran in 2014 and Furcal’s Scarecrow Arm…

Whew! We’re getting a late start tonight – it’s been a long day – but better late than never, eh? Let’s get into it…

If you listened to this week’s State of the Nation podcast here on the blog, you heard my thoughts on how the club could retain Carlos Beltran. If you didn’t, I’ll summarize it here.

Basically, Jake Westbrook has a team option for 2014 that sits just short of $10 million. Allowing for arbitration raises for multiple players, the ability to buy Freese or Craig out of their arbitration years and into a long-term contract, and paying Wainwright around $20-25 million per year…the Cardinals could actually sign Beltran for about the same as he’s making this season if they only make one move.

Buy out Westbrook’s option next season ($1 million).

By cutting ties with Jake, the team could replace him with a young, cost-controlled arm from the farm system while reallocating those funds to the “Sign Carlos Beltran” effort. Of course, that would mean Jaime Garcia finally lives up to his potential and/or the young guns actually pan out as expected…but I figure at least one of those should be true, if not both.

With such a gluttony of pitching, it doesn’t make sense to pay a number four/five pitcher like Westbrook $10 million when you could replace him with a number 2/3 arm in Miller or Rosenthal. By 2014, even Jake’s ability to rack up innings could be lessened while Lynn and Miller and/or Rosenthal could be in line to throw an increased load after a full year in the rotation.

That still leaves the question of how much to play Beltran in 2014 – the apparent year of the Oscar…but from my perspective, the Cardinals would be much more comfortable letting Taveras play the fourth outfielder, bench-bat, and occasional DH role for his first full season in the majors; otherwise, they risk a chance to contend on a 21-year old outfielder whose never faced a full year of MLB pitching. Easing Taveras into a regular role would allow Beltran to sit-play-sit-play, repeat to fully rest his knees. And,¬†coincidentally, Matheny has Beltran mentoring the young slugger in camp this Spring.

It could happen…but only if Beltran can do the opposite of his former Astros teammate, Lance Berkman, and actually follow a successful All-Star campaign in St. Louis with, you guessed it, another All-Star campaign in 2013. If he can do that, and the pitching works out as expected…the Cards could end up with an outfield of Holliday, Jay, Beltran, and Taveras spelling all three in a “rotating off days” plan in 2014.

Oh, and about payroll…

Retaining Beltran by declining Westbrook’s option could keep team salaries at around $115 million, a figure easily attainable when you consider DeWitt’s recent comments at Winter Warm-Up about a likely payroll increase from the current $110 in the Cards’ near future.

Rafael Furcal’s throwing arm may not catch the plane to St. Louis. The shortstop’s arm is seemingly hanging by a thread, unable to uncork a hard throw from the SS hole, and unpredictable to say the least. The Cardinals have a way of leaving themselves vulnerable at shortstop over the years, but that’s not really the case this Spring. If Furcal goes down – and right now, it feels like 50/50 is optimistic – the Redbirds have Ryan Jackson, Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso, and the recently acquired Ronny Cedeno to fill the gap. No, vulnerable is certainly not the word to describe such a handful of SS candidates…weak, maybe…inexperienced, perhaps…but not vulnerable. With the Matt Carpenter at 2B experiment pulling into St. Louis this Summer, let’s hope Furcal can play more often than not.

I heard today that Kyle Lohse could sign for perhaps two or three years simply due to the lack of offers he’s receiving. I don’t know if the rumor has legs, but it certainly makes him intriguing. If the Redbirds could bring Lohse back for two years and a team option for 2015, that could go a long way towards accomplishing three distinct goals: 1) Replacing Carp’s veteran, front of the line pitching presence. 2) Allowing select starters to slip into the “Waino” apprenticeship in the ‘pen for a season. 3) Free up an arm or two in July to acquire a piece or two for a stretch run…like a shortstop to replace Furcal’s scarecrow arm.

Is anyone else concerned about Oscar Taveras’ attitude? Here’s a player known for requiring a hard lesson or two – in double-A Springfield, he was once benched for failing to run out a ground ball – and he shows up in camp considering playing for Team Canada in the WBC. The Cardinals apparently knew nothing of it. Really? The kid has a chance to work with the big league club in camp as well as a legit shot to actually make the team for the first time…and he springs a hair-brained notion like playing for Canada on the club? Color me concerned. I’m sure it won’t affect his hitting ability – much – but I sure do enjoy liking the players on my team. Maybe he’s a great kid, but it sounds like he has a bit of growin’ up to do, yet. The last time I said that about a player…Colby Rasmus while he was still in AAA.



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