Three-point stance, or Yunel? Yes, please!
The more I looked at a potential Matt Holliday deal, the less I liked it. Ludwick straight up for Holliday? Yeah, maybe. Three years of Ludwick for one year of Holliday still didn’t thrill me, but if the team had concerns about Ludwick repeating, and wanted to sell high, I could see it.
Even then, you’re running the risk of Holliday bolting after a year. Sure, the draft picks would be worth something. But essentially, you’re giving up three years of Ryan Ludwick and about $10MM in payroll flexibility this year — ie, perhaps two LH relievers, or a legitimate upgrade at 2B — for one year of Matt Holliday and a couple of draft picks.
But when you throw in four years of Skip Schumaker AND six years of Mitchell Boggs, it becomes a bad idea. Not that that’s necessarily what they were going to do. Ken Rosenthal has been wrong before. But any deal where the Cardinals gave up an additional cost-controlled player besides Ludwick in order to get Holliday would have been a bad deal.
In baseball, when you look at a trade, you have to look at three primary factors. One is ability, obviously. You want to receive more talent than you give up. One is dollars. Every team has a budget, so if you have player X and no room in your budget, versus player Y and $10 million in payroll room, then you’re essentially talking about player X plus an additional $10MM in talent that you can add. And another is years. There’s a huge difference between getting a player who is guaranteed to be under the team’s control for three or four or five years, versus one who is under control for only one.
The years matter enormously, and that’s where the reported Holliday deal looks bad to me. Look at it all in terms of the Drew-Marquis-Wainwright deal. That’s a great, great deal, on the short list of Jocketty’s best. But it’s not simply because of the players involved, or the dollars. If the Braves had gotten three years of J.D. Drew, and given up one year each of Jason Marquis, Adam Wainwright and Ray King, it would have looked much different. What makes that deal great is that the Cardinals gave up one year of Drew (plus the draft picks) for three years of Marquis, two years of King and six of Wainwright.
Which brings me to where I think the Cardinals should be looking — and evidently are at least poking around. The Braves. If Atlanta doesn’t give up either Kelly Johnson or Yunel Escobar to get Jake Peavy, then it’s reportedly possible/likely that they would send one of them in a deal that brought back Ludwick. How exactly such a deal would be structured is unclear. It would likely take more to get Escobar than to get Johnson, and in fact a Johnson deal might be Johnson+pitcher for Ludwick.
But these are exactly the kinds of players the Cardinals should be targeting. Johnson is a plus offensive player at a key position, and according to Fielding Bible rankings, an exactly average defensive 2B. I got an email recently referring to him as an “average hitter” or something, and that’s not fair at all. For a 2B, he’s absolutely a plus hitter. 287/349/446 this year, 276/375/457 last year. Combine that with capable defense at a premium position, and you’re talking about a very nice player. He’s first-year arb-eligible and can’t be a FA until after 2011.
And Escobar is even tastier. There is almost nothing not to like about him, so far as I can tell. 385 OBP as a rookie, 366 this year. 303/373/420 career line. Plus-plus defender (+21 this year per Fielding Bible, ranking him the second-best SS in baseball). Not even arb-eligible yet, and five years from free agency. Just turned 26. So you’re talking about a player cost-controlled and team-controlled for the entirety of his prime, who plays outstanding defense at a premium-plus position, who has the most important offensive skill (getting on base).
What IS going to happen, I don’t know. But what SHOULD happen is that the Cardinals should be working hard on the Braves, trying to get one of these two players, who are team-controlled, cost-controlled solutions to actual problems the Cardinals have.