With Ryan Ludwick in the fold with a new one-year contract signed Tuesday and Skip Schumaker reportedly near a deal, the Cardinals are finally getting a picture of what they have left to spend and what the final roster will look like.
That means we finally have a realistic picture of the 2010 Birds ... something to be excited about. If the Cardinals do nothing else this off-season, they are going to have a formidable team. But those last few spots can be the difference between a champion and being an also ran.
What’s left to do?
• Find a fourth outfielder.
If Skip Schumaker is going to be the starting second baseman, the Cardinals need someone who can play all three outfield spots in a pinch. And, speaking of pinches, they could use a lefty hitter with some pop in this role for pinch hitting duty.
Jim Edmonds, a fan favorite and major contributor in St. Louis for years, has thrown his cap into the ring to fill that outfield opening. It’s an intriguing possibility. Especially when Edmonds says he’ll play for the Major League minimum.
Is it realistic for a guy who will turn 40 in June to make the roster? It depends what kind of shape Edmonds is in and if he can still hit. Everybody slows down with age. But if he can still get the bat around, he could be a real weapon. He could also be a mentor for Colby Rasmus who is still learning the ropes.
The Cardinals passed on a safer bet like Ryan Church, and there is probably no one who will play for the minimum that would offer Edmonds’ upside. The only other cheap alternative is to put an unproven youngster in this role. But that’s not going to help the need for a lefty presence off the bench.
Signing Edmonds would also be a good PR move. It would help erase the unpleasantness of Edmonds’ 2008 half-season with the Cubs.
• Find a backup third baseman or infielder.
The Cardinals played footsie with Miguel Tejada earlier this off-season but the price was too high. Still, manager Tony La Russa said if he could have his choice of one more roster addition it would be another hitter. Tejada would fill that bill as a high average and on-base percentage guy with some power who could fill the No. 2 slot in the batting order.
Tejada’s defense at shortstop has declined considerably, but he has been considered by several teams as an option at third base. With a rookie at the hot corner who has had some off-the-field problems, that’s where the Cardinals need is.
The Cardinals have about $7.5 million to spend, so the most they could probably afford Tejada is about $5 million. The most likely other option is former Cardinals infielder Felipe Lopez who offers more versatility than Tejada. But the Scott Boras client has held out for a contract that is beyond the Birds’ current means.
• Add a fifth starting pitcher.
The Cardinal continue to talk to John Smoltz, according to various reports. But is it worth it to risk as much of the Cardinals remaining budget as it would take to bring back the future Hall of Famer? Unless he is willing to play for about $2.5 million, I would say no. People are questioning Edmonds’ ability to play at 40, but Smoltz is 43. And he has had recent arm troubles.
The Cardinals could alternatively move Kyle McClellan from the bullpen to the rotation or go with another youngster like Mitchell Boggs or Jaime Garcia in the last spot of the rotation.
• Get a bullpen righty.
The Cardinals have a quantity of arms in the bullpen but they are looking for a shutdown guy to handle the eighth inning.
Jose Contreras has been on the radar screen. But this might be a spot the Cardinals wait to fill until spring training when prices of remaining free agents come down or project pitchers are cut loose.
The other plan could be to hope that Jason Motte matures into the role or that Josh Kinney, a year further away from arm surgery, regains his long lost control.