More than three-quarters of the way through the 2006 season, the Cardinals still can look like a different team not only from week to week, but series to series. As a result, there's no shortage of questions about what's to be done the rest of this year, not to mention going forward.
That can be maddening for a fan, of course. But when you do a mailbag every two weeks, it's quite helpful.
As always, if you have a question, use the link below to submit it -- and please be sure to include your first name, last initial and hometown. If you send a regular e-mail, rather than using the form, be certain to use the word "mailbag" in the subject header -- otherwise your mail may be directed to the spam folder, or otherwise ignored in an unbecoming manner.
With iTunes set on shuffle and a can of C2 at my side (I thought they had stopped making it!), let's get on with the questions.
Since the Cardinals signed Preston Wilson, is he being considered as a possible replacement for Edmonds in center field after this season? Also, what are some other notable outfielders that will be free agents after this season that the Cardinals could consider? -- Steve W., Springfield, Mo.
The question about Wilson is really a two-parter. First, whether he'll be back, and second, whether he could be the center fielder on a semi-regular basis down the road. Given the way the Cardinals have used Wilson this year, I wouldn't expect him to be the center fielder even if he returns next year and Jim Edmonds does not.
With that said, I wouldn't be shocked if he does come back. He seems to have made an excellent impression in the clubhouse thus far, and he's the kind of guy who could be had at a bargain, perhaps. He's going to end the year with lesser numbers than he usually does, so you might get a good deal. I wouldn't want to lock him up to a long-term deal, but if you could bring him back for a year, I think it could make a lot of sense.
As for other outfielders, it depends on what they're looking for. If Edmonds is back, or if they decide that Juan Encarnacion is a legitimate option in center, then there are some very intriguing bats available. It starts with Carlos Lee, who I expect will be overpaid, but is still an impact hitter. Other corner options could include Gary Sheffield, Trot Nixon and David Dellucci. In center, you're looking at a list that could include Torii Hunter, Juan Pierre, Dave Roberts and Kenny Lofton.
I wonder whether Jason Isringhausen remains the best option at closer. The use of Izzy this year reminds me of Mark McGwire's last full season, a Dave Kingman-esque effort at best, and manager Tony La Russa's dogged dedication to McGwire that year. Is Izzy still our best option, or might we do better to consider a different closer (Adam Wainwright, others?), or even closer by committee? Thanks for your thoughts. -- James T., Montgomery, Ala.
With no knock intended on James, I am tired of this issue. However, it remains an issue, as my e-mail after the second game in New York indicated. With as much as you folks write in and ask about it, it seems the question needs to be answered once again.
To my eye, there are at most two alternate options -- Braden Looper and Adam Wainwright. Jorge Sosa has pitched a nice 17 or so innings since coming to St. Louis, but that's not enough to make him a legitimate choice. So you're talking about Looper and Wainwright.
Frankly, neither one is bulletproof. They're both having very good years, but they both have their questions.
And to my eye, you look at the past 2 1/2 months, since about early June, and Isringhausen has been very good a lot more often than not. You look at previous years, and obviously he was very good. Is he Mariano Rivera? No. But he's good enough if the rest of the team does its job. If it were my decision, I'd keep him as the ninth-inning guy.
This might be a little out there, but I was thinking of the possibility of Anthony Reyes as a closer. He throws hard and is fearless, and he also has a good fastball-changeup combo. I know he can be a great Major League starter, but it's always nice to have a great closer. So what are your thoughts about Reyes closing? -- Jase M., DeSoto, Ill.
According to people I've talked to with the team, there is one concern regarding Reyes and any kind of short-relief work: He apparently has some trouble warming up quickly, which would be an issue in that role.
Personally, I think a quality starter is far more valuable than a quality reliever, so I wouldn't make the move anyway -- unless and until Reyes shows he can't be a quality starter. But the questions about health and getting loose are real ones.
Have a question about the Cardinals?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Cardinals beat reporter Jenifer Langosch for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
I can't find any info on Brendan Ryan. Where is he now? What are his stats in the Minors? Do you project him as a September callup, since we probably need a better defensive insurance player at shortstop besides Aaron Miles? -- Kurt M., [no hometown provided]
I think Ryan will be in the discussion. They're likely to bring up one middle infielder, and it could be Ryan. It could also be John Nelson, or someone else. Ryan was a guy who had a terrible break, getting hurt at the beginning of the year just as he was starting out in the high Minors.
For a look at his stats, check here. Ryan went on a rehabilitation assignment in the low Minors before returning to Double-A Springfield.
I have been watching the Cards all year and it seems to me that if the Cards are to make it back to the World Series again, they need to strengthen their bullpen from the left side. Randy Flores and Tyler Johnson have both been very inconsistent at best. What do you think? -- Brad S., Madisonville, Ky.
I don't really have any qualms with the job that Flores has done. He had a bit of a rough stretch in June and July before he was sidelined with an elbow injury, and also in the first game when he came back. But for the most part, he's been effective and dependable, not to mention very tough on left-handed hitters. Flores has allowed two extra-base hits to lefties all year long.
I wouldn't mind, however, seeing them add a veteran to go along with Johnson. His future is very bright and his stuff is undeniable. But it does seem he has a tough time in tight situations, and I'd also like to see him throw more strikes. If Johnson is their second lefty, that's not a problem, but I do think they'd benefit from finding a guy with a little more experience out there. The problem is, where, and who?
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.