So, everybody saw that coming, right? You all knew, all along, that this would be the team that ended the championship drought. Yep, never had any doubt.
Of course, the 2006 season is now over, and it's time to start looking ahead to 2007. And that means lots of Hot Stove questions, so there's plenty to chew on in the mailbag.
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 diet soda at my side, let's get on with the questions.
Three million dollars of Jim Edmonds' salary is a sunk cost, in that St. Louis pays it whether he plays for the Cards or not. From this point of view, the Cardinals are only paying $7 million for his services next year. I do not believe $7 will provide a better defensive center fielder or a higher offensive potential. What are the chances the Cardinals agree and bring him back? If they do, will it be for just the one year or will it be, say, a three-year extension? -- Brent B., Jefferson City, Mo.
You raise an excellent point, Brent, and it's one I've tried to make, too. The question isn't really whether Edmonds will be a $10 million player next year. The question on the option is whether he's worth a marginal $7 million, and personally, I think he is.
But the scenario that I think makes more sense is for the club to work out maybe a two-year deal in place of the option. I don't think Edmonds wants to play much longer than that, he'd like to stick around, and the team would like to have him around.
Do you think that the Cards will go after Gary Matthews Jr. from the Rangers? He has good numbers, plays exceptional defense, and is a free agent. I know Edmonds has an option on his contract, but is Matthews still a good option? -- Jacob E., Freeport, Ill.
Matthews had a terrific year, and by all accounts he's an exemplary center fielder. I think it would be unwise, however, to give him multiple years when he's only had one year at the offensive level he showed in 2006. His career numbers are .263/.336/.419 (average/OBP/slugging), and that's in nearly 3,000 at-bats. The bidding for Matthews is likely to get heated, and I think somebody may end up giving him a contract they regret. Especially since he turns 33 next year.
With Chris Duncan coming into his own as a hitter and a fielder, how expendable are John Rodriguez and Larry Bigbie? Rodriguez is a good young player, and he does deserve the chance to play. Bigbie is a good veteran player, but would he be able to handle the role of a bench player? I honestly see no room at all for them next year, plus you have to think about Skip Schumaker, too. What do you think will happen? -- Dan M., Des Moines, Iowa
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The makeup of the outfield is an intriguing question. I expect that Bigbie will be non-tendered, but Rodriguez's situation is a tough one. It seems to me that he deserves a chance to play more regularly. For his sake, I'd like to see him traded, because I don't see him getting regular time in St. Louis.
I do expect to see Schumaker as a part of the 2007 team -- he's a left-handed So Taguchi, essentially, and he'll be cheaper than Taguchi is.
Do you think the Cards have a chance to bring Ronnie Belliard back? I first didn't like the trade, but he has been playing really nice defense and he has been hitting pretty well. I think it would be great if they brought him back. Does he have a good chance to return? -- John R., Springfield, Mo.
A big part of the answer will be what Belliard wants. The Cardinals liked what they saw of Belliard defensively, though he took a step back as a hitter in 2006. There have been all sorts of reports that the Indians badly want Belliard back, so that may be his most likely destination.
Yadier Molina has always been a defensive talent, and can without a doubt control the pitching staff, but how do you feel about him developing as an offensive catcher down the road since he is only 24? -- Zach W., St. Louis
The playoffs surely eased some of the team's anxiety regarding Molina's bat, but it's hard to ignore the degree to which he struggled offensively in the regular season. As good as Molina's defense is -- and I think he should have won a Gold Glove this year -- it's tough to justify giving nearly 500 plate appearances to a guy who hits .216/.274/.321.
I expected Molina to move forward from his '05 season in '06 -- I would have guessed him for something like .260/.310/.400, but obviously he came nowhere near that. I still think he has the ability to be a decent hitter, given his age, but I'd say '07 will be a big year for him. If he reverses his slide and shows some real progress, that will be encouraging. If he backslides again, or even simply stagnates, it will be a significant concern.
The Cards seem to be stocked up nicely with Minor League pitching. Going into Spring Training, I feel the Cards will have to invite both Chris Narveson and Blake Hawksworth. What do you think the Cards' impressions are of these prospects and what role might they fill? I don't believe that at this juncture that any other pitching prospects will be considered. Do you agree? -- Ron W., Phoenix
I do expect to see both of those guys, though I wouldn't figure Hawksworth will be around long in big-league camp. He's still a little ways away. You'll see Andy Cavazos in spring, since he's been added to the 40-man roster, and maybe some other relievers as well. Cory Doyne, a hard thrower, has been put on the Memphis roster. He may be someone to watch. And, I wouldn't be shocked if they brought in Mark Worrell or Dennis Dove for a look in camp.
Would the Cardinals be interested in Vernon Wells from Toronto for next year? Even though he is not a free agent on your recent list of center fielders, he has been widely speculated as wanting out of Toronto. -- Terry P.
Wells is a fantastic player, someone who, even in an off year, is an asset. In his good years, he's an MVP candidate. It's my understanding that the relationship in Toronto isn't the best, and it wouldn't shock me if the Jays put Wells up for trade.
The problem for the Cardinals is that he wouldn't come cheap, talent-wise. Lots of teams would be interested in a 28-year-old Gold Glove center fielder with power and plate discipline. It seems likely that Toronto would want pitching, and I'm not sure how much of that the Redbirds have to deal.
With second base still in question for 2007, do you think St. Louis would be interested in former Cardinals infielder Adam Kennedy? He is a free agent and would rejoin his former World Series middle-infield partner, David Eckstein. Personally, I like Kennedy's ability to steal and put the ball in play more than Belliard. -- Chad M., Chesterfield, Mo.
Kennedy's a nice player, but his numbers took a dip in '06, which would make me nervous -- especially considering the contract he's reportedly seeking. According to reports out of Southern California, he's looking for four years at upwards of $4 million per year, and that's a major outlay. I'd like him as a one- or two-year solution, but I don't think that many years makes sense.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.