My thought-provoking question for the gang:
We've got more outfielders than J.D.'s got Salinger. How do you see our outfield shaking out in '09? You can answer with a starting three, a starting three vs. LHP, a starting three vs. RHP, however detailed you want to get.
Bonus points for any response that starts with, "First, we trade Adam Kennedy and Brad Thompson for Matt Holliday."
Beat that, Stat Boy. The bloggers’ responses follow:
Nick (Pitchers Hit Eighth): Because the Charlie Manning pickup makes me skeptical that they're planning to trade outfield surplus for help elsewhere, I'm not sure that the coming season's outfield will shake out any different than 2008.
vLHP - LF Brian Barton, CF Rick Ankiel, RF Ryan Ludwick
vRHP - LF Skip Schumaker, CF Rick Ankiel, RF Ryan Ludwick
5th OF: Joe Mather
I'm not convinced that Duncan will be able to easily (or at all) come back from the neck injury and resulting surgery. At the very least, there's no precedent, so it'll be interesting to see how he reacts and recovers.
I'm beginning to think that the Cards might take a page out of the Rays' book and move Colby Rasmus similarly to Evan Longoria. Start him in Memphis, let him (hopefully) tear things up there for a month, then bring him up sometime in May.
This approach would allow guys like Ludwick and Schumaker to have a month or two to prove that last season was no fluke, hopefully increasing their trade value by the deadline. Plug Rasmus in, then move one of Schu or Luddy for help on July 31.
Dan (C70 at the Bat): I'm starting to think along the lines of Nick. Barton, I believe, will wind up in AAA to get more ABs. Rasmus will start down there as well. We'll have Schumaker/Mather, Ankiel, and Ludwick playing on a fairly regular basis. I really don't know if we'll see Chris Duncan again or not, but I figure he'll start the season on the DL, if nothing else, and then get some rehab time in the minors before we have to worry about him.
As Nick notes, the problem is that the trade value of our outfielders has taken a hit. Schumaker is what he is, but people don't know if Duncan (and, to a lesser extent, Ankiel) can recover from injuries or if Ludwick's a one-year wonder. So while we have a lot of them, we'd have to sell low on some of them to move them.
Bryan (Rockin’ the Red): I think the outfield is going to be a place that's addressed in the off-season. Whether it's Skip Schumaker, Chris Duncan, Joe Mather, or even Colby Rasmus (I hope not), there will be a trade dealing from our area of relative strength. If we keep Rasmus, he, Ryan Ludwick, and Rick Ankiel will form the regular outfield, but against lefties that outfield could look like Joe Mather/Brian Barton, Colby Rasmus, and Ryan Ludwick.
Personally, I would look to deal Skip Schumaker, considering that his value has never been higher right now and the Cardinals have plenty of lefthanded outfielders.
Scott (Cardinal Nation Globe): Here's my take on the outfield situation. I think Barton needs more ABs so he should probably start out at AAA, as should Rasmus (unless he shows some major improvement in spring training). I've got a bad feeling about Duncan, I don't think we'll see much more of him - we should have traded him last off season. I think Ankiel will recover but will still be injury-prone and will probably only play 100-120 games next season. I do think we need to trade someone, maybe Schumaker ... Ludwick's stock is high but I'd hate to see him go after what he did in 2008. I see the Cards’ outfield in 2009 as being Ankiel, Ludwick, and Schumaker/Mather. We'll probably see Rasmus move up to the big league club by mid-late next summer.
John (The Cardinal Virtue): I think that we need to get more for the overachievers. And it pains me to say this but the smart move is to deal Luds. The fan in me wants to keep him. However, Rasmus is on the way up, and at this stage we can deal an "All-Star" to shore up the OF. I'd deal Ankiel too -- I don't see him having a season like the one he just did. I'd like to see more of a regular outfield from day to day -- but asking that of TLR is asking a Zebra to change his stripes. Ankiel, Luds, and Schu will get the nod most nights. However, if Rasmus does well in AAA (where I expect him to start out) then we should deal Luds early -- if not before the season starts.
Pip (Fungoes): The most likely scenario as it stands today is that the opening-day outfielders will be a lot like 2008: Ankiel, Schumaker, Ludwick, Duncan, and, depending on Spring Training, Mather or Barton. Status quo in the outfield is actually a good thing: The Cardinal outfield was tops in the league in total runs created in 2008. That affords them the luxury of further development of Rasmus and Mather/Barton at Memphis. And of course, they have enough interchangeable parts to be able to trade one or more, which they should do before Opening Day.
As for who plays where, as much as fans oohed and aahed over Ankiel's throws (well, some of them), the probable fact is that he, Ludwick, and Schumaker are all comparable fielders, which is to say that they're all slightly above average (Schumaker's OOZ in CF was .920; Ankiel's was .921).
Mike (Stan Musial’s Stance): I don't have much to add to the discussion on the OF. I think Ludwick, Ankiel, and Schumaker will get the majority of the ABs next year, unless/until Rasmus is deemed ready for prime time by LaRussa/the organization.
However, as has been mentioned, the best way to relieve the logjam in the outfield is to move someone. Duncan was the most attractive (at least in my mind) trade chip until he got hurt last year. As much as I enjoyed Ludwick's renaissance, he's the most marketable commodity we've got right now (assuming the organization has no intention to move either Ankiel or Rasmus). Making the broad assumption that 2008 was a career year for Ryan, and his trade value is about as high as it will ever get, what about swapping him and Anderson to the Padres for Jake Peavy?
I don't mean to hijack the thread, but since Peavy trade rumors are the rage right now in San Diego baseball circles, I thought it was an interesting discussion point. (Editor’s Note: Stay classy, San Diego!)
Tom (Cardinals GM): I think we see a very different outfield than what ended the year of 2008. I believe that Rasmus and possibly Ludwick will be moved for an impact player. Duncan, much to my chagrin, will start with the team at the completion of Spring Training. Barton will start in AAA or be moved as another player in a trade. Ankiel, Schumaker, Duncan, Mather, and the new impact player will be on the team. Then, of course, add any infielder to add to the outfield surplus.
Don (Redbirg Blog): First, we trade Adam Kennedy and Brad Thompson for Matt Holliday. I see no reason why the Rockies wouldn't make this deal. (Editor’s Note: We have a winner!)
In all seriousness, I see the Cardinals trying to get into the mix on Jake Peavy, and my guess is that would mean moving Rasmus and one of either Ludwick or Ankiel (along with an additional minor league prospect or two). If the Cards can't swing the deal, my guess is the team will still move at least one of Schumaker or Barton this offseason, and will start the 2009 season with a lineup that includes Ankiel and Ludwick. They'll mix in Duncan, Mather, and the survivor of the Barton/Schumaker movement. By May 30 (at the latest), Rasmus assumes the everyday CF job with Ankiel moving to RF and Ludwick to LF.
If the Cards are successful on the Peavy front (and depending on who gets moved in that deal), the Cards may have to go out and sign (or trade for) an OF bat this offseason. Pat Burrell anyone?
Daniel (Redbirds Fun): Count me in as a fan of trying to land Burrell.