It’s that time of the year once again.
The time when players file for free agency, the time when rosters turn over at a 25-50% clip.
The time of the year when the General Managers of major league baseball teams earn their money.
Due to the high volume of player movement that now occurs on an annual basis, the moves the GMs make,or don’t make, during the offseason play a HUGE role in where their teams finish the next year.
Fortunately for the Cardinals and their fans, St. Louis has one of the best (and maybe THE best) in Walt Jocketty.
Oh, the media spills a lot of ink and blows a lot of smoke about Billy Beane, Brian Cashman, Theo Epstein, etc. but it’s Jocketty’s Cardinals who have led Major League Baseball in wins in each of the last two seasons, winning 105 games in 2004 and racking up 100 wins again this year.
Appropriately, Jocketty has been named MLB’s Executive of the Year twice in the past four years.
Still, yesterday’s news is just that and nothing more and it’s time for Jocketty to work his offseason magic once again if he wants to keep his Redbirds on their lofty perch.
It might be a little tougher to do this time. The Cardinals have even more free agents this season (11) than they did last year and many of them won’t be returning.
The core of the National League’s best team returns though led by superstar first baseman Albert Pujols, third baseman Scott Rolen, centerfielder Jim Edmonds, catcher Yadier Molina, shortstop David Eckstein, starting pitching aces Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder, talented young pitcher Brad Thompson, and closer Jason Isringhausen.
Top prospect Anthony Reyes (who pitched brilliantly in his major league debut – a late season start and win against Milwaukee) is set to join the Cards’ 2006 starting rotation.
That’s 10 (just 40%) roster spots filled for next year’s Cardinals. And they’re filled by VERY talented players.
The kind of players that have all those pennants flying in the Cards’ home park.
As to who will be joining those 10 on next year’s 25 man roster, all bets are off.
Jocketty has said he would like to add speed and power to the team and have a younger roster next season. That may not be good news for free agents Reggie Sanders and Mark Grudzielanek who aren’t exactly spring chickens any more.
And Matt Morris has likely pitched his last game for the Redbirds. One of the winningest pitchers in baseball with 80 wins over the last five seasons, Morris will probably be offered more on the free agent market than the Cardinals will offer.
Reliever Ray King has asked to be traded and he will be. Another reliever, free agent Julian Tavarez, probably
won’t be retained either.
With most (if not all) of these players on their way out of St. Louis, Jocketty has a great deal of payroll flexibility as he prepares to fill in the roster via trades and free agent signings.
It’s going to be a VERY interesting offseason Cards’ fans.
Jocketty is getting ready to re-shuffle his Cards once again.