Wishin’ and Hopin’ and Plannin’ and Dreamin’

I think all of us at one time or another (and, likely, more than just once) have daydreamed about winning the lottery.  For me, after the prosaic parts of paying off all debts and donating to my church, it turns into building a nice two-story house with a finished basement/man cave, a second-story library with perhaps a secret panel, and season tickets to the Cards and a plane and pilot to fly me there.  (Gotta dream big.  Isn’t that the point?)

Then I realize that, given the fact that I don’t believe in buying lottery tickets, this isn’t likely to come true.

The news yesterday that Aledmys Diaz worked out for the Cardinals brought a lot of those same dreaming instincts to the fore.  After all, this is a guy who has no hard, easy-to-understand numbers in his past.  We don’t have Triple-A numbers that give us a feel for what this guy can do.  You can find some work by Dan Moore about a year ago linked up over in this Viva El Birdos post, but I can’t find real discussion on his bat.  It seems to be well-regarded, I just don’t know if it’s 10+HR power or more like 20+.  John Nagel, a man who should know, says Diaz would likely immediately become the #2 prospect in the system with a chance, given the positional translation, to be even higher on the list.  After all, a shortstop who regularly hits 15 is worth about as much as an outfielder who slugs 30, right?

That speculation fueled others.  After all, if this was about three months ago, it would be fun, but a little more obvious.  However, the Cardinals did go out and sign Jhonny Peralta to a four-year deal to play shortstop.  It seemed to be generally accepted that he’d have to move at some time, but I don’t think there was the idea he might have to shift before his first year was up.  The front-loading does help in a trade, but as I mentioned last night to Matt Whitener on UCB Radio, it lets us have the option to play some more musical chairs.

I’ve been a proponent of the rotation system on the other side of the diamond, of having Oscar Taveras ease his way into the bigs by rotating him, Allen Craig and Matt Adams.  Why not do the same here?  One of the major drawbacks of this roster–well, major in that it’s one of the biggest problems they have, not that it’s a big problem–has been the lack of a quality backup at third.  The idea that Daniel Descalso is the solution to that isn’t exactly heartwarming.  However, Peralta has played a significant amount of third.  What about a rotation of Diaz, Peralta and Matt Carpenter?  It’s a lot of moving pieces, but it brings an exciting aspect to the roster.

Assuming 13 hitters and a Diaz signing, look at what this could be:

Yadier Molina
Tony Cruz
Matt Adams
Allen Craig
Kolten Wong
Mark Ellis
Jhonny Peralta
Aledmys Diaz
Matt Carpenter
Matt Holliday
Peter Bourjos
Jon Jay
Oscar Taveras

That’s a pretty solid hitting core, assuming Diaz is what we think he could be.  (Or what his agent is selling him as, which of course means the salt silos are open for business.)  You’d always have at least two and perhaps three weapons on the bench.  For example, Ellis, Diaz and Taveras could all be available for a late-inning pinch-hit.  The flexibility of the club would be through the roof.

All that said, the dreaming has to have a dash of realism.  One, we still don’t know what Diaz is.  Obviously John Mozeliak and company think a lot of him to even be in this situation and they’ve been tracking him for a long while.  It’s not one of these things where everyone else says he’s good, so the Cards are going to see what he has.  #InMoWeTrust and all that, but this is really uncharted territory for St. Louis, so it’s tough to know if Diaz is all that we hope he could be.

The other factor is that the Cardinals aren’t the only other team in on Diaz.  Most notably, the Yankees (whom you may have heard will have a shortstop opening in the next year) and reportedly two other teams are with the Redbirds as front-runners.  Now, Diaz seems to want to play as soon as possible, and there’s no way he’d get significant playing time in New York this year as the Pepsi Derek Jeter Farewell Tour, brought to you by MasterCard, would be going through town.  Diaz would likely spend time in the minors with whomever he signed, but the road to the bigs might be faster other places.

It’s one of those things that probably won’t happen, but it has enough basis in reality that you tend to get excited about the possibilities.  Diaz’s agent says he’ll decide quickly, probably by the end of this weekend, so at least we won’t have to drag it out.  Of course, that also means our dreaming time might be limited, so you are forgiven if you stare off into space at work today, thinking about an already very good team getting better.

While the Diaz news/speculation/hopeful planning took center stage yesterday afternoon, there were a few other pieces of news floating around there.  For example, Mike Matheny says it’s way too early to talk about lineups.  Mike, hello, I’d like you to meet the Internet, where it’s never too early to talk about anything because there’s unlimited space and plenty of time to fill.  From his point of view, though, he’s right.  There are a number of ways the lineup could go and it’s going to vary a lot given who makes the roster and how they are used, but that doesn’t keep us from having fun talking about it.  I will admit to some disappointment that he’s ruling out the pitcher hitting anywhere but ninth, though probably not as much as some folks.

Carlos Martinez will be treated as a starter early in camp, which is no surprise.  Martinez’s stuff would be a great asset to the rotation and I’m leery of the club too quickly turning some of their young talent to bullpen fodder, because like we see with Trevor Rosenthal, sometimes once you are there, it’s hard to get out of those roles.  That said, the thought that he could break camp with the club in that role was pretty forcefully debunked by Ben Humphrey over at VEB yesterday.  Martinez just doesn’t have the innings to be ready to start at the big league level, at least not to be counted on for the full year.  I guess if Jaime Garcia couldn’t go for a month or so, Martinez could take the role temporarily, but there’s no indications that Garcia is going to need that rehab time.

Jason Motte seems to be a little ahead of schedule right now, though you may recall what spring training optimism has been worth in the past.  (Bonus points to anyone who knows what movie quote that’s a modification of.)  We’ll see if Motte is still that strong and well-regarded once games start and his usage goes up.  We were all excited about Chris Carpenter‘s progress about this point in the spring last year as well.  While Motte isn’t likely to go down Carpenter’s road, ramping things up for him may well cause a little setback.

Live batting practice begins today, as the pitchers graduate from just throwing bullpens.  Which means there should be some fun video coming out of Jupiter today, either via Twitter or on the Post-Dispatch site tomorrow.

Time for another round of Cardinal Approval Ratings!  Holliday is our player of the day.  I think we’ve talked before (though I can’t find the post right now, so it might have been on one of the radio shows) how Holliday can be overlooked somewhat in St. Louis, that his consistency isn’t always appreciated like it should be.  However, Holliday has always done pretty well on these ratings and, in fact, comes in at 87.1% this year, which is a difference of statistical noise to his 88.4% last year and 87.3% the year before.  Holliday may not always be the first Cardinal you think of, but he’s definitely made his mark in St. Louis.

Our media member of the day is Ricky Horton.  It seems that seeing Horton on a regular basis hasn’t been good for him in these votes.  Every year, Horton slides about 2% and this year comes in at his four-year low of 63.3%.  There weren’t many comments about Ricky, though the one I see does say that he seems to be getting better.  There’s no doubt, however, that Horton is a good guy and I really like what he does with Baseball Chapel.

Our final ranking comes from our miscellaneous section, as we get a chance to register one last (well, at least for a while) rating on Chris Carpenter.  The retired Carp may well be Mozeliak’s successor, going to scout school and observing spring training as well as learning the front office side of the game.  While the Phillies are a cautionary tale about a former player running the place in this day and age (though, to be fair, Ruben Amaro Jr. did get them to a World Series title as well), Carpenter would seem to be one to embrace the new methods to get a competitive edge.

This really was a victory lap for Carpenter, who got an unheard of 20 perfect scores.  With those high marks, I’m a little surprised to see that he actually slipped in his total from last year, going from 89.8% to 89.3%.  Still, that’s an a pretty darn good score and, so far, the high water mark for 2014.

Boston’s Playing Pepper goes live this afternoon.  Might want to bring a comfy chair for that one–plenty of discussion in it!

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