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Cubs Chasing Cardinals

By bullpenbrian at 02.19.2010 Leave a comment.

The Cubs are no longer the class of the NL Central–St. Louis is.

Dan Shoptaw blogs Redsbirds baseball at C70 At The Bat and is also the founder of the BBA, or Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

He agreed to answer a few questions about the outlook for the 2010 Cardinals–the team Chicago must top to regain the Central crown.

– Answers from Dan Shoptaw at C70 At The Bat

  • How was the off-season?  What kind of grade would you give it?

For what the team needed to do and the resources it had, it was probably a B, B+ type of off-season.  Brad Penny has the potential to be a wonderful pickup, while if he falls on his face the damage is limited.  Of course, they were able to sign Holliday and did it without giving him $20 million a year. The bench still needs some help and the bullpen might benefit from another arm (though I don’t think it’s a necessity), but the Cards did what they needed to do.

  • What will be the team’s strength?

I’m still very excited about the starting rotation.  Obviously, when you head it up with players like Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, there’s a lot to be excited about.  I do think Lohse will bounce back somewhat, but I think Penny surpasses him after working with Dave Duncan and slides into the 3 slot.  Lohse at 4 is pretty darn good, and whomever wins the fifth slot will be adequate as well.

  • What their Achilles’ heel?

A lack of depth.  The decision of Brendan Ryan to have wrist surgery so close to spring training really emphasized how shallow the team can be at spots.  There’s no guarantee that David Freese can handle third on a regular basis–if he doesn’t, who does?  Can Julio Lugo and Tyler Greene fill short if Ryan is out too long?  Who’s the first outfielder in line if something happens to the starters?

  • Will a rookie make a significant impact on the team in 2010, and if so, who?

One way or another Freese will make an impact, either by anchoring third every day or causing a trade or signing to fill in if he falters.  I think he’ll be OK and be a surprising source of offense for the team.

  • Who will be the breakout player for the team?

It’s hard to say, since this is such a veteran-laden team that has produced in the past.  It’s possible that Mitchell Boggs, if he moves to the bullpen, could turn into a dominant seventh/eighth inning guy or even possibly take over for Franklin if he stumbles again.

  • Who is the most likely player to be dangled as trade bait?

There’s not much to really offer in the trade market.  If the Cardinals had another outfielder ready to take over, I could see Ryan Ludwick being moved, as he’s a free agent at the end of the year.  Some of the spare parts on the farm, such as Jon Jay or Mark Hamilton, could move in a deal that saw the Cardinals eating a lot of salary.

  • What will be the team’s final record and divisional standing?

I think this team really is the class of the NL Central.  I could see them winning, say, 93 games and taking the division by 8 or so.

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