With Adam Wainwright's season-ending injury and trip to the operating table the Cardinals are in real trouble. My first thought upon hearing the news? They have to trade Pujols. My second thought? They'll have to wait until at least June 1 to trade Pujols because they'll have to at least pretend to be trying to win in his last season as a Cardinal, because otherwise the fans would leave in droves.
But then I had an idea for a longer-term plan. This started with the idea that TJ surgery is a well-known commodity. See Joe Nathan, Edinson Volquez just to name a few. It's a pretty good bet Wainwright will be in camp this time next year getting ready for the season and a pretty good bet he'll preform at a pretty high level in 2012. So they could do this:
1. Trade Wainwright. He's owed $6.5 mil for this year and the Cards hold '12 and '13 options for $9 mil and $12 mil, respectively. Those would have vested had Wainwright made it through the season, but he didn't and they won't. So the Cards, could just let him go or trade him. The team trading for him would have to assume he'll be back and be worth the options. (No reason to trade for him except to pick-up the options.) If he performs in '12 and '13 the way he did in '09 and '10, he's worth far more than the options. (Can you trade a player that's on the disabled list?)
2. Trade Carpenter. He's owed $15 mil for this year with a club option for $15 mil for next year ($1 mil buyout). (More on this in a moment.)
3. Trade Holliday if they can. He's owed $17 mil per year through at least '16. He'd be hard to move, and wouldn't bring much back, but salary relief here would be the end game.
4. Wait for it . . . trade Pujols.
Can you image the haul the Cardinals could get for these four (really three) talents? They could rebuild very quickly and in three years be the kings of the division.
But here's what I would do:
1. Try and renegotiate with Wainwright. I think the club options on Wainwright are team-friendly, assuming he's healthy. But the club has some negotiating power right now and they should use it. I would propose moving everything up a year, $6.5 mil for this year, repeat that next year and then do $9 mil for '13 and $12 mil. for '14. This tacks a year on, defers some money, but overall gives Wainwright more money ($34 mil instead of $27.5). The Cards would have him through 2014 and presumably get three good years from him for just over $11 mil per. Sounds like a good deal to me.
2. Keep Holliday. He's signed through 2016.
3. Trade Carpenter right now. Can you imagine what the Yankees would give up for Carpenter right now? I'd start with asking for Phil Hughes and something else, maybe Joba. But if the Yankees balk, I'd ask for one of their top two pitching prospects (Banuelos or Betances), Ivan Nova, and Joba. Nova and Joba fill the Wainwright and Carpenter spots this year and the prospect competes with Shelby Miller for a spot in the '12 rotation that would include Wainwright, Garcia, Joba,and Nova. (They'd have to get rid of Lohse, which might be hard.) I could see an argument for waiting until the trade deadline to get more value of Carpenter, but I'd think he has more value to the Yankees right now. (Just ask the nearest Yankee fan.)
4. Announce the team will still play hard, but is rebuilding for a '12 and beyond dynasty. There are two obstacles to this plan so they will also have to ...
5. Sign Albert now! Tell the agent they'll pay what it takes and get it done. I think this is the only way the fans will accept the punting of what would otherwise be Albert's last year in St.L. (As an aside, I think the Cards can still sign Pujols after this season no matter what happens by matching Albert's highest other offer.)
The other obstacle? TLR. He won't have any interest in managing a rebuilding team even if for just one year. Worst case scenario, he's on a one-year deal and will have to manage out the season anyway. Best case scenario (and I admit I'm biased here) he quits. Everybody wins.
So in '12, they have Albert in the fold (and happy), still have Holliday, have Wainwright back, and a bunch of great young arms to fill out the rotation and add bullpen depth. That's the makings of a great staff in '12.
As a Reds fan I hope the Cards ignore all of my advice, keep Carpenter, lose Wainwright and Pujols, and have only Holliday to show for there big payroll after 2012.