Not exactly a red-letter day to end 2008 for Cardinal Nation, in more ways than one. A few weeks ago, I wrote with some lament regarding the Cardinal decision to not offer arbitration to utility infielder Aaron Miles. I said then that I hope this decision didn't come back to haunt the Cardinals. The Cardinals obviously were hoping to bring back Miles on the cheap (a common theme in St Louis the last couple of years), thinking he would likely sign on again at a modest raise, without the Redbirds taking the risk of a larger raise in arbitration. It was a ploy the Cardinals used successfully to bring Miles back in 2008.
The penny-pinching tactic came back to bite them today, when Miles signed a two year deal with arch-rival and defending division champion Chicago. So, not only do the Cardinals lose a very productive bench player and one of their best pinch-hitters from 2008......but their error opened the door for the Cardinals to help the Cubs improve. After signing Miles, the Cubs moved Mark DeRosa to Cleveland in a move that reduces their payroll and will possibly help them re-open the Jake Peavy discussions with San Diego. Miles expressed annoyance with the Cardinal's bargain basement tactics with him, and I don't blame him. He's been a pretty key cog to the Cards' middle infield the last three years, and at this point had earned the right to get arbitration offer from the Cards. Whatever Miles does in Chicago, the Cardinals have seriously downgraded their middle infield for 2009.
Following up this bright and cheery note, the news came in later in the day that Brian Fuentes had signed with Anaheim. This isn't a big surprise after the events of the last couple of weeks, but Fuentes was the one free agent on the market that could have most helped the 2009 Cardinals. It puts them back at square one in terms of improving their bullpen. After saying the bullpen was the biggest off-season priority, John Mozeliak enters 2009 making exactly one move to improve the 'pen: the signing of Trever Miller, a lefthander with an injury question hanging over him. Terrific.
I know my last few postings regarding the Cardinals have been written with negative overtones, but the frustration is mounting. After two years of hearing Cardinal management talk about how the 2008-09 off-season would be a big splash with a large amount of excess payroll freed up....it's discouraging to see the bargain basement methods being used to "improve" the roster. That being said, I'll give Mozeliak the benefit of the doubt and hope that he still has some ideas up his sleeve to improve the left side of the bullpen and add a needed starter to the rotation. Joe Beimel for one is still out there and might be an attractive lefty relief option. We'll see what happens.
Mozeliak has mentioned the last couple of weeks that they were kind of in a holding pattern, waiting on Fuentes. Well, John.......Fuentes is now gone......so it's time to get to work.