Oh, boy…so…it happened. Albert Pujols is injured…out at least 6 weeks…which, even with the ASG break, puts him out for at least 38 games (roughly 23% of the total season – 43% of the remaining games in the season). That means this Cardinals lineup will be without the best hitter in the game for almost half of their remaining games.
And just so we’re clear, that stretch of 38 games includes 3 games against the Brewers, 3 games against the Phillies, 3 games against the Rays, 4 games against the D-Backs, and 6 games against the Reds. That’s 19 games against legit contenders (9 of which are against contenders in our own division). And I’m not even including another 3 games against the Pirates.
I know, I know…we’ve lost Holliday twice this season and we’re doing okay. But let’s not forget a few things here. One, without Holliday, this offense was atrocious. We’re okay now…but we were in serious need of Holliday’s bat while he was gone. Two, we never lost Holliday for anywhere near the amount of time we will lose Pujols (and that doesn’t even take into account the at-bats Albert will need to get up to speed). Three, this thing was essentially a two team race (Reds and Cards) when we lost Matt (especially the first time). Now, the NL Central is a log jam of contenders (Pirates, Cardinals, Reds, and Brewers). We just can’t afford a significant drop-off. As it is, this thing is going to be a dog fight in September, anyway.
So…what do we do, now? Any suggestions?
I’ve heard people talking about going after Jose Reyes, but frankly, I don’t see that as feasible. For one, the Mets are starting to amp up the “overwhelm us” talk for Reyes, which to me means the deal would start with Shelby Miller or Carlos Martinez. I’m not going near that deal for a guy whose contract is up after this year. For another, to get Reyes, you move Theriot to second base. I’m not convinced Theriot would “gladly” make that move given his talk about playing shortstop this season (and before). Plus, moving him to second necessitates a move of some kind with Schumaker in order to keep Theriot’s bat in the lineup everyday. That move is either moving Skip out of the organization – a move I do NOT like considering the lessons we learned from the Luddy trade last year and the effect moving such a liked guy could have on the clubhouse in the middle of the season – or moving him to the outfield. The problem with moving him to the outfield is that it takes away at-bats from guys like Jon Jay or Allen Craig (when he returns). With Albert’s power out of the lineup – and considering Craig’s tendency to atrophy on the bench – I don’t like keeping Allen’s bat out of the game that often.
I’ve also heard that the move of Berkman to first base makes it a given that Jay and Craig will fill the hole in RF and the lineup. Three problems with that: 1) Craig isn’t even back yet and may be out for quite a while…so that’s all on Jay…which leads to 2) After the Luddy trade, we saw Jay regress when given an everyday job. I don’t think that happens to the same extent again (due to more experience), but without even Craig to back him up this time, asking him to man RF full-time is just too much. Plus, it doesn’t address the power hole in the lineup with Albert out. 3) Colby is just too darn inconsistent, right now. We need Jay to spell Rasmus when needed, and while it would be great to count on Raz to step up in Albert’s absence, we haven’t seen anything from him to suggest that’s going to happen.
I’ve also heard Mark Hamilton in RF…but the guy has never really worked out in the outfield much, and we still don’t know what kind of bat he’ll have at this level. There’s no way to project him as a big league outfielder – especially with the “replace Berkman/Pujols” pressure.
And that really leaves us with an outside the organization move.
I submit Carlos Beltran. I know, I know…his knees. But he looks much better now. I know, I know…his salary (over $18 million this year alone)…but for one, his contract is up this year, so he’s a rental with no commitment to next season. For another, check out this tidbit from Jon Heyman of sportsillustrated.com:
Mets people have determined they would be willing to eat most or even all of the rest of Beltran’s $18 million 2011 salary if they can get a decent young piece or two back, and that should help grease the skids for a trade after 6 ½ up-and-down years in Queens for the multitalented player.