Cards Keeping the 'Stache, Starting a Gotay

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Wow. What a horrible pun. That's really the sort of title someone should lose their job over. 
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The Cardinals put the finishing touches on their new dynasty yetsterday by resigning backup catcher Jason LaRue and bringing in utility infielder Ruben Gotay on a minor league deal. With these final two pieces in place, the Cards are now poised to close the championship gap between themselves and the Yankees

Okay, so maybe that's a little strong. Still, there's a lot to like here, and I'll tell you why. 

First off, yeah, resigning Jason LaRue probably isn't all that exciting a move. Sure, he isn't much of a hitter. And sure, maybe the Cards could have taken a guy in the Rule V draft, tried to catch lightning in a bottle. Stranger things have certainly happened. 

Then again, if there's one position on a team I'm completely, totally okay with a guy who can't really hit, it's the backup catcher. I flat-out just could not give a fuck less if my backup catcher can hit. In fact, here's the list of criteria I use to determine if a given player is suitable to be the backup catcher for my team: 

1. He's not Einar Diaz

2. See #1. 

That's it. So, if you happen to not be Einar Diaz, you too could one day be a backup catcher on my team. 

What I'm really looking for in a backup catcher is a guy the pitchers don't absolutely despise. I know I'm not normally a big proponent of intangibles, but here's one situation where I completely go with all the cliches in the book. If my backup catcher can just fill in every once in a while without causing a mutiny among the pitching staff, I'm happy. 

All that aside, LaRue isn't a bad player, either. He's got some power (though he doesn't really make enough contact to see it in action very often), he throws out a good percentage of runners, and the overall defensive dropoff from Yadier Molina to LaRue isn't gigantic. Plus, he's relatively cheap. You can't really go wrong here. 

Of course, the real reason I'm happy to see LaRue back is the mustache. And the hair. I mean, honestly. I don't even want to consider a future where the Cardinals lack both mullet and horseshoe mustache. 

Now, as for the other signing announced yesterday, that of minor league infielder Ruben Gotay, that one I'm really excited about. No, really. Seriously. Yes, I know tone is very tough to read in print, but I'm being sincere here. 

There are actually two reasons I'm excited about the Cards signing Ruben Gotay. Number one, I'm excited because he isn't Joe Thurston. Number two, I'm excited because he also isn't Alex Cora, or Aaron Miles, or Jamey Carroll, or any other free agent utility infielder. 

Alex Cora just signed a new deal with the New York Mets. One year, two million dollars. Bad enough for a player with actual, honest-to-god negative value last season, huh? But wait, there's more! If Cora makes more than 80 starts next season, he actually has a vesting option for 2011. And people wonder why Omar Minaya can't build a winning club. 

Aaron Miles received a two year, $4.9 million deal last year from the Chicago Cubs. He was coming off a very nice stint here in St. Louis, and the Cubs apparently thought they would both weaken the Cardinals and strengthen their own club by signing him away from Tony La Russa's nurturing bosom. Sadly, once removed from said bosom, Miles suddenly remembered he was Aaron Miles, and promptly turned back into a pumpkin. 
Sigh. If only Aaron Miles looked like this after his transformation back into a variety of squash.
  • Sigh. If only Aaron Miles looked like this after his transformation back into a variety of squash.
On the other hand, Ruben Gotay is coming in on a minor league deal. If he has a nice spring and makes the team, he costs league minimum. If he bombs in March, we won't have to see him in April. 

Letting a player like Thurston walk (and on a side note, I would like to say I think Thursty Joe would have been a perfectly acceptable player if he had only had to fill the role he was brought in for; things got ugly for Thurston because he was pressed into regular duty at third base for quite a bit of the summer), and bringing in a player like Gotay is a tremendously positive sign. John Mozeliak and the rest of the front office understand the meaning of Freely Available Talent, and that's a good thing. Why pay for replacement level or just a hair above? It's called replacement level for a reason. 

As for Gotay himself, he actually has some upside. He's a switch-hitter (though most would probably say he should just switch to hitting lefty all the time and give up on the right side), still fairly young at 27, he's got a fine glove at either middle infield position, and as recently as 2007 put up a .772 OPS in 211 plate appearances for the Mets. Plus, he walked in 21.3% of his PAs at Triple A in 2009. That's a freakishly high number, and almost certainly a fluke, but at the very least, you can be sure Gotay is going up to the plate with a plan in mind. 

So did the Cardinals put the finishing touches on a masterpiece yesterday? No. No, they did not. Then again, it was a plenty productive day. They brought back a guy who plays a tiny but useful role and provides some serious eye candy for the ladies. (Okay, just a certain type of lady, but still.) On top of that, they brought in a player for literally nothing who should, at the very least, ensure they won't have to give Joe Thurston seven figures to get picked off home plate. All in all, not too shabby. 

As the Cards' new/old backup catcher might say: fuckin' A, man. 

Fucking A. 

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