The Cardinals have a lot of holes to fill before the start of the 2006 season, to include the need for a starting second baseman.
The cost of free agents is going through the roof, with examples like Paul Konerko's five-year, $60 million contract Wednesday to return to the White Sox was just the latest blockbuster deal in an offseason that has seen relievers like B.J. Ryan (five years, $47 million from the Blue Jays), Billy Wagner (four years, $43 million from the Mets), Scott Eyre (three years, $11 million from the Cubs) and Bobby Howry (three years, $12 million from the Cubs) sign for mega-bucks.
Closer to home, the only free-agent starter to sign so far this offseason is Esteban Loaiza, who on Monday got a three-year, $21.3 million contract from the Oakland A's.
How is a deal in Oakland closer to home?
With Loaiza getting a $21.3 million dollar deal, that increases the value of the potential trading chips the Cardinals have in, starting pitchers like; Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, Adam Wainwright and perhaps even Anthony Reyes.
In addition the recent signings of relievers B.J. Ryan, Billy Wagner, Scott Eyre & Bob Howry this winter, also should contribute to the increasing trade value of a Brad Thompson or Tyler Johnson.
First let me make it clear, I don't think that a team ever has an excess in pitchers, regardless of the spin and hype that is sometimes promoted as posturing for negotiations.
But the bottom line is, with the Cardinals, pitching is the only bargaining chips they have and the value of those chips have increased significantly over the past two weeks.
Looking into my crystal ball, I don't see the Cardinals getting into a bidding war to land a top tier free agent other than perhaps, starting pitcher, A.J. Burnett. If I'm correct, they may have to look to the option of making a trade to fill the hole left by Mark Grudzielanek at second base.
The Flordia Marlins have recently started shedding payroll, by trading 1B Carlos Delgado to the New York Mets and 3B Mike Lowell and RHP's Guillermo Moto and Josh Beckett to the Boston Red Sox.
According to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Twins have talked to Florida about a trade for Castillo that the Twins would be willing to give up RP Boof Bonser, RP Travis Bowyer or RP J.D. Durbin as part of a package.
Castillo looks like to me that he could be the next veteran the Marlins trade away in their quest to dump the 2005 team and anyone making more than minimum wage.
According to some reports, the Mets and Red Sox are also interested in trading for Castillo and I think it is safe to say the Cardinals would consider a deal for him.
There is not a lot out there on the free agent market to plug in a hole at second base. Among the best potential candidates, you would have to include; our own Mark Grudzielanek, who is looking for a three year deal, Brett Boone, who could get an invitation to spring training as a non-roster invitee, Miguel Cairo, who I wouldn't expect to return to St. Louis and then you have guys like Tony Graffanino, Desi Relaford and Jose Vizcaino and that doesn't leave you with a lot of options to replace Grudzielanek who played a Gold Glove type season at second and hit .294 while he was at it.
Pure speculation on my part, but if the Twins are even in the ballpark in terms of making a deal for Castillo with RP Boof Bonser, RP Travis Bowyer or RP J.D. Durbin as their bargaining chips, you would have to think the Cardinals could position themselves to become the front runners in making a deal for Castillo.
I have checked out the scouting reports on Bonser, Bowyer and Durbin and no disrespect intended concerning the quality of the players offered by Minnesoto, but Cardinals General Manager Walt Jocketty should be able to put a better package together from the Cardinals that could land Castillo in St. Louis.
Castillo is an option at second base, and the Cardinals will most likely explore that option soon.