January 2, 2009

What part of the preference for the west coast didn't the Cards understand?

During a UCB radio broadcast a few weeks ago I had the chance to slip in one tidbit about Brian Fuentes: that he would be heading west.

I would put this claim in the "I told you so" file except that the chances of Fuentes signing on with the Halos was pretty obvious.

Fuentes dangled himself (or his agent did) for the longest period of the hot stove season, tantalizing quite a few teams, but an admitted target of the Cardinals and the Angels. Wow, do agents ever love when someone makes a bold public statement (like La Russa had) about desiring his services more than anyone else. Such loudspeaker announcements have a way of marking up the merchandise.

But La Russa isn't a fault on this one. He did what had to be done--gave GM John Mozeliak an opportunity to find out whether Fuentes had any yearning to play in the Gateway City.

He didn't.

And in the end, Fuentes turned down a better (financial) offer from St. Louis. The contract Fuentes agreed to with the Angels was not the three-year deal he'd sought, either.

Cardinal Nation could understandably be miffed about how Fuentes (his agent, really) played the Cardinals to work the best deal he could get. But Cardinal Nation would be wrong.

You see, Fuentes was honest with the marketplace. And the fact that Mozeliak couldn't comprehend Fuentes' statement that pretty much said he would really, really, really, really prefer to play on the west coast wasn't Fuentes' fault, either.

So there is no knock on St. Louis by Fuentes. Sure, he paid attention to the Cardinals when offers nearing $20 million for a couple years of inning-at-a-time service were brought forth. Who wouldn't? But what part of his preference to play near the Pacific Ocean did the Cardinals not understand?

It was proper baseball business to shop for Fuentes, but in retrospect, maybe not so much to exclusion of other potential closers that were picked off the market one by one.

Now you get to wonder what the next move may--or may not-be. More closer shopping? Next best reliever? Or a shift toward the fifth rotation starter, perhaps?

The patience of Mozeliak has done the Cardinals well in the past. Now, once more, his patience is being looked at more like a lack of action. Yet, that is the fun of the hot stove season, when everyone gets to play GM. I guess it's one of the evils of professional baseball; that we might just have to decent team if there were no moves made at all.

Missing on Fuentes could've been included in yesterday's post, but that was just too much bad news for the start of the new year.