If We Must Trade an Outfielder, Let it be Duncan

Today is Debate Day at
United Cardinal Bloggers, when Cardinal bloggers square off against each other
to tackle some tough issues.   

The subject I will be
addressing on this Debate Day is:

The Cardinals should
try to trade Chris Duncan rather than Rick Ankiel.

Let it be said that I
do not like trades. I am territorial, perhaps, almost maternal when it comes to
players with redbirds on their jerseys. 
I am not comfortable bartering them like spare parts at a swap meet.

When I watched Brian
Barton traded before my very eyes in Oklahoma
City, I was bummed even though
I had watched him strike out three times in two games and get tossed for protesting
a check swing call.  I did not want to
see him go, even though it was a good move for both him and the Cardinals.  We got an arm.  He went to a team with better opportunity in
the outfield.

So, when confronted
with today’s question, “Do you trade Chris Duncan or Rick Ankiel?”,  the answer from
my heart is “neither”.  However, trades
are an important part of baseball. 
Realistically, the Cardinals have great outfield depth and can deal from
a position of strength.  The only thing
that might prevent the trade of an outfielder this year is a rash of
injuries.  When given the choice between
injures and a trade, I will take the trade.

So, who do the
Cardinals deal?  Chris Duncan or Rick
Ankiel?  I choose Chris Duncan.

Why?

Defense

Thumbnail image for AnkielinMemphis.JPG


Rick Ankiel roams centerfield like he was born there.  He owns it and skillfully defends it against incoming fly balls. 

In addition, there is his arm.  Last year, base runners tested his arm and
found it lethal.  This year, they are
cautious and respectful.  

Ankiel can rack
up outs and keep base runners in check. 
He is a force.





Thumbnail image for Duncanback.JPG

Although Chris Duncan
has shown some improvement in the outfield, he is still barely an average
defender.  Proof of this is the fact that
Tony LaRussa pulls him in late innings and moves Skip Schumaker to replace him
and shore up the defense.  Although he
has hit well so far this year, his bat does not do the Cardinals much good
sitting on the bench in the last third of the game.






While Chris Duncan is
a minus defender in the outfield, he is quite good at first base.  Unfortunately for him, there is currently no
opportunity at first base with the Cardinals. 
And, even if you could imagine a tragic scenario where first base opened
up, does anybody want to be the guy to try to fill Albert Pujols’ cleats?  I think not.

So, I could live with
the trade of Duncan,
if we could find him a nice club where he could start at first base.  There he could be a more complete player.


The Franchise

In the days of
free agency, the “face of the franchise” is a revolving door.  Fans, the people who drive the revenues of a
club, need “faces” to get behind.  These
faces are inspiring and entice people to come out to the ballpark and drop
money on a jersey with the face’s name on it. 
Of course, Pujols is the main face in this franchise, but some of us
need the option to be a little more creative.


AnkielBatting.JPG

Rick Ankiel has “face”
potential.  The Cardinals drafted him
right out of high school in 1997.  He
is a farm raised product of our own.  Jerseys adorned with #24 are scattered
through the stands, some of which go back to his pitching days.  

Yes, his pitching days.  Fans love the story of how the strong armed
pitcher went wild, and then went back down to the minor leagues and worked his
way back up as a outfielder and hitter. 
It is inspirational. Heroic.  And,
always, it is compared to the transition of Babe Ruth from pitcher to
outfielder.  People come to
see Ankiel.

Thumbnail image for DuncaninMemphis.JPG

On the other hand,
Chris Duncan was also drafted by the Cardinals out of high school, but the fans
have never embraced him.  Maybe, it was
the error in Game 5 of the 2006 World Series that nearly cost them the
game.  Or, the errors that have
followed.  

Perhaps, the fans are
frustrated with the injuries or the streaky bat.  Maybe, it is because his dad is on the coaching
staff and they feel there is nepotism involved in decisions surrounding Duncan.
 Although, Tony LaRussa does
not strike me as someone who lets the personal interfere with business. 

Whatever the reason,
Chris Duncan has become the whipping boy of St. Louis Cardinals fans.  Whatever is not working, be it offense or
defense or perhaps even pitching, Duncan
gets the blame.  Matthew Leach tweeted it
best.  When Skip Schumaker made an error
on a missed catch after replacing Duncan
in right field, Leach twittered, “Somehow, somewhere, somebody is turning that
into Chris Duncan’s fault”.

It is not right.  It is not fair.  It just is. 
Perhaps, Duncan
could find the fan love he deserves somewhere else, and we could find a quality
arm, because you can never have too many of those.


Final Thoughts

DuncanBatting.JPG

Truly, I like Chris
Duncan, and there is no doubt that he has gotten off to a stronger start at the
plate this year than Rick Ankiel.  This,
of course, strengthens his trade value. 

There are concerns
that Rick Ankiel, a Scott Boras client, may command too high a price at the end
of the season.  Whether or not Ankiel is “signable”
will come down to two factors:  what kind
of year he has and if it is a good one, how much does he really wants to be a
Cardinal. 

If we trade Duncan and Ankiel walks,
we still have a fine outfield consisting of Ryan Ludwick, Colby Rasmus and Skip
Schumaker.  Jon Jay, Shane Robinson and
Joe Mather are doing a good job in the outfield at Triple-A Memphis.  And, from a financial perspective, the
Cardinals would end up with a less expensive outfield.  If the Cardinals do not feel comfortable
increasing payroll, they are going to have to find ways to save because it will
not be long before it is time to resign Albert Pujols.

 

The Debate Rages On

The argument for
trading Rick Ankiel rather than Chris Duncan can be found at
C70 At The Bat.  

The other questions on the table
today are:

  • The Cardinals’ real rival is Houston, not Chicago.
  • The team should try to resign Rick Ankiel at season’s
    end.
  • If Troy Glaus is out for the year, Brett Wallace
    should be considered for a callup.
  • Khalil Greene should be approached for an extension
    before the end of the year.

Links to these debates can be
found at United Cardinals Bloggers.  Click over there and check it out.

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