Help Wanted: Third Baseman with a Heavy Bat

Ben WeixlmannSenior Writer IJune 3, 2009

CHICAGO - APRIL 17:  Ryan Ludwick #47 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats against the Chicago Cubs on April 17, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Joe Thurston.  

Brian Barden.  

Tyler Greene. 

David Freese. 

All have played third base, none have done well, and it’s as simple as that. 

Thurston and Barden have got the bulk of playing time, and both have made some fine plays, but tonight was just another example of “Help Wanted: Third Baseman.” 

Thurston committed a costly error in the fourth inning which allowed Cincinnati to take a 2-1 lead.  It will probably be overlooked though, because Thurston had a decent night at the plate and the Cardinals rallied to win 5-2. 

Forget about the defensive issues though, it’s really about the collective performance at the plate. 

The four previously mentioned players have batting averages of .262, .239, .263, and .158 respectively. 

That’s not going to get it done, and the organization definitely knows it. 

General manager John Mozeliak came into the press box upstairs last night to give us writers a briefing on 2008 starter Troy Glaus.  Glaus is making progress and is able to do “baseball activities,” but even “Mo” isn’t ready to say definitively whether or not Glaus will be back at all this year. 

Thus, let the Major League-wide search for a third baseman begin.

I’m going to borrow a couple lines from Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch because, to be honest, I don’t think anyone could describe it better:

“HELP WANTED: BAT. Preferably righthanded, but not absolutely necessary. Should be able to play third base. Additional positions a plus. Benefits include batting near reigning National League MVP. Job requirements are RBI, power, presence, goosing a stumbling offense. Will consider offering pitching in exchange for ideal candidate. Salary flexible, according to ownership. Temps need not apply.”

That’s essentially exactly what the Cardinals need. 

After a couple long months of waiting, they’re aggressively searching for a viable option, or at least that’s what they want us all to think.  Some names were thrown around both tonight and last night amongst us scribes in the press box, but it’s possible that the list ranges even longer than our collective thoughts. 

One encouraging sign for Cardinals fans is the fact that Mozeliak publicly said that there isn’t a salary issue.  Along with cost-conscience owner Bill DeWitt, it seems as though the Cardinals are finally ready to take the wallet out of the pocket and pay what they need to get the best talent instead of penny-pinching. 

So, who might the Cardinals pick up? 

The Colorado Rockies fired their manager Clint Hurdle the other day and are reportedly shopping Garrett Atkins quite aggressively.  He’s hitting just .196 and the Cardinals, without a doubt, need another bat in the lineup.

But take a look at his recent numbers, and you might think more highly of him. 

Last year he hit .286, with 21 home runs and 99 RBI.  That doesn’t even touch his career year of 2006 when he hit .329 with 29 home runs and 120 RBI.  He’s only 29 and he can flat out hit the ball if he’s in the right environment to do so.

Granted, Coors Field—Atkins’ stomping grounds, are just about as quintessential a “hitter’s park” as you’ll find in the Majors right now.  Playing for a team that is downright awful though makes it very difficult to come to the ballpark everyday and care about what you’re doing. 

Maybe a change of scenery will help him out.

Another very possible option would be the Cleveland Indians’ Mark DeRosa. 

The ex-Chicago Cub can really swing the wood not to mention his versatility in the field, being capable of playing four positions.  I was getting more and more positive, thinking this would be the deal that would go down.

But, according to Mark Shapiro—the Indians’ GM—he still has faith that the Indians will come out of the cellar to contend this year and isn’t ready to shop all of his players quite yet. 

Other sources have mentioned the Texas Rangers’ third baseman Hank Blalock. 

He has been relegated to bench duties since Michael Young switched to play third base this season, but he still carries a very powerful bat and is more than serviceable on the defensive side of things.  He’s hitting .258 with 12 home runs and 28 RBI—that’s one less RBI than Thurston, Barden, Greene, and Freese combined. 

In my opinion, the best move would be to first take a serious look at DeRosa and then use Atkins as your second option.  DeRosa is by far the best fielder of the bunch, and (with his versatility) he can certainly give some of the youngsters, such as Brendan Ryan or Skip Schumaker a day off.

Not to mention he could also help out in a veteran leadership role and improve other people’s defensive abilities.

Protection for Albert Pujols hasn’t been easy to come by for the Cardinals.

And, so far, Ryan Ludwick hasn’t been holding up his end of the bargain.  He is 1-16 since returning from the DL on Friday in San Francisco, but it’s been somewhat apparent that his presence in the lineup has been helping Pujols nonetheless. 

Pujols has been tearing the cover off the ball lately, raising his batting average from to .323 to .339 in the five games since Ludwick’s return.

I don’t necessarily have an answer to “who,” but it needs to be someone and “I don’t know” can’t be Mozeliak’s final answer. 

The clock is ticking and Mozeliak’s about to use his last lifeline.



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