La Russa plans six-man outfield

OK, so here's a real trade ... and here's Joe Strauss on what it means for the Cardinals' roster:

    The Cardinals have traded infielder Julio Lugo to the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named or cash considerations, pending approval by the Commissioner’s Office.

    Manager Tony La Russa and Lugo confirmed the deal. La Russa felt confident enough about it to have already notified outfield candidates Joe Mather, Allen Craig and Nick Stavinoha that they all have made the Cardinals’ season-opening roster.


    The deal creates an avenue for the Cardinals to retain all three contenders for what was previously believed to be two outfield spots. Craig and Mather have experience at third base while Lopez is considered an option at second base, third and shortstop.

I admire the Cardinals for 1) somehow finding room on their roster for three extra outfielders, and 2) not holding a grudge.

Let me explain.

Nick Stanvinoha turns 28 in a few weeks. He's gotten a couple of shots with the Cardinals, and after 152 plate appearances, he's got a .215/.232/.313 line. A lot of teams would have dumped in the 4-A bucket by now. But not the Cardinals.

Joe Mather was awful last year. The last player cut in spring training, he wound up batting .176 in 39 Triple-A games but missed most of the season on the DL, thanks to food poisoning and a couple of wrist surgeries. In 59 at-bats this spring, he's hitting .220 with one home run. He turns 28 this season, too. A lot of teams would have seen enough already. But not the Cardinals.

Compared to those guys, Allen Craig is a baby; he'll be 26 in July. He thrived last season in his first exposure to Triple-A, and is good enough to start for a lot of teams. But not the Cardinals, who are profoundly set at both left field and first base (Craig's best positions).

A lot of teams, when filling out their roster with spare players, would look for some real balance. But not the Cardinals. Stavinoha, Mather, and Craig are all right-handed hitters who don't throw (or field) particularly well.

I'll tell you what, though: When those enemy managers bring in those left-handed relief pitchers in the eighth inning, Tony La Russa will be ready.