The Cardinals will try to lock up Pujols before Christmas

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Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals have targeted December for Operation Sign Albert Pujols. Well, they may have a better name for it, but that’s what it is:

“Timing is important,” Mozeliak said. “We don’t want it to drag out this winter. I wouldn’t say it’s at a critical juncture right now, but I’d like to think between now and the Christmas holiday we’d start addressing it.”

He added that “next month may be a critical time.”

I can’t imagine the freaking out we’ll see among Cardinals fans if they don’t get Pujols signed before spring training, and I can’t think of a way to consider such an occurrence other than as an unmitigated disaster.  I mean, it’s not like they could trade the guy if things go sideways, what with his 10 and 5 rights.  If it’s not done by early-to-mid February, he’s almost certainly going to become a free agent at the close of next season.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉