Albert Pujols
Among the things Albert Pujols was offered by the Cardinals in a modified contract proposal was an equity stake in the franchise. (Chris Lee / Post-Dispatch photo)

Here's a transcript of the questions and answers from Wednesday's live chat with Post-Dispatch baseball writer Joe Strauss:

Joe Strauss: All right, everybody up for the final pre-season St. Louis-based edition of Joe Strauss Live!!! Next week The Tsunami comes ashore near Juno Beach, Fla. Given the recent non-stop hyperventilation by Gateway City TV types about the blizzard of the century, make that the storm of the decade... well, at least the squall of the first week of February, it'll be nice to head where the day's decision is sleeping with windows up or down.

Less than two weeks remain until pitchers and catchers report as well as the deadline for the club signing its first baseman to a mega-extension. Haven't heard of any February health surprises except for lingering uncertainty about David Freese's timetable and his eventual workload. We'll get into that during the upcoming full-contact chat.

Since the end of the world failed to arrive -- in spite of recent forecasts -- let's surf.

NY Card Fan: Mighty Joe-

Sorry, have been AWOL for a few weeks. I hate it when real work and responsibility get in the way of participating in the weekly JSL!!! chat!

Here's some AP numbers you can pass on to BDJ and Mo: 7 years, 200 mil, AAV of $28.57 million. Vesting option for an 8th year at $30 million...or, if not, a $10 million buyout. If the 8th year doesn't kick in, Cards net out at 7 years/$210 million/AAV $30 million. If the 8th year does kick in, it's 8 years/$230 million/AAV $28.75 million.

If Team Pujols is actually fixated on a 10-year deal, it's trouble. I'm thinking (and hoping) that 7-8 years at a high AAV can get it done. What do you think, Joe...are we in the right zip code?

Joe Strauss: I like your math, though the team may think you're a bit heavy on AAV and Team Pujols may believe you're too light on guaranteed years. You're in the right area code. May have to reconfigure a bit to reach the same zip code.

Duane Kiper's Voice: Hey Joe, I appreciate your time.

What if the Cardinals were to explore a trade for Jair Jurrjens? His style works well with Dave and he has some nice potential. We could send Kyle Lohse and Matt Carpenter. The Braves would have Lohse for two more seasons as a solid pitcher while their two big name prospects develop. They have a great pitchind depth so why would they need JJ? Also, Matt Carpenter would be a nice for them as well as Chipper continues to age and giving them a bench option for the future.

Joe Strauss: OK, we've dispensed with the weekly Trade Kyle Lohse question. After an exchange of punts we proceed to further action.

milo miller: Hi Joe, thanks again for the chat. Have a question about our defense. People seem concerned about the lack of range of our defense. I have a feeling our range will not be as great as last year, but having a defense that is fundamentally sound, and consistently making the routine play just as important. Playing smart defensively, throwing to the right base for example and defensive positioning can be just as important as range. Also having the ability to consistently hit the cutoff is very important. I feel in the past couple of years this team has been lacking in this. Your thoughts!

Joe Strauss: Despite its 86 wins, I thought last year's Cardinals team the least fundamentally consistent in nine seasons covering the club. You're right about merely making the expected play. The number of unturned double plays last season was little short of outrageous. For all of Brendan Ryan's potential for the spectacular, the routine at times became baffling, especially during his deepest offensive funks. Third base became a disaster after Freese's loss. Even Rasmus, who possesses plus speed and plus arm strength, often out of position, especially during the season's first four months. I would expect those facets to improve. They'd better.

Dizzy17: Now that we have signed Nick Punto, will the Cards do some more "tweaking" or is the twenty five man Opening Day roster pretty much set?

Joe Strauss: It appears pretty set, barring injury, of course. Competition for the final RH relief role may bear watching. Miguel Batista has to make the team out of camp or be offered free agency. Punto's presence sets up a bench including him, Laird, Jay, Craig and Greene. Of course, there is no obvious RH-hitting CF among the bunch there. Craig is the bench's leading power presence. Greene's spot on the team is not secure but he will receive every benefit of the doubt.

Dizzy17: Will Shelby Miller or Lance Lynn see any time in The Show in 2011?

Joe Strauss: Lynn has a shot. Miller should start at Palm Beach (High A) but could move quickly. He is a talent who intrigues everyone, not just the Cardinals.

Pat: My concern is the failure to deal with a sloppy defense. We now have a DH in right field(despite the protestations of TLR and the front office) this concerns me,an outfielder at second and a questionable shortstop who may be better suited to play second. All of this with a team that professes, pitch to contact. Was hoping they would work a deal for someone like Stephen Drew and get a true shortstop and tighten up the double play combo.

Joe Strauss: Your concerns are legitimate and shared by many others within the industry. The Cardinals have clearly committed to a more offensive model. If Puma doesn't hit, that model falls apart. He is the biggest variable in the team's offensive equation. It will be interesting if this year is a transitional year for Theriot before a return to 2B in 2012.

Wiggam: Have any other teams, sensing obstacles (real or imagined) in the Pujols negotiations, sent out feelers to the Cards front office regarding their openness to a trade?

Joe Strauss: The Cardinals profess no interest in trading Pujols, a good thing since he has zero interest in waiving his veto power over any deal. I have heard of no feelers regarding Pujols. That doesn't mean there have been none.

Tom S: Pujols talks. We hear little to nothing. Are the two sides meeting?

Joe Strauss: After nearly two weeks of inactivity, the sides have resumed discussions, though neither side is willing to characterize their momentum.

CARLYLE CARDS FAN: Hey Joe - I was at the Winter Warm-Up in January and asked Tony LaRussa to sign my baseball along with the inscription "4X Manager of the year" - he proceeded to say he was a 5 X Manager of the year. I asked him what year did I miss and he never really said and put 5 X Manager of the year on my ball. I dont think I missed anything did I? Now I hope the hell he wins it again before he retires so my baseball is correct. Just need your opinion on this. Thanks.

Joe Strauss: The Baseball Writers Association of America named TLR its recipient for the award in 1983, 1988, 1992 and 2002. Tony probably includes the 1996 Associated Press Major League Manager of the Year in his count. Interesting that The Sporting News, which also gives out an award and has often leaned toward Cardinals, never has bestowed its NL Manager of the Year on TLR.

ric: Joe: Couple of reports on ESPN over this past weekend that Pujohls was asking for 285 or 300 mil over 10 years. I know the Cards from the little we've been able to get out them claim the money isn't the issue but the amount of years is. Yes, Pujohls will be 41 when the 10 years are up but hasn't he proven that he takes his game more seriously than most players and will most likely (barring injury) still be age contributing at 41?

Joe Strauss: I seriously doubt the Cardinals will guarantee a 10-year deal for anything approaching a $28-$30 AAV. That's not to say a serious of options couldn't be included to somehow take Albert through 2021 (or 2020 if the upcoming year is renegotiated and rolled into the extension).

syberkowboy: Does Pujols really have that big of an ego to not stay with the Cardinals?

Joe Strauss: That question reads a little one-sided to say the least.

Kid Charlemagne: O Master of the tsunami, thanks for bringing the spring wave once again in this hour of our frozen discontent.

There is talk that Allan Craig will be working with Jose Oquendo and putting
in some time at third this spring. Of course we all want Freese to kick ass all year long, but Craig is a power bat that, along with an improved Rasmus, could really take the Cardinals to the next level if he can break through and become a regular starter.

How committed do you think the team is to giving him time at third, working out his throwing issues, and getting him on the field in general? Do you see him getting time anywhere else this spring? Does Craig regularly spelling Berkman fit into pacing Berkman for a successful complete season in left?
That doesn't really seem to fit Tony's M.O. for those he sees as core players. What kind of chances do you see Craig getting in spring and through the year and how do you anticipate it shaking out? How does the acquisition of Nick Punto affect this situation?

Joe Strauss: Somebody's going to have to play third base besides Freese. According to my information, Freese is unlikely to play Grapefruit League ball until at least the schedule's second week. Freese has set a goal of playing the opener but few see the benefit of such a push given that he is coming off double ankle surgery. Freese's baseball-related activities to date consist of swinging a bat. The club says it is going to play his rehab conservatively.

Even once on the field, Freese is unlikely to start long interrupted stretches of games. His arthritic ankles will be receive plenty of attention and may lead the club to afford him, say, two starts per series. A time share is not a choice but a necessity. Whether Craig, Greene or Punto starts when Freese sits is to be determined. Punto is a switch-hitter and the best defensive player among the lot. Craig carries power but is unsteady at the position. Greene may possess the best mix of bat and glove but has yet to demonstrate it at this level. The Cardinals will be happy to get 115 starts out of David Freese.

CardsFanInAZ: I'm a big Cards and Pujols fan, but I'm thinking I'd rather have Adrian Gonzalez for 12-15 mil per year and be able to afford some other players, than Pujols for 28-30 mil per year. Your thoughts?

Joe Strauss: The suspicion is that the Red Sox will tie up Gonzalez to an extension during the season. Gonzalez is viewed as an attractive alternative to Albert but it's unlikely he will be available next November.

Steve Miethe: Albert says it will be a distraction to negotiate his contract after the season starts. How much of a distraction will a non signing bring?

Joe Strauss: A lot of that depends on Albert. But to think local and national media won't approach him about the issue in-season is naive. His performance and demeanor are certain to be scrutinized like never before should he enter the season as a pending free agent. Albert certainly isn't oblivious to how he positions himself. He has granted CBS significant access both here and in the Dominican Republic for a lengthy piece to be broadcast on 60 Minutes in April. The 60 Minutes crew is also expected to be part of the Jupiter scene.

Jeremy Landreth: Albert needs to take care of his contract situation if he really wants to stay in St. Louis. Even if he took a hometown "discount", he would still get at least 7 years and at least $25m/year. That would mean he would have earned $275m over his career to play baseball. I know we're dealing with billionaire owners, but it's sure hard to side with players in these situations, especially when this contract could affect the Cardinals' ability to remain competitive. I am a Cardinals fan first and no player is worth signing if we can't surround them with players like Carpenter, Wainwright, Molina, etc. Your thoughts please on why Albert hasn't taken more control over this contract.

Joe Strauss: I'd be stunned at Albert agreeing to any contract with a total value that didn't start with at least a "2".

Your assumption that Albert is not heavily involved in his contract is incorrect.

mjdelpe: Joe, It's hard to imagine that any baseball fan would not want the greatest player of their generation to play with their favorite team. Reading the forum boards, it's obvious that a lot of Cardinal "loyal" fans actually want Albert to leave, or would shrug their shoulders if he did. Some are actually focusing on his perceived "character flaws" (who wants a generational icon on their team if they are not absolutely perfect?) and the fact that since he is 31 he is on a greased slide to oblivion, regardless of the fact that he will probably be the best for at least the next five years and for the five after that still better than 95% of the rest of the league.

Long observation, but my question is does this have any affect on the ballpayer himself? I know they probably never read comments from such forums, but they can't be completely isolated from these kinds of things. Have you any inclination if this fan attitude is know by Albert and if there is any noticable effect?

Joe Strauss: Let's be clear: most professional athletes are well aware of fan sentiment, especially if it is negative. A leading reason for the media blackout during Pujols' negotiations is at Albert's insistence. The ugly back and forth that developed between the NY Yankees and their icon, Derek Jeter, became instructive to Team Pujols. However, Jeter was being asked to take a salary cut in the twilight of his career. No one is suggesting the same for AP. The irony is that Pujols' reluctance or outright refusal to address his situation may feed the negative blowback he desperately seeks to avoid. It is difficult if not impossible to envision a scenario in which St. Louis turns on Pujols if he offers a gracious face during talks and -- in the absence of an extension -- during the season. However, offering no comment in effect tells the fan base that negotiations are none of its business. (Forget the impact an extension may have on ballpark prices.) Barring a positive outcome this month, I question how well that approach plays locally.

Ryan: Should we take the signing of Berkman and the continued enthusiasm for the Schumaker experiment as evidence that Mo and the controlling elements of the front office simply don't buy the advanced defensive metrics that websites like Fangraphs use? Do you think that this is because they are skeptical of the whole enterprise (and Luhnow has totally lost his foothold in terms of major league level decisions) or do you think that they have internal measures that they are using that just rate Schumaker and others as better than the publicly available measures? I've heard TLR dump on these kinds of measures (although I'm never sure how much of what he says publicly is serious?), but what about Mo and the front office?

Joe Strauss: TLR is no sabe. He is an outspoken critic of the Moneyball mentality and once labeled the newfound approaches toward scouting and player development as "experimentation." Jeff Luhnow no longer controls the team's analytics department. Mike Girsch, recently promoted to assistant general manager, has an analytics background. The team owes Schumaker $2.7M this season. That is not bench money. Short of acquiring Dan Uggla and moving Schumaker to the OF, the club's financial structure dictated Schumaker wins all ties. Schumaker also entered last season a career .302 hitter. Will he be next season's starting second baseman? Debateable. However, he is considered a core presence on this team. It is interesting to note that the rise of analytics within the organization has corresponded to one playoff appearance (and no postseason wins) in four seasons. Perhaps a reshaping isn't such a bad idea.

Bird Watcher: Thanks for the knowledgable chat. I'm wondering about the outfield defense
and looking at "plus" glove guys out there. Not much there- Colby can catch, but throw? Jay is I think rated "average". Next are Berkman, Holliday,Craig and maybe Tyler Greene. What is the feeling about Adron Chambers defense? Think he might make team as speed guy and late inning defense sub? Are the Cardnials thinking he needs to play full time someplace for another year?

Joe Strauss: Chambers projects as a LF. He does not possess corner OF power. However, Rasmus' explosion as a power presence coupled with Holliday's shift to RF could allow for flexibility should Chambers develop into a dynamic leadoff-type hitter. He will have to prove that at Memphis this season.

Bob: Hello Joe -
Although the Cards have purchased "insurance" at third base by signing Punto, should Freese have a setback, I just can't see Punto being the everyday third baseman. It also doesn't look like they will go outside the organization to sign someone else since they already did when they signed Pumto. Using the third base by comittee method has never worked out for the Cards over the last couple of years. It seems that the only long term solution would be to let Craig play for several months and see how it goes. What is your assessment?

Joe Strauss: The Cardinals remain exposed at the position should Freese go down for an extended period. I'm not sure about your assessment of going all-in with Craig at third base. However, your concerns are very legitimate.

Justin: The Cards appear to have zero leverage in this negotiation. Why then are they dragging their feet? Everyone knows it is going to take a minimum of 240 over 8 to sign him, with a couple of option years to boot. Am I just cynical, or can one begin to reasonably assume the team has conceded to not signing Pujols and are just giving the appearance of engagement?

Joe Strauss: I wouldn't go there yet.

Doug Donner: Chatmeister,
Assuming Punto is a lock to make the opening day roster, how would you rate Descalso's odds of making the big club? I liked what I saw from him last year. I assume Greene is the Guy he needs to beat out.

Joe Strauss: I believe both your assumptions are correct.

McGarrett: ChatMeister - Without hyperventilating, what is a reasonable timetable for Cox in St. Louis? Are you hearing that he projects at 3rd or 2nd in the majors?

Joe Strauss: If he moves quickly, he could be here sometime in late 2012. It's difficult to project where the Cardinals' greatest need will be: 2B or 3B. However, Cox played more second base as an amateur and his bat projects as more line drive than home run. It's too early to discount his potential at third base, and projections remain split. I look forward to watching Cox in major-league camp, where he will be exposed to third base. Based on body type and how he projects offensively, my first inclination would be to project him ultimately ending up at second base.

kevin: Joe, if Albert, his agent and MLB Union decide he should walk away from the Cards offer (which is his right) and if he decides to stay the whole season not approving a trade (which again is his right) what kind of atmosphere will that present for the Cards and fans this season? Thanks, Kevin

Joe Strauss: You tell me.

Bob McC.: First time participant from Kansas City, and have always loved your Q & A sessions. I'm gonna assume the Cardinals sign Albert. Give us your longterm projection for what happens to the team down the road. Will the Cardinals continue to increase their total payroll in order to sign key home-grown players and free agents? Or, will they basically freeze the payroll, hope for the best each year, and surround him with mostly young and developing players and/or bargain-priced reclamation project veterans? Or, if you think there'd be another option, I'd sure like to hear it.

Joe Strauss: Payroll will increase by necessity should Pujols remain. There doubtless will be an effect on season tickets and the organization's new single-game "float" policy. There is no upside (beyond a marketing bump) to retaining Pujols if the organization doubts it can surround him with talent to contend. The inability to reach the postseason in three of the past four seasons WITH Pujols may offer pause to both sides.

tony: If Cards cant get Albert for a 5 or 6 year deal at 28-30, dont they have to let him go to free agency and take back prospects? He'll be 32 at the beginning of that contract - will there be teams lining up next year to do better? Or do you think the Cards aren't willing to go even that far?

AP seems to have a bee in his bonnet. Nobody forced him to sign his last deal and if he had underperformed I doudt he'd be providing a refund.

Joe Strauss: One thing is certain: There will be a market for Pujols after this season. Whether or not you endorse the club re-signing him, to suggest a dry market for the game's best player is delusional.

Ryan: Do you think that a healthy Lance Berkman is still capable of hitting 20-25 HRs and 70 RBIs?

Joe Strauss: Yes. The club is counting on him to deliver more RBI than you suggest.

Ryan: We know that the front end of the pitching rotation is good enough to win the division and make a deep playoff run, but is the back end of the rotation and bullpen good enough?

Joe Strauss: It was last year and I don't see enough deterioration to doubt it this season. The club underperformed offensively and defensively last season. The rotation led the NL in starters' ERA and the bullpen held up its end. This year's team needs to become more fundamentally sound and more consistent offensively. Last year's futility against NL Central bottom-feeders was inexcusable.

Andrew: Hello Kelly Slater of Chat, longtime reader and first time asker. I love the insight! My question: Has there been any talk of re-thinking the offences' approach to hitting in general or scouting opponents pitchers in particular this off-season? Last season the Cards looked completly lost when facing "6th" starters or any rookie who came their way. Since I've read that Big Mac was vocal about his dislike of the Cards batters' reliance on video scouting, has there been any movement towards changing or augmenting the system? Will Big Mac have a bit more pull in this or any other area in his second year as hitting coach? Have the Cards begun taping at the lower levels to accumulate some data on these no-names and rookies who made the Cards look so lost last season? Thanks so much for the chats!

Joe Strauss: It's a legitimate question and one that I'm sure will be asked (and hopefully answered) during spring training.

jsjrbills2010: Joe, I've been hearing from an inside source (extremely reliable) that Albert and the Cardinals are leaning towards a shorter deal (4-5 years) but with the full $30 million per season. This would allow Albert to get his payday while not paralyzing the organization with a financial committment. Are you hearing anything that would indicate this kind of contract is being considered, and if so, what is your take on Albert taking a shorter deal, but full $??

Joe Strauss: Your proposal would offer a true compromise, as the Cardinals would go beyond their preferred AAV and Pujols would accept fewer guaranteed years than he desires. However, he would indeed become the game's highest-paid player. Such an arrangement would allow him another bit of the free agent apple at 37. I can't attest to your sources, but certainly the length of contract fits organizational taste. For Pujols to accept such a contract would represent a significant compromise on his part, given the recent 7-year deals afforded Holliday, Werth and Crawford. Again, it's difficult to envision any deal's value not beginning with at least a "2."

CardsFanDan: Pujols always talks about getting back to a World Series. Surely he has to realize that if he takes such a big cut of the team's payroll pie it'll hinder the Cards affording a talented supporting cast to build a winner. He wants to be like Stan Musial. The Cards have tremendous tradition. It's cheaper to live around St. Louis. Aren't these things worth something, or is Albert and his parasitic agent only focused on the absolute top dollar?

Joe Strauss: I'm sensing a slight preference on your part toward the organization in these discussions.

Slip Kid: Joe
While I am rooting for Lohse to return to his 2008 form, I do think he is one of the bigger issues for TLR to ponder this spring. Do you think if he struggles in spring, one of the "6th" starter candidates (Batista, Snell, or Walters) could bump him into the bullpen to open the season?
Do you have an official recommendation, for entertainment purposes only, for this weekend's game?

Joe Strauss: Lohse starts the season in the rotation if healthy. Pittsburgh is this weekend's Free Money.

Sofa Kingdom: Joe --

The Albert drama is getting old. Can't the Cards face it? To keep the m5n, you have to pay the m5n. Simple as that. Everything they've done up until now points to the fact that they tried to wait out the market in the hopes it would go down and it didn't work out. So come strong and get it done. If the m5n wants 9 or 10 years, no - unless there's a vesting option that merits it. My problem is that the Cards have not done enough to prepare the peeps if the m5n walks away. If the Cards start whining at the 11th hour before spring training I think it will be too little, too late and the DeWitts will go the way of Mubarak. Ruin the public trust and we'll run you back to Cincy. We'll be takin' it to the streets! Comments.

Joe Strauss: Sounds like you're ready to lead the revolution.

Tom52: Enjoy the readings. Trying to place some logic into the AP outcome. Why would the Cardinals make their particular back-to-the-playoff off-season moves (on a scale of 10, about a 7's worth to me) if they did not expect Albert to be part of the season picture WITHOUT the everyday all-season annoyance of upcoming free agency? Yes, these guys are "pros" & say they can handle such situations, but still, they are human & wouldn't that put a damper on the overall "chemistry" & ultimate success? Can't see the team being in a pennant race & generating excitement when in the back of everybody's minds Albert's the Cubs!?!?!? My logic - they sign him.

Joe Strauss: I don't envision a scenario in which Pujols' situation compromises the organization's push to win this year. Now if the team badly underperforms and Albert remains unsigned.... chilly.

Rich: Do you see the Theriot deal as being a bust like the Khalil Greene deal?

Joe Strauss: That would be extremely difficult to match. Greene cost $6.5M and a promising reliever, Luke Gregerson. Theriot carries a lower price tag and Blake Hawksworth, though versatile, does not offer the same upside as Gregerson.

Mark: Yes, another Pujols question. Is it safe to assume if an extension isn't signed before the spring deadline, that Albert will be testing free agency?

Joe Strauss: Yes.

Kevin in Ca.: Yo, wave runner-
I am convenced that Allen Craig is a very real offensive talent. As you mentioned before he needs consistent at bats. How do you expect TLR to use him or (please opine) what way would bring out his skills most effectively?

Joe Strauss: It will interesting to see TLR's willingness to move Craig back and forth between third base and RF. Should Berkman produce against LHP, he plays every day. If not, there likely will be at-bats at Craig's former position. This spring is going to be a challenge for Craig, whose production seemed to increase with his opportunities last season.

Kevin in Ca.: Big J,
I keep thinking the real problem that could/might occur is in the bull pen. I'm curious about the lefty they (Cards) got from Toronto, I think his name is Tennet (?). What do you know about him and what we should expect? I heard he was once considered a big arm pitcher?

Joe Strauss: Brian Tallet will be used as a LH specialist, a departure from how he was used by the Toronto Blue Jays last season. Tallet admitted to some physical problems that affected his delivery while allowing 20 home runs in 77 innings pitched. Tallet was very good in 2008 but has not resembled the same pitcher since. The last two seasons have been different enough to worry about his durability.

itsagoner2: Oh waviest of waves. I have but one query for you.

ManRam signed in Tampa for just $2 million. Does this make the Berkman deal seem a little bit pricey? Before he was busted with PED's Ramirez was advocated to the FO by El Hombre. Although he is certainly a PR risk, wouldn't Ramirez have been a decent fit wearing the birds on the bat for a quarter of the price of Berkman?

Joe Strauss: Ramirez would have been a disaster here. He may prove to be a disaster in Tampa. No thanks.

Dan from Pa: Joe
Really enjoy your writing. What do you think happens to the Cardinals in the next 4 to 5 years if Wainrught goes down with arm problems? I think it will take this long to recover - hoping Waino really is healthy !!!

Joe Strauss: One need only see how the club's fortunes rise and fall with Chris Carpenter to gauge what a serious injury to Waino' would mean. That said, your question is completely speculative. Wainwright has proven as durable as any NL pitcher the last two seasons.

Red Bird: Joe, thanks for reading my questions.

1. Assuming Pujols reaches free agency, what are the odds on him resigning with the Cards? I mean he might not get any 280 million-dollar offers.

2. In 2000, the Mariners had their best season after A Rod left. What are the chances that the Cards might improve without Pujols? They might add Fielder or Hanley Ramirez or some guy we've never heard of from Japan or Cuba.

Joe Strauss: It's difficult to set odds on free agency, but I'd set the odds at below 50 percent for Pujols' return should he hit the market. There obviously would be scars created by the club's reluctance to engage in talks before the 2010 season and an inability to reach an agreement before the 2011 season.

As for the Cardinals' chances to improve without Pujols, I'll only repeat what a rival executive insisted as recently as Monday: Without Pujols this year, the Cardinals are fourth-place team. I may not totally agree with that, but it represents a fairly common perception.

Mark: Who could the Cards trade to land a pitcher like Mike Pelfrey? Pelfrey has good upside and would be another strong arm in the rotation, not to mention he's now the Mets' opening day starter with Santana sidelined.

Joe Strauss: So why, exactly, would the Mets trade him?

Daniel: Baseball is a youngman's game and when I look down the Cardinal's roster, they are not young. Only a few players are young. Bottom line is the Cardinals need to get younger if they want to win.

Joe Strauss: Some would use the term "more athletic."

cardsfan1010: Hey Joe,

How do you think Jaime Garcia will fair this season? I think people feel as though he's a one-year wonder. Thoughts?

Joe Strauss: JA "one-year wonder" might be a little tough. Garcia pitched very consistently for five months last season. He likely will be challenged this year by a heavier work load. Garcia did not average six innings per start last season, mostly due to the club protecting him. A 1.316 WHIP and a 2.70 ERA is not a typical combination. (NL average was 1.348.) Still, Garcia carried a 2.35 ERA into his last two starts. If Garcia lowers his WHIP, averages six innings per start and carries an ERA of 3.25 or better, he's had an excellent sophomore season.

Ken: Joe,

I disagree with those who say the Cardinals added offense but took a major hit defensively. By mid June I had stopped counting the runs given up after the infield failed to turn a routine double play. I don't see the major decline many others do, especially on days Punto plays second. Am I incorrect?

Joe Strauss: I think the defensive dropoff has been overstated by some, especially those bothered by the trade of Brendan Ryan to Seattle. Last year's defense often bordered on brutal.

gulfcoastcardsfan: It seems to me that this year is a pivotal one for the Cardinals. Assuming AP is signed - if the team still struggles, do you see the Cards being major sellers this summer?

Joe Strauss: The Cardinals have not been sellers in my nine years covering this team. Given the composition of the NL Central, it's difficult to envision a scenario in which the Cardinals are out of it after four months. The better question is how well-equipped they are to become buyers. That's very uncertain.

Poe: Does Dunc try to make Snell into a groundball guy? If so, does Snell listen?

Does it even matter? Any chance Snell makes the pen as the swing guy?

Joe Strauss: Snell is virtually certain to start the season at Memphis. A lot would have to go wrong for him to open the season in STL.

Justin Brase: Oh Mighty Chatmeister,

You kept throwing out little barbs about Freese's rehab or lack thereof. Has there been a snag in his rehab and if so, how much time do you see him missing?

Joe Strauss: No snag. But as stated earlier, there is a limit to his ceiling this season. The term "everyday" third baseman is a bit misleading due to precautions designed to preserve his ankles.

Mark: Hard to believe I played golf last Friday afternoon here in Kansas, where it was 70 degrees out, and today it is a balmy 5 degrees with snow drifts several feet high. Have you heard, who is the best golfer on the Cardinals?

Joe Strauss: Lohse followed by 'Waino'. Carpenter has worked on his game, too. Naturally, starting pitchers have more time to hone their game than relievers and position players. Albert has made significant strides since taking up the game but plays only rarely during the season. Mitchell Boggs has playing priveleges at The Farm in Dalton, Ga., one of the 10 best places I've ever played. Mark McGwire once was scratch. Jose Oquendo is truly the Secret Weapon. He has enough game to occasionally go below 70.

scott: Hey Joe, Any ideas about what happens to the bench/25 man roster if Tyler Greene has a disappointing ST? Thanks.

Joe Strauss: Descalso is a factor. A dumpster dive for a bench bat is also not out of the question.

Dave: You seriously are blaming one playoff appearance in the last four years on sabermetrics? Tell that to Boston, Tampa, Texas, New York, Toronto, and a rising Oakland team that has been rebuilt. 07, and 08 were products of a transition period, '09 was a playoff team, and 2010 was a 90 win talent team as well that fell apart because of injuries, and a poorly managed season by TLR because of his refusal to accept analytics.

Joe Strauss: Further proof that no one -- and I mean no one -- takes a critique harder than a member of the Sabe religion. Funny how success typically comes with payroll (Boston, NY, Texas). Still waiting for that Oakland World Series appearance. And someone needs to brag on the Jays. Always entertaining that when a franchise wilts it's on the manager. When it succeeds, the numbers mafia pushes its way to the fore. Like everything else, it's fair to say some organizations apply resources better than others. That would include analytics. I've heard poor trades explained as a failure of scouting but am still waiting for someone to admit misapplication of analytics. I'll probably be waiting a while.

azbruce: Mr. Strauss:

If the Cardinals can't sign Albert Pujols to an extension, what makes you think the Cardinals wouldn't bench him, or at least severely limit his playing time, in order to try to force him into requesting a trade? It wouldn't be the first time a business put undue pressure on one of its employees.
Joe Strauss: Yeah, that would work. But I appreciate your attempt at handing me the baseball equivalent of a neutron bomb.

johnwvideo: Joe, I keep asking this question and no one wants to touch it. What hold does FSM have on the Cardinals other then there current contract.
I ask because it is time for DeWitt and family to finally start there own Cardinal Network once the current contract is up with FSM. The network alone would bring in so much extra revenue. I dont undertsnd why this is not an option, do you have any thoughts

Joe Strauss: The current deal with FSM runs through 2017. A Cardinals network doesn't seem to be on the horizon.

Steve Miethe: If Albert DOES want to stay with the Cardinals and DOES want the Cards to compete every year he is here why wouldn't he just take a few million a year now since he had plenty of money NOW for himself his kids and there kids. That way the Cardinals could continue to improve there lineup year after year. But if his ego is telling him he should be the highest paid player of all time I don't see how it could be good for the Cardinal,s to compete do you?

Joe Strauss: Is it Pujols' ego that tells him he should be the highest paid player or his performance?

Chad Hurshman: I am a transplant out in California. I read from the PD and other media about the Cardinals but don't get the neighborhood atmosphere. Do the articles give the fan base in the St Louis area justice when it comes to the reactions of the Pujols negotiations. Which way would you say the fans are leaning, Organization or Albert?

Joe Strauss: Increasingly split.

Marvin in Midland, Tx: I have a premise to my question. I think the Cards didn't really seek experienced starters (which I think they needed at more than one postion) to be aquired through trade due to the pending Pujols negotiations and it's potential effect on payroll.

Do you think we needed to upgrade at some everyday positions and do you think the Pujols issue affected the team's actions this off-season?

Joe Strauss: The uncertainty surrounding Pujols made the club far less inclined to discuss long-term deals this winter. As you saw, they refused to commit to more than two years with any new player. Once the Pujols situation clarifies, the organization's ability to project payroll will do so as well.

Chris: Everybody talks about Pujols wanting to be the games highest paid player. That got me thinking, is there any gamesmanship being played by Dan Lozano in an effort to outduel Scott Boras in terms of highest AAV or contract terms. Most people think Scott gets GM's to compete against themselves, does Lazano have any of this in him?

Joe Strauss: It's difficult to get teams to bid against one another when only one club has the ability to negotiate. Your question may become more timely in 10 months.

Dave: Any club reaction to Keith Law's recent ranking of the Cards system (14th)?

Joe Strauss: I missed the press release but I would imagine the Cardinals are gratified that a third-party grades its system among the game's top half a year after ranking it among the industry's worst three. I was expecting 16-18.

bahamamama: seems like some colleagues are attempting to crowd your surf ...

does it bother you when others in the biz report the same things you've been reporting for months (e.g., olney declaring pujols would veto any trade)? this was not a shocker to those who follow you, but the blogosphere and interwebs blew up at this "revelation," even local tv outlets re-reporting it.

Joe Strauss: It's the environment in which we work. Two local stations have a stated policy not to credit the P-D even if they read from it verbatim. Again, ethics are a problem only if you have them.

Andrew: Joe, apologies for blowing you up with questions today, but the rush of catching my first wave has a grip on me. I'll chill out after this. Would you grew that, although unpopular, in order to restock our questionable farm system, we may need to trade a big name at some point as long as the theory of cheap talent surrounding high priced superstars is in play? We obviously missed the boat on trading pujols, as much as that would've sucked. Who do you see, in a scenario where aren't contending,as fetching a restock the farm type of yield. My thoughts would be wainwright as much as that would also suck. Thoughts? Thank you so much!

Joe Strauss: The Cardinals restock through the draft and signing players in Latin America. Due to no-trade leverage it's difficult to see what player would constitute a lure for prospects. Are you going to move Wainwright? Molina?

nickn: Last week on MLB Network, Cal Ripken made the point that if Albert wanted to get this done he simply walks or rides the elevator upstairs at the stadium. Ripken like Pujols knows the drill also being a former franchise player who only played for one team his entire career. The point is when does the madness stop here with Albert putting his cards on the table?

Joe Strauss: It's easy to ask a player to sign for less than market value before he reaches free agency. It's a lot more difficult for that player to do so. This is big boy stuff. What one side sees simply as requestion a home town "discount" can be perceived by the other as organizational arrogance. This isn't CandyLand.

nickn: If fans like me ventured down to Jupiter to catch a weekend of games in March, how would one best try to find you to say hello and thank you for all your fine work?

Joe Strauss: Look for the guy La Russa's yelling at.

Joe Strauss: That's a wrap for this week. Plans call for the chat to pick up next Wednesday from Jupiter. I understand the interest in Pujols' situation and hopefully the matter will have gained clarity by next week. Thanks for your questions. Gotta get packing. Aloha.

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