Cardinals wise to pass on Hudson

I had decided to let the signing of Orlando Hudson pass without significant comment. That was before I saw this headline from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on Sunday screams “Cardinals Make Late Pass at Hudson”.

Of course, it is up to the reader to interpret what was intended, but based on the emails and message board posts, I would say that many have leapt to the conclusion that Cardinals management was either again asleep at the switch with a “too little, too late offer” or concocted another K-Rod “we made an offer, honest” thinly-designed fantasy in an ill-fated attempt to placate the mobs of angry “fans”.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

It was widely reported that second baseman Hudson, 31, signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers for a base salary of just $3 million, with a $380,000 signing bonus.

At first blush, that represents a significant bargain as well as a drop from the $6.25 million he earned last year with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It is light years away from the $10 million per year, multi-year contract he was reportedly seeking during the winter.

Not so fast.

Hudson’s contract includes a lot more, incentives which max out at $4.62 million, making his total 2009 earning opportunity $8 million. For the Cardinals, already forking over $4 million to released Adam Kennedy, dropping as much as $8 million more on an over-30, often-injured second baseman seems most improbable.

Despite being a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, Hudson’s defense is said by some to be in decline. The switch-hitter batted a career-high .305 last season, but only played in 107 games due to various injuries.

But wait! There’s more.

Because Hudson is a Type A free agent, the Cardinals would have been required to surrender their first-round selection in June’s First-Year Player Draft to the D-backs.

The P-D article notes that once he realized that Hudson’s asking price had returned to Earth, Cards GM John Mozeliak inquired with Arizona as to their willingness to consider an alternative – re-sign Hudson and immediately trade him to St. Louis. In that scenario, the D-backs would have received a prospect from the Cardinals, but a lesser one than a first-rounder.

Instead, the Dodgers stepped in with the above contract to Hudson and apparently no concern over forfeiting their top draft pick, 17th overall, to Arizona. Even if the D-backs wanted to cooperate with the Cardinals, they had no control over Hudson signing elsewhere instead.

Look at it this way. Should the Cardinals have matched or tried to top the Dodgers – guaranteeing Hudson $3.4 million, giving up their 2009 version of Brett Wallace plus potentially paying an additional $4.6 million or more on top of it?

I am not a big fan of the Cardinals’ “keeping their powder dry” analogy, but until I see a lot more of Chris Carpenter in real live games, I am hoping any $3.4 million, or $8 million for that matter, would be spent on more pitching instead.

If the Skip Schumaker at second base experiment fails and the club is uncomfortable with Brendan Ryan or Joe Thurston at the position, then make a trade from the outfield surplus during or at the conclusion of spring training.

For the seemingly increasing number of angry Cardinals fans, at least take the time to consider all angles before leaping to assume the worst, despite what the headlines might suggest.