Jerry Hairston, Jr.: Cards come up short again

In a winter where St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak has already taken a lot of heat in the press for his various characterizations of the Cardinals plans to retool for 2009 and perceived lack of substantive action, another disappointment was received Wednesday.

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Cardinals have failed in their push to sign free agent infielder-outfielder Jerry Hairston, Jr. to replace lost utilityman Aaron Miles. Instead, the 32-year-old right-handed hitter spurned St. Louis’ offer to re-sign with ex-Cards GM Walt Jocketty’s Cincinnati Reds.

Skip Schumaker tries to take out Miles at second base (AP/Bill Boyce)
Skip Schumaker tries to take out Hairston at second base (AP/Bill Boyce)

Numerous St. Louis misses this winter include a failed trade for outfielder Matt Holliday, rumored losing bids for free agent closers Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes, a second-best, too-late offer for Miles after they non-tendered him in a questionable move and more.

Rosenthal says Hairston’s decision was more about the chance to start regularly at shortstop for the Reds than it apparently was about money. He signed a one-year deal for $2 million with a chance at another $2 million in incentives.

Thr former Baltimore Oriole (1998-2004), Chicago Cub (2005-06) and Texas Ranger (2006-07) is a decent top-of-the lineup alternative, something the Cardinals are lacking. Leading off for the Reds last season in 177 at-bats, Hairston’s line was an impressive .362/.427/.537. In 273 games leading off over his 11-year MLB career, his on-base percentage is .339. Defensively, he can play virtually all over the diamond, though he originally came up as a second baseman.

Walton’s take: In a continuation of a familiar theme this winter, the Cardinals continue to bargain shop and miss out. Hairston would have been a nice step up from Miles, but it isn’t going to be. Back to his Baltimore days as the Cards employed a revolving-door policy at second base, I had always felt Hairston would have been a good fit in St. Louis.

Apparently Hairston isn’t familiar with the recent histories of Adam Kennedy and Khalil Greene or Tony La Russa’s ample use of infielders in the outfield or he shouldn’t have had fear about playing time with St. Louis in 2009. Let’s hope it really wasn’t about the money.

The good news, if there is any, is that the Cardinals still seem to be trying to improve, though the size and therefore competitiveness of the Cards’ rumored bid to Hairston is unknown. Recent comments by Mozeliak have instead suggested the Cardinals may be content to stand pat until spring training.

Chalk Hairston up as another missed opportunity, albeit not a major one. Yet in a winter seemingly full of them, it provides one more data point.