In the excitement of the arrival of the Midwest Masher Matt Holliday, the acquisition of little Julio Lugo was a bit overlooked. In a trade with the Boston Red Sox, bumpkin Chris Duncan was exchanged for Julio Lugo. Both players were serving time in their organizations' triple A squads. Duncan reported to Pawtucket and Lugo made reservations at Shannon's Steakhouse in St. Louis.
Here's where it gets really ugly. Duncan is hitting .182/.256/.286 (batting average/on base percentage/slugging percentage) in 77 at bats in the minors. Lugo is hitting .354/.403/.585 in 65 at bats in the big leagues. Boston also agreed to take on some of Lugo's salary. The only way this trade could have been more lopsided would be for Chris Duncan caused some damage to Boston's 2007 World Series trophy somehow.
So while Lugo is average at best and woeful at worst defensively, his bat and position flexibility make him a semi-regular in the Cardinal lineup, which is all one can ask out of a LaRussa lineup if one is not Lord Pujols. While he isn't the big name that Holliday is, he didn't cost the Cards top prospects and a chance to negotiate with Scott Boras. He's found money. Given Pujols' worth and Holliday's potential cost after this year (I still don't think he'll stay past this season), found money is what the organization needs.
Speaking of top prospects, the team has reached an agreement with their number one draft pick Shelby Miller. Miller (6' 4", about 200 lbs) is a top high school pitching prospect out of Texas. This is the first "risky" (read: pricey) pick that the Cards have signed in a few years. He signed for a $2.9 million bonus, which was the second highest bonus given to a draft pick by the team. The highest was J.D. Drew. The last time the team drafted a high school pitcher first overall was in Brian Barber in 1991. Given his flashy career, it's a wonder the team has been so gun shy on high school pitchers.
The farm system needed to be replenished. The Miler signing and the signing of "16"-year-old Dominican center fielder Wagner Mateo mean the organization has at least two legitimate prospects that will keep the prospect geeks happy and give the overall fan base hope if the team falters in the future.
So this is what a first place team looks like. Counting found money and checking out new toys. May this roaring age never end.