Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan have made comments last week about possibly moving some of the members of the bullpen into the rotation. When discussing the health of Jason Isringhausen, and that if he stays on schedule that he will resume his old duties as the Cardinals closer, prompted the obvious observation that Adam Wainwright would be back into the much depleted rotation. But even with Carpenter, Reyes, Well, and Wainie, that still leaves a spot. And with the Cardinals not signing anyone during the winter meetings, the possibility has been discussed of moving someone from the ‘pen to the rotation. The main one discussed was Looper, and LaRussa and Duncan even spoke to him about it after the World Series and he seemed open to it. They also mentioned Brad Thompson and Josh Kinney. I also added Chris Narveson and Josh Hancock, and would like to discuss the what if they did switch to starters scenarios one by one.
First a general comment on the prices being paid for pitching this off-season and the economics of baseball. I have no problem with premium money being paid for premium talent. But this off-season I have started to see some teams shell out some big bucks for mediocre talent. A .500 picther can attract upwards of $10 Million per year in some cases. I am glad that the Cardinals are willing to spen money only when it makes sense. Many of you may argue we should have won the Schmidt sweepstakes or should go harder after Zito, Suppan, etc. and I can’t say that I 100% disagree, but there comes a point, ecomically if for no other reason, when a ballclub can get the same result from promoting younger cheaper talent than they can in the Free Agent Market. I mean, why pay between $8 – 10 Million for a pitcher that will lose as many games as he will win. In most cases, a club’s top AAA Pitcher could come in and give you that type of success for the major league minimum salary of just a few hundred thousand dollars. I am not saying that day is here yet, for clubs to decide to do that, but the economics of the game will force this. As prices rise, demands will go down when the caliber of product is the same or less than the product you already own. This may be the thinking behind the comments of La Russa, Duncan, and Jocketty. I mean why pay more for Gil Meche (11-8) or for Jason Marquis (14-16) or Ted Lilly (25-24 the last two years) when you can get those same results for less. Has pitching become that hard to find? I jut don’t believe so. The Cardinals have Adam Wainwright & Anthony Reyes slotted for their rotation next year who made a combined $654,000. I know every team doesn’t have a Wainwright and Reyes, but there seems to be a big pay gap between $654,000 for two pitchers, compared to possibly $20 Million, and a not so big gap between the production. When that day comes, it will almost be as if you are moving people through a program similar to college programs, rebuilding when the pitchers become too expensive as if they are graduating seniors of sorts. Maybe the prices will have to come back down then. It is interesting and frustrating at the same time. I hope the Cardinals do sign another picther, but I am glad that they have limits to their spending. I almost laugh when I see teams bidding for Gil Meche as if he were Roger Clemens or Chris Carpenter. Anyway, back to the subject at hand. What if….
1. Adam Wainwright –
I think Wainwright will be a superstar whether he is the Closer or a Starter. His stuff is just too nasty not to be. I have watched that last at bat of the NLCS against Beltran over and over, and that last curve was just wicked. Same story in Game 5 of the World Series. He has a full arsenal of pitches and mixes them well. He was a starter for Memphis, pitching 182 innings in 2005, so he will just need to get readjusted to starting, he has the innings in him. Hands down, he would be the most successful of the pack if moved to the rotation, which is all but certain.
2. Braden Looper –
This one is interesting. His longest outing of his entire career was 3 innings, in this years’ NLCS. He has hundreds of appearences all in relief. I think he could be at least a .500 pitcher though, he has a good mix of pitches and the maturity not to get too rattled. This could go either way. If it didn’t work out, he is still a valuable member of the bullpen. He is a veteran with a good attitude and I would like to see what can happen here.
3. Brad Thompson –
He holds the Southern League record of 57.1 scoreless innings. He was a starter for most of his professional career, until making the big leagues. He could very easily slip back into that role, and has even made a spot start for the Cardinals in the past. He would be a good option to move into the rotation. He has gone for several innings several times for the Cards so stretching him out shouldn’t be that hard.
4. Josh Kinney –
Too soon to tell in my opinion. It wasn’t long ago that he was pitching in the independent leagues, and while he impressed me in the post-season, I am going to reserve judgement until I see more from him. I have seen him pitch in Memphis and St. Louis and I like what I see so far. Out of this group he would be a longshot to make the rotation if you had to choose one spot as it stands now. His talent is obvious though, by the way he carried himself in the post-season.
5. Chris Narveson –
I really like this guy. Kind of reminds me of John Tudor. He is a lefty with good location and movement. He started for Memphis this past year and sported a 2.81 ERA and a 8-5 record. On a lesser team, he would be in line for a chance at starting. It is too soon to just hand over a spot to him, he might be in the same spot that Brad Thompson was in when he first made the big leagues, bullpen by default. But one day, he very well could start. He is an option and I would maybe consider leaving him in Memphis if you don’t put him in the rotation, just to keep him used to starting. He is a future starter.
6. Josh Hancock –
He has started 12 games in his career, and I just threw him in here on a hunch. He stepped in and pitched really well on several occasions. He was our "oh ****" pitcher, when our starter would get roughed up and yanked earlier than expected a few times last year. But the flip side is, I have seen him get hit pretty hard too. The former Auburn standout is a good addition to any team and I think he would be able to make the jump to starter as far as endurance, that isn’t the issue. But he needs to add a pitch and work with Duncan if he were to ever be a full time starter. He is another long shot.
All in All, this may be unnecessary if the Cardinals acquire another starter or two. Either way, I see Wainwright as one of the starters. I would have loved to see him remain our closer, but that isn’t going to happen. I will easily get over it though, as I watch him become in time, one of the best pitchers in the league as a starter. I will write more about the rotation and bullpen, but for now, these are my thoughts.
So there you have it. Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you out there….