From The Bullpen To The Rotation

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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 – Adam_2
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 –  Braden_looper_1
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 – Brad_thompson_1
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 –  Josh_kinney_photo_1
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 – Chris_narveson_1
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 –  Josh_h_3
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….
Thanks,
Josh

 

 

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Here’s To You Mike

36e35eca5182449897a8700ed8d5f4f2bigI know this site is about the St. Louis Cardinals, and I try to keep my personal life and other interests out of it, but I can’t let this go without commenting.  I am a HUGE Alabama Crimson Tide fan, my entire family being from Alabama.  And I must say that the University of Alabama Athletic Director is an IDIOT.  Firing Shula was stupid, shows impatience yet again from a college that is covered in tradition and now has people turning down the job.  Mike Shula was a great coach and an even better man.  He took over a program that was being punished and on probation with a reduced number of scholarships.  That meant poorer recruiting, which meant less talent (for a while anyway).  But he took the job and went 10-2 last year.  Then he had some close games this year, one being against Floridia.  Sure he finished with a record of 6-6, but come on, programs aren’t turned around overnight.  I am so  disappointed in the University that I have rooted for my whole life.  Mike, just because some stupid idiots think you aren’t worthy to coach at Bama, doesn’t mean that there aren’t thousands upon thousands of people who would love to have you as coach anyday.  So leave with your head held high, displaying the same class that you did when you followed the disgraced Mike Price as the new coach for Alabama.  And don’t worry, I am sure they will compare the next coach to Bear Bryant as well.  But every Alabama fan needs to hear me well when I say, "THE BEAR IS FERTILIZER".  He is dead.  So stop comparing every coach we get to him.  In my opinion it doesn’t get any better than Mike Shula.  I am a little less of a fan than I was before, and I am laughing at the joke they have become when West Virginia’s coach toys with Alabama, only to stay at West Virginia.  Don’t get my wrong, I will always pull for Alabama, but I lost a little respect for them today.  Coach_shula

Now Back to the St. Louis Cardinals……

Maloney takes the Helm in Memphis

Chris_maloneyChris Maloney has been promoted to manage AAA Memphis for 2007.  He has been in the Cardinals organization for 15 years (1988-2001, 2004-present) and was most recently manager for the AA Springfield Cardinals in 2006.  Memphis  struggled last year, despite some talent on the team.  Maybe this will be a fresh change for a better 2007.  Then again, If the Cardinals win the World Series every year, I don’t give a **** what Memphis’ record is.  I got to see Tyler Johnson, Chris Narveson, Anthony Reyes, Brian Daubach, Chris Duncan, John Gall, Brian Falenborg, Josh Kinney, Alan Benes, Bo Hart, John Nelson, John Rodriguez, Travis Hanson, Mark Mulder (rehab start), among others.  I love my Redbirds and here’s to a better 2007.  I think Maloney will be a great manager, and I am glad the Cardinals promoted from within the organization.
So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me hear from you out there….
Thanks,
Josh
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Scoot over Bullpen, we have ANOTHER addition

Russ_springerRuss Springer was added to an already strong and crowded bullpen on Friday Dec. 8.  He is signed to a 1 year deal worth $1.75 Million.  He appeard in 72 games with the Astros in 2006 in mid relief, sporting an ERA of 3.47.  This is a good signing, he can eat a lot of innings and is very talentented.  He held opponents to a batting average of .211 last year.  Russ was with the Cardinals in 2003, pitching in 17 games before he suffered an elbow injury.  I like this signing for many reasons.  We won’t have to face him when we play the Astros for one, and he is a talented 38 year old veteran, at a reasonable price.  But holy ****, our bullpen is getting full.  By my last count, we have Russ Springer, Braden Looper, Tyler Johnson, Josh Kinney, Josh Hancock, Randy Flores, Jason Isringhausen, Brian Falkenborg, Jorge Sosa, Ricardo Rincon, Chris Narveson, Randy Keisler, and Brad Thompson among others.  They will all be fighting for probably 7 roster spots in the pen.  This tells me we are going to have a strong pen, and maybe that we might be about to trade some of our pen for a starter or outfielder, maybe in a package with Encarnacion.Russ_springer_2  I have heard rumors that Encarnacion wants to be moved, and the way we are stocking up on relievers makes me think that there could be some trade thoughts in the works.  Also, with the speculation about Wainwright, Looper, Thompson, and even Kinney maybe being moved to the rotation, that could be another reason for stocking up.  I like the addition of Springer though….a lot..
So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me hear from you out there….
Thanks,
Josh
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Chris Carpenter: At Home in St. Louis

Chris_carpenter_041006_2The Cardinals gave Chris Carpenter a 5 year, $63.5 Million Dollar contract extension, with an option for a 6th year that would bring the total deal to $77.5 Million.  If the option is exercised, that would mean that Chris would be a Cardinal through at least the 2012 season.  WOW!! Great move Walt, Great move Cardinals.  He is the BEST pitcher in baseball, hands down, and has proven himself to be the ace among aces.  I can’t say enough good things about him.  He throws some of the nastiest stuff I have ever seen.  His curveball is just mind boggling.  His mature and reserved demeanor fit well with the LaRussa/Duncan way of thinking.  I am SO glad that we have Pujols and Carpenter both signed to long term deals.  With the winter meetings here, the Cardinals decided not to go out and jump on the "crazy train", but to reward on of the few starters they already had under contract for 2007.  In my opinion this was a good move.  When you seem money being thrown around, like $10 million a year for guys who have as many wins as losses in their careers, you have to wonder just how crazy the bidding would have gotten if we had allowed him to ever become a free agent.  This was a wise move.  A lot of Carinals fans are upset that we lost on Jason Schmidt, that will will probably lose on Suppan, and Zito as well.383196_1  But look at it this way,
  sometimes the best move that Walt could do is not to make one at all.  True, we need some more starters, but we will find them at a reasonable price.  It would make NO sense to me to pay a Suppan, Weaver,Meche, Woody, Eaton, Batista, etc more than Carp.  If the season started today we would be fine.  We would have Carpenter, Wainwright (I know I wrote an article on him being our closer, but it seems that they are intent on bringing Izzy back), Reyes, Wells, and someone at the fifth spot.  I am VERY confident that we will sign another pitcher or acquire one through a trade, but worst case scenario, we would be fine.  Alan Benes is in Memphis, Chris Narveson could do it, Brad Thompson could do it, even Braden Looper and Josh Kinney have been suggested.  Besides, I am somewhat confident that we may re-sign Weaver to fill out the rotation.   And knowing that LaRussa plans on putting Izzy back in the closer role has made me rethink my opion on Wainwright, which i will address in a future article.  So go ahead, watch the Cubs and Astros spend CRAZY money and still be watching us win the division next year for the 4th year in a row.  But the spending has to start to protect what we already have.  That is why paying Carpenter and locking him up long term is about the best news I could ever report and comment on.

So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me hear from you out there….
Thanks,
Josh
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P.S. – I was standing in the stands in the picture above, watching the greatest 2 Cardinals Pitchers of all time throw out the ceremonial 1st pitch at the New Busch Stadium on April 10, 2006.  Chris and Bob Gibson, now that would have been one heck of a duo…
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Eli Marrero?…Hmm…..

Eli_marrero4Eli Marrero was just signed to a minor league deal.  He spent 7 seasons with the Cardinals from 1997-2003, after being selected in the 3rd round of the 1993 draft.  He played four positions in 2006, 1st Base, Catcher, Left Field, and Right Field.  If memory serves me right he was mostly a catcher with us last time, also playing some outfield.  He was traded to the Braves in the deal that brought us Adam Wainwright.  That is the second time in a day this offseason that the Cards have re-acquired someone they traded off (Kennedy from the Angels).  I am not really sure where the Cardinals plan on using Marrero, but I don’t think it is a bad pickup.  It sort of reminds me of the Brian Daubach signing last year.  He spent the year in Memphis, as Eli might next year.  Either way, we now have another catcher and outfielder with Major League experience.  He has battled back from Cancer and has been on several teams the past few years.  He played 2006 with the Rockies and then Mets, batting .217 and .182 respectively.  If he regains his old form he could come in handy.  I wouldn’t even mind seeing him as a Mabry or Spiezio type of player if Spiezio were to start everyday.  We will see how this develops.  But I like this pickup even though I don’t understand it.

So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me hear from you out there….
Thanks,
Josh
Eli

Cards Ink Kip Wells & Adam Kennedy

396e8c444901460dbb274157670f8c0b_1Walt Jocketty, seen here with the newest Cardinals Kip Wells (Left) and Adam Kennedy (Right), is known for finding talented players at affordable prices, and he came through big again.  I predicted that Adam would be our next 2nd baseman, and we got him for 3 years at $10 Million.  The former Cardinals’ 1st round drat pick will finally patrol 2nd base again, this time with his old teamate Eckstein as his double play partner.  Kennedy was also the 2002 ALCS MVP, hitting 3 homers in one game.  He had a 17 game hit streak in 2006.  So we are getting a REALLY good 2nd baseman.  I must say that if I could pick our infield from scratch with money being no object, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I love having Pujols, Kennedy, Eckstein, and Rolen.  I think that he is a much better option than bringing back Belliard for too much money and possibly less productivity.  Now, on to Kip Wells.  Walt Jocketty, Tony, and Duncan have been wanting him for a while and think that he could live up to his potential in St. Louis.  He is only signed for one year at $4 million, so there is little risk involved.  He can definately fill the Marquis shoes if nothing else.  His career ERA of 4.46 suggest mediocrity, and his win/loss record is 57 wins and 74 losses.  On the surface he doesn’t impress.  He even led the majors in losses in 2005 with 18, but the key word here is potential.  He had a blocked artery near his right shoulder that has been operated on and corrected, and he just had pins removed from his foot the week the Cardinals signed him.  Dave Duncan has said that he sees some things he can correct with Wells, and history shows to listen to him.  One average pitcher after another has become a Duncan Desciple, to find stardom or to re-disvover it.  Duncan has proven that one teams trash, can be another teams treasure.  Just look at Weaver, the winning pitcher in Game 5 of the World Series to prove that.  So, in my opinion, Kip Wells, will be interesting to watch as he succeeds or fails under Duncan, but overall, I like the acquisition.  It is low risk, and has the potential to really pay off.  We shall see..
So there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me hear from you out there….
Thanks,
Josh
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