Chris Carpenter–What Should the Cardinals Do?

28 02 2011

Posted by cubs223425

So, it is going to be a rough year for the Cardinals. Granted, as a Cubs fan, I cannot say that I am saddened by that fact, but I am saddened that arguably the best pitcher in baseball for the past two years is out for all of 2011. Added with a questionable decision to swap out Brandan Ryan for Ryan Theriot (seriously, why does Skip Schumaker get to stay?!) and the fan base’s concern over the state of Albert Pujols’ contract, there are sure to be some dreary days ahead.

Now, we all know that Dave Duncan is a dark wizard from another dimension and can make a pumpkin like Kyle Lohse into something good (for a short stretch; just long enough to rob the STL front office), so we cannot just call the season a lost cause because of one starter, great though Wainwright is. However, if the expected is reality, and the 2011 season is a roller coaster doomed from the start in St. Louis, there is another pitcher that might have to face a tough future–Wainwright’s mentor, Chris Carpenter.

After stellar outings in 2005 and 2006, Carpenter pretty much punted on 2007 and 2008 due to injuries. Then he had a career year in 2009, and one could argue that he had the Cy Young robbed from him. 2010 saw another solid year for the Cards’ co-ace, and the weight of the team’s pitching staff will be rested on his shoulders more so than ever.

Again, we are calling 2011 a negative season for the Cardinals, so his jersey might change at some point. Carpenter’s not a cheap commodity; few talented pitchers are, and such a case is a 99% impossibility at his age in this era of inflated contracts. A poor outing as a whole by the Cardinals could lead them to deal Carpenter, and there are absolutely going to be suitors for a high-end pitcher, especially when the receiving team could pick up his $15 million option, meaning he could be more than a CC-Milwaukee rental. However, there is one issue: even if the Cardinals struggle this season, is trading Carpenter the best option for the team?

That question is a tough one to answer. The biggest problem, of course, is the price tag. With the Pujols extension on the horizon (every Cardinals fan in the world hopes), keeping Carpenter on the payroll with a possible $9 million Wainwright option and the $17 million+ of Matt Holliday might not be feasible. Sure, the team is likely to increase payroll to levels that they have yet to see in St. Louis, but even that might not be able to withstand Holliday, Carpenter, Lohse, Wainwright, and Westbrook if Pujols gets his desired $28-30 million per season, a number that could eat upwards of 30% of the team’s payroll alone. Those financial restrictions will be lessened by young, cheap players like Rasmus and Garcia, and possibly Shelby Miller, when he arrives. Still, the mentioning of Shelby Miller is another points as to why the team could move him–the farm’s not too strong.

Some nice pieces have been raised in STL, but there aren’t a whole lot of top, young players in the system nowadays. Trading Carpenter could change that. Imagine if the Yankees are in a heated battle with the Red Sox and Rays near the deadline. They have often been known for being willing to sacrifice the farm to win now, and that could play into the Cardinals’ hands. Maybe they could grab a package with Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos? Or what if the Twins are short an arm and will add short-term payroll while offering a promising young player like Ben Revere? There are teams with deep minors that could come knocking, and it could be to the benefit of the Cards to move Carpenter and reload that minor league system as much as they can.

The move isn’t without negatives, though. Prospects are prospects, and they aren’t guarantees. And at what point do you decide to trade Carpenter, in terms of record and time left to make a playoff push? If the team is 5 games back with a division leader coming up at home right after the deadline and they have Banuelos on the table, what do they do? Well, we’re not the front office, so that'[s not for us to decide. They also risk a 2012 with the same problem as 2011–losing an ace and having little pitching depth to fill a back-end hole, let alone a front-line starter one.

If it came down to my call, I would say trading Carpenter is the best decision for the club going forward. The financial benefits could be too great to turn down. It would shed a good chunk of payroll, and the team needs that at the table to hand over to Pujols. Filling up a thin upper-tier minors would be nice as well, whether getting one top guy or 2-3 mid-level ones. Wainwright’s not likely to be at full strength again until the middle of 2012 regardless, so even holding Carpenter for 2012 might be a waste, then they might end up making the decision to trade him in 2012, when he’s more expensive, a year older, and unable to come with an option for the receiving team, clearly lowering his value. The Cardinals would be well-off to plan for this season with selling at the deadline in mind, as there is likely going to be a lot of trouble ahead, and they could have some decent trade chips in Carpenter, Franklin, Theriot, and more to use at their leisure to help down the road.

Lord knows that with the money Pujols is going to be getting, cheap, cost-controlled talent is something that they are going to need.

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2 responses

5 03 2011
stlfan

My question to ask you is: When was the last time a Tony LaRussa coached team were sellers at the trade deadline. It will not happen.

5 03 2011
cubs223425

Congratulations. You have succeeded at missing the point and premise of the whole article.

I stated–rather clearly–that I was talking in a scenario where the Cardinals were having a rough season and not in serious contention, and at what point the future outweighs the present.

I never once made a point of this article, “will the Cardinals be out of contention?” The reasoning for this article is whether or not the Cardinals will seriously try moving Carpenter if they aren’t able to contend.

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