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.

The Albert Pujols Ripple Effect

23 02 2011

Posted by Teix4MVP

Now, we all know about the fact that the best hitter in baseball was not extended by the Cardinals before his deadline, and we all know he’s a free agent after this season ends. But what we all overlook are some key stories to watch due to Albert not re-signing yet, because they could really change the MLB as we know it whether it be this season or the next few years. Here are a few I think that Albert can indirectly affect.

Prince Fielder’s New Contract

Another power hitting first baseman will be on the market after this season. Prince Fielder and the Milwaukee Brewers aren’t really a fit anymore because of Fielder’s contract demands and the Brewers’ flexibility not matching up. So Fielder will hit the open market as the best first baseman available.

Well, not exactly if Pujols hits the Free Agent market as well. Fielder’s body type will open him up for more injuries as he gets older, making it hard to compete with Pujols. Fielder’s hitting, while being very good and consistently with the top numbers, definitely cannot compete with Pujols’ elite hitting combined with ultimate consistency. Pujols’ glove is simply superior to Prince’s not-so-stellar one. So really, Pujols is superior to Fielder in pretty much every way. In improving your ball club, you want Pujols even if he is older. Why? WAR

Fielder's hope for a massive contract could explode if Albert hits the open market.

from the past five years tell you. Fielder’s WAR from the past 5 seasons: 1.3, 5.3, 2.7, 6.9, 4.1, showing a jump or fall every year. Pujols’? 8.3, 8.4, 9.3, 8.7, 7.3. Pujols for his career has never had a WAR lower than 5.7 by the way. Fielder should really be hoping that Albert and the Cardinals reach a deal by the time the offseason hits, or else Fielder will be even further than he already is from reaching his desired contract of 8 years, 180MM dollars, the same contract that  Mark Teixeira received. Pujols will definitely play a big part in Fielder’s next contract.

C.C. Sabathia

Pujols also affects C.C. Sabathia. Why? Well, Sabathia has an opt out clause Yankees GM Brian Cashman included when Sabathia first signed with the Yankees that allows him to hit the market again. This clause could possibly nab him more years/money like his teammate that also opted out of his contract, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod managed to secure a 10-year commitment and enough cash to make him the highest paid player in the game, so Sabathia could do the same in hopes of making significantly more cash and years. If Albert hits the market, it doesn’t really affect Sabathia, as he is an ace pitcher and Albert is the best hitter in baseball, so there will be no competition at a position. However, if Albert doesn’t hit the free agent market, things could change very quickly for Sabathia. He would not only be the best free agent starter on the market, but also the best player on the market. Teams that aren’t even interested in signing those kind of guys still check in on them even if it is to just drive up the price for their rivals. And there’s never a surplus of good pitching. All the big market clubs would be interested, and losing clubs like the Nationals or Royals looking to complement their young talent could make attempts at him, and don’t count out the Yankees either. Sabathia’s opt out clause looms large on the Yankees’ and their fans’ minds, and the thought of a no-Sabathia rotation in 2012 could mean the end of the world….for the Yankees’ regular season and playoff hopes. Pujols will certainly either help or not change Sabathia’s decision whether or not to opt out.

The Cardinals’ Rotation and Young Stars

You may be wondering why this is relevant to Albert Pujols. Well, it’s not just dealing with him, it’s also dealing with Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, and Chris Carpenter. That’s right:financial commitments. Payroll for the Cardinals last season was just under 95MM dollars. That’s with Pujols having a 16MM salary. With 30MM per year included, or even 25MM, that pushes the Cards’ payroll over 100MM dollars, something Bill DeWitt Jr. has never done before. This is very bad indeed, but it affects the Cardinals’ stellar rotation. Chris Carpenter makes 15MM dollars this season, and the Cardinals will probably have to buyout his option for 2012 to clear up space for Pujols. It also

Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals' rotation could be influenced by Pujols' contract if he re-signs for 25MM+.

might not allow them to extend Adam Wainwright past his 2012 option. Kyle Lohse’s bad contract takes him through 2012, so they would either have to eat a lot of his salary to clear room or include a more desirable player in a deal, or both.

Jaime Garcia and Colby Rasmus are both arbitration-eligible after the 2012 season. While it probably isn’t a big deal now, Pujols will be getting into the middle of his contract right when Garcia and Rasmus hit free agency. Garcia was good for the Cardinals in 2010, posting a 2.70 ERA and a 13-8 W-L record, and compiling a 3.2 WAR. Rasmus also was good, hitting for a .270/.361/.498 slashline, hitting 24 home runs and compiling a 3.5 WAR. They are going to keep improving, maybe becoming 4-5 WAR players if everything goes right. They could be traded or leave for free agency due to Pujols’ massive contract if he gets it. So basically, the entire Cardinals team and its future are dependent on the result of Pujols’ contract.

Negotiations between the MLB and the MLBPA about a new CBA

Well, the current CBA expires after this year, and you can bet Albert can and will be used as a reference during those talks. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa already made an accusation about Albert being used as a weapon in this battle, saying that the Players’ Association was telling Albert to run up his price tag. While MLBPA head Michael Weiner shot that down, one has to wonder if that could be a sticking point. To me, it certainly is, because it could swing salaries into the owners’ favor or further help the players. I don’t think that Pujols was directly told to drag out his negotiations, but at the very least his name and situation will be mentioned during CBA talks before, during, and after the 2011 regular and post seasons.

The Cubs’ Fan Support

WARNING: If you are a Cardinals fan, please promptly scroll down to the end of the page where I conclude this piece.

Okay, the worst nightmare for any Cardinals fan is not only losing Albert, but losing him to the hated Chicago Cubs. Which could happen if Pujols hits the free agent market. The Cubs would apparently offer him the A-Rod Contract, which is 10 years along with a 275MM or more. That would be at least as bad as LeBron James leaving for Miami, and probably a lot worst. The name Albert would probably be expelled from all baby books. The St. Louis area would go crazy. The Cardinals might collapse, because even if they have Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus to lead the offense, Albert hitting in the 3 spot against the Cubs would kill them.  But enough from the Cards perspective. If the Cubs DO sign Albert, it’d appear to be the team’s best hope to win a World Series in over 100 years for fans. It’d take up the first base spot which has been vacated, and it would give the best hitter since Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs. If they don’t sign him, however, it could be a PR nightmare. Longtime Cubbies fans could groan and complain about letting their best chance at the coveted Fall Classic trophy slip through their fingers or, more appropriately, their pockets. It would suck the morale out of fans and maybe they might stop buying some of the most expensive tickets in the MLB. So Albert and his chance at free agency has basically the entire Cubs’ fan base drooling and waiting, and could either turn them towards or away from trusting management.

Albert Pujols could affect much more than just himself with this big decision of his. As you can see, Albert is just a stone dropped into a pond, and the ripples stretch all across the league, both onfield and off it. What will matter is how big the ripples are, and how far they reach into the future.

The NL Playoff Race

24 08 2010

Posted by New Law Era

It’s that time of year.  August is winding down.  The time for contending teams to get themselves into gear and make that final push has come.

In the National League, the playoff picture looks to be both very intriguing and nail biting.  Let’s take a look at the division races so far.

Mat Latos and the NL best Padres hold the most comfortable division lead in the NL.

In the West, barring some crazy 2007-2008 Mets-like collapse, the NL best Padres seem to be the most comfortable of all the NL division leaders in terms of winning the division.  The Giants are six games back of the Friars so it looks like the wild card will be San Francisco’s only chance at a playoff birth.  The two teams do have a four game series against each other next month, so depending on how things play out, that series could drastically change the playoff picture out west.  The most likely outcome though is that the Pads wrap up this division.  My what a surprise team they have been.

In the Central, the Reds hold a three-and-a-half game lead over the Cardinals.  After dropping a season high of five straight losses, St. Louis has been able to somewhat rebound and take this last series from the Giants.  The Reds, however, continue to keep winning.  With the Reds winning eight out of their last ten games and the Cardinals only winning five out of their last ten, it seems that St. Louis will also have a more realistic shot at the wild card as opposed to the division.  If the Cardinals want to win the division, they must continue to win, hope the Reds start losing, and hopefully bring themselves close enough to Reds before the upcoming series against them on September 3.  Meanwhile, if the Reds want to continue to hold the division lead, they must continue to win as well and then make sure they defeat St. Louis in the teams’ finale series against one another.

In the East, despite some critical injuries to some of its star players (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard), the resurgent Phillies have really impressed in the second half of the season and are only two-and-a-half games back of the Atlanta Braves.  Unlike the other two division races, the Phillies and Braves actually have two more series against each other.  If, for the most part, things stay as they are, both series are certain to determine the ultimate outcome of the NL East and possibly the Wild Card.  The series finale between these two teams is in fact the final games that these two teams will play for the regular season.  This is by far the most cut-throat and exciting division race in the NL

Can Matt Holliday and the Cardinals reach the playoffs for the second year in a row?

As for the Wild Card, tonight is a must win series for St. Louis against the Pirates.  The Cardinals are tied with the Giants at one-and-a-half games back of the Phillies.  Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the Giants and the Reds square off against one another in a series that begins this evening, so Cardinal nation is most certainly torn on who it wants to win or lose.  The Cardinals are only three-and-a-half games out against the Reds, so it is possible for the Cardinals to catch up if they continue to win and the Reds continue to lose.  The Phillies, on the other hand, are well within reaching distance of winning the NL East, so it can be assumed that they are in the most enviable position as far as Wild Card contenders are concerned.  With the Giants six games out against the Padres, we can assume the San Francisco has its eyes set on the Wild Card as its only ticket to the playoffs.

So what say you, readers?  How do you think the races are going to play out?  Can the Braves hold onto the East, or will the Phillies dethrone them and reach the playoffs again for the fourth consecutive season?  Will the Reds become the first NL Central champion not from St. Louis or Chicago in over a decade, or can Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday carry the Cardinals to another NL Central title?  What about out West?  Will the surprise Padres be able to hold onto the division lead and make the playoffs for the first time since 2006, or can the Giants surprisingly dethrone the Friars and reach the postseason for the first time in the post-Barry Bonds era?

And what about the NL Wild Card?  Discuss away, boys and girls.  I don’t think we’ve seen a playoff race this cut-throat and this exciting in quite a long time.

Pedro Feliz Is Not The Answer

19 08 2010

Posted by New Law Era

You don’t need advanced metrics to see that Pedro Feliz has been awful in 2010.  In 304 plate appearances this season, the 35 year old third baseman  is sporting a stat line of .221/.243/.311.  Yes, you have read that correctly – a .243 on-base percentage and a .311 slugging percentage.  The skinny nerdy kid that picks his nose and doesn’t shower probably has a higher on-base percentage than Feliz.  The skinny nerdy kid probably hits for more power as well.

Feliz has been one of the least valuable players in all of baseball this season.

Crude, non-family friendly jokes aside, the point is that Feliz has been bad.  According to the stat Wins Above Replacement, Feliz is a -1.5 WAR player.  In layman’s terms, Feliz is costing his team wins.

The St. Louis Cardinals front office, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to acquire Feliz from the Astros for minor league pitcher David Carpenter.  Due to regular third baseman David Freese being out for the season with injury and current third baseman Felipe Lopez having issues both offensively and defensively, the Cardinals seem to believe that Feliz is the solution to this problem.

With the way Feliz’ season has been going so far, I believe the Cardinals have made a bad move.  Feliz is both an offensive and defensive downgrade from Lopez.

His batting line is more than enough evidence of that he has been worse than Lopez this season.  (Lopez has a slash line of .246/.322/.360).  If you want further proof,  take a look at Feliz “stellar” weighted on-base average of .241 (Lopez, meanwhile sports a wOBA of .308).  Now, I’m not saying that Lopez has been good offensively, but he is most certainly a better offensive option.

Well what about defense?  Feliz fails there as well.  While Feliz has been a great defensive third baseman throughout his career (UZR/150 of 15.6), he has been really bad this year (-7.9).  Since we are only concerned about this year and not his career, this move makes no sense from the defensive side either.  Regardless of why we are seeing a drastic regression at 3B defensively this season, the fact of the matter is that his defense will cost the Cardinals runs.  Felipe Lopez once again has Feliz beat on defense as Lopez sports a UZR/150 of -0.7.  Obviously Lopez is bad on defense as well, but he isn’t as bad as Feliz.  I should, however, mention that Lopez’ hasn’t played as many innings of third base as Feliz has and that his sample size is rather small.  Regardless, the move doesn’t seem to make sense.

Of course, there is that crazy chance that Feliz defies everything I have just described and Feliz could end up being the spark the Cardinals need to turn their recent slump around.  I would be quite happy if Feliz proves me wrong.  However, I don’t think it’s going to happen.  Therefore, I believe the move to acquire Pedro Feliz made no sense at all.