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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The Cardinals Hot Stove: Part 1, Middle Infield

20 11 2010
Posted by D-Dizzle

Ryan was great with the glove in 2010 with an 11.5 UZR, but not quite as sharp with the bat.

All the hot stove season has finally started. Now is the season for the couch chair GM’s to make their proposals and start trying to piece together who they think will be the best possible team for the 2011 season. This will be my first installment of how I feel the St. Louis Cardinals should attack the offseason. Part 1, Middle Infield.

In House General Manager John Mozeliak has said that he is more inclined to get an upgrade at shortstop than second base. Quite frankly, this is baffling. Skip Schumaker’s best attribute is his gritty play. Unfortunately, their is no stat that measure’s a players grit. I disagree with with wanting to move Brendan Ryan, one season removed from posting a 2.7 WAR from FanGraphs or 3.4 WAR if you are a baseball-reference guy. He did this in 129 games. If you were to extrapolate this over a 155 games (about what a fulltime player would go through), that is 3.3 WAR (FanGraphs) and 4.1 WAR (B-R). However, poor Brendan Ryan had a dismal season with the bat in 2010. Conversely, he was the best defensive shortstop in 2010 (11.5 UZR!!). It should be mentioned that Ryan had offseason wrist surgery right around the beginning of spring training. If you were to normalize his 2009 season and 2010 season, your looking at a solid(albeit unspectacular) .260/.310/.385 sort of player. The real benefit to playing Ryan is naturally his stellar defense with a team that features Jaime Garcia (56% ground ball rate), Jake Westbrook (career 59% ground ball rate), Chris Carpenter (never had a season with St. Louis with a ground ball rate under 51%), and Adam Wainwright (perhaps the only pitcher on the staff who could be called a “strike-out pitcher”-career 49% ground ball rate). If I could get my pick, Ryan would open the season as the starting shortstop.

Not every team is as fortunate to have their own black hole. The Cardinals are lucky, they have two of them (I’m referring to second base and third base but 3B is a topic for another day). Skip Schumaker was abysmal last season. Skip is the owner of -13.2 UZR at 2B. That is Adam Dunn territory right there. He didn’t do much with the bat either (.265/.328/.338) but was a .300 hitter the past 3 seasons so I tend to think this season was a bit of an aberration with the bat. This still doesn’t excuse his terrible defense at second base. Skip was one of few players with a negative WAR last season at -.2. Last season, when he was a .300 hitter, he still had abysmal defense and posted a near replacement level 1.5 WAR in 586 PA’s. His best asset to the team would be as the first man off the bench and as 4th/5th outfielder-the role he belongs in. Unfortunately, he is one of the popular kids in the playground and has Tony La Russa’s seal of approval. Obviously he won’t come out and say the skip-experiment at second base was a failure but that is what has transpired. He must be replaced. II-the farm. The Cardinals farm features some pretty unspectacular options. The only half hearted reasonable options are Dan Descalso who projects to be at best an average second baseman defensively with “doubles-power” at the position. His ceiling reminds me of a David Eckstein type. The other is the gifted Tyler Greene. Greene features plus tools almost across the board but can’t put everything together. Now is do or die time for Greene. He is out of options and this could be his last chance to make something out of his talents.

II A- the Free Agents. This years middle infield free agent class is a very underwhelming group. The only options that are even somewhat enticing are as follows: 3b/ss Miguel Tejada, Swiss Army Knife Bill Hall, and 3b/ss/2b Juan Uribe. This is the cream of the crop. I feel if we are to upgrade the middle infield, it must come through trade. However, the idea of having an insurance policy such as Bill Hall and Juan Uribe fills the cardinals needs very well. They had a thin bench and it became exposed with Ryan’s down year, Schumaker’s being Schumakerness, and Freese’s injury. Unfortunately, both of these guys will probably be looking for more of a full-time role and I just don’t think they will find that in St. Louis.

II-B Non Tender- This person has got me very intrigued. Shortstop JJ Hardy seems to be flying under the radar. Overall, he had another down season with injuries but had a very productive second half of the season. He quietly hit .304/.363/.442 in 56 games after the allstar break (this was probably a bit inflated by his .340 BABIP). He might be nontendered by the Twins because of his $5MM dollar salary, which he would probably receive a raise on. If JJ were to come into the fold at about a 1yr/$3MM dollar investment, I say go for it. Honorable mention: SS Jason Bartlett.Although a career .300 hitter, Schumaker slipped in 2010 with the bat, and the glove.

A career .300 hitter, Schumaker fell with both the bat and glove in 2010.

III- trades Jose Reyes leads my wish list for Christmas.  He has the high salary($11MM) but might be just the investment the Cardinals could be looking to make.  The Mets are basically in a rebuild mode and should be looking to move some players.  Thats not to say they will be just handing their talented players out like candy on Halloween, however.  If we were to examine the New York Mets needs, we might be able to find a potential match.  They could be in the market for some bullpen help, an outfielder, and a second baseman.  Unfortunately, the Cardinals are also in the market for a second baseman but lets pretend for now that they don’t intend to give Descalso or Greene a chance for that role and will use them as trading chips.  The Cardinals farm system as a whole, well, it isn’t the most stellar group.  However, the feature one of the strongest relief cores out their with Adam Reifer, Casey Mulligan, Eduardo Sanchez, and Fernando Salas.  All of whom could be helping the Cardinals in 2011 at some point.  At the major league level, they have flamethrowers Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs.  Perhaps a package of Motte, Mulligan, and the met’s choice of Jon Jay or Allen Craig. Would it work? Maybe. 

Another name to consider is Arizona Diamondbacks’ Kelly Johnson. Kelly had a resurgent 2010 season where he hit .284/.370/.496.  People can point out to him being a “Chase Field product”, but if they did a little more investigation to his time in Atlanta, we can see that he has naturally fluctuating H/A splits. Even if we were to get the 07-08 version of Johnson, I would be down with that.  He would provide an upgrade on both offense and defense.  Arizona has some pretty obvious needs.  Most notably the bullpen.  Seeing as Johnson is just a one year rental, I could see a package of Mitchell Boggs+ their choice of Casey Mulligan/Adam Reifer along with former top prospect Blake Hawksworth who doesn’t seem to have a future with St. Louis as the throw-in.

The Cardinals middle infield was a very underwhelming group and their are some pretty underwhelming solutions.  However,  an upgrade can be done in a variety of methods.