On this date in 2002, the Blue Jays released their Opening Day starter, right-hander Chris Carpenter. The 27-year-old was removed from the 40-man roster after a trying season in which he went just 73 1/3 innings before being shut down to undergo shoulder surgery. He posted a 5.28 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in his final year in Toronto, but the former first-round pick had a stronger season in 2001 finishing with a 4.09 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 powered by a solid first-half of the year. The Blue Jays did offer Carpenter an incentive-laden minor league deal to stay on board, but the hurler instead decided to try his luck on the open market.
The Cardinals, of course, would be the team to roll the dice on 6'6" right-hander. Carpenter was signed to a deal with a club option for 2004 with the hope that he would be ready to return by the mid-season in 2003. The club bought out his '04 season for $200K rather pay the him the $2MM he would have made, but the two sides were able to negotiate a new deal later on that winter. The Cardinals were grateful that they did, as Carpenter returned in 2004 to register a 3.46 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 across 28 starts to help the Cards win the National League pennant. That was a sign of great things to come as he would edge Dontrelle Willis for the Cy Young Award in 2005 and delivered an almost equally strong campaign in '06.
In his time with St. Louis, Carpenter's legacy has been one marked by quality pitching and frustrating injuries, but the resilient pitcher has always found a way to bounce back from his extended absences. A torn labrum delayed his Cardinals debut, but he certainly managed to make it worth the wait. Four years later, Tommy John surgery limited him to four starts across two seasons. Tomorrow afternoon, Carpenter will take the mound against the Nationals in Game 3 of the NLDS despite undergoing surgery to repair his thoracic outlet syndrome which was supposed to sideline him all season long. Despite his battles through multiple injuries, it's safe to say that the Blue Jays' decision ten years ago is one that they would like to have back.