Chris Carpenter Rumors
A few late-night items of note as a thriller in the Bronx reaches its climax ...
- Baltimore Sports and Life polled 17 analysts about the Orioles' odds of signing impending free agent Prince Fielder. Interestingly, opinions vary wildly about whether the O's should even pursue Prince, not to mention what kind of financial commitment it might take to procure his services.
- Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken will be watching a pair of his notable draft selections when Phillies co-ace Roy Halladay squares off against his Cardinals counterpart, Chris Carpenter, in Friday's NLDS Game 5, writes Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. Wilken tabbed both of those pitchers when he was scouting director in Toronto, and he provides some cool insight into how each hurler was regarded before they became household names.
- Andrew Stoeten of Drunk Jays Fans breaks down Toronto's outfield, replete with sound, humorous analysis and a spelling of "center" that looks odd to those of us in the States. Be sure to check it out.
The Pirates lost to the Cardinals today and Pittsburgh clinched a 19th consecutive losing season in the process. Here are today’s NL Central notes...
- The Astros also lost a historic game today. They fell to the Phillies, setting a franchise record with their 98th defeat of the season.
- Chris Carpenter told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he didn't want to pitch anywhere else and hopes to finish his career in St. Louis. The former Cy Young winner realizes he's no Hall of Famer, but says he's proud to have become a fixture for the Cardinals. The Cardinals locked Carpenter up to a two-year, $21MM extension this week.
- Francisco Rodriguez told Scott Miller of CBS Sports.com that he's disappointed that the Brewers haven't provided him with the chance to close games. "I'm not fine," Rodriguez said. "They told me I'd have the opportunity to close some games, and we've had 20-some save opportunities since then and I haven't even had one." It’s worth noting that closer John Axford has converted his last 39 save chances.
- MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes provided the latest Cubs updates this morning and I examined possible suitors for Aramis Ramirez this afternoon.
The Cardinals and ace Chris Carpenter have agreed to a two-year contract extension worth $21MM that will provide the right-hander with additional security and provide the Cardinals with a productive starter for two more seasons.
Joe Strauss of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported the move on Sunday and the Cardinals have now announced it.
Carpenter, 36, was in the final guaranteed year of the five-year, $63.5MM deal he signed before the 2007 season. The team held a $15MM club option for his services next year, but Strauss says the option is rolled into a longer structure that saves the team about $4MM in 2012. This extension includes no appearance-based incentives or options either. Late last month, Ben Nicholson-Smith said Carpenter "may well be a luxury on whom GM John Mozeliak is prepared spend," and he certainly has. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted last week that the team would hammer out a new contract at a lower salary in advance of the November option decision.
Now four full years out from Tommy John surgery, Carpenter has pitched to a 3.75 ERA in 206 1/3 innings this season. Although his ground ball rate (45.6%) is the lowest it's ever been since he joined St. Louis, he does boast his highest strikeout rate (7.15 K/9) in five years as well as a strong walk rate (2.18 BB/9). The 2005 Cy Young Award winner's fastball velocity has jumped a tick as well.
Last month we heard that the Cardinals were expected to pick up Adam Wainwright's options for 2012 and 2013, while the right-hander recovers from his own Tommy John surgery. Carpenter's new deal gives Mozeliak one less thing to worry about in a winter that figures to be dominated by negotiations with Albert Pujols.
The Cardinals have won five in a row and come into the day just 4.5 games back of the Braves for the NL Wildcard, making things unexpectedly interesting in the season's final weeks. Let's round up the latest from St. Louis...
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports confirms the report of Chris Carpenter's two-year extension, and he likes the deal for both sides (Twitter links). The team saves some cash while Carpenter gets more guaranteed money.
- With Carpenter locked up and Adam Wainwright on his way back from Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals' 2012 rotation looks pretty strong, writes Roger Hensley of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Those two will join Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia.
- GM John Mozeliak told Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he wants to use the final weeks of the regular season and the first few weeks of October "to lock-in existing free agents and clear up any questions for 2012," beyond Albert Pujols. There are ongoing talks with Rafael Furcal's representatives, and Lance Berkman has already given the team a sense of what it would take for him to return next year.
We've already checked in on the Pirates and here's the latest on the rest of the NL Central as the first-place Brewers rest...
- Jim Crane's purchase of the Astros is on hold because MLB is investigating employment and war profiteering charges against the incoming owner, according to Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle. However, current owner Drayton McLane remains optimistic that the sale will go through within ten days.
- Matthew Leach of MLB.com says the Cardinals will likely find a way to bring Chris Carpenter back in 2012, even if it doesn't mean exercising his $15MM option. I took a close look at the option last week, explaining that there are ample reasons for the Cards to pick it up.
- Though Lance Berkman projects as a Type A free agent in the National League, he would be a much higher Type A free agent in the American League, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reports (on Twitter). It's noteworthy since the Rangers just lost Nelson Cruz to the disabled list and could consider Berkman, who has cleared waivers.
You can’t obtain elite free agent pitching for $15MM. Recent history suggests you can sign a middle-of-the-rotation starter - think Carl Pavano, Jake Westbrook, Jason Marquis and Joel Pineiro - or a middle reliever - think Jesse Crain, Scott Downs, Joaquin Benoit or Brandon Lyon.
The Cardinals face a major decision this offseason, when they have to choose between their $15MM option for Chris Carpenter and a $1MM buyout. It won’t be the most important decision they make this winter (the Albert Pujols contract talks deserve that honor) or even the most important decision they make with respect to their rotation (the Cards have to decide on two options for Adam Wainwright), but it will still shape the 2012 team.
Carpenter turns 37 in April, so the former Cy Young winner is no longer in his prime. His ground ball rate dipped below 50% for the first time since 2002 this year and his 3.53 ERA is not that far off of the league average (3.85), even after an excellent Monday night outing.
But Carpenter's average fastball velocity has trended upward this year, rising from 91.4 mph to 92.5 mph, and his strikeout (7.2 K/9) and walk (2.2 BB/9) rates have improved as well. Defense independent pitching stats like xFIP (3.32) and SIERA (3.45) suggest Carpenter is far from finished (those figures don't include tonight's strong start).
He’s comfortably within Type A range according to our current projections, so the Cardinals could obtain two top picks if they decline his option and offer arbitration only to see him decline and sign a Major League deal elsewhere. Draft pick compensation figures to be a consideration for St. Louis, but it won't necessarily be the driving factor in the Cardinals' decision, especially since other teams might balk at the idea of giving up a first round pick for a 36-year-old with a history of arm trouble.
The Cardinals’ 2012 rotation will presumably feature Wainwright and Jaime Garcia along with Westbrook, Kyle Lohse and one other starter. Edwin Jackson is a free agent, Wainwright will be returning from Tommy John surgery, Kyle McClellan has pitched better out of the bullpen and top prospects Carlos Martinez and the currently suspended Shelby Miller may not be ready for the show. In other words, the Cards could use rotation depth for 2012.
Retaining Carpenter’s services for an extra $14MM (they’re paying $1MM no matter what) would be a luxury given the presence of McClellan, Martinez and Miller. But the Cardinals extended their payroll over $100MM this season and they appear poised to contend again in 2012. Carpenter may well be a luxury on whom GM John Mozeliak is prepared spend.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
The Yankees weren’t counting on much from Kevin Millwood when they signed him to a minor league deal and, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, that may be a good thing. Stark hears that Millwood “looks terrible” and isn’t throwing as hard as usual in extended Spring Training. Here’s Stark’s latest from around the league:
- An AL executive expects the Orioles to be one of the most active sellers in baseball if they fade this summer. With Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, J.J. Hardy and others on the roster, the O’s have a lot of potential trade chips.
- The Mets would ‘love’ to see Carlos Beltran play well enough to make himself appealing as a trade candidate. Scouts are already watching Beltran in case he’s available at the deadline.
- One NL scout says he’d recommend Jose Reyes on a two month rental, but wouldn’t advise committing to the shortstop long-term.
- Despite speculation that Chris Carpenter could be traded, most clubs expect the Cardinals to hold onto him. St. Louis holds a $15MM option for Carpenter in 2012 ($1MM buyout).
The latest on the Cardinals, as third baseman David Freese makes his first spring start...
- Freese is now represented by CAA, tweets the agency. Phil Tannenbaum was his previous agent. Freese, 28 next month, is a ways off from arbitration eligibility.
- Chris Carpenter felt a twinge in his left hamstring during yesterday's bullpen session, reports Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He's looking doubtful to start Friday, but there's no timetable for his return. Carpenter's hamstring first became a concern six days ago in a start against the Marlins. Perhaps by the weekend the Cardinals will decide whether to explore external options with Adam Wainwright out of the season and Carpenter's status unknown.
- Kiko Calero's slider looked good in his Cardinals audition, tweets SI's Jon Heyman, but the team told the righty they have a full roster.
Chris Carpenter confirmed to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he wouldn’t prevent the Cardinals from trading him and added that he doesn’t expect or hope for a trade. The right-hander says the Cardinals are a contender, so he doesn’t think GM John Mozeliak will look to sell.
"For them to come to me about [a trade] would suggest our team is out of it and they wanted to go in another direction," Carpenter said. "I certainly don't see that being the case. I think we've got a great shot not just to win this division but to get to the World Series. That's my expectation and I think it's what everybody in here expects.”
The Cardinals, who lost Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery, have a 2012 option for Carpenter worth $15MM. Albert Pujols becomes a free agent after the season and holding onto Carpenter and Pujols won’t be easy.
Pujols will presumably cost upwards of $200MM and the Cardinals’ payroll is not big enough to sustain a $30MM player without cutting costs elsewhere. Cardinals sources suggest to Strauss that the team is unlikely to increase payroll from the $100MM range to $115MM in 2012.
The month of February hasn't been kind to the Cardinals. First they failed to reach an agreement with Albert Pujols on a long-term contract, then they lost Nick Punto for up to 12 weeks with a hernia, and then they lost Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery. That's enough bad news to last St. Louis the season, nevermind Spring Training.
In the wake of Wainwright's injury, it's been speculated that Chris Carpenter could become available in a trade at some point should the Cardinals fall out of contention. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that Carpenter wouldn't stand in the way of a deal (he can veto any trade thanks to his ten-and-five rights), and Joel Sherman of The New York Post suggested the right-hander could be a fit for the pitching-starved Yankees.
As great as Carpenter is, he's neither young nor cheap. He'll turn 36 in April and his contract guarantees him $15MM this season, after which a $15MM club option ($1MM buyout) comes into play. With Pujols' impending free agency hanging over their heads and two more seasons until Kyle Lohse's $12.2MM annual salary comes off the books, it's possible the Cardinals will look to shed Carpenter's salary and use that money towards keeping their superstar first baseman. It's just a drop in the bucket compared to the nine-figure contract Pujols will command, but every little bit helps.
Carpenter has pitched to a 2.74 ERA with 6.7 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, and a 52.7% ground ball rate since coming back from Tommy John surgery in late 2008. He's shown no ill-effects from the procedure, throwing at least 192 innings in each of the last two seasons. If made available, teams would be lining up to acquire him, and not just the Yankees either. However, it's possible that Carpenter would want his 2012 option picked up in exchange for agreeing to a trade, which could his limit market.
It seems unlikely that St. Louis would look to trade pitching - quality pitching at that - after Wainwright's injury, but moving Carpenter would have to at least be considered if they fall out of contention at some point. The potential return in the form of young players and cash savings could be too good to pass up.