Chris Carpenter Rumors
A few pitching notes from around the league...
- In today's blog post at ESPN (Insider req'd), Buster Olney reports that the Yankees did not inquire about Tim Hudson. Yesterday we heard that the Braves aren't looking to move one of their starters anyway.
- Within the same post, Olney says he finds the timing of the report about White Sox ace Mark Buehrle's willingness to accept a trade interesting. It's been presumed that the Missouri native would embrace a chance to pitch for the Cardinals at some point, and St. Louis now has an opening in its rotation with Adam Wainwright headed for Tommy John surgery.
- Joel Sherman of The New York Post believes Cardinals co-ace Chris Carpenter could potentially be a fit for the Yankees, and the news of Wainwright's injury makes him wonder if Carpenter will "become available in a stronger way." I looked at how Wainwright's injury could have a trickle down effect on the Yankees over at River Ave. Blues.
Eighteen years ago today, the Angels traded Lee Stevens to the Expos for minor leaguer Jeff Tuss, but Tuss refused to report to his new team. Keith Morrison, another minor leaguer, was included in the deal instead, and Tuss never played affiliated baseball again.
Here are today's batch of links...
- Chris Carpenter told MLB.com's Matthew Leach that he's not worried about his future with the Cardinals. The right-hander is under contract for 2011 with a $15MM club option for 2012, but an extension for Albert Pujols might push the 35-year-old Carpenter out of town if the team needs to shed payroll.
- Richard Griffin of The Toronto Star reports that the Blue Jays offered Russell Martin the same amount of money as the Yankees, but the catcher signed with New York because of a better opportunity to win (Twitter link). Shi Davidi of The Canadian Press tweets that the Jays wanted Martin to catch four times a week as well as play another position.
- Jeff Francis said the Blue Jays did not show any interest in him before he joined the Royals according to Davidi on Twitter. Francis grew up in Canada, but nowhere close to Toronto.
- Chad Jennings of the The Journal News takes a look at the Yankees' multiyear relief contract from the last decade.
- Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that Cardinals GM John Mozeliak has pledged to keep negotiations about a contract extension with Albert Pujols private.
- The Rangers offered Jim Thome more than $4MM before he decided to sign with the Twins for $3MM, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). We knew that Thome turned down more money from Texas, but now we know how much.
- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts told fans that he has confidence in GM Jim Hendry at today's Cubs Convention according to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat (on Twitter).
- Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer says this winter's market for free agent relievers has been wonderful for Ryan Madson. The Phillies' setup man is due to become a free agent next offseason after his three-year, $12MM contract expires.
In a recent chat, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes that few appreciate how much turnover could occur if Tony La Russa does not return to the Cardinals next season. Let's see what else he has for us..
- Offering Jake Westbrook arbitration would be a risky move for the Cards as he is virtually guaranteed to receive an increase over this year's $11MM salary. If St. Louis does want to keep the soon-to-be 33-year-old in the fold, Strauss believes that they will open talks before the free agency filing period like they did with Joel Pineiro and and Kyle Lohse. However, the club locked up Pineiro and Lohse with multi-year deals at market or above-market rates, something that they're probably not capable of doing at this time with Westbrook.
- Speaking of starters, it's hard to imagine the Cardinals giving Chris Carpenter similar money to what he makes now if they re-sign Albert Pujols. Carpenter's contract calls for him to earn $15MM next season with a $15MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2012.
- It's fair to say that Felipe Lopez found himself unmotivated to perform after the Cards acquired Pedro Feliz last month. The infielder struggled at the plate this season, hitting just .231/.310/.340 with seven homers in 425 plate appearances. The club sent Lopez packing yesterday afternoon.
- Strauss expects to see La Russa back in St. Louis unless he hears something that he doesn't like from the ownership or front office.
With a 4-13 record over their last 17 games, an eight-game deficit to make up in the NL Central, and a weekend series against an in-form Cincinnati club, the Cardinals could be looking ahead to next year by as soon as Monday. Let's get a head start on the process by examining what the St. Louis starting rotation may look like by Opening Day 2011.
Leading the way for the Cards are Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia. Carpenter is signed through 2011 and St. Louis has a club option worth $15MM in 2012 that they're certain to exercise if Carpenter remains as healthy and effective as he has been over the last two seasons. It's possible the Cards could explore an extension with Carpenter this winter, if they're not already too busy trying to extend Albert Pujols.
Wainwright seems well on his way to a top-five finish (at least) in the NL Cy Young voting, which will trigger a clause in his contract that guarantees the 2012 and 2013 club options St. Louis currently holds on the right-hander. Wainwright is set to earn $21MM over those two seasons, plus an extra $1MM should he actually win the Cy either this season or in 2011. The Cards were a virtual lock to pick up those team options anyway given how well Wainwright has pitched in his career.
If Wainwright is a bargain, then Garcia is a steal. The 24-year-old southpaw has a 2.33 ERA and a 2.03 K/BB in 25 starts this season and he carries a 20 1/3 scoreless inning streak into tonight's start against the Reds. Garcia doesn't reach arbitration until after the 2011 season, so he will remain a very affordable option for St. Louis unless the club tries to cover his arb years with a long-term deal. It's still just Garcia's first full major league year, so if the Redbirds do approach him with a long-term contract, it will be a step down from the Romero/Lester/Gallardo deals.
When Kyle Lohse signed a four-year, $41MM extension with St. Louis in September 2008, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes prophetically asked, "What are the odds this deal looks solid even halfway through?" Now that we're about halfway through the deal, it's indeed looking like a miss for the Cards. Lohse has battled forearm and groin injuries over the last two seasons and has a 5.55 ERA in 35 games (34 of them starts) over that stretch. Lohse will be pencilled into a spot in the 2011 rotation, since it would be hard for the Cardinals to eat the remaining $23.75MM owed to the right-hander and even harder to trade him. (Plus, Lohse has a no-trade clause.)
With four spots accounted for, the fifth rotation job is wide-open. The Cards' strategy over the last few winters has been to sign veterans (Rich Hill, Brad Penny, Matt Clement, Lohse in March 2008) to one-year or minor league contracts to see if pitching coach Dave Duncan can get them back into top form, so the team could pursue that option again. St. Louis might have gotten a head start on this strategy with the acquisition of Jake Westbrook at the trade deadline. Westbrook has pitched well (4.03 ERA, 5.67 K/BB ratio) in his first six National League starts, so he will come at a higher price than those other past winter signings should the Cardinals want to bring him back.
Another midseason pick-up, Jeff Suppan, hasn't performed as well and would only be brought back as roster depth. Penny could be another low-cost veteran option from the current roster. After signing a one-year, $7.5MM deal with the Cards last December, Penny had a solid first nine starts but hasn't pitched since May due to a back injury. The lingering nature of what was originally thought to be a minor back injury will definitely scare some teams away from the 32-year-old, so the Cardinals (who have been monitoring Penny's status all year) could bring the right-hander back if they're satisifed that he's healthy.
P.J. Walters, Blake Hawksworth and Adam Ottavino have started games for St. Louis this season, though all would need superb spring training performances to get into the running for the fifth starter's job. Baseball America projected Walters as a future middle reliever in the preseason, Hawksworth has pitched mostly out of the bullpen for St. Louis and Ottavino may be a question mark for the spring since he needs labrum surgery.
Shelby Miller, the top prospect in the St. Louis system, has only increased his stock in his first full season of pro ball. Miller, the 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft, has a 3.62 ERA and a 12.1 K/9 rate in 24 starts for Single-A Quad Cities. Baseball America had Miller rated as the 50th-best prospect in baseball in the preseason, and their midseason prospect report again slotted him in the #26-50 range. Miller doesn't even turn 20 until October 10, so the Cards will probably hold off his major league debut until 2012.
Other farm system options include southpaw Evan MacLane and right-handers Lance Lynn and Brandon Dickson, all of whom have had solid seasons in the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League. All could factor in as spot starters or candidates for the No. 5 position. Keep an eye on right-hander Scott Gorgen, a fourth-round pick from the 2008 draft who has a 2.99 ERA in his 49-game minor league career thus far, including a 1.31 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) at Double-A this season.
Tim Lincecum won the NL Cy Young award for the second straight season, edging out Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Lincecum, 25, went 15-7 with a 2.48 ERA. He struck out a league-leading 261 batters, walking 68 in 225.1 innings. He made his second consecutive All-Star appearance and led the league in complete games and shutouts. According to WAR, Lincecum was the NL's best pitcher.
Wainwright - who obtained the most first place votes - and Carpenter each receive $100K bonuses for their finishes in the Cy Young voting, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter told The Associated Press that he wants to start in 2009, although he's willing to move back to the bullpen if his body can't hold up to the rotation pressures.
"I'll do whatever they want me to do," Carpenter said. "If that's the case, that's the case. I'm just going to take it one game at a time like I have all the time in the past. I'm going to do everything I can to take the ball every fifth day. With everything that I've gone through, obviously, some of it is out of my hands. I've done everything I can in the past four months to go out and pitch."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has said earlier in the offseason that he might use Carpenter as a closer if he is unable to start every fifth game.
Carpenter, 33, has had elbow and shoulder surgeries on his pitching arm. The righty threw 15 1-3 innings in 2008 for a 0-1 record with a 1.76 ERA.
A week ago, John Perrotto mentioned Tony La Russa was considering using Chris Carpenter as a closer. Today, Matthew Leach of MLB.com reports Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is comfortable turning toward internal options to fill the closer role.
Chris Perez and Jason Motte, as well as Ryan Franklin are listed as most likely options. Franklin had 17 saves last season for St. Louis. Leach mentions the Cardinals could attempt to work out a deal for Brandon Lyon or Juan Cruz, as well as the possibility of signing free agent Chad Cordero, to add depth and expand their options in the ninth inning. Interest in Cordero is more curiosity than anything, says Leach.
What about Carpenter? Said Mozeliak, "The right-hander will only pitch out of the bullpen if there is a compelling medical reason to use him there rather than in the rotation." Tony La Russa expressed similar sentiments on Monday, according to Leach, despite Perrotto's report last week.
Returning Adam Wainwright to the closer role has not been discussed.
11:53pm: More from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Strauss suggests GM John Mozeliak hopes to swap an outfielder for a closer-quality arm. Any suggestions?
Strauss adds that the Cardinals inquired on John Smoltz. At least seven teams have shown some level of interest in Smoltz, who most expect to return to Atlanta.
8:20pm: The Associated Press has a slightly different take on the Cardinals' approach to a closer. La Russa told the AP that Chris Carpenter could return to the bullpen if the club deems that move will be the best scenario for both parties:
"We want Chris pitching for us, and if I was told he couldn't be healthy throwing 100 pitches every five days and he could be a reliever, I'd take him as a reliever."
6:36pm: St. Louis Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa told Matthew Leach of MLB.com that the Cardinals will likely look at Chris Perez or Jason Motte to close games in 2009, but La Russa also hinted that the team could sign a starter with the thoughts of moving the addition to a ninth-inning role.
La Russa said he'd like to give Perez and Motte more time to mature in the minor leagues before moving them into the role of closer for the Cardinals.
La Russa also mentioned that the list of starters who could be converted into a closer's role is short, Leach writes. La Russa noted that the Cardinals do not want to convert one of their current starters into the closer.
La Russa said that Jason Isringhausen will not probably return to the Cardinals. The Cardinals could sign a free-agent reliever such as Juan Cruz or Brandon Lyon. Cruz is unlikely due to his Type A status, however. The Cards remain cool to the possibility of signing Trevor Hoffman.
La Russa did not shut the door on a closer with health issues, such as Takashi Saito or Chad Cordero. Leach also noted that club's front office has expressed significant reservations about signing any players who are health risks.
Every Sunday we read John Perrotto's Every Given Sunday:
- The Giants may be considering two offers for Manny Ramirez. One for two years "with vesting and club options that could make it a four-year, $100MM contract." The other for 3 years, $63MM, with no options.
- Derek Lowe has not given up on a five-year, $80MM offer, although that remains doubtful.
- Barry Bonds had hip surgery and wants to return in 2009. Some still speculate he will pursue collusion charges.
- Tony La Russa is considering using Chris Carpenter as a closer.
Bernie Miklasz passes along some quotes from Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. about the team's offseason plans. DeWitt didn't pin the Cards' 2009 payroll down exactly, but he said it will be over $100MM. Whether the payroll's slightly or considerably higher than that "depends on who is available or what the value is."
DeWitt said the organization would "consider" signing expensive players if they could make a big difference on the team.
Miklasz heard Tony La Russa's thoughts on the St. Louis bullpen now that they missed out on Brian Fuentes. La Russa said Chris Carpenter could close next year, since he's reluctant to expect 30 starts from Carp and he doesn't think Chris Perez and Jason Motte are completely ready.