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Kyle McClellan Rumors
The Cardinals' bullpen includes righties Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Mitchell Boggs, and Lance Lynn, as well as lefties Marc Rzepczynski and J.C. Romero. Our free agent tracker shows that Luis Ayala, Shawn Camp, Todd Coffey, Francisco Cordero, Brad Lidge, Scott Linebrink, Ryan Madson, Chad Qualls, Dan Wheeler, Kerry Wood, and Michael Wuertz are among the unsigned right-handed relievers.
McClellan, 27, posted a 4.19 ERA, 4.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.33 HR/9, and 50.6% groundball rate in 141 2/3 innings last year, including 17 starts. Matt Swartz projects a $2.7MM salary through arbitration.
It seems like MLB teams, even good ones, are always on the hunt for starting pitching. The Tigers, Indians, Red Sox, Cardinals and Diamondbacks acquired starting pitching at the trade deadline and other contenders inquired on starters before moving on to other targets.
Quality starting pitching is scarce and expensive so teams sometimes convert relievers to the rotation in case they can add value as starters. Here's a look at the four converted relievers have who started extensively in 2011. None of the pitchers below had more than two MLB starts to his name before the 2011 season and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Alexi Ogando, Rangers - What a find for the Rangers. Ogando has a 2.88 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 125 innings as a starter. The converted outfielder has averaged 94.8 mph with his fastball, but it's hard not to wonder if he'll tire toward the end of the season. Ogando's previous professional high in innings is 70 2/3.
- Phil Coke, Tigers – Coke lost his rotation spot midway through the season after posting a 4.91 ERA with 4.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 77 innings. The left-hander was solid in April and May, but put together a string of ugly outings in June and is now pitching out of the 'pen again.
- Kyle McClellan, Cardinals – McClellan, who replaced the injured Adam Wainwright, lost his rotation spot when St. Louis acquired Edwin Jackson. McClellan returns to the bullpen after posting a respectable 4.21 ERA in 104 2/3 innings from the rotation.
- Phil Humber, White Sox – The 28-year-old former third overall pick has a 3.44 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 117 2/3 innings. Though his last three starts haven't been pretty, Humber's emergence allowed the White Sox to part with Jackson last week.
Virtually every contender could use relief help, as Tim Dierkes explained yesterday. Here's the latest on the bullpen market…
- Kansas City GM Dayton Moore told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that we shouldn’t read too much into rumors about the Royals’ closer, Joakim Soria. “We certainly understand and appreciate why there would be strong interest in him,” Moore said. “He’s a premium closer. But he fits for us, and our view of Joakim Soria hasn’t changed as it pertains to his importance to our team.”
- Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times notes that the Angels are targeting relief help.
- There is "growing reason" to expect the Braves to explore deals for relief help, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com.
- The Cardinals are among the teams looking for a starters, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. The St. Louis front office would likely shift Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen if they acquire a starter.
From the moment they're drafted to the day they retire, starting pitchers are generally more highly coveted than relievers. They're selected earlier on draft day, they earn more in arbitration and they sign more lucrative free agent contracts. There are exceptions of course: Drew Storen was a first rounder, Jonathan Papelbon earned nearly $30MM through arbitration and most starters would love to match Mariano Rivera's free agent earning power. But for the most part, teams invest more in starters.
So when a rotation opening emerges or a pitcher is particularly impressive out of the 'pen, baseball officials are often tempted to convert relievers into starters. This year has been no exception, so let's take another look at converted relievers. None of the pitchers below had more than two MLB starts to his name before the 2011 season and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Alexi Ogando, Rangers – Ogando has been tremendous for the Rangers. The converted outfielder has a 2.86 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 97 2/3 innings. His ground ball rate has dropped to 36.3%, yet his average fastball velocity is impressively high at 94.7 mph. After successfully converting C.J. Wilson in 2010 and Ogando this year, will Texas move Neftali Feliz to the rotation in 2012?
- Phil Coke, Tigers – Coke lost his rotation spot last week after posting a 4.91 ERA with 4.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 77 innings. The left-hander was solid in April and May, but put together a string of ugly outings in June.
- Kyle McClellan, Cardinals – McClellan, who is replacing the injured Adam Wainwright, has a 4.27 ERA with 4.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 through 90 2/3 innings. McClellan's ERA has jumped two runs this year and he has already set a career-high in innings pitched. He has not surpassed 100 innings since he was a starter in the Midwest League seven years ago.
- Phil Humber, White Sox – It took a while, but Humber is finally putting it together in the Major Leagues. The former third overall pick has a 2.69 ERA with 5.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 46.1% ground ball rate in 103 2/3 innings. Even if Humber's ERA rises – his peripheral stats suggest it will – the White Sox have found themselves a valuable arm.
Here are some links from the Central divisions….
- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts gave votes of confidence to GM Jim Hendry and manager Mike Quade during a state-of-the-franchise address on Wednesday, reports Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. "I have 100 percent confidence in Jim," Ricketts said. "He's working very hard to do everything he can to get this season back to where we want it to be. And I think Mike's done a great job. You know Mike has got those guys playing hard. You know they're not giving up. You know there's good spirit in the clubhouse. Yeah, those guys are fine." Hendry's future in Chicago has been a hot topic given the Cubs' struggles, with ESPNChicago.com's Jon Greenberg just one of several pundits who think Hendry will be fired.
- Ricketts also said the Cubs' debt problems wouldn't factor into any baseball-related spending. "The fact is this year we've spent more on Baseball Operations than any year in the past, and we continue to invest in the team," Ricketts said. "[The debt is] no way a limitation on our ability to sign free agents or our flexibility to build a better organization. It's just irrelevant for that."
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks back at the Cardinals' decision to pass on Joba Chamberlain in the 2006 draft and wonders if the Cards have "developed their own" version of Chamberlain in Kyle McClellan.
- Jim Leyland feels the Tigers have "too many" left-handers in their bullpen, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck. With a number of teams short on southpaw relievers, the Tigers could look to a fellow contender in a trade for a right-hander.
- The Twins have signed 15 picks from the 2011 amateur draft, according to La Velle Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Fifth-round shortstop Tyler Grimes is the highest-drafted player to sign.
- The Pirates announced the signings of six draft picks. Auburn third baseman Daniel Gamache, a sixth-rounder, is the highest-selected of the signed players.
- The Astros' pending sale, Hunter Pence's big season and strong play from younger players has the club's future looking bright, writes MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.
Dan Meyer, Matt Anderson, Luis Castillo and Robb Quinlan probably didn't like it very much when the Phillies released them this spring, but they may not have realized that they have something in common with their former GM. The Blue Jays released Ruben Amaro Jr. on this date in 1996, before he ever played a Major League game for them…
- Kyle McClellan has become a valuable cog in the Cardinals’ rotation, as Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains.
- McClellan's teammate, Lance Berkman, told ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick that he was disappointed with the way his tenure with the Astros ended. “They basically said, 'You're bad. We're bad. Let's cut ties and get on down the road.' And that was hurtful.”
- International scouts tell Melissa Segura of SI.com that this year's Dominican July 2 class of amateur free agents is the best they've seen in years (Twitter link).
- Anthony DiComo of MLB.com presents ten possible destinations for trade candidate Jose Reyes, some (Milwaukee) more plausible than others (the Bronx).
- Former Reds and Nationals GM Jim Bowden also weighs in on the market for Reyes. He has the Giants, Cardinals, Red Sox, Reds and Angels as possible suitors on his list at ESPN.com.
Converting relievers to starters is potentially rewarding, but difficult to do, as the Rangers have shown in the past 13 months. Last year, they converted C.J. Wilson to the rotation and saw him blossom into a dependable starter who posted a 3.35 ERA, logged over 200 innings and started a World Series game. This year, they attempted to convert 2010 AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz to the rotation, but returned him to the bullpen before the season began.
Here’s the latest on four pitchers who jumped from the ‘pen to the rotation this year, including one player who sat in the bullpen with Feliz last year and now pitches in the rotation along with Wilson. None of the pitchers below had more than two MLB starts to his name before the 2011 season and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Alexi Ogando – A former minor league outfielder, Ogando is accustomed to making major adjustments as a pro player. He has allowed 19 hits and 8 walks in 31 1/3 innings, striking out 21. His 2.30 ERA, 6.0 K/9 and average fastball velocity of 94.3 mph are impressive and he has even lowered his walk rate to 2.3 BB/9. But opponents are hitting just .165 against him on balls in play, an indication that he's not quite this good.
- Phil Coke - Coke has allowed 27 hits and 12 walks in 30 innings this year and his strikeout rate has dropped from 7.4 K/9, where it stayed for 2009-10, to 5.1 K/9. Coke's 4.50 ERA is acceptable for a fifth starter if he can keep it there and his peripheral stats suggest he can.
- Kyle McClellan - McClellan has a 3.23 ERA and a spotless 4-0 record despite peripheral stats (5.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 10.0 H/9, 4.32 FIP, 4.34 xFIP) that suggest the early returns are not sustainable. Even so, McClellan's 48% ground ball rate should allow him to remain the Cardinals' fifth starter, which is all they wanted in the first place.
- Phil Humber - The third overall pick in the 2004 draft, Humber had not come close to putting it together in the majors until last year. Now a starter for the first time in his MLB career, Humber is pitching for his fifth organization in as many years. So far, the results have been tremendous. He has a 3.06 ERA through five starts with a 21K/8BB ratio. Opponents have been unlucky against Humber on balls in play, and only 5% of their fly balls have left the yard, so that 3.06 ERA may climb closer to 4.00. Still, Humber looks like one of the shrewdest waiver claims of the winter.
As Spring Training winds down and teams make their final roster cuts, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney has the latest from around the majors…
- Aaron Harang signed with the Padres because he has family ties to San Diego, but there’s another reason the right-hander’s a good fit for his new club. Olney and Scott Regan estimate that 13 of the 43 home runs Harang gave up in Cincinnati from 2008-10 would not have been home runs in San Diego. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes identified the Padres as a good match for Harang last October.
- The Cardinals like what they’ve seen from Kyle McClellan in the rotation. "It's what we would've expected," GM John Mozeliak said. "He has a strong repertoire of pitches. The big challenge for him is going to be going through a lineup multiple times." For more on McClellan's new role, click here.
- Olney reports that the Rangers will probably decide whether to use Neftali Feliz as a starter or as a closer by the weekend. A week ago, 55% of 6,670 MLBTR readers said Feliz belongs in the ‘pen for 2011.
Notes from the NL Central as Opening Day draws closer…
- Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com hears from Cubs sources that the team isn't talking to the Rangers about Michael Young. The Cubs maintain that they’re comfortable with Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt at second base.
- Kyle McClellan solidified his bid to become the Cardinals' fifth starter today. As MLB.com's Matthew Leach reports, the converted setup man pitched five shutout innings against the Braves, which presumably lessens the chances that the Cards look outside of the organization for starting pitching. I took a look at McClellan's role in St. Louis last week.
- Brett Wallace collected four hits and drove in seven today, according to MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. The Astros acquired the first baseman from the Blue Jays last summer after obtaining Anthony Gose from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt deal. Wallace is vying to become Houston's everyday first baseman.
- As MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports, the Brewers optioned pitching prospect Mark Rogers to Triple-A today because they weren't confident his shoulder stiffness would go away in time for the season. Once he's at full strength, Rogers remains a candidate to fill in for Zack Greinke, who is expected to miss a few starts with a fractured rib.
After spending three years in the Cardinals' bullpen, Kyle McClellan has become the favorite to win the fifth starter's job in their rotation. The 26-year-old entered the spring as a setup man, started auditioning for a rotation spot when Adam Wainwright injured his elbow and has pitched well enough to have a realistic chance of becoming a starter for the first time in his MLB career.
McClellan started 51 minor league games, then moved primarily to the bullpen after undergoing the same operation as Wainwright – Tommy John surgery – in 2005. The transition worked well for the right-hander, who thrived in the bullpen for three years, averaging 73 innings, a 3.23 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 from 2008-10.
Though McClellan has never started a major league game, the Cardinals have stretched him out at times. He worked 19 outings of at least four outs last year and logged at least two innings ten times.
As a reliever, McClellan has used either his fastball or his curveball 77% of the time, but he does have a change-up and a slider to complete the traditional four-pitch mix. It's possible that hitters will adjust to McClellan's repertoire when they see him for the second or third time in a game and at this point it looks like the Cardinals are willing to take that risk.
Moving McClellan to the rotation would weaken the Cardinals' bullpen and could motivate a trade for bullpen help at some point this summer. The Yankees, Blue Jays, Athletics and Rockies come to mind as teams with deep bullpens, but St. Louis may not be interested in striking a deal and the market for relievers can shift quickly.
The Cardinals were never going to replace Wainwright, one of the top pitchers in the league, but McClellan and his 50% ground ball rate could make the loss more bearable by becoming a passable fifth starter. If not, the Cardinals can move him him back to the bullpen and use the trade chips or cash they otherwise might have saved to trade for or sign a starting pitcher such as Kevin Slowey or Kevin Millwood.