Kyle McClellan Rumors

Kyle McClellan’s Role In St. Louis

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.

McClellan

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.


Cards To Wait Two Weeks Before Looking For Pitching

After losing Adam Wainwright for the season, it's been speculated that the Cardinals would go out on the free agent or trade market to acquire his replacement. GM John Mozeliak showed a much more patient approach last week, saying they'll first look in-house for a solution. SI.com's Jon Heyman reports today (on Twitter) that reliever Kyle McClellan will get the first crack at the job, but if not one emerges within two weeks, the team will "consider outside options."

The 26-year-old McClellan has 202 career relief appearances to his credit but zero big league starts. His last start came in Single-A in 2007, and the last time he started on a regular basis was back in 2004, again in Single-A. McClellan was working under a starter's program in Spring Training before Wainwright's injury, and according to the PitchFX data at FanGraphs, he throws enough pitches for the role: sinker (33.0% of the time), fastball (25.9%), curve (22.3%), and slider (11.9%) while mixing in a changeup (6.1%). Cardinals fans, chime in in the comments if you've seen something different out of the right-hander.

I looked at some potential pitching options for the Cardinals last week, highlighted by free agents Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Bonderman.


Quick Hits: Carpenter, Martin, Francis, Yankees

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…



Cardinals Avoid Arbitration With Kyle McClellan

The Cardinals and reliever Kyle McClellan have agreed to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration according to the team's Twitter feed.  The deal is worth $1.375MM, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. With the right-hander's contract taken care of, the Cardinals have no more arbitration eligible players for 2011. 

Last season McClellan, 26, turned in a career-best 2.27 ERA last season with 7.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 75.1 innings of work.  This winter marked McClellan's first crack at arbitration eligibility.  To keep up on all of the 2011 arbitration cases, check out our Arb Tracker.


Odds & Ends: Fielder, Young, Pierzynski Dice-K

Links for Tuesday…


Cardinals Pursuing Matt Holliday

SATURDAY, 7:05pm: Peter Gammons tweets (account protected) that any discussions would have to start with Brett Wallace, as the A's don't need to trade Holliday.

FRIDAY, 11:13pm: The Cardinals are "redoubling efforts to acquire" Matt Holliday, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  Strauss says the Cards have warmed to the idea of offering a multiplayer package.  They were previously reluctant to send a Ryan Ludwick-fronted package to Colorado in November.  Strauss believes that the Cardinals would now probably be willing to offer Ludwick, one of Jason Motte, Chris Perez, and Kyle McClellan, and a prospect to Holliday's current team, the Athletics.  Strauss adds:

Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., who opposed the November deal for Holliday, is apparently on board with assuming the remainder of Holliday's $13.5 million salary.

Only about $7.6MM remains on Holliday's contract, and he is of course a free agent after the season.  Holliday, a Scott Boras client, currently profiles as a Type A free agent despite a decrease in production with Oakland.

Ludwick has about $2MM remaining on his contract this year.  He's under team control through 2011 as an arbitration-eligible player.  Ludwick was actually drafted by the A's in 1999, 60th overall.  In 2002, they sent him to the Rangers with Gerald Laird and others for Carlos Pena and Mike Venafro.  Ludwick, like Holliday, has dropped off significantly from his huge 2008 season.