It all started on Tuesday morning as news broke that David Price had agreed to a 7 year, $217 million deal with the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals had been the runners up. Not only that, but Price reportedly began a round of golf that morning with the expectation that he would be joining the Cardinals that afternoon, but Boston went $37 million over the top and Price agreed at lunch time to join the Red Sox.
Then today, Jeff Samardzija signed a 5 year, $90 million deal with the San Francisco Giants and, once again, the Cardinals were reported to be the second best offer on the table.
Cardinals fans have been left frustrated as the best pitching names are coming off the board this week and they have yet to secure one. David Price. Zack Greinke. Jordan Zimmerman. Jeff Samardzija. John Lackey.
The movement has left many fans debating whether they can put their dislike of Johnny Cueto to rest for a few years. But Cueto recently was reported to have turned down a 6 year, $120 million offer from the Diamondbacks.
While it would be nice for the Cardinals to have gotten an ace caliber pitcher like David Price, that was always going to be a luxury. With the losses of John Lackey to free agency and Lance Lynn to injury, the club needs to fill quality innings more than anything else.
And in that regard, there are still some good options out there that don’t require you to do the soul searching related to signing Cueto.
Of all the pitchers on the board, Mike Leake is probably my favorite option. The fear is always that while Leake is the youngest pitcher on the board, he may end up overpaid because of that fact. But my gut says that he is perfectly positioned to outplay the contract he ends up with. Plus, he doesn’t have any drat pick compensation attached to him.
He just turned 28 years old and is a former first round pick. He debuted in the Majors without having never thrown a pitch in the minors. Over the past three seasons, he has a 3.59 ERA and a 105 ERA+ while averaging just shy of 200 innings a season. That’s not bad when half your starts are happening in the hitter friendly Great American Ball Park.
Then you have Doug Fister. While Fister’s 4.19 ERA over 15 starts and 10 relief appearances for Washington doesn’t inspire a lot of desire, he is known as a ground ball pitcher who might see added success in front of St. Louis’ infield.
There is also Scott Kazmir who posted a 3.10 ERA over 31 starts last season between Oakland and Houston.
The problem with both of those guys is that neither have proven they have the ability to consistently throw 200 innings like a guy like Leake has. Between the losses of Lackey and Lynn, the Cardinals are looking to fill 393 innings. Some of those will obviously be filled by Adam Wainwright‘s return, but a reliable arm is still needed with a question-filled rotation.
If you’re looking to take a flier, you’ve got Cliff Lee, who hasn’t pitched since 2014 with an elbow injury. Then there’s Mark Buehrle who has said for years that he wants to pitch in St. Louis. There’s also Kyle Lohse who is coming off a rough season in Milwaukee, but has had past success in St. Louis.
Mozeliak could also explore the trade market. The Tampa Bay Rays are believed to be shopping any starter not named Chris Archer while Atlanta is shopping Shelby Miller. But I doubt this is an avenue that Mozeliak will pursue.
Hopefully though, by the time next week’s winter meetings begin, the position player market will pick up and we can be talking about the return of Jason Heyward.
While pitching is the luxury, this team has a real need on the offensive side of the ball. If missing out on some pitching forces the team to spend more on offense, maybe it’s worth the frustration after all.