On Oswalt and McClellan

Unless you’re a Cardinals fan that lives under a rock, you’ve heard the recent rumors relating to Roy Oswalt and Kyle McClellan. To catch you up, the Cardinals and Oswalt were reportedly very close to an agreement this past weekend, with a couple reporters calling the signing “imminent.” Of course, since the St. Louis scene wasn’t all over the rumor, I questioned it’s accuracy. And now, just over the last days or so, the St. Louis Cardinals are actively shopping Kyle McClellan, purportedly to get a roster spot and an extra $2.5 million of salary room so that they can increase their offer to Oswalt.

Now, Oswalt’s agent said within the last couple weeks that he would not be a reliever this year. That means he likely has more than one team interested in him to pitch out of the rotation. That’s where he’s been successful in the past, and I wouldn’t want to sign him as a reliever anyway, there is no guarantee a successful starter can adjust to the differences coming out of the bullpen. Which is also another reason against moving Westbrook to the bullpen.

As I sat and thought about these moves last night I’m confused. I cannot for the life of me figure out the cost-to-benefit analysis on this move. You’re trading away 27-year-old Kyle McClellan, who was one of the best middle relievers in major league baseball in 2010, his last season pitching solely out of the bullpen, to add a 34-year-old sixth starter who has had back problems off-and-on for the last few years, culminating last year where he only made 23 starts.

It seems like the 2012 Cardinals are banking hard on injury prone players and praying they remain healthy. They gave $14 million to Rafael Furcal, $26 million to Carlos Beltran, and now seem to be on the verge of giving Roy Oswalt somewhere in the $7-10 million range. These signings all sound great… if it were 2004.

Here are three reasons against signing Roy Oswalt.

First, the cost-to-benefit analysis doesn’t work out for the Cardinals. There was an excellent post at Viva El Birdos yesterday talking about Oswalt replacing Westbrook in the rotation or the use of a six man rotation. If you don’t feel like reading all of that, what his analysis eventually showed is that replacing Jake Westbrook with Roy Oswalt would theoretically result in a net gain of 13 fewer runs allowed, basically what ultimately boils down to just about 1 win over the course of a season. So basically the Cardinals look to be trying to spend $7-10 million for 1 more win.

Many Cardinals’ fans aren’t happy with Westbrook and would be happy to trade him for a bucket of balls. Westbrook, for some reason, had the worst season of his career, posting a 4.66 ERA but still 12 wins. However, in the second half he posted a 3.89 ERA. He struggled most of the season for sure. For what reason, we don’t know, but it’s safe to say that most fans were expecting the 3.48 ERA Jake Westbrook we saw at the end of 2010 when we traded for him. So to get the Westbrook we got was a shock. Something to remember is that Westbrook is likely to be better this year.

And I’m back to my statements of last offseason where we got rid of a couple players who failed to perform in 2010 but had previously had success for a couple of players who failed to perform in 2010 but had previously had success. If we’re going to be crossing our fingers that someone suddenly becomes productive again why all the shake up?

But that doesn’t stop many of us fans from going all googly-eyed about the idea of Roy Oswalt in the rotation. He has the sexy name that everyone wants, but it doesn’t seem worth it.

Second, you have to ask yourself: Is Roy Oswalt better than Jake Westbrook?

If you’re asking for 32 starts from both and they give them to you, Oswalt is going to be the better pitcher. However, when you look at the whole of the situation: Oswalt’s back, Westbrook’s no trade clause, a full rotation already… I’ll take Westbrook because it’s a better use of the organization’s money.

Many fans defend the idea saying Roy Oswalt could be the Lance Berkman of 2012. How many times does lightning strike the same place? How many times do you win on two consecutive pulls of the slot machine? How often will a roulette wheel turn up 17 twice in a row? To expect someone to come out of a perceived nowhere and put up a season like Lance Berkman did last year is naive. Could it happen? Yes, but it is exceptionally unlikely.

And third, it’s easy to sit here and say sign Oswalt, move Westbrook to the bullpen or trade him. However, you have to ask yourself what is the impact of the move on the locker room’s makeup? What if Westbrook isn’t happy about his demotion out of the rotation? He was willing to move to the bullpen in the playoffs for the team, and appropriately so because he was the team’s least successful starter in 2011. I think he understands that, but he’ll want the chance to show he can still be a successful starting pitcher. An unhappy player can easily poison a locker room and a poisoned locker room won’t be winning many championships.

And in summary, the question that we should be asking about the Cardinals’ interest in Roy Oswalt is what it means for the current rotation? The Cardinals have apparently also checked in on Edwin Jackson recently as well. That has me wondering why you’re looking for another starting pitcher when you already have five locked in under contract and a young Lance Lynn getting his starter’s arm back at Memphis (or that’s the plan anyway). Remember the news that Chris Carpenter might not be able to make his start in Game 1 of the World Series due to an elbow issue? Could there be injury concerns about one of the Cardinals’ starters that haven’t been made public?

That is a much larger concern.

Reports are now that Oswalt is visiting with Texas early this week. Personally, I think that’d be a great home for him to finish out his career and they could use a veteran pitcher to lead that rotation.

One thing is certain. After this offseason, I don’t know how anyone can call Bill DeWitt “cheap” anymore.

Motte, Cardinals avoid arbitration

Minutes ago CBS’ Jon Heyman reported that Jason Motte and the St. Louis Cardinals have avoided arbitration. Motte, 29, has agreed to a $1.95 million contract for the 2012 season. The contract also contains $75,000 worth of performance incentives.

Motte, the Cardinals’ 19th round pick of the 2003 draft, was in his first arbitration year and was the team’s final case. Last year, Kyle McClellan got $1.375 million from the Cardinals for a very similar season as a go-to arm in the bullpen. However, Motte was the team’s closer during a phenomenal September run into the playoffs and the franchise’s 11th World Series Championship. Something that would obviously increase his value.

In 68 innings last year, Motte made 78 appearances and posted a 2.25 ERA. He also allowed fewer than 1 baserunner per inning with his 0.956 WHIP. He also had a 27 inning scoreless streak reaching from June 23rd against Philadelphia to September 6th against Milwaukee.

This means that all the Cardinals’ arbitration cases have been decided. Infielder Ryan Theriot was not offered a contract at the deadline, Skip Schumaker was signed a 2 year extension, Kyle McClellan agreed to terms with the Cardinals last week, and now Motte. The team should now be ready for Spring Training, which begins on February 18th when Pitchers & Catchers report. That’s 24 days.

Edit: It has now been confirmed with a tweet from the Cardinals official account.

A curtain call for Mr. La Russa

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced today that Tony La Russa would manage the National League team in the 2012 All Star Game. La Russa, 67, earned the honor when he managed the St. Louis Cardinals to the 2011 World Series, the managers for each team that makes the World Series is selected to manage the next year’s All Star Game. However, La Russa retired at the end of the 2011 season. While many fans wanted him to come back and manage once more, there wasn’t really a precedent to know whether he would.

This will be La Russa’s third time managing the NL All Stars, putting him at six total as he managed the American League three times as well.

The game will be in Kansas City this year. The interesting storyline that already has Cardinals’ fans buzzing is the potential of Albert Pujols being an American League All Star next season and seeing how Tony treats that strategically.

After retiring from the game after 16 seasons, Mr. La Russa gets a curtain call for possibly the first time in his career.

Cardinals announce non-roster invites

In addition to the 40 man roster, major league teams typically invite other players in their organization to participate in Spring Training as non-roster invites. The Cardinals have invited 19 additional players to Jupiter. The 2011 list includes 10 pitchers, 5 catchers, 4 infielders, and no outfielders.

This doesn’t mean that guys like 3B Zack Cox and OF Adron Chambers aren’t invited, they are already on the 40 man roster and therefore should already be there.

Teams also usually invite a large number of catchers from the organization because they have a lot of pitchers needing to get their work in.

The Cardinals have also invited RHP Carlos Martinez and OF Oscar Taveras along with OF Lance Jeffries, OF C.J. McElroy, OF Charlie Tilson, and IF Kenny Peoples-Wall to report early for major league camp.

Pitchers: LHP John Gast, LHP Nick Greenwood, RHP Tyrell Jenkins, RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Victor Marte, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, LHP Kevin Siegrist, RHP Jordan Swagerty, and LHP R.J. Swindle.

Catchers: Luis De La Cruz, Koyie Hill, Steven Hill, Cody Stanley, Robert Stock

Infielders: 1B Matt Adams, SS Ryan Jackson, 2B Eugenio Velez, 2B Kolten Wong

Outfielders: None

McClellan avoids Arbitration

The Cardinals announced today that they have agreed to a 1 year deal worth $2.5 million with pitcher Kyle McClellan. The Cardinals and McClellan will avoid arbitration in his second arbitration eligible year.

McClellan, 27, started the season in the rotation after the injury to staff ace Adam Wainwright. McClellan had come through the minor league system as a starter, only to switch to relief after his Tommy John surgery. In 17 starts for the Cardinals, McClellan was 6-6 with a 4.21 ERA. After the acquisition of Edwin Jackson, McClellan made 26 more appearances out of the bullpen posting a 6-1 record and a 4.14 ERA.

He only made just 1 appearance in the playoffs for the Cardinals though after struggling with arm fatigue issues late in the season. There doesn’t appear to be any concern in the organization that those issues will continue into this season.

Many, including myself, have speculated that McClellan might be traded this offseason because of his desire to be a starting pitcher. With Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jake Westbrook already in the rotation, Wainwright back from injury, and Lance Lynn slated to start the season in the Memphis rotation, the odds of that happening in a Cardinals’ uniform are slim. He’s also well liked, so I think if he made his desire known to the Cardinals’ brass, that it wouldn’t come out negatively.

That leaves the Cardinals with only Jason Motte‘s contract situation to sort out. Motte, 29, is in his first arbitration year and asked for $2.4 million. The Cardinals have offered $1.5 million.