[The United Cardinal Bloggers have begun their offseason roundtable discussion in which member bloggers take turns posing a question each day to the others. Today’s question comes from Brian Vaughan and Spencer Hendricks of StanGraphs.]
With Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman presumably coming completely off the books, J-Mo has some money to mess around with. If you had this extra money at you disposal and Mozeliak got super drunk and told you that you were running the team for now, what would you do? Would you get all up in the free agent pool, or would you sit tight?
Using the money for other purposes is intriguing, but we’ll limit our response to on-field talent and to the realm of the known possible (i.e., free agents) and immediate. The Cardinals’ elephant in the room for 2013 is their rotation health, so we would use some of that cash to increase the starting-pitching depth, with or without the benefit of an elixir to loosen the GM’s pursestrings.
This blogger’s fondness for Dan Haren is well-known, but even so we are willing to see him with eyes open. Michael Barr at Fangraphs tells a fairly convincing story about how Haren is a risk, and it’s clear that his best pitching is behind him. That said, a compromised Haren may still be a better idea than a compromised Westbrook, Carpenter or Garcia, so he’d be a useful accompaniment to the 2013 rotation. Even in his worst year — 2012 — he was “roughly league average.” Given the uncertainty around the current rotation, the Cardinals are going to need some quality innings, and a one-year $8-9 million deal for Haren would be a risky but potentially rewarding move. I’d put it in the category of Berkman’s time with the Cardinals: 50-50 chance that he plays a full season, but if he does, he’ll help them to the next level.
The surer but more expensive starting-pitcher signing would be Hiroki Kuroda, who spurned the Yankees’ one-year, $13.3-million qualifying offer, presumably preferring a multiple-year contract. Still, a two-year, $22-million deal, for example, would actually give the Cardinals some certainty for 2014, for which they have only Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn (team control) and possibly Westbook (option) committed.
If we still had some money left and/or scotch remaining, we’d pursue Stephen Drew. Despite having no real plan for shortstop, the A’s declined his $10-million option, so we can assume that Drew’s health is anything but a sure bet for 2013. On the positive side, it means that his price tag is lower, which puts Drew into the Cardinals’ market. Failing a trade for a shortstop (namely, for Asdrubal Cabrera or Elvis Andrus), Drew would be a worthwhile expense.
Finally — and we can’t believe we’re saying this — we’d look into an established LOOGy. The Pirates picked Hisanori Takahashi up off the waiver scrap heap back in August, so he can’t be commanding top dollar this winter. Yet he proved that he can still strike out batters with a 9.30 K/9 in 51 games in 2012 and has a 2.93 career FIP vs. lefties. He’d be a low-risk one-year deal. And it would be worth it simply to be spared the incessant discussion about which Triple-A lefty would be called up to bail out Marc Rzepczynski.