Mozeliak has to make a move

by on July 23, 2008 · 4 comments

Now, before everyone attacks me about this being a rebuilding year and the Cards shouldn’t be giving up propects for rentals, don’t sell the farm, they’re in this position because Walt Jocketty mortgaged the future for now, etc., please listen.

It doesn’t have to be a big move.  I’m not talking about shipping out Colby Rasmus anywhere.

What concerns me though, is that I sense a palpable difference in the way the Milwaukee Brewers have approached these last two games, and the way the Cards have played.  When the Brewers were down early in both games, they never seemed to sweat it, they seemed confident that if they played their games, they would win.  Ultimately, that’s exactly what happened.  As evidenced by the CC Sabathia and Ray Durham moves (hell, they even signed Jay Gibbons) and even in the words of Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin, the Brewers are playing to win, and win now.  The Cardinals on the other hand, had their current mindset summed up in Kyle Lohse’s performance last night.  Lohse seemed to have enough left in the tank when he trotted back out to pitch the eighth, but it was probably a situation best left to a lights-out setup/closer combo.  Problem is, Tony doesn’t trust his bullpen.  The Cards are now playing not to lose.

Sure, LaRussa went on a tirade post-game about how the bullpen didn’t lose the game, the offense has sputtered, they can’t expect to win while scoring only three runs – and while he may be right about the offense needing more pop (how about some hits beyond the third inning, fellas?) – he couldn’t be more wrong about the bullpen.  Of course, he can’t say it, because their already fragile mental states don’t need to be run down by their manager too, but the bullpen cost them the last two games.  This one in more grandiose style than Monday’s.  Not only did Kyle McClellan physically blow the game, but you could reasonably blame the bullpen for losing the game based on LaRussa not being confident in using them in the eighth inning.

So the Brewers have made some moves that have loosened up their clubhouse, and improved their team.  The Cubs have made a move to improve their team – but they are the Cubs, so have managed to turtle up and lose four out of five since the All-Star Break.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals are waiting for Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright to return – which would be a huge boost in and of itself – but I don’t think it’s the complete answer.

It seems as if the trade market so far this season is a bit weak – teams asking for a lot in return, settling for what is ultimately the best deal available.  In those terms, it shouldn’t be hard to get someone who can make a difference for this team down the stretch.

Now, I do think Cards management and fans should give up on the Matt Holliday’s, Brian Fuentes’, and Jason Bay’s.  The capital investment to get any of those guys is going to be just too high.  But there are plenty of “Tier 2” guys available that can help this team, and now.

The Pirates are supposedly high on Chris Duncan and Anthony Reyes.  This should be John Mozeliak’s wildest dream come true.  Sure, you’re probably still selling low – but why not package Duncan, Reyes, and say, Brendan Ryan for either Damaso Marte or John Grabow and Jack Wilson?  Bullpen help and upgrade the middle infield for three guys who are ultimately replaceable parts in the long-term organizational plans.

I floated the Jarrod Washburn and Arthur Rhodes idea on Monday (admittedly behind the times on that one, Viva El Birdos gets credit for the Washburn part there).

The Cardinals have recently made well-known their interest in George SherrillI saw Sherrill pitch earlier this season, and I have to say he impressed me.  He has nasty stuff, and could close to boot.  This is another situation where I wonder if the Cards have the capital (that they’re willing to trade) to make a deal here.  According to Ken Rosenthal, the Cards had scouts watching the O’s Tuesday night, but Baltimore is looking for a close to ML-ready shortstop or outfielder for Sherrill.  The Cards aren’t going to deal Rasmus for him, Duncan is likely not on the O’s radar, and if the Cardinals had a close to ML-ready shortstop, he’d already be in St Louis.  Would someone like Jon Jay be enough to get it done?  Joe Mather?  Maybe Shane Robinson-plus?  Sherrill might fall under that “too pricey” tag, but I’d sure be excited to see him in a Cards uni.

You’ll notice I’m focusing on bullpen help, and primarily left-handers at that.  I still think that a big arm or two in the bullpen would be enough to keep this team in contention.  That’s why I think the Cards are sitting in a great position to make a deal – you don’t have to give up a lot (in theory) to massively improve your team here.  Carpenter and/or Wainwright’s return(s) will have an impact as well.  We could see any one of Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer, or Joel Pineiro back in the bullpen this season.  Looper has history as a closer, and could well be the answer there.  Any of them moving back to the bullpen would allow optioning Kelvin Jimenez who, despite a couple decent performances, still doesn’t strike me as a Major League reliever.  Mitchell Boggs could go back for more seasoning.  Ron Villone could go back to LOOGY work, instead of having to go multiple innings.  They could reduce some of the massive innings that McClellan has pitched in his rookie season.

Get Carp and Waino healthy (health is really the key there, PLEASE do not rush them back if they are not ready), allowing a bullpen reinforcement from your own rotation.  Get yourself a solid left-handed option in the bullpen to complement Villone and get Randy Flores out of the picture.  You might even be able to shore up the middle infield in the process.  Whatever it is, just do something.  Make this team believe that they can win in late innings.  Make them believe that you’re not sacrificing them for next year’s team.  But don’t give up the farm.

Sound easy enough?  Make it so, Mo.

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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StLCards July 23, 2008

I still wouldn’t want to give up Duncan and Reyes for Marte and while I like Jack Wilson he has a pretty hefty contract at $6+ million and I think they are still hopeful that Ryan can play SS with more seasoning. Tony is not likely to use a lefty as a closer anyway so we could get a lesser named lefty much cheaper than Marte probably. Lefties to Tony and Dunc seem to be more 1 out specialists anyway. I think the Cardinals could target someone like Weathers and instantly improve the pen for cheap. He is old, but I think that works to your favor as right now we might be asking too much from our young guys. Weathers is pitching great right now too and has experience closing if that were needed. I wouldn’t trust him long term as a closer, but hopefully that falls to Perez next year anyway.

Sherril is still in his first full year as a closer and who knows if he holds up or not, plus he isn’t likely to come cheap. That is still a problem with the Cardinals, depth in the minors. It has gotten better, but I’d hate to see them deplete it now. LaPorta was expendable since they had Braun now in the OF and Gamels an up and coming 3B or maybe yet another OF. The Cards really need Rasmus in center for the future. Ankiel is doing a good job for now, but the future in center is Rasmus, IMO.

Those are some good points about getting Carp and/or Wainwright back and then having an extra arm for the bullpen. Right now I’m guessing Piniero would be the one they would move first. I’m pretty sure that Boston had him targeted as their closer when they planned to make Papelbon a starter. Maybe he’d have better luck in the Cardinal bullpen.

PHE July 23, 2008

Right – I wasn’t implying Dunc and Reyes for only Marte – but rather Marte and/or Grabow plus Wilson.

You’re right, Wilson carries a hefty price tag salary-wise, but he could probably outplay any middle infielder we have currently at either 2B or SS. He has a 7.25M tag for next season and a ’10 option.

Whether he likes it or not, I feel like TLR sees the writing on the wall with the bullpen – his old “preferences” are probably out the window at this point. If Mo acquires a guy the likes of Sherrill who has had success this year as a closer, Tony will use him. I’m with you on going for a tier two guy at LHRP – I am a big advocate of Rhodes or Grabow – I’d love Mahay, but I don’t think the Royals have any motivation to deal him.

Agreed on Rasmus – I don’t think there’s any doubt that Ank moves to a corner when he comes up. I also would not advocate trading Rasmus – but there are players who could be dealt. Is Bryan Anderson really ever going to get a shot with the big club if Yadier is there? If not, he’s perfect trade bait – these are the internal discussions I wish I was privy to.

As mentioned, methinks Looper is primed for a bullpen move before Pineiro. If you recall, Joel wasn’t too excited about pitching in relief for Boston, and one of the reasons he was happy to resign with the Cards was the opportunity to start. Looper, while he’s said he prefers to start, I think is better suited to the pen. Especially since starting, in my opinion, has taught him a few things about himself and his pitches. If he could prepare as if he only needed to throw 1-2 innings every other night, I think he could be wildly successful.

StLCards July 23, 2008

I wonder if they’d give any consideration to putting Wainwright back in as closer? I don’t know the extent of his finger injury, but maybe limiting him to an inning vs 7 or 8 innings at a time could make sense? Doubt they’d consider that, but an interesting idea.

I do like the idea of Rhodes. He seems to be the kind of guy that could step right in and be a big contributor.

Speaking of Rasmus, I read something about him needing an MRI on his knee and now see he has a sprained knee and will miss the Olympics. Maybe this will set him up for a September look afterall.

PHE July 23, 2008

There’s been a lot of talk about Waino taking over the closer role again, a la 2006.

I personally don’t think it’s a good move. If the guy is a starter, he’s a starter, use him as such. 2006 was an extraordinary circumstance – they got his ears wet at the ML level that way (and he succeeded, wildly) before settling him back in to his intended role as a starter.

I wouldn’t mind seeing McClellan at closer. Or Springer. Or no one designated. Just play matchups. For now, the bullpen needs to be the best option in the best situation, I think.

Is it only a sprain for Rasmus? Early reports were MCL tear – so a sprain would be great news. Might still prohibit Olympic participation, but still potentially allow a September callup.

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