The Devil’s Advocate vs Chris Carpenter

by on February 27, 2011 · 5 comments

I jokingly speculated back in December about what it would take to pry Chris Carpenter loose from the Cardinals.  HINT: A lot.  I take it all back (or at least wish I could). 

But there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.” ~William H. Bonny (Young Guns)

Translated into baseball talk, that means that a lot can happen between December and spring training.  Boy, did it ever.  As if the members of Cardinal Nation weren’t reeling enough, then Chris Carpenter came out with this little dandy:

“It’s not up to me. If the Cardinals wanted to trade me, obviously I would go. There’s no question about that,” Carpenter said. “I’m not going hold back or veto or do anything like that if they’re looking to move me.”

Uh. *gulp*

It took a few moments for my brain cell (yeah, that’s singular) to recover, and then it went into “accidental blogger” mode.  First thought:  Devil’s Advocate vs Chris Carpenter.

Carp’s Side:  There’s the moral high ground and the high road attached to it, and then there’s the elevated train above the high ground.  Carp just made himself the conductor on that elevated train.  Ultimate team player?  Yeah, he just took the “company man” label by force and threw down a gauntlet with a message attached.  Simple version?  “Nobody is above the franchise.  NOBODY!”  Ya heard me?  You can bet that Albert Pujols got the message, and you can bet that it meant something.  More importantly, Carp wasn’t messing around.  The guy certainly must own a tv or two, and he’s probably heard several times about how the Yankees would like to have him in pinstripes at some point in 2011.  He’s bright enough to put 2 and 2 together.  Very strong statement from an upstanding guy.  Very few players would say what Carp said.  Heck, very few HAVE said what he said.  He’s willing to uproot himself for the good of the team?  Somebody tell the folks at the team store to order a few more Carp jerseys, because they might be selling a few extras this year. 

Devil’s Advocate:  What’s that line about deserting a sinking ship?  Should it be amended to include desertion when an option clause for 2012 is involved?  Yeah, I’d probably leave as well, especially if it were for a playoff-caliber team that would be willing to pick up a $15M option for 2012.  Oh, it might be a bonus to move closer to where I grew up in New Hampshire.  Heard that the fishing is nice there, and the LL Bean headquarters are just a few hours away in Freeport, Maine.  Yeah, he’d miss the guys in St. Louis, but Adam Wainwright won’t be back for a while anyway.  Besides, he could always return there as a closer after 2012, right?  This is a fairly savvy PR move, and it will certainly solidify his standing as a popular figure in Stl. Cardinals history, so I’m liking it more and more each passing hour.  Mo’ money, mo’ playoffs.  Wait, he could even possibly pick the destination as well.  Why not sunny California?  Oakland might be nice for a stretch.  Texas?  What about the Angels?  So many potential choices, and so much time to decide. 

The Blind Side:  What if Carp is even more clever than anybody realizes?  What if he’s going to play everybody for fools?  Let’s say that he’s willing to waive his no trade rights as long as the team option for 2012 is turned into a player option.  The Cardinals can make a deal that returns some nice pieces from a team desperate for a guy that can push them into the playoffs, and there aren’t many guys like that available at the trade deadline.  Okay, there’s almost nobody of Carpenter’s quality and ability available at the deadline usually, but that’s neither here nor there.  Pretty much everybody will assume Carp simply wants the ability to guarantee that 2012 option on his own terms.  What if he declines the 2012 player option in favor of a return to St. Louis.  He then becomes an expensive “rented Carpenter” for half of 2011, costs a team some prospects, and he returns to St. Louis the conquering hero.  Yeah, it’s a crazy a far-fetched idea that only works if the Cardinals are out of the race by the deadline, but I’m all about hedging right now.  Crazier things have happened in baseball.

Final Analysis:  Carp’s a pro’s pro, and he’s been around long enough to know what it’s like to push the boulder up the hill for the entire season as the staff ace.  He just gave the team an easy “out”, if the team needs one.  What more could you ask of a veteran pitcher? 

TIDBIT:  All the chatter about Mark Buehrle will eventually somehow be connected to Carp.  If both the Cardinals and White Sox are out of the race by the deadline, the Cards could trade off Carp for some prospects, and then they could deal for Buehrle.  The net result would probably be Buehrle plus a slight improvement to the talent pipeline.  Another possibility is that the Cardinals could just hold off until after 2011 to see if the White Sox exercise the team option on Buehrle for 2012.  I’m not really on board for either scenario yet.  Buehrle’s contract includes a kicker that boosts his 2011 pay by $1M if he gets traded, and that trade would automatically trigger his 2012 option which is worth $15M.  No wonder he’s expressed interest in St. Louis.  For $15M, I’d express interest in pitching in Siberia for 1 season.  Duh.  Admittedly, Buehrle is just shy of 32, but I’d still have Carp for 2011-2012 than Buehrle, because I don’t see Buehrle taking a tremendous pay cut beyond 2012. 

Like it?  Already tired of people spelling “Buehrle” wrong?  Follow gr33nazn on Twitter, and we’ll punish those people with quotes from crappy 80’s movies!

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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Ann February 27, 2011

Ok, so obviously Carp’s not stupid. He knows this game, and the negotiations that go along with it. But the Cardinals (as much as sometimes we fans think so) aren’t stupid either. And with Waino gone, there is NO WAY they’re dealing Carp. None. Yeah, their payroll is entirely top heavy, and that may be unattractive to a lot of the upper management guys, but still, they’re not going to trade away the now singular staff ace.

I think Carp knew exactly what he was doing, said everything exactly how he meant to, and devil’s advocate or not, he got every single message across he intended to.

As far as Buehrle goes, I still maintain that it was coincidence his statement came the day the news about Waino came out. Maybe that’s me being naive, but whatever. He’s from STL, so I don’t think it would be out of the realm of possibility for him to come here, but not in 2012 (unless other pitchers are moved, which I can’t bring myself to consider). Not with the contracts coming up of those already here (I’m looking at you, Yadi).

Ugh, I just want the season to START.

Dennis February 27, 2011

Ann, I agree about not dealing Carp, but just imagine if they did manage to fleece a contending team of 3-4 prospects for a half season of Carp. Just a thought.

In reality, I think that part of the message was meant for AP, and I love that he sent it. “No one player is above the team.” Message sent. Awesome.

The Buehrle thing was coincidence, but it was no accident. Buehrle was sending a message of his own, and he was doing it without running afoul of MLB’s rules. It’s no secret that he’d like to pitch in Stl at some point. He just wanted to let people in Stl know that he’s a name to keep in mind at some point. Message received.

The scenario that makes sense would be for Buehrle to wear the Birds on the Bat in 2013 after Westbrook’s contract is up. He’d probably have to take a cut from $15M/yr, and the team would have to clear some space, but it’s unlikely that they’d be paying Lohse and Carp full price at that point as well. If Waino is playing at a lower base rate by then, they could have a nice mix with Garcia and a few younger guys. Interesting possibilities.

E.E. RIPPER February 27, 2011

Carpenter’s comments were about as good a hedge against any possible scenario that he or the Cards may face. Me I would select “The Blind Side” as most appropriate. Carpenter’s comments were very,very clever.
As for the Buehrle thing, I’m from Chicago & follow the Sox as well as the Cubs & Buehrle has expressed his desire to pitch in St Louis for as long as I can remember. If the Sox are sellers & the Cards buyers come July, it wouldn’t surprise me one whit to see a deal for Buehrle.
P.S. The reason for my trade scenario is that Sox are, according to the team, way over budget & cutting loose his significant 2012 option would obviously help. Secondly, Dennis I know you believe in hometown discounts, but don’t underestimate Buehrle’s very real desire to pitch for his favorite childhood team. He is genuinely that kind of guy. Just my gut feeling…..

Dennis February 27, 2011

I have the same gut feeling, but I don’t envision the Sox being sellers. Even if they are, it would take a creative restructure to fit Buehrle into the payroll. The big unknown in what Carp said is nobody else knows what his intentions are beyond this season. Maybe his career track is different than what everybody else projects.

I’m not big on hometown discounts, but I could see it happening with Buehrle. I could also see a combo of Carp/Waino/Buehrle in 2012 (discounted) to keep the “band together”.

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