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.”
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.
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