To think—we were just complaining about having to wait for some hot stove action and here it is. I, for one, never expected the Cardinals to even compete in the Charlie Manning sweepstakes, but I suppose the Yankees were scared off by his price tag.
In all honesty I love signings like this, the NRIs and the waiver wire pickups, even though they tend to amount to nothing. (This time last year the Cardinals were checking John Wasdin and Dewon Brazelton for dings and bruises.) We microanalyze so much about the big things—who'll start, who'll close, who's a prospect, who's not—that these insignificant signings are the last realm of the real Hot Stove discussion, where the basis of your argument for a player can be "I like him" or "he's looked good in Spring Training."
Having said that, of course, I'd like to microanalyze him a little.
Manning's surface stats indicate a guy who has no idea where the ball's going. He walked four guys per nine innings in AAA, and after getting his call-up with the Nats he walked six, which is Mitch Williams territory. He also managed to give up eight home runs in his forty big league innings, one of which did not endear him to a Washington Post headline writer.
But there are some silver linings. For one thing, his AAA numbers are not entirely without merit; he's managed to strike out nearly eleven per nine innings in both stints. For another... take a look at his splits and you'll see a classic LOOGY tendency playing itself out in his numbers.
That doesn't look like command issues so much as abject terror against batters who can see his breaking ball all the way through. It's the same platoon split you'll find in specialists like Chad Bradford or our own Mike Worrell, though it's easier to do when you're a righty looking for other righties. Randy Flores didn't have much of a platoon split, even when he was getting other people out, and Ron Villone just walked everybody, so this would be a new weapon in the bullpen, the kind of specialist that will require extremely close monitoring by TLR—which is to say I'm sure he's very excited.
I lost the rest of this post to a terrible SBNation accident, and I have to get to class. So allow me to wrap up with a thought experiment, so as to keep us from thinking ALCS-related thoughts any longer than necessary.
Let's say Moz is really busy, sometime in the near future—signing a shortstop, maybe—and he's got to offload some things to keep his schedule light. So he hands you a cashier's check for $5 million, and he says: fix the bullpen. Please. You've got your sure things, like Franklin, Perez, McClellan, and Motte, and you have some wildcards, like Worrell, Kinney, and Tyler Johnson, who may or may not be effective this year. They're already getting paid.
Your mission is to take your $5 million, pick up a combination plate of free agent relievers from this unimpressive menu, and come back to Moz with a bullpen you won't feel terrible about. (I have my eyes on one of Juan Cruz or Jeremy Affeldt, personally.)