Winter Meetings: The Cardinals Go Name-Brand Shopping

Interesting stuff in Joe Strauss's big Winter Meetings piece today. Among other things:

  • Jake Peavy? Jake Peavy!? This piece seems to take for granted the idea that Moz and the Cardinals were in on Peavy as recently as two days ago, which is really bizarre. There's been almost no mention of acquiring Peavy at all, outside of drivetime sports talk shows, since the most preliminary discussions began, and now Joe Strauss is writing as though he's giving us Peavy-Watch, Day 50. Was there some big organizational groundswell of support for the move that rose and fell over the course of forty-eight hours, or what? Whatever the reasoning behind Peavy's sudden return to the P-D front page, I'm happy to learn, once again, that  the Cardinals don't plan on making Colby Rasmus available.
  • So I guess Adam Kennedy might remain a Cardinal, after all. The recent introduction of UZR, Mitchel Lichtman's intermittently available defensive stat, onto the Fangraphs player cards makes me a little happier about that possibility. According to UZR Kennedy is, for his career, an average of nearly ten runs a season better than the average second baseman, which makes his 2008 defensive output, according to some statistics among the best in the league, a little easier to stomach. It's still probably a fluke, to some degree, but UZR gives him a high peak from 2003 to 2005. I don't think Kennedy is a very reliable option at second, needing both to repeat an extraordinary defensive season and stay perched on the edge of usefulness on offense just to remain an average player, but when stacked up with the Cardinals' back-of-the-rotation options he seems positively steady. 
  • Bonus: Can you find the weird verb repetition in the article that made me scroll back up and reread twice? 
  • Most useful for Hot Stove League discussion: a list of possible candidates for the Cardinals' last free agent dimes. 
I'd rank the choices listed as follows: 1. Oliver Perez; 2. Andy Pettitte 3. The Field 4. Randy Wolf 5. Brad Penny. Each of the pitchers, as is customary at the one-year-commitment end of the free agent spectrum, offers something intriguing to dream about and something ugly lurking in the background of said dream. 

Oli Perez
Happy thoughts: Perez, once upon a time, was one of the most exciting young pitchers in baseball, and as Cardinals fans we saw it; he struck out ten members of the supercharged 2004 MV3 lineup at old Busch Stadium to earn one of his twelve victories that year. He's got a great fastball and a great slider and despite having reinvented himself no fewer than three times he will be all of 27 years old next year.

Sad thoughts: After that shining moment in 2004 he spent two years in the wilderness, walking 138 batters and allowing 43 home runs in 215 innings. Even in his latest comeback, as an above-average starter with the Mets, he's allowed less than six innings an appearance due to his struggles with his control and the nature of being a strikeout pitcher. Speaking of which: he's a strikeout pitcher. Dave Duncan has probably been thinking about what he'd say to Oliver Perez ever since he struck out ten batters at old Busch Stadium in 2004.

All in all I'd be happy with an Oliver Perez signing—he's the class of pitcher that locking up Kyle Lohse should make available to the Cardinals. With an average, innings-eating pitcher locked up at what seems to be the going rate they can better afford to take a chance on a guy like Perez, who might not go deep into games but may go out and shut a team down for six innings. That sort of thing is a lot easier to stomach when you know where some of the bulk innings in your rotation are coming from in front of him. 

Andy Pettitte
Happy Thoughts: He's Andy Pettitte! He has 215 wins and an entire season's worth of postseason appearances, in which he's gone 18-7. He's made at least 33 starts and thrown at least 204 innings for four years in a row. At 37 his skills have hardly declined; he still gets a ton of groundballs, he still has an above-average K rate, and his control is intact. He's been on what amounts to two one-year commitments in a row, and may be looking for another.

Sad Thoughts: I will misspell his name in every entry until the middle of May, lulled into complacency by Baseball-Reference's auto-correct search function. He's probably been more of a really durable number two than an ace, 1997 and 2005 aside, and as recently as 2002 and 2004 people were wondering aloud if he'd finally broken down. His one-year commitment was $16 million last year, which would basically wrap it up for the Cardinals as far as spending is concerned.  

Pettitte's probably going to cost more than Perez, but all those innings pitched are certainly enticing and his 4.54 ERA from last year is more than a little misleading judging by his peripherals and the fact that he pitched in front of the Yankees' perpetually terrifying defense. 

As for the other two pitchers... well, between them my only happy thought was how cool it was when Brad Penny started the All Star Game and used it as an opportunity to throw as hard as he—read: a human being—possibly could over a single inning. Enthusiasm, often blind, is part of the allure of the Hot Stove, so it wouldn't seem right to feign it. That's why if either player, or anybody else, is Your Guy, it is your duty and your duty alone to get out the proverbial vote from now until the end of the Winter Meetings.
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