Odds & Ends: Andrus, Cabrera & Wainwright

Yadier Molina tries to get Adam Wainwright to smell his glove. - Marc Serota

Did I click on Bluebird Banter?

After outing myself as a closet Blue Jays' fan last week, the Jays decided to turn baseball on it's head and acquired the Miami Marlins. Setting aside the questionable ethics of Jeff Loria after acquiring public funding for his new stadium, this was a blockbuster of a deal. Two of the players involved, Yunel Escobar and Jose Reyes, will be each team's new starting shortstop. While Mozeliak has indicated that he believes the team has depth at the middle infield without looking externally, it was hard not to wonder what either Escobar [1] or Reyes would look like on the Cardinals.

Defense 2012 wOBA Remaining Contract
Rafael Furcal Below Average
.298 1Y / $7M
Yunel Escobar Above Average .284 1Y / $5M + 2 $5M club options
Jose Reyes Below Average .335 5Y / $92M + 1 $22M club option
Elvis Andrus Well Above Average .322 2Y / $10.275M

I expected Escobar, at least, to look much better on paper than he does. He's been very inconsistent over the last few years in his offensive production. If it wasn't for a very team-friendly contract, I doubt he'd be interesting at all. The 2012 wOBA is not where expectations for 2013 should be but it reflects something like the floor of Escobar's production level. At odds with my brain's perception, Escobar is actually a year older than Reyes as well.

If you want to go crazy expensive, Jose Reyes is still an excellent player at shortstop. His contract is not team friendly but neither is it completely out of line with his production. He's a year removed from his massive contract season performance in 2012 (.376 wOBA) and his defense is questionable but the bat is still live. The Cardinals didn't give Albert Pujols a $20M contract, it's hard to see them ever being interested in Jose Reyes under these financial considerations.

Both of those comparisons to an aging, infirm Rafael Furcal would be marginal upgrades. But they also show why Elvis Andrus could haul in a king's ransom this offseason. With a thin shortstop market and Andrus coming off his best offensive performance to date, the Rangers can have a big asking price with Jurickson Profar waiting in the wings. Andrus (24) is 5 years younger than Reyes and a decade Furcal's junior. He's also the best of the four players listed above. If the Cardinals were willing to pursue him, he looks like a 2 win upgrade on paper compared to Furcal and his injury replacements.

[1] I find Escobar's actions to be bigoted and hateful and I doubt I'd ever be able to root for him as an individual were he on the Cardinals.

* * *

In 2011, this player posted a 4.2 fWAR season. Last year, they were good for 4.6 fWAR. This week, they signed a 2 year, $16M contract. I find it hard to process the new Melky Cabrera contract that he signed this week with the Blue Jays. Two years and $16M for a 4 win player is an excellent contract coming from the free agent market.

This price sets Cabrera's yearly contribution as a roughly 2 WAR contributor. I've never considered that the baseball market prices in a moral component in any significant way. (Some truly unsavory individuals get contracts in line with their performance in spite of their unsavory nature.) So in some ways, this contract says to me that baseball teams didn't believe that Cabreara's performance over the last two seasons wasn't including a significant PED component.

Is there a better way to explain such a steep discount for Cabrera? He's in his prime years. He's an average-ish outfield defender. He's hit for impressive offense two years in a row. The only true black mark on his resume was his 2012 suspension for PEDs. Was no other GM willing to step in with a third year? No one was willing to offer a 2Y, $10M deal? The situation seems odd but kudos to the Blue Jays for what looks like it could be a steal in terms of baseball production.

* * *

Does Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia's health affect, in any substantive way, an Adam Wainwright extension? The Cardinals move forward with a rotation that could contain exactly one hold over in 2014 (Lance Lynn). If the Cardinals knew now that Carpenter and Garcia were unlikely to play again due to their respective injuries, that leaves a rotation of Wainwright, Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn and some combination of Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly headed into 2013.

It says a lot about our prospects that we aren't all completely freaking out over the rotation's health right now. There's still a very real possibility that Jaime Garcia doesn't pitch in 2013 and requires surgery. If it's a shoulder injury, there's a very real possibility he never pitches again or, at least, never pitches like a the quasi-ace he's been for the last two years. Maybe we should all be more concerned about the idea that Michael Wacha could be our 5th starter heading into 2014 at the moment.

I suspect that dynamic will lend itself -- along with a seeming mutual desire to do a deal -- for the Cardinals to extend Adam Wainwright. Tom s. and bgh have both already looked at what the details of that extension may look like. The Cardinals have long valued continuity and a degree of certainty in their rotation. They could look to extend their relationship with Westbrook as well heading into 2014. Garcia could be fine and pitch well next year. Chris Carpenter could have another pitching renaissance and pitch until he's Jamie Moyer's age. But, of those players, Adam Wainwright seems like the best bet to be the best pitcher in two years time. The Cardinals are unlikely to let that walk away.

And in an offseason that looks like it will be very dull for the St. Louis Cardinals, I welcome some news.

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