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the arms market

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according to the la times, the cardinals offered randy wolf a much better deal than the dodgers. stl allegedly offered 3 yrs / $24m; wolf signed a one-year deal for $7.5m (with a vesting option) because he wanted to pitch in los angeles, his hometown.

whether or not the report of the cards' offer is true --- i'd put the odds at about 50-50 --- the dodgers got an absolute steal. in this market, any deal shorter than three years is a bargain. wolf won't cost the dodgers a draft pick and carries no risk beyond 2007; if he pitches poorly this year, his option for 2008 won't kick in and the dodgers can be rid of him with no further obligation. so it's all upside, little downside for los angeles --- best signing of the whole off-season so far, in my opinion.

i'd much rather hold that contract than the one philadelphia signed to land adam eaton --- for the same money (3 yr / $24m) the cardinals supposedly offered wolf. as i wrote not long ago, eaton might be worth it at $5.5m a year, but at this price i'm glad the cards didn't get him. for that matter, i'm also glad they didn't get wolf for 3 / $24m; too much to risk on a guy who has averaged just 16 starts a year over the last 3 years.

if wolf and eaton are worth that much, then padilla lilly and meche can probably command 4 years and close to $40m --- ie, nearly as much as jason schmidt, whose price (per ken rosenthal) now stands at $11m a year and climbing. as for suppan, he's said to be right at 4 / $40m --- too much. they're all too much; only schmidt and lilly look like reasonable gambles imho, and the cards haven't been linked to either player. it's a near certainty that the cardinals are not gonna compete in this market; barring a sharp change in philosophy, they're going to have to fill out their rotation via trade(s) and bottom-end signings. so who's out there, and who do we like?

might as well start with jeff weaver; maybe he'd give the cards a discount similar to what wolf gave the dodgers. it might be in his interests to sign a one-year deal for $8m or so --- if he can post a 15-win season under dave duncan's supervision and re-establish himself as a borderline #2-type pitcher, he'll re-enter the market next november (still only 31 years old) with a chance to get himself one of those $40m deals. even at, say, 3 yrs / $21m, weaver would still be considered a bargain in this market --- although i don't know why he'd settle for less than adam eaton. based on what we've seen so far, i think a weaver re-signing is increasingly likely --- although weave's strong october raised his value, he still fits the cards' buy-low strategy better than any of the other options out there.

so does tomo okha, who's had an up-down career with boston, montreal/dc and milwaukee. ohka pitches to contact and has excellent control; his walk rate increased in 2006, but assuming it returns to normal he's about as good as jeff suppan. although he had his best years in pitchers' parks (montreal and washington), he does not have a pronounced home-road career split; the main concern with him is health --- he's pitched fewer than 100 innings in two of the last three seasons. but he'll require no more than a two-year commitment, probably in the range of $6m per year. i'd be content if the cardinals could get him on that basis.

a more durable, albeit older, version of ohka is miguel batista, of whom i wrote in this three-week-old post. he'll probably get offers similar to what woody williams got --- ie, 2 yr / $12.5m; he's younger than woody and might get a 3d year, or at least an option.

last year tony armas jr made 30 starts for the first time in 3 seasons, but he only averaged 5 innings a start and went 3-8 in the 2d half with a 5.64 era. he, too, might be forced to accept a one-year deal --- or eager to do so, hoping to post a good season and increase his value at next year's free-agent bazaar. he doesn't fit the cardinals' profile at all --- flyball pitcher, only so-so control, no durability; but then, he's a right-handed pitcher in his late 20s who hasn't yet tapped his full potential, which makes him a good candidate for duncan.

miklasz reported not long ago that the cards are interested in kip wells, a sinkerballer; he, too, might be available on a short deal; if so, that would be his chief point of appeal, as he hasn't pitched well for three years and is a chronic candidate for disablement. he battled assorted ailments last year (shoulder stiffness, a sprained foot) and had surgery to remove a blood clot.

in the end, the rotation is probably going to look something like this:

  1. carpenter
  2. weaver
  3. armas
  4. reyes
  5. wells
if that proves to be the case, i have no idea how they're going to reach that $100m payroll threshold that dewitt has been bandying about . . . . .