Just kidding. I know we're all bummed out by the Cardinals getting outbid for Jason Schmidt. But you know what? In the end, I think it could work out for the best anyhow. I will admit, however, to being a little frustrated by the Cardinals' continuing habit of being sort of first runner up in most negotiations. Again, though, if I remove my emotions from the equation, none of this really seems all that bad to me.
Jason Schmidt, in my opinion, was probably the highest quality starting pitcher on the FA market this year. Zito may be younger, but I think he's sort of a gimmick pitcher. He's got a funny, floppy delivery, and one really good pitch. He seems to have gotten worse each year mostly, IMO, because once hitters get even a little used to him, he becomes a whole lot easier to hit. Sort of like those magic eye puzzles. Once you get the trick of what to do with your eyes, you can always see the picture. Schmidt, though, is a top quality pitcher, with very good stuff, great makeup, and a track record.
Sounds like I'm upset they didn't sign him, doesn't it?
Well, I'm not really.
Q: Over the last couple of years, what do you always hear during any broadcast of a game Schmidt is pitching?
A: "You know, he doesn't throw as hard as he used to, and he maybe doesn't blow guys away, but he still gets the job done."
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of pitchers who get the job done. But under that bit of announcer filling airtime fluff is a real point. Jason Schmidt isn't the same pitcher he was. If you look at his statistics, it's pretty apparent that his stuff has really taken somewhat of a hit. His K rate has decreased signifigantly each of the past three years. Particularly worrisome about that is the fact that he wasn't healthy in 2005. Why is that worrisome? Because his peripheral stats continued to decline in 2006, in spite of the fact his arm was healthy. I have a bad left knee. When it's acting up, I walk very slowly, I limp, and generally act as if I'm ready to be put in a home. (BTW, I'm 26) When it feels alright, though, hell, I can still actually run pretty well and everything. I'm healthy, I perform physical tasks better. Schmidt's elbow is healthy, he... doesn't? Hmm, that's weird. I'm not saying that Jason Schmidt is going to fall off of a cliff anytime soon. But, in a pitcher of his age, declining stats are a little bit of a red flag. He gets compared to guys like R. Johnson, power pitchers who put it together late and then had great success after that. The problem with that comparison is that the Unit didn't have downward trends when he was 34. Johnson finally started to see a decline in 2005. He still won 17 games that year, but look at what happened to him this year. Again, I'm not claiming that exact thing is going to happen to Schmidt. But the trends are there.
Approximately 16 million dollars a year for Schmidt. That's about what the Dodgers paid, according to the reports I've seen. Is that too much? Absolutely. But, sometimes you have to pay for quality. But what about the next 2-3 years of the contract? If Schmidt is really on a downhill trend, then what do the Cardinals do with him in 2009? If he puts up a 4.96 ERA, can they move him? No. He becomes the same thing that Isringhausen is right now: an anchor. Contractually speaking, the Cards are screwed with Izzy's deal right now. They owe him 9 something million, they can't trade him, they can't get the money back, and he is not worth that much. Look at the Phillies. All the long term, big money deals they signed to placate the fan base after they traded Rolen. They finally dumped Abreu's salary last year, (getting almost nothing from the Yanks, by the way) they had to move Jim Thome to add flexibility, and now? Are they in good shape? Yes, but they still want to move Pat Burrell worse than Sid Ponson wants the clubhouse fruit tray replaced with Dunkin' Donuts. (Wish we still had those around here myself, actually...) They lost all their financial flexibility and are only now getting out of that pit. The Cardinals have the best nucleus of guys that I can think of. If they could have added to that with a smart deal, that would have been great. But in this case, I don't think missing out is all that bad. They still have plenty of flexibility, and that's awfully desirable.
Not too long ago, I posted a diary presenting why I wanted the Cardinals to sign Ted Lilly. I still think it would have been a good idea, but after seeing the money and the years Lilly got from the Cubs, again, it doesn't hurt that much. (Especially when Lilly, a left handed, fly ball pitcher, is going to one of the two worst parks for a lefthander to pitch in in all of baseball. Fenway, I believe, is the other.) Either Lilly or Schmidt would have been very good here, I think. But when it comes down to it, maybe a different tack is what the Cardinals need.
So what would I like to see the Cardinals do for 2007? Go YOUNG. Originally this offseason, I had hoped the Cards would try to start transitioning into the next group of players they're going to make a run with. I even posted a diary about the subject, entitled "Lost In Transition". However, after I went back and read the thing, it sucked. So, I deleted it. I never got around to trying it again. After that, though, the Cardinals started signing some guys, talking about signing other guys, talking about 105m payrolls, and I got all excited. Started thinking "Wow, maybe they'll sign that true #2 guy, a top quality middle rotation pitcher, etc. That's when I got all up on Lilly, Schmidt, all of that. But you know what? I think this might work better anyway. Maybe the Cardinals will go into that transition I originally hoped for. This is an old team. This is a team with a lot of pretty exciting young talent coming up in a year or two. Is it really that smart to commit to a bunch of long term deals that are going to impede the introduction of the kids? I know, you can't really plan on prospects to pan out, but at some point, you have to make up your mind. The Cardinals have talked a lot about developing from within. The ridiculous market dictates that you're probably going to have to. If the organization really believes that player development is the way to go, then they need to commit to doing things that way. So holding off on locking up roadblocks to Hawksworth, Jaime Garcia, Colby Rasmus, and anyone else you want to throw in there, might be the best move they don't make this offseason. See if you can trade Encarnacion, his contract is cheap, so maybe someone will give a pretty good prospect for an undervalued (in this year's market) average outfielder. Bring in all the young guys for looks in spring training. Try to build that next five or so years worth of championship contenders. Maybe this is the best thing that could happen. I, for one, am a little excited to find out.
Also, they'll almost have to move Wainwright to the rotation, which has me nearly orgasming with glee. I've been loudly and obnoxiously touting the AW-as-starter to everyone, and my family and friends are really getting tired of me browbeating them constantly with scouting reports and whatnot. So, this could also work out tremendously well from that standpoint.
However, I will say one last thing. If we really have to watch Braden Looper in the rotation, I won't be posting here anymore. I'll be hanging from a rafter in my house.
I'm not kidding.