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weekend discussion: ol' reliable

echoing the front office's recent hint that they're looking for another rotation swingman, derrick goold aptly observed yesterday that the cardinal rotation might be looking at an innings shortage for the second straight year. he rightly points out that the team is counting on two guys (mulder and clement) with rebuilt shoulders --- neither has pitched at a passable level since 2005, and either (or both) could get bombed out of the rotation by memorial day. accordingly, goold proposes that the cardinals should look into jeff weaver, who has a clean health record and generally has been reliable in the national league. his argument is that mere reliability can go a long way in the flimsy nl central --- and weaver offers more reliability than the current reinforcements, who include anthony reyes (if he's not traded), brad thompson, todd wellemeyer, mike parisi, and blake hawksworth.

i'm not convinced that weaver offers significantly greater short-term reliability than the options already on hand; anthony reyes has outpitched him the last couple of years. but if you think reyes is out of chances in this organization and the other pitchers aren't key parts of the future --- and those would be reasonable assessments --- then a healthy veteran on a one-year deal might help prop things up in 2008 without hurting the imperative to develop good young talent. whether or not you agree with those premises, just go with them for a moment: if you could get any available free-agent pitcher on a one-year deal, who would you sign? remember, the sought-after commodity is reliability. goold's not looking for somebody who can pitch at the front of the rotation nor a guy with lots of development potential, just somebody who's a good bet to stay off the dl and keep the team competitive in a majority of his starts.

they already missed one good opportunity in josh towers, who signed with the rockies (with an option for 2009) for $1.8m. the best remaining option in my opinion is jon lieber, for whom i've been campaigning since october. he did get hurt last year but the injury was to his leg, not his arm; he has been at least a league-average starting pitcher every year since 1996 and has rock-steady FIPs. these days he's generally good for 25 starts.

others who are still available include josh fogg, mark hendrickson, livan hernandez, odalis perez, brett tomko, and steve trachsel. time's running out on all these guys, and pitchers / catchers are due to report in a month; any / all are gonna have to settle for short-term deals and / or low dollars. so take your pick --- if the cards could get any of them on a short and / or cheap deal, who would you like to see in st louis this summer?