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No margin for error

My big problem w/ the proposed Peavy deal is not Peavy’s age, contract, or potential for injury. I’m not sold that he’s more likely to get injured than any other aging pitcher. My problem is the way in which the deal limits our roster construction. If you refer to LB’s 2009 roster matrix you’ll notice that we have about $20 M or so to spend – enough to fit Peavy and, if necessary, Khalil Greene (yuck!).

However, our needs right now are much greater than an SP and a SS. That matrix doesn’t include either Miles or Lopez, at least 1 of which will be back. We have no lefty reliever and neither Springer nor Izzy are included. There’s not even a backup catcher included on the matrix. Peavy’s contract is for a relatively inexpensive $8 M next year so his acquisition would leave us w/ around $12 M or so to spend at 2B, LHR, RHR, C and SS. If we add Greene’s $6.5 M salary, it gives us a SS but leaves us w/ less than $6 M for at least 2 relievers, 2B, and C. The 2B will be either Miles or Lopez for $2.5 – 3 M so it would leave about $3 M for 2 relievers and C. Forget Izzy or Springer. Forget Ohman or Affeldt. Maybe we could use Mark Worrell as our RHR, spend a million or so on a backup C and sign Brian Shouse for about $2 M.

If we don’t add Greene, we can spend that $6.5 M on Miles AND Lopez and keep Brendan Ryan at Memphis.

Now, adding Peavy probably adds about 5-6 wins over using some combination of Boggs, Todd, and Mortensen in the 5th spot in the rotation but Ohman or Affeldt is probably worth about a win over Shouse and Springer’s probably worth about a win over Brad Thompson or Mark Worrell. Peavy, therefore, adds about 4 wins over last year. Still – not bad. What if, however, we have to include Chris Perez in any deal for Peavy? Trevor Hoffman was pretty bad last year (3.91 FIP) and, regardless, he’s not got much left. The Padres are going to be looking for a closer soon. Rasmus, Todd, Perez? That may be the deal that brings Peavy to St. Louis. If it is, we’ll need another reliever to replace Perez. Is there anybody ready in Memphis? Not beyond Mark Worrell, who may not be a viable big-leaguer anyway. So we either spend a couple million on Izzy or another free agent, thus costing us Ohman or Miles/Lopez or, more likely, go bottom feeding in hopes of finding a gem. Risky proposition.

Of course, Peavy would give us a pretty salty rotation but also one that’s rather tenuous. We’d have Peavy, Wainwright, Wellemeyer, Lohse, and Pineiro but be vulnerable to injury to any one of them. Think those 5 make 162 starts? I don’t. Who, then, takes those 15-20 starts when someone goes on the DL or just misses a start or two? We could use Thompson…a big step down and, btw, it would mean replacing Thompson in the pen w/ Worrell. Mortensen probably won’t be ready and if one of Todd/Boggs is traded, we would have only the other one to take those starts. Parisi’s out for the year and it looks as though Jaime Garcia will be as well. If we trade Todd to the Pads, it’s all up to Boggs. Let’s hope he’s not injured, too! Let’s hope he pitches better when he’s called up than he did this year. Our depth would be compromised.

The same would be true in the pen, partly b/c of the increasing salary paid to Peavy, and the inclusion of Perez in the trade would exacerbate that. Let’s hope nobody gets injured (Josh Kinney!) or is ineffective (Motte!) or gets old (Springer!). Get ready to see a lot of Kelvin Jimenez.

In the middle infield, if we include Greene and his $6.5 M salary, we’ll probably be able to bring back only 1 of Miles/Lopez. Ryan becomes our everyday utility IF. If/when Greene or Miles/Lopez gets injured (Greene has missed an average of 36.75 games over the last 4 years) or overexposed playing everyday, it means a whole lot of Brendan Ryan. What happens if he’s as bad as he was this season? What happens if Ryan, too, is injured? Tyler Greene? Again, our depth becomes an issue.

Even if Peavy adds 6 wins, and then we lose a couple by not having the resources to spend for better relievers, we’re still up 4 wins…unless we run into injuries in the rotation, the pen or middle infield. If Boggs pitches often, it may end up costing us another win or two and playing Ryan that often may cost us another win or so. It’s not too far-fetched to think that we could trade Rasmus, Perez, and Todd for Peavy and end up just a couple wins better next season. Would you trade those 3 to add just 2 wins to our total? It’s a pretty high price to pay.

BTW, in this scenario, who closes? Franklin? McClellan? Maybe we can keep Perez and send Boggs instead. Wait, that won’t work unless we get 162 starts from our SPs. Maybe we could include Motte in the trade instead of Perez and have Perez close out games. I like the idea of using Perez as a closer but I’m also aware that he may not be as good next year as he’ll be in 2010 or 2011. We’d hate to acquire Peavy and give back all his gains by not being able to close out games.

It also makes things a lot dicier after 2009. Peavy’s salary jumps by $7M in 2010. Our rotation loses Wellemeyer and Pineiro to free agency, thus leaving us w/ just Peavy, Wainwright, and Lohse. Glaus’s salary comes off the books, along w/ Kennedy, Miles/Lopez, Ankiel and Khalil Greene. We could resign Ankiel, whose salary would basically replace Glaus’s. Indeed, we’d have to resign Ankiel as we wouldn’t have Rasmus to play CF. Let’s hope the Yankees or somebody doesn’t outbid us! Maybe we could pray that Daryl Jones isn’t a fluke and is ready by 2010. Ludwick’s salary will likely rise by $2-3 M in arbitration. Lohse’s goes up by $1.75 M and Wainwright’s rises by about $2 M. Carp’s goes up by another million. All told, that’s about $14 M in salary increases to be offset by about $22 M in reductions, leaving us $8M in the black.

We’ll have $8 M to use on a 2B, a SS, and 2 starting pitchers. That’s pretty tight. Maybe we could use Boggs or Todd and Mortensen to fill 1 of those SP spots. Our lack of depth means bringing in a free agent for the other spot. Think we can get a good one for $2-3 M? I guess we can go back to Miles and Izturis at 2B and SS. Of course, they’ll be 2 years older than they are now. Again, most of the wins we gain by having Peavy in the rotation are given back by using replacement-level players (or below) at key positions in the infield and starting rotation. We simply do not have the organizational depth at this point to be trading multiple young players who can help us in the next year or two to fill just 1 hole – even for someone as good as Peavy.

We’d be better off keeping our prospects for when we need them (not if) and signing a free agent pitcher such as Derek Lowe, Ben Sheets, or C.C. Sabathia than trading them for Peavy. In reality, the Pineiro and Carpenter deals probably preclude us from being able to do that either.

Peavy is outstanding but sending 3 young players who should help us next year to the Padres means that everything has to go perfectly for us to win -- in 2009 or after. There’s no margin for error. Perez or Motte or Franklin has to work as the closer. Our starters have to make almost all of their starts. Our middle infielders have to stay healthy. After ’09, we need to be able to resign Ankiel. We’ll have to find cheap replacements at 2B and SS who help the team. We’ll have to find some inexpensive answers for the rotation that can pitch well.

We need to find less expensive solutions b/c, as good as Peavy is, he can’t play 2B or SS. He’s not going to be able to close if Perez can’t seal the deal. He can’t pitch twice every 5 days if Wainwright or one of the other starters goes down. We just have too many holes to fill to think that the addition of Peavy is going to solve all our problems. In fact, Rasmus, Perez, and Todd might be worth an additional 6 wins just next year and leave us $7 M or so to spend on something else. The only way this works is if we have enough depth to replace the guys we send to the Padres AND fill our other needs and the only way to get that depth is to continue to grow the farm system. Some say a farm is no good if we can’t use it to trade for better players but, if we can’t even bolster the everyday roster w/ capable replacements when necessary, we’re not going to be better off.