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Get Straight to the Arbitraysh

Hey, everybody! There's a real baseball deadline today! At 11 PM we will have the non-tenders and non-non-tenders to talk about, and Russ Springer and Braden Looper to discuss in particular. Trever Miller still hangs in the balance. 

Matthew Leach's summary of the Cardinals' arbitration situation is a good take on what seems like a fairly straightforward situation. Isringhausen: absolutely not. Looper: absolutely. Springer: Er, ah, we'll see about it. 

The downside to offering arbitration to Springer seems pretty low, to me, but the upside is lower than it seems if the Cardinals really don't think they need him next year. It seems almost absurd to say that, since he was far and away their best reliever in 2007 and 2008 and he stands to get only a minor raise if he accepts arbitration, but the Cardinals have a lot of right-handed relievers coming down the pike and Springer, even more than most really good relief pitchers, comes with a lot of built-in uncertainty. To recap:

  • He is really old
  • He wasn't very good for most of his career
  • He is a relief pitcher
That is a worrisome package, and while I'm not concerned about his wide southpaw splits --I hesitate to put faith in any relief pitching split that doesn't show up in the pitcher's pitches or game plans, and Springer had a reverse split for a while earlier in his career--there are additional concerns like that to factor into the offer or non-offer.

But I think the big concern here—that his salary, even at $4 or $5 million, will eat into the money earmarked to fix real problems at shortstop, from the other side of the pen, etc—isn't really related to Springer so much as manifesting itself as a concern about him. If $4 million paralyzes this team—this team that's got $7 million invested in a sixth starter, and $2.5 million in an inferior aging, right-handed reliever already—then nothing is going to happen anyway. And that's what I'm really worried about, I think, when I get nervous about the Cardinals offering arbitration to their best relief pitcher. 

It might just be a hail mary for draft picks, and it might leave the Cardinals with a surplus of good, right-handed relievers, but relief pitchers can be traded and having a lot of contingency plans is step one to building a good bullpen. If the Cardinals cheap out on the middle infield it won't be because they made a bad bet on Russ Springer, it'll be because they want to cheap out on the middle infield.

Baseball Prospectus has a brief interview with Chris Carpenter, which is interesting but also reads exactly like you'd expect an interview with an athlete to read. Takeaway: Chris Carpenter believes he'll be ready, when he's ready, to execute his consistent gameplan with consistency, consistently. 

Sorry about the brief post today—I've got a lot of deadlines running together, and this is the first one.