Well, that was weird.
If there's an immediately apparent reason for not offering Braden Looper arbitration I haven't quite come upon it yet—the Cardinals simply do not have enough starters, as currently constructed, to get through a season without molding their fifth starter out of replacement pitcher-loaf, and there's no reason to start out in that hole when the worst-case scenario is that Looper accepts arbitration and is paid the market rate for an innings-eating starter.
And if the Cardinals aren't interested in him... well, he's probably not interested in them, either, and I've got to imagine that someone will be ready to hand him two or three years on the open market, particularly since he wouldn't cost them a draft pick. Since 4.16 to 4.94 seems like a reasonable band of expectations for Kyle Lohse's ERA over the next four years, the team's unwillingness to fill a major hole with Looper at a similar price makes me utterly confused about the team's valuation of their new long-term third starter in the first place. Either the Cardinals have wasted a shot at a supplemental draft pick, here, or they just do not put a lot of value in bulk innings.
Of the, uh, other players strangely not offered arbitration, Randy Wolf and Joe Beimel seem to be the best possible fits for the Cardinals, but I'm not sure I like either player. Wolf gets a lot of strikeouts, and was solid last year, but his 33 start years in 2003 and 2008 bookend four in which he made no more than 23 starts, and I'm not sure signing another injury risk is a great way to fill out a rotation that needs bulk as much as it needs everything else.
Beimel had a very pretty ERA last year, and his splits against right-handers are better than the average LOOGY's, but his strikeouts and walks do little to inspire confidence that that's going to hold up in the future. If he can keep allowing, as he has in 2007 and 2008, one home run every 116 innings, then I guess I'll be wrong. But if I am the GM of a team looking for a LOOGY who has decided it can't afford Braden Looper, I'm going to take my chances looking elsewhere.
I was looking for the Cardinals' 2009 picture to clear up a little after last night's deadline, but now it's only gotten hazier. If Mozeliak is saving his pennies for something in particular, it looks like we won't know the shape of the team we'll be rooting for until after next week's Winter Meetings.
Meanwhile, the Astros were kind enough to take the year's most terrifying prospective Dave Duncan Reclamation Project off the table. $2 million is actually not a bad deal for a guy who's been marginally effective when he's managed to pitch, but if Randy Wolf is what you would call a health risk Mike Hampton is a health guarantee—he is likely to be unhealthy enough that you'll have to set his rehab starts in the major leagues to get maximum value out of him. Aside from that he also has a frighteningly low strikeout rate to worry about, which was even a concern during his last healthy stint with the Braves.
Finally, this piece about Ron Gant's debut on the Hall of Fame ballot brought back memories about my beloved 1996 Cardinals. The what-could-have-been tone—I'm guessing this was written for the Braves.MLB site—seems a bit forced, though; I mean, the guy followed that Hall of Fame-career-ending dirtbike accident with OPS+'s of 145 and 125, and stole 59 bases over his next two years. If he got in another dirtbike accident between 1996 and 1997... well, that explains a lot.
I don't remember ur-prospect Ron Gant, though; my memory, like a lot of peoples' here, I imagine, is of the one guy hacktastic enough to make the Busch Stadium faithful grudgingly enjoy Ray Lankford's work at the plate. If Lankford had had Ron Gant 1997 as a foil for his entire career there would be a giant statue in his honor outside beautiful new Ray Lankford Stadium.