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Where those last dollars go

With Mozeliak crushing my McGwire-as-pinch-hitter dreams and the Pirates, of all teams, setting the price for oft-injured, recently ineffective Marlins relief pitchers over a million dollars, things are looking pretty settled (read: boring) for this last month until pitchers and catchers report. 

The last bit of intrigue looks to come courtesy, fittingly, of Ben Sheets, the darling of last year's offseason, who's throwing Tuesday for the Cardinals and "six to ten" of their closest friends, among them the Cubs. I don't see Sheets getting anywhere near the double-digit millions he apparently wants—is he aware that he didn't pitch last year? But the way the Cardinals have been speaking, lately, of their last several million I can't imagine them being players if he gets even half that. The nearest model for such a deal seems to be the bargain version of Kyle Lohse, who commanded $4.25 million in March 2008 after hoping for ten times that at the start of the season. 

While Sheets might be too big a haul for the Cardinals' last free agent pickup he is at least in one tradition of their usual new years surprise—a medium-risk lottery ticket, a useful player whose circumstances have brought that usefulness into question. 


March 5 — sign Dennys Reyes to a two year, $3 million contract. That is what paying market price for a pretty-good lefty reliever looks like, and while The Diner seemed kind of superfluous by September, with Trever Miller reducing left-handed hitters to bad-hitting pitchers—.135/.200/.198; how often, I wonder, does a specialist manage a sub-.400 OPS over 100 plate appearances?—Reyes performed basically as advertised throughout 2009 and will probably do the same in 2010. 

One thing I like about Reyes, as against Miller, is that he realizes he's licked when a right-hander comes to the plate; they hit .276/.408/.466 against him, walking five times more than lefties did in 30 fewer plate appearances. Miller didn't give in, but not giving in looked like .295/.348/.541, with four home runs in 61 at-bats. Value-wise those lines are almost identical, but if there's another left-hander on deck I'd rather these guys tread lightly. 

The Cardinals are playing coy with their remaining dollars, but a second-tier reliever like this (like Kiko Calero) would seem to fill one of their few (and cheapest) remaining holes. 


January 3 — sign Matt Clement to a one year, $1.5 million contract with a ton of ridiculous options totalling $5.25 million and a club option, ha ha, for 2009 at $8.75 million. Matt Clement was never as good as Ben Sheets, and he missed 2007 with shoulder problems, elbow problems' shady older brother.

But if and when Sheets realizes that he is negotiating a contract for the year after he didn't pitch at all, this is a pretty fair template for it, although I'm concerned that that club option is going to become a player's option in any successful play for him. 

March 14 — sign Kyle Lohse to a one year, $4.25 million deal with incentives pushing it, eventually, to $4.75. Remember when this was a steal? The eventual outcome, a kind of reverse-hometown discount that led to the Cardinals giving in to the exact contract demand that was, the year before, absurd enough to leave him unsigned in March, obscures just how vital he was to a rotation that looks ridiculous in hindsight.Who would have picked Lohse, Braden Looper, and Todd Wellemeyer as the three starters who'd end up taking their thirty turns in the rotation for a playoff-caliber team?

That underscores, I think, what makes me nervous about the 2010 rotation; there is a significant value to pitchers who are simply likely to be in the rotation, and as the Cardinals have currently built this model they seem a few starts short. Might this be the year the Cardinals actually sign Jon Garland, now that they are no longer tied to him in an article once a month? 



Final order of business: this report, and others like it, must either be fulfilled or removed, Men in Black-style, from my memory. 

(KSDK)-Mark McGwire is coming back to the Cardinals, could Jim Edmonds be about to as well? Sunday night at his ARF "Stars to the Rescue," Tony LaRussa said on stage that the Cardinals are interested in bringing Edmonds back to the Cardinals.

Edmonds, 39, did not play last season. He spent eight seasons with the Cardinals from 2000 to 2007.

At this point John Mozeliak, who said on Saturday that Jim Edmonds was not and would not be on the radar, has to wonder, every so often, what it's like to be Billy Beane, or any of the other GMs whose managers have no better grip on the local media's ear than I do. 

I realize that signing a 40 year-old retiree to be the fourth outfielder would leave the Cardinals without a reasonable backup center fielder, and I realize, also, that some people would worry about an unsightly Mays-in-Queens end to Edmonds's career. But as someone who does not subscribe to the concept of players leaving On Top and much prefers the kind whose careers are pried from their cold, sub-replacement-level hands—I need this to happen.

Why—yes, I'm familiar with Ken Griffey Jr's 2009 season... why do you ask?