Let me tell you why Jake Westbrook's new contract is a good one for the Cardinals: because Ted Lilly got 3 years and $30 million (plus a $3.5 million signing bonus), and he and Ol' Blue Eyes are going to be the same pitcher next year.
Actually, I'm not sure that makes the Jake Westbrook contract a good one for the Cardinals. I am pretty sure that makes it a good contract for John Mozeliak, who needed a win in a bad way. I'm still not a fan of no-trade clauses (see: the last multi-year pitching contract Johnny Mo completed), but if that's what it took to make this a two-year deal instead of a three-year deal, then I think I can live with the no-trade just fine.
So in a vacuum, I think this is a very good deal. Westbrook at $16.5 million for two years is a much better deal than I thought the Cards would be able to sign him to after witnessing some of the contracts being bandied about here of late. Less money and less years = win.
However, things like this never happen in a vacuum, do they? No, contracts and trades and even the moves you don't make always come attached to context, which is just giant pain in the ass as far as I'm concerned. And the context for this move is the Dan Uggla deal, in which the Atlanta Braves sent Omar Infante and Mike Dunn to the Marlins in return for 30 homers a year out of second base. To provide a bit more context, Omar Infante is a career utility infielder who managed himself a really nice 2010 and Mike Dunn is a left-handed reliever. In other words, Atlanta didn't exactly get robbed in this trade.
I'm not sure the Cardinals had exactly the same pieces to trade for Uggla the Braves did, but I would be willing to bet they could have put together at least as strong a package, and probably have done a little better, without sacrificing anything they were going to miss too horribly.
If you're asking me if I like the Jake Westbrook contract, then yes, I do. Two years at maybe a little better than market value, with the rarely-seen mutual option included, is a very good deal. If, on the other hand, you're asking me if I would rather have Jake Westbrook for the money and two years or Dan Uggla for the talent and the money and one year (plus a draft pick when he leaves), then I have to say I think I might prefer Uggla. Maybe not, but I think I just might.
It's really a pretty fantastic deal for the Braves, as they managed to move Infante after what looks very much like an outlier season. Think Kent Bottenfield. Uggla will give them an immediate offensive shot in the arm, whether they leave him at second or move him to third in the event of Chipper Jones staying gone. He sure would have looked good wearing El Birdos.
There's a lesson to be had here about deadweight contracts. A while back, someone in the comments section here was huffing and puffing about how they couldn't stand that posters keep bringing up the Kyle Lohse deal, and that it hasn't really caused the Cards to lose out on anything. Well, this is exactly why many of us can't let it go. As things stand now, the Cardinals are spending a fortune on pitching, with roughly $20 million dollars allocated to their 4th and 5th starters' spots, and that's only if there isn't any sort of competition in spring training which changes things. On the other hand, if you take that $12 million the Cardinals are going to pay Lohse in 2011 off the books, suddenly you could literally have your cake and eat it too. They could have handed Westbrook his money then turned around and dealt Tyler Greene and Brian Broderick to the Marlins for Dan Uggla. Bottom line, the reason the Cards couldn't make the same kind of trade here the Braves did wasn't because they couldn't match the package sent over, they couldn't make the deal because they couldn't take on the additional salary. It becomes an either/or proposition; either solidify the rotation with Westbrook, or bring in the slugger at second and go into 2011 with two huge question marks in the rotation.
There have been a couple other moves of note recently; nothing earth-shattering, but good for a paragraph on a Wednesday in November.
-- One of my perennial favourite breakout candidates, Andrew Miller, was traded to the Boston Red Sox for a minor-league reliever by the Marlins. Miller has put up outstanding strikeout numbers in his career, but hasn't had much luck in controlling his walks. He could very well be the next Oliver Perez, but I would still have liked to see the Cardinals take a chance on him. Personally I still think he can get there one day, and the team that has him if and when he does is going to get a fantastic bargain. Interesting side note: the Red Sox now have both members of that terrifying one-two punch North Carolina had in their rotation when they won the College World Series. Daniel Bard was actually the more raw pitcher of the two back then. Of course, that was before the Marlins attempted to overhaul Miller's delivery and move him from a low arm slot much like Madison Bumgarner up to whatever it is he's trying to do now. He may be too badly broken to salvage. Tough to say.
-- How bad is that package Detroit sent to the Marlins for Miggy Cabrera and Dontrelle looking now? Cameron Maybin was also traded this week, to the San Diego Padres. Maybin is a tools monster, but has never really developed much in the way of plate discipline or actual baseball skills. You have to wonder if the fact Detroit brought him up to the majors at the age of 20 had anything to do with his stagnation.
There does seem to be a pattern there with the Tigers and rushing their high draft picks. Maybin was in the majors at 20 and never developed. Rick Porcello was a fixture in the rotation at 20 and has gone backward. Andrew Miller pitched in Detroit the year he was drafted, after three games in the minors. He started 2007 in High A at 22, pitched well, moved to Double A, dominated, moved to Triple A, got knocked around in two starts, and then moved on up to Detroit. Three first-round draft picks, all considered absolute steals where they were picked, all three rushed to the big leagues in a god a'mighty hurry, all three now struggling to find a path to productivity. Wonder how long it'll take Jake Turner to appear in a major league game?
-- The A's picked up Edwin Encarnacion off waivers from the Blue Jays. This wouldn't really be newsworthy, except it means Kevin Kouzmanoff could very well go on the waiver wire himself soon. Any interest? I realise we already have a third baseman, but between Freese's breakaway ankles and the fact Matt Carpenter would probably benefit from playing in Triple A, I don't think it would be too bad of an idea to kick the tires on the Crushin' Russian. He's been a fantastic fielder the last two seasons, worth 9.9 runs and 17.5(!) runs in 2009 and 2010, respectively. He hasn't hit much, but has been hurt somewhat by playing in hitter's graveyards in San Diego and Oakland. It would certainly be preferable to watching Pedro Feliz or his non-Union Mexican equivalent play in place of an again-injured David Freese...
-- And, lastly but certainly not leastly, it now appears both Upton brothers could be on the block. The DBacks are apparently listening to offers for Justin, a smart idea considering that team really needs a ground-up renovation. Justin would certainly be more costly to acquire than B.J., but he also hasn't suffered nearly as hard a fall. Personally, I would pass on Justin, as I'm sure Arizona will want a sizable return, but I wouldn't be averse to finding out what it would take to bring B.J. into the fold. He needs some help with his swing, it seems to me, where he's fiddled with a leg kick off and on for years and now doesn't seem to have any idea what to do, but the glove is very much legit in center, making me think he just might make a fantastic right fielder.
Ah, the Hot Stove season. Stupid and baseless and oh so satisfying.
the Baron's Playlist for the 17th of November, 2010
"I Think I Love You" - Less Than Jake
"So It Goes" - The Broken West
"It's Just a Matter of Time" - Brook Benton
"Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain" - Willie Nelson
"Two More Years" - Bloc Party
"Sink, Florida, Sink" - Against Me!