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St. Louis Cardinals Reach Deal with 'Dead-Arm' McClellan to Avoid Arbitration

On the bus ride from Reagan International to Walter Reed today, St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak reached a deal with the representation of free agent pitcher Kyle McClellan. By reaching an agreement, the sides avoided an arbitration hearing and also set the pay rate for a replacement-level pitcher whose season was cut short by a case of the dead arm. The salary amount was not disclosed by the Cardinals or McClellan. Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that McClellan will received $2.5 million plus incentives for games started (that we hope he never receives).

Despite coming off a sub-replacement -0.4 Fangraphs WAR performance in 2011, the righty will likely receive an increase in pay from the $1.375 million he received last year. McClellan will also likely receive a spot in the St. Louis bullpen over a cheaper and better pitcher. Like Miguel Batista last season, McClellan will bump one of Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Eduardo Sanchez, or Mitchell Boggs off the 25-man roster and onto the Memphis Redbirds.

In many ways McClellan is the Skip Schumaker of the pitching staff--described as "versatile" despite not being very good in any role. Both players lack the skill to merit a Major League contract yet Mozeliak gave one to each. Whereas Schumaker doesn't walk enough, McClellan walks too many. Schumaker hits the ball too softly and McClellan pitches it too softly. Given their "versatile" mediocrity, each player is a waste of a roster spot for the 2012 Cardinals.

Last season McClellan was the emergency fill-in starter when Adam Wainwright was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery. He posted a line of 4.56 K/9, 2.58 BB/9, 4.21 ERA, 4.54 FIP, and 4.25 xFIP over 104.2 innings. Recognizing the need for a un upgrade in the rotation, the Cardinals replaced McClellan in the rotation with Edwin Jackson via trade and moved the soft-tossing righty to the bullpen.

In the bullpen, McClellan revealed himself to be the relief corps's worst member. In 37 IP, McClellan posted a lucky 4.14 ERA that masked his ugly peripherals: 5.59 K/9, 3.16 BB/9 and the distinct hittability of a soft-tossing righty dependent on smoke-and-mirrors led to a bloated WHIP to 1.41. He also gave up homers at a high rate (like the one that led to the above picture of Alfonso Soriano in his home run trot). Predictably, his reliever FIP was 5.97 and xFIP was 4.59.

Mozeliak and then-manager Tony La Russa left McClellan off the NLDS roster due to their concerns that McClellan had a "dead arm." Like any individual bitten by a zombie, McClellan denied feeling any ill effects from the bite and stated that his arm felt fine. Apparently not familiar with zombie films, Mozeliak and La Russa appeared to listen to McClellan's seemingly heartfelt pleas and placed him on the NLCS roster. After he was hit hard in a very short Game 1 outing, however, La Russa relegated the dead-armed zombie to the bench for the remainder of the series and left him off the World Series roster entirely.

Perhaps due to their memories of McClellan the living, the Cardinals have allowed McClellan the undead back into the clubhouse. Having never posted a season of more than 0.4 fWAR and accumulating only 0.1 fWAR over his four-year career, McClellan is the type of right-handed pitcher that is most fungible--a replacement-level reliever. Harmless enough when making less than $500,000 for his dime-a-dozen relief work, McClellan is now easily replaced with a better and cheaper player. Throw in McClellan's dead-armed zombie-ism and one hopes it is Mozeliak's intent to trade him. Then again, maybe this is all part of Mozeliak's master plan to make another improbable postseason run via zombie-ism...