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St. Louis Cardinals free agent targets: Wei-Yin Chen versus Scott Kazmir

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After reportedly "finishing second" in both the David Price and Jason Heyward sweepstakes, St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told Derrick Goold (of the St. Louis Post Dispatch) that a "dynamic" signing is not going to happen, referring to a high dollar deal for a big name free agent like Chris Davis, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, etc. Frankly, that is just fine because I am not certain any of the remaining players are worth a nine-figure deal. Plus, at this point, they should not resort to spending "just because they have money."

That being said, I would not be surprised if the club continued to opportunistically monitor the developing markets of free agent starting pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Scott Kazmir. Given that most of the big name pitchers have already signed (and subsequently filled the starting pitcher needs of big-market clubs), these two just may become available at a relatively reasonable price. Just last week, you may recall my piece titled "Let's not forget about Tim Cooney," and while I truly believe Cooney would be a viable rotation option, my cynical side keeps returning to the notion that you can never have "too much" pitching, especially with a handful of health-related question marks already plaguing the projected 2016 rotation.

Player Profiles

Wei-Yin Chen Attribute Scott Kazmir
Left Throws Left
30 Age 31
6'0" Height 6'0"
Yes QO-attached? No
No Injury History? Yes
4 years, $52 million Fangraphs-Crowdsourced Contract 3 years, $42 million

From a player profile standpoint, there are two notable differences between the two free agent starting pitchers. Since Chen declined the Orioles' qualifying offer, the Cardinals would be forced to forfeit their first round pick should they strike a deal with the 30-year-old southpaw (they do have two compensatory picks coming their way, though). And while Kazmir is not associated with the forfeiture of a draft pick (due to being traded by the Athletics midseason), the 31-year-old lefty has a pretty significant injury history, as recent as last year when he dealt with triceps tightness in his throwing arm (a condition he dealt with in early 2014 as well). We all know how much value Mozeliak puts in draft picks, but at the same time, there, too, is a real value in durability, something Chen has shown thus far in his MLB career.

2015 Statistics

Chen Statistic Kazmir
31 Starts 31
191.1 Innings 183.0
19.3% K% 20.3%
5.2% BB% 7.7%
3.34 ERA 3.10
4.16 FIP 3.98
2.8 fWAR 2.4

Unlike their player profiles, there is not much to distinguish between the two pitcher's 2015 statistics. Sure, Kazmir strikes out a few more hitters, but Chen counters by having a significantly lower walk rate (in fact, the 16th lowest in MLB). Kazmir has done a much better job at suppressing home runs (0.98 HR/9), but Chen, at 1.24 HR/9, has pitched his home games at Camden Yards for the entirety of his career, a notoriously hitter-friendly ballpark. It's fair to say that both will enjoy pitching home games at Busch Stadium for years to come. When statistics are this close (and their 2016 Steamer projections are quite similar as well), I tend to turn to repertoires.

2015 Repertoires (courtesy of

Remember: Regarding horizontal movement for left-handed pitchers, a negative value means glove-side movement and a positive value means arm-side movement.

2015 Chen

Pitch Frequency Velocity (MPH) Dragless Horiz. Movement (inches)
Fourseamer 52.36% 92.68 9.81
Sinker 11.57% 91.87 14.55
Slider 17.42% 84.19 -3.63
Curveball 8.24% 74.13 -6.1
Splitter 10.41% 84.03 12.14

2015 Kazmir

Pitch Frequency Velocity (MPH) Dragless Horiz. Movement (inches)
Fourseamer 31.04% 93.01 9.39
Sinker 26.78% 91.80 13.12
Changeup 18.09% 77.01 12.76
Slider 7.68% 81.65 -0.21
Curveball 3.79% 77.60 -1.62
Cutter 12.62% 87.81 1.74

To many, it will appear that Kazmir has the "sexier" repertoire, largely due to his ability to throw six different pitches. However, I have long been a fan of pitch movement (hence, why I am such a huge fan of Carlos Martinez), and Chen's ability to put movement on his pitches is especially enticing. As velocity declines (both pitchers are on the wrong side of 30), movement becomes even more critical. While Kazmir gets an above-average amount of movement as well, he's clearly inferior to Chen in this category.

Of course, Kenta Maeda was posted for bidding by his Japanese club and Mark Buehrle is reportedly willing to play for the Cardinals, but the red baron already touched on Maeda (and I'm not at all interested), and if you have read anything I have written (or if you follow me on Twitter), you should probably already know my opinion on the possibility of adding Buehrle.

Bottom Line

By no means do I want the Cardinals to spend money "just to spend money," but I do think there is value to be had in both Kazmir and Chen. All things considered (age, injury history, repertoire), I prefer Chen to Kazmir, but I understand Mozeliak's reluctance in forfeiting a draft pick. Now, do I "break the bank" for either pitcher? Absolutely not, and while it has clearly been a player's market thus far, I would not be the least bit surprised if team-friendly deals begin to present themselves. Both pitchers would likely provided surplus value at their respective FanGraphs-crowdsourced contracts.

Who would you pick? Answer below.