In his article yesterday, Derrick Gould threw out an intriguing possibility:
“Also on the horizon are the non-tender picks. It was about 11 months ago that Bird Land pegged Pineiro as a non-tender target for the Cardinals, and that list will be more clear about a month from now. There are some intriguing possibilities: Daniel Cabrera (highly doubtful), David Bush (hmmm) and … Mark Prior.
Many reports have Prior’s years with the Cubs over, and wouldn’t he be, in so many ways, a low-risk, high-reward dice roll, ala Carpenter, for the Cardinals.
That last name got me interested. Mark Prior? The face of the Cubs, at least at one time? The player that LaRussa gave grief to in Three Nights in August? THAT Mark Prior?
That Mark Prior. And, if the price is right, I think that’d be a heck of an idea.
A quick scan of Cub forums and a Google search doesn’t come up with anything definitive about the Cubs releasing Prior, though there is this in the Tribune (scroll down to the bottom). I would be surprised if they did, but it’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility, especially with him eligible for arbitration.
When Prior came up, I’ll admit, I was worried. Here were the Cubs, this team we always want to not succeed, and they were going to have two pitching studs in Kerry Wood and Prior. In the 2003 NLCS, I knew if the Marlins could somehow find a way to beat Prior, they could take Wood and win the series. Prior was one of those players you hated because they were on the other team and they were really, really good.
The only Cards/Cubs game I saw in person, Prior pitched. He threw shutout ball until the bottom of the eighth, when Albert Pujols took him yard and tied the game. (The Cubs won on a run in the top of the ninth.) When he is healthy and on his game, he is so tough to beat.
Of course, the knock on him is the health factor. Still, even with last year’s disasterous season, his career ERA is 3.51 and opponents have hit only .235 against him in his five seasons in the majors.
The reports are that he is rehabbing well and I can’t see the Cubs cutting the cord on him just yet. Then again, they do have a fairly full staff and had success without him this year.
If he hits the free agent market, I think he should be a priority for the Cardinals. The team has made a habit of picking up hurt or ineffective pitchers and hoping they’ll turn around under Dave Duncan. Prior would be the most talented one since Carpenter that would fit the bill.
There are drawbacks, of course. He’s not really a ground-ball pitcher and Duncan might try to force him to be that. There are the health risks. But if the Cards were going to spend $13 million on a pitcher this season, I’d rather it be Prior than Joel Pineiro. He’s worth it, in my book.
Something to think about while we wait for the DFA list to come out.