Starting Pitching

48 W, 72 L, 889 IP, 987 H, 115 HR, 321 BB, 532 K, 42 HBP, 5.04 ERA, 1.66 K/BB

That’s the line the St. Louis starters put up last year. Not real pretty, is it?

If there is any chance for 2008 to be more than a rebuilding year, for the Cardinals to actually contend, it may lie in the fact that last year’s team finished only 7 games out with starting pitching as bad as that. Can this year’s squad improve on those numbers? Let’s take a look.

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Around Cardinal Nation

It’s been a pretty busy week for me, so I’ve not been able to examine all the Cardinal related news and blogs like I would have liked.  But in the limited time I’ve been online, there’ve been a few things that have jumped out at me. 

The biggest one is this rumor with the Pirates involving Brad Thompson, among others on our side and players such as Jack Wilson, Matt Morris and Jason Bay on the other side.  Bay is the only one in that group worth getting.  Sure, maybe you take Morris on if the Pirates take a lot of salary and if it helps you get Bay, but other than that, there’s not much value. 

Tom over at CardinalsGM really broke this deal down.  I agree with him, if it’s Duncan, Thompson and Reyes going for Bay, Morris and Wilson, you can’t do that deal.  If you could get Bay for Reyes and Thompson, you’d probably have to do some serious thinking about it, even though outfield is where the Cardinals are overstocked at the moment. 

Wilson makes no sense with the glut of mediocre middle infielders we already have.  Why bring on another one, especially at that price? 

Also, over at VEB, they’ve started the community projections.  We did this at CCH last year and you may remember seeing the results.  We’ll start them up at the Clubhouse soon, but if you’ve not had a chance to put in your thoughts on what Matt Clement will wind up with (and I need to do that), head on over there and post them. 

Finally, there was no movement on Mark McGwire getting into the Hall of Fame this year.  He received exactly the same number of votes as he did last year, putting him around 23%.  Something is going to have to give, though.  Either players like Bonds and Clemens aren’t going to get in when they are eligible or people are going to have to give a second look to McGwire.  Heck, he wasn’t even named in the Mitchell Report as a steroid user, so why does he not get a little more benefit of the doubt?  I wish he’d come out and talk about it, but if he’s not going to, should that be held against him? 

Hopefully we aren’t still having this discussion 10 years from now, but I wouldn’t put it past the baseball writers.

My Darling Clement-ine

(Surely I won’t be the only one to use that one.)

As you know, the Cardinals signed Matt Clement yesterday to fill up the rotation. More about the contract is available now, so let’s take a look at those terms:

the Cardinals acquired Clement for $1.5 million in base pay and $5.25 million in appearance incentives. The deal also includes a club option for $8.75 million next season. A series of escalators based on innings pitched could jack up the option’s value to $10 million if the 33-year-old righthander works 200 innings.

What kind of escalators?

The Cardinals have an $8.75 million option for 2009 with a $250,000 buyout. The option would increase to $9 million and the buyout $500,000 if Clement reaches 160 innings this season; $9.5 million and $1 million for 180 innings; and $10 million and $1.5 million for 200 innings.

Let’s compare this contract to the one signed by another rehabber, Mark Prior. Prior signed a $1 million deal that could go up to $3 million if he hits all the incentives. However, Prior’s deal has no option for 2009 and it’s likely he won’t pitch until May/June, while Clement should–should–be ready to go Opening Day.

If Clement stays healthy and pitches well enough to hit those innings marks, even at the higher salary that option gets picked up. And just think about this one:

The option would become $11 million and the buyout $2 million if Clement finishes in the top five in 2008 Cy Young Award balloting.

Best case scenario, we could get a Cy Young candidate for $8.25 million a year for two years. That’d be worth it, don’t you think? Especially in a market where Carlos Silva can get $12 million a year for just being the best of a weak group.

The potential that Clement brings to the table will be big for the Cardinals. There are still a lot of ifs in the pitching staff, but if all of the players in the mix pitch to their potential or close to it, the Cardinals might be a little more competitive than we thought just a few days ago.

It also means that Anthony Reyes may get shopped. I’d hate to see that happen, but if the Cardinals could get a good young hitter for him, it’d probably be the best for all concerned.

Cardinals Sign Clement

According to sources, the Cardinals have signed pitcher Matt Clement to a one-year deal with a club option for 2009.

The best thing about it, in my mind, is the club option.  If Clement is healthy and effective, he’ll help out ’08 but would really be a boon in 2009, when Carpenter is healthy and the team has hopefully signed another top pitcher to go into the rotation with him and Wainwright.  A 2009 staff of Carp-FA-Wainwright-Clement-? would probably be enough to put the Cards back into contention fairly quickly.

This also may mean that the Cardinals are close to dealing Anthony Reyes.  Right now, the rotation is Wainwright, Mulder (if ready for ST), Pineiro, Clement and Looper.  That leaves Reyes and others such as Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson out of the picture, at least for now.  Of course, we don’t know how Mulder is going to start the season or if he’ll be ready, but I’d think a deal like this would give Mozeliak more breathing room to send Reyes somewhere for a hitter or perhaps package him with Duncan for a bigger name.

It’ll be interesting to see how this deal compares to the Mark Prior deal.