So I'm watching the Cardinals play, suffering through watching Jeff Suppan
pitch, and it got me thinking about who the Cards might be able to get to replace him.
Now, it's not that Suppan has actually been all that bad since returning to us; he's certainly been better than what I had expected. (Then again, I expected the words, "Oh, the humanity!" to come up during his first start, so take that for what it's worth.) No matter how good or bad Suppan is, watching him pitch is like Chinese water torture to me. This undoubtedly impacts my ability to be impartial, but I'm okay with that.
Anyhow, the most popular name of the moment is obviously Cliff Lee
(Oh, and I would like to point out I am not
the Aaron in the comments there. I use commas.), and the Cardinals have been mentioned in several reports as being interested. Of course, that shouldn't really be surprising; every team in contention has to at least be interested in adding a Cy Young caliber pitcher. But how would trying to pick up Lee work for our heroes in red?
First off, the price for Lee in talent is going to huge. The Mariners are going to demand top quality talent in return, and with good reason. They could just as easily hold on to him the whole season, offer him arbitration, and take the two draft picks when he signs elsewhere. (Lee will be a Type A free agent, bringing a 1st round and supplemental round pick in return from the team who signs him.) So in order to convince Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik
(and you thought Mozeliak was hard to spell), to move Lee during the season, he's going to have to believe the package he's getting in return is better than the two picks he'll get for holding on.
Second, Lee seems very committed to testing free agency, making it extremely unlikely he'll be signing any sort of extension. Trading for Cliff Lee is trading for a two-month rental only.
Taking both of those things into account, even while contemplating the idea of being able to replace Jeff Suppan with Cliff Lee, I just don't see any way the Cardinals could put together a deal for Lee that would make sense for them. Any potential deal for a Cliff Lee would seemingly have to include the Cards' top prospect, Shelby Miller, and I'm just not willing to hand over a prospect of Miller's level for two months of any player, no matter how talented.
Of course, the draft pick sword does cut both ways; if the Cards were to trade away Miller for Lee, they would get those same picks after the season that the Mariners are banking on in their own calculations. So you could put the question this way: is Shelby Miller likely to be better than the two players you could pick up with a late 1st/early 2nd round pick plus a supplemental? For my money, I think he is. Miller dropped to the Cardinals in 2009 due to big bonus demands; his talent was well above where the Cards got him. I honestly don't think the Cards could do as well with a pick in the 16-30 range than Miller. Adding in the supplemental pick certainly makes it closer, of course, but still, Shelby Miller is a tremendous talent, and I doubt the team could get comparable value.
Here's the other problem: the Cardinals aren't going to have any shot at all to resign Lee, because they're going to have to give Albert a ton of money very soon. Adding the potential payday for Pujols to the contract the Cards just gave Holliday, there simply isn't room for a guy who, according to reports, is seeking 'Sabathia money'. (Now, I don't believe he'll get the kind of contract CC Sabathia got, that's just a negotiating tactic, but he will get a huge deal all the same.) The Cardinals are going to have to be able to fill in some fairly important spots on this roster from within unless payroll is going up to 140 million in the near future. (And if it is, then my opinion of lots of stuff changes, because the math is suddenly a whole lot different.) Pitching in particular is going to need to come on the cheap from the farm. Miller needs to be part of that, I believe.
In the end, as much as I would like to be able to scratch Suppan's name off the card and fill in Cliff Lee to go along with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia, I just don't think it makes sense for this club in the long run.