Blogger Roundtable: Who Will Take the Cardinals Fifth Starting Spot, What's John Mozeliak's Mission This Off-Season?

Categories: Cardinals

One of the best Cardinal bloggers out there, goes by the name of Cardinal70, runs a group called the United Cardinal Bloggers. It's a great idea; get together a bunch of different voices of people who write about the Cards, and then use that collected brain power for the good of all mankind. Well, maybe not the good of mankind, exactly. Still, I think that's every bit as noble as all those other causes that get more media attention. Breast cancer awareness just happens to have better PR people, that's all.

Anyhow, I just happen to be a part of the UCB group, and we're currently running a big roundtable project. Each member of the community posits a question for the group, and the other members each respond. The next member in line then asks his own question, and so on. The results are then posted on each member's forum, whatever that may be.

Well, Monday was my turn to ask the question, and my question took the form of a two parter. Below you will find the answers of all the other UCB members, as well as links to each of their respective domains. So, without further ado, may I present to you, my question.

1. Fill in the blank: Carpenter, Wainwright, Wellemeyer, Lohse, _____________. Now tell me why.

2. Is it important this off-season for Mozeliak to make a big splash, in order to "legitimize" his tenure as GM?

And the answers:

Cardinal70 cardinal70.com

"1. Sadly, I think the answer to 1 is Pineiro, because he's under contract; a contract that's not really movable, and he's not shown much out of the bullpen. I'd like to think there was another answer, but I can't see them just eating salary and cutting him.

2. Secondly, I don't think a splashy off-season is necessary to legitimize Mozeliak as much as it is to keep fandom off of ownership's back. It's pretty well proven that just because you have a great, headline-grabbing off-season doesn't mean that success naturally follows. (Check with Seattle about that one.) Intelligent fans will judge the moves separate from their "sexiness", if you will. Not-so-intelligent fans don't care that much who the GM is anyway."

cards4life: Redbird Ramblings

"1. I personally can not pencil in Carpenter to be a guaranteed starter at the beginning of the season. I need to see him pitch without any discomfort and logging innings before I believe that he is fully healthy. (Also, I really don't trust the cardinals medical staff one bit.) Mo has to go out and sign at least one free agent pitcher. I really would like a lefty in the rotation for the 5th spot assuming Carpenter is back; meaning the Cards would only have to fill one rotation spot. I'm looking specifically at Oliver Perez, Randy Wolf, and Shawn Estes, in that order. I think Perez would be a very good addition to a rotation that lacks a very good left-handed starter- or really any kind of left-hander, for that matter. He was phenomenal in 2004, horrendous in Pittsburgh in 2005 before bein traded to the Mets, and has been pretty decent the past couple of seasons in New York. To me, he would be the best option. Wolf is decent and would provide a definite change of pace. Estes is just a throw in; he can be used as a lefty reliever if not a starter.

2. He does not have to make a splash, but does need to shore up this team by signing good players for the team's weakest areas and just solid signings that fit the team. By solid signings I mean smart contracts that are not too much money and not too many years; of course all of that is relative to who is observing the situation. However, I think the most important positions for Mo to go after this off season and ones that must get done are the bullpen, the middle infield (need some offense), and of course the rotation."

Don: The Redbird Blog

"1, In response to the first question, I guess I would just say that I'm not yet convinced Carpenter should be penciled into the rotation. I truly hope Carp's latest setback isn't serious, but I'll believe it when I see a healthy spring training. For the sake of argument, however, I'll go ahead and assume Carpenter will fill one of the five starting slots. I think the open spot in the rotation will go to a free agent pitcher or a pitcher acquired via trade this offseason. I don't believe La Russa and Duncan are sold on Pineiro, so I think he's probably a pitcher of last resort in the event the Redbirds are unsuccessful in acquiring another starter. In fact, I'm quite sure that TLR would rather try to reach a 2-year deal with Looper than face a full season of starts from Joel.

2. As for the second question, I'm in agreement with Daniel (C70). I do not believe Mo has to make a "splash." He just has to legitimately address the glaring needs of the club. He could easily make a splash by shelling out dollars for K-Rod or Fuentes, but I'm on record with my belief that spending big dollars in the bullpen is unnecessary and wasteful. If Mo is going to spend big money this offseason, or trade away top prospects, he needs to be looking at gaining some top quality starting pitching and/or middle infield bats in return."


Trey: The Cardinal Virtue

"1. As a lot of people have said already, I think it would be foolhardy to rely too much on Carp going into this season, especially after our experiences with him and Mulder this past year. I've heard McClellen may be converted back into a starter to cover that gap, and I'd be surprised if there was a major signing involving more than another back of the rotation type of starter.

2. I don't think Mozeliak has to legitimize his regime by signing a big free agent. I agree with the statement made by others that spending a lot of money on the bullpen is usually a foolish proposition, for example. I do think, however, that the Cardinals made it known before this last season that they were rebuilding with an eye on contending in 2009. Since they did not do anything to improve a contending team at the trading deadline this year, if you don't at least fill some holes this offseason (i.e. left-handed relief, and middle infield), fans will wonder what Mozeliak is up to. Fortunately, he doesn't have to spend a ton of money to do that, so it shouldn't become a huge issue."

Pitchers Hit Eighth

"1. A couple things here. I'd agree with everyone else about not counting on Carpenter. I've gone on record several times that I don't think McClellan to the rotation is a good idea. Pineiro, like him or not, whether TLR and Duncan like him or not, is going to wind up in the rotation. I think that his contract is prohibitive for a couple reasons. He does not pitch well enough, or in an important enough role (fifth starter/ middle relief), to justify his $7.5m paycheck next season. They're also not going to just banish him to Memphis, not at that price. Pineiro will be in the rotation. So with that probably already determined, it's really a matter of figuring out who would replace Carpenter if he can't go. I like the idea of bringing on a lefty; someone earlier mentioned Oliver Perez and Randy Wolf . I like both those names, but I think they will be at least as pricey as Pineiro- are they worth that? As much as I hate the reclamation projects, I've also floated the idea of giving a one-year deal to Odalis Perez on the cheap. At any rate, I think the Lohse extension blew a good portion of their starting pitching budget, which was rumored around $15m. That leaves around $8m for another 3-4 ish range pitcher.

2. I don't think Mozeliak has to do anything to "legitimize" himself. In my opinion, he was legitimized by being hired to the position. The Cardinals had options, and they chose the internal guy. Whether that was because ownership thought that they could keep him under their thumb, or because he was the best candidate (or both), he is already legit - the job is his. That little diatribe said, I think Mo did a great job putting together a "patchwork" squad that outperformed expectations this season. The Rolen for Glaus swap was a huge win. The Lohse signing was a win. He's made good inroads in the farm system, with the help of Luhnow. If anything, I think his masterstroke this off-season could be dealing from depth (as mentioned in previous discussions, corner outfielders are plentiful in the Cardinal organization right now), in order to plug some holes. This could help to ease the impact on the payroll of actually making another signing. Less money involved, just shifting the payroll around, essentially.

Gosh I wish I could play MLB GM just for a day... :)"

Dan Solzman: Redbirds Fun

"1. I would like that we would be able to count on Carp but his health is a huge question. The blank rotation slot...is Looper definitely leaving this offseason? Otherwise, I don't know who we would fill there or go after.

2. A splash has to be made. Something has to be done, mainly in the middle infield."

theangryrant: Stan Musial's Stance

"1. Piniero can't hold a lead. I don't care if he's under contract, they should cut him and take their losses. I completely agree with the sentiment expressed here that Carpenter can't be counted on to be ready to go at the bell. That means we need two starters. I'm in favor of resigning Looper; he's a gamer, he's pitched well here (although spectacularly average would be a better description), and he's a better option than Piniero. Still, if not Looper, Mo's got to sign someone; I threw out Edwin Jackson's name in an earlier topic, and I think he's still a good option. He has more upside than Piniero, and he's a 7-year veteran, so he's someone Duncan should be able to work with.

2. Mo most definitely doesn't need to make a splashy move this off-season. He's done a superlative job of removing the dead wood and bringing in some youth at the ML level and prospects for the minors. The opinions of those who don't realize that aren't worth listening to."

Mike West: Mike on the Cards

"1. I have to agree with most of what's already been said. It would be completely asinine to count on an injured/rehabbing pitcher again next season. So it would only make sense to add some more depth. My fear would be having both Pineiro and a Boggs/McClellan type in the rotation at the same time if Carpenter isn't healthy. I think it makes sense to try and trade for another arm rather than paying the money and years it would take to get a halfway decent starter from the free agent pool. Unfortunately, I can't really fill in the blank without giving it a lot more thought, but I'm hoping it's a guy better than Pineiro.

2. Others have answered the second question nicely already. I agree with everyone, but would like to add that sometimes a "splash" doesn't necessarily have to be a big acquisition, as we saw last winter with Edmonds. A move to free up salary can be just as useful. I also think there will be a ton of unhappy fans if the team doesn't look to be vastly improved from the one that broke camp last spring."

Pip: Fungoes

"1. Is that a projected rotation for 2009 or 2010? ;) If it's for 2009, I'll suggest Pineiro, because he's already under contract for starter dollars. That's the reality of it; if the Cardinals have a younger, cheaper player who could provide better starter innings, they should bump Pineiro into the bullpen. I really don't think that's very likely, though.

2. I think that the best thing Mozeliak can do to legitimize himself as GM is to avoid dumb mistakes (trading young pitching), and be patient. Another young GM did the same thing in Oakland a few years ago, focusing on the draft and letting free agents walk in return for draft picks. Come to think of it, that's something you may want to remember this year with Isringhausen and Looper."

Eric Ferguson: Bertflex

"1. I'm sure this has been brought up in other replies, but my inbox is pretty intimidating right now -- there's no way I feel comfortable banking on having Carp in the rotation. I love him, but anything we get from him will be a bonus. Given that TLR and Duncan are still involved, I look for us to sign another broken-down and/or crafty veteran -- I'd put money on one of Randy Wolf, Jason Jennings, or Paul Byrd. Of that group, at least Byrd would eat some innings, so I guess he'd be okay. I also don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that Looper returns. Can you tell that I'm more than a little dissatisfied with our approach to player development/procurement?

2. No. In fact, that would be the worst reason to make any kind of move. He's got to make the right moves for the team, not for his reputation. Mo's regime should be more concerned with sustainable, internal improvement than external quick fixes."

As you can see, most of us in the UCB are pretty much on the same page when it comes to big GM moves. I've maintained all along that the most important thing for Mozeliak to focus on, both in this offseason and in the further off future. It's the main reason I objected to the Lohse signing; I have no problem with Lohse himself, other than the fact that I'm not entirely sure he's worth what he's getting. The problem is really the lack of flexibility. The Cardinals were in a corner following the 2006 season, and I have no desire to see them back there again. Sadly, the organization itself seems less concered than we do. Well, maybe they know something that we don't. One can only hope.

You can also see, judging by the responses, that no one is really all that confident with the notion of Carpenter being counted on to contribute anything to the Cards' rotation in 2009. (And, technically, you can see, if you look really closely, that I need to do a better job of couching my assumptions. It was just supposed to be a hypothetical, as in what would your 5th starter be in a fairly ideal sort of rotation. It did not, however, come across that way, and I have only myself to blame.) That's probably a pretty good idea, actually; given Carpenter's recent health record, relying on him to make 25-30 starts and be any kind of effective while doing so is just being optimistic to the point of denial.

I encourage all of you to visit the various sites of the UCB members over the next week or so (well, all the time, really), as the roundtable will continue on through the rest of the panel. Thanks to everyone who participated, and I hope you enjoyed getting some perspectives beyond just my own.

- Aaron Schafer


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