Monday night tidbits: Holliday, Penny, arb offers, more

Just got back about an hour ago from the Cardinals’ suite at the Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. Here’s a rundown of some of the newsworthy notes from the media session with John Mozeliak.

* The Cardinals met with Scott Boras for approximately 90 minutes on Sunday night, but Mozeliak didn’t give the indication that he feels the team is any closer to understanding where it really stands with Boras. The conversation was heavily about Matt Holliday, rather than about any of the other players of note (Xavier Nady, Adrian Beltre) represented by Boras in this market.
* As noted elsewhere on the site, a deal with Brad Penny is evidently imminent. It hinges on a physical, which could take place Tuesday or Wednesday. Multiple reports have pegged the 1-year deal at $7.5 million in base salary with incentives that could take it up to $9 million.
* Mozeliak said that although things can still change in the next 3 1/2 hours, the Cardinals are not currently expecting anyone to accept arbitration.
* The Cardinals are not necessarily done adding pitching. Obviously if they make something happen with Holliday, they won’t add another starter. But if no deal with Holliday gets done, Mozeliak said tonight that they could sign another starter, rather than giving the fifth spot to an in-house option. I don’t think this is very likely, but it’s on the table.
* Mozeliak was cagey about whether he felt they’d need a “caddy” for Penny, ie somebody who could safely be relied on to provide innings in case Penny breaks down. But basically he didn’t sound like he considered that a priority.
* No surprise here, but Mozeliak said they do not intend to non-tender anyone next week.
* The Cardinals expect to be much busier talking with agents than with other teams this week. That makes sense, because the farm system just doesn’t offer many trade chips right now.
* Asked about the “Cardinal mystique” and whether it did or did not take with Holliday, Mozeliak was blunt about Holliday/Boras’ perspective: “This, right now, is a market-driven deal.”
A playlist of melancholy tunes for a gray day:
Dinosaur Jr., “Thumb”
Morphine, “Cure For Pain”
Beta Band, “Dry the Rain”
Radiohead, “Fake Plastic Trees”
Aimee Mann, “Wise Up”
-M.

7 Comments

Sounds like maybe they should just go ahead and move on to plan B.

How on Earth are the Cardinals going to justify that price tag on Brad Penny, Dude? We could’ve kept Joel at that price over two to three years and had stability. Isn’t this jumping in head-first before seeing if there’s sharks in the water? Reminds me of the Lohse deal without the commitment to years. Several worries here…

A) $9m is a HUGE portion of our offseason spendings; couldn’t we have netted another lesser pitcher for half that?

B) Shouldn’t we not throw money at the first pitcher we meet on Day 1 of the Winter meetings? Shouldn’t we see the market play out? Again, reminds me of the Lohse deal. I dislike how quickly Mo rewards mediocrity in free agency. If he acted swiftly to get game-changing players, like the Mariners are apparently doing, I could see praising it, but I cannot give the guy credit for overpaying year after year on starting pitchers (Lohse, Penny, Joel… Joel’s deal turned out to be justified in the walk year, but it looked bad before he developed the sinker).

C) Shouldn’t we SET UP the supposed Plan B and not push forward with it on Day freaking One of the Winter Meetings?

What is Plan B, anyway? Replacing Joel, DeRo and Holliday with Penny, Beltre and Nady? I’m not a fan of signing DeRo and Holliday, but there’s a reason it’s called “Plan B,” because it’s vastly inferior to Plan A–something they should have thought about when they pulled the trigger on those heists. It’s baseball’s equivalent of the Iraq War: an epic problem with no real solution. I can sit here and go on about how we should never be in this situation in the first place, but we are, so how the hell do we get out of it? The fans want Holliday to stay, meaning we dedicate 40% of our payroll to two players, crippling the team when it comes time to extend our Cy Youngs and pieces to the puzzle. Ownership seems to like buying mediocre bit-players to fill the role of superstars. So do you sell your property for the Golden Egg? or do you sell your property for three rotten ones? Neither solution looks too good to me, but you’re looking at the guy who would’ve traded Wallace and Co. for Roy Halladay and thus wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.

I was a fan of Mo’s as recently as one season ago. All of that changed when he traded a legit top prospect for a lesser draft selection and fell into a trend of annually handing out awful contracts to starting pitchers. He’s incredibly hard to peg; he keeps talking patience when speaking of players like Jamie Garcia and Colby Rasmus (which I can definitely agree with), yet he’s eager to hand out bad contracts and deal five years of future for two month rentals. His actions contradict his words, and therefore I feel I can no longer trust him with the direction of the franchise. Mo has officially lost me as a fan.

My solution: sign Tejada to play third, have Garcia as the fifth man and look into Russ Springer. Kick the tires on Damon’s short-term price, likely balk.

Zooper:
A – I think you’re underestimating the market value on Penny. First off, I would assume that the incentives that make it worth $9M would make for a pretty special season for a four guy. But no, we would NOT have gotten Pinero for $9M and 2 years (or 18/2). Consider Braden Looper’s deal for $4.75 with the Brewers last season. Penny should pitch circles around Looper’s numbers. Starters get paid; they’re the QBs of MLB. 7.5-9 could end up being a mistake, but it could also be a steal consider some of Penny’s past stats.

B – I like how some fans criticized the front office for waiting too late to make moves in past seasons. Not saying you were one, but this seems to be a “damned if you…” scenario.

Bottom line, I’d love to see Holliday back, but short of seeing the payroll increased to around $110 per year, it’s hard to see it being plausible. I’d prefer to see several solid additions (like Penny, Nady, Byrd, Cameron, Beltre, Tejada, etc – not ALL obviously) that make the team as a whole better without crippling the payroll for the future and, possibly, the bench this year.

I bet you top dollar that Joel will sign for around the potential $9 million thrown at Penny, and note Joel has expressed a deep desire to continue pitching in St. Louis. If Penny’s market was truly that deep (I heard only a small handful of teams), maybe it was time to get out of the water. Fact is, when a player has a lot of suitors to drive up value, most of the time it’s inflated (think Barry Zito, Vernon Wells, etc.). Maybe we should evaluate our options more instead of throwing money at the first client who walks through the door.

You’d be okay with giving Xavier Nady a three to four year contract despite the severity and repetition of his injuries? I just cannot justify this type of wasteful spending, like dedicating $7.5 million to a sub-par injury prone pitcher. How about Beltre, throwing $30 mill his way to hit .250 with 20 homers per year? I think we could find that kind of production for less money (Inge?). I’d agree with lower cost options like Marlon Byrd and Mike Cameron, but how are you going to look your fans in the eyes and justify downgrading from Holliday to Marlon Byrd? Fact is, ownership will look at these moves at PR decisions more than baseball decisions, settling by overpaying guys like Penny, Beltre and Nady for mediocre to above average results and covering their hides so they can tell fans “well, it’s not like we got Marlon Byrd; we snagged the third and fourth best options on the market.” Sometimes, however, those options are third and fourth best for a reason: they’re not elite talent, and thus a waste of money and playing time. I’d much rather have a kid from Memphis in LF than Xavier Nady, who’d probably play 149 games out of a three year deal.

And as Dude knows, I’m hardly one of the “spend money now!” types… I’m as patient as they come. We’d have a pretty good line-up of youngsters for next season if not for the “spend money now!” mentality. Then we could use this excess money for real improvements around a stellar core instead of crutches for a wounded knee.

As is, we’re back to the same problem as last season without an upcoming solution: no protection for Albert. No matter how you cut it, Xavier Nady, Marlon Byrd or Allen Craig will not stop managers from walking Albert Pujols.

Any team throwing a guaranteed $9 million at Pinerio for 2 or 3 years is risking a lot more than the Cardinals are for Penny.

For one…the incentive for Penny’s $1.5 million boost is if he pitches more than 200 innings. He’s not going to pitch that if he’s bad; he’s probably not going to hit that even if he’s good.

Second…Pineiro had one good season, a season in which he declined the last two months. In his two full seasons, Pinerio was Jeckyll and Hyde. The season before, he was 7-7 with a 5.15 ERA, giving up 22 home runs in 148 innings. He came into the season out of shape and turned out to be an untradeable waste of space. This season–his contract year–he came into the season in shape and willing to learn a new pitch. Was he pitching for the team or for a new contract? The man’s always had an off attitude, which is why he’s struggled badly for the past several seasons. The man’s a huge risk on a multiple year deal. Even more than a reclamation project of a recently, formerly great pitcher.

Rich Harden signs for $1m less than Penny, both oft injured. Wow. No comparison between the two, Harden is a much better player.

I’ve seen two reports–that Harden gets $7.5 million guaranteed this year (according to MLB.com) or he gets $6.5 million with $3.5 million in incentives. He also has a mutual option for a second year at $11 million with a $1 million buyout if either side wants to decline. This for a pitcher who was 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA in the National League last season, before he was shut down because of “arm fatigue” after 26 games and a bad history of arm trouble.

Penny had a horrible time in Boston (but not as bad as Pineiro’s and Smoltz’s) but after he returned to the National League, he was 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA. That’s why he got similar money to what Pineiro got two years ago for the same act (but minus a second year).

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