Today I'm going to break down our pitching staff. I have concocted three possible scenarios and how they would affect our rotation and bullpen.
Scenario 1 : No Free Agent Pitcher is signed.
Starting Rotation: 1. Carpenter, 2. Wainwright, 3. Penny, 4. Lohse, and 5. Hawksworth/Boggs/Garcia/McCllelan
The first four starters are pretty much set no matter who we sign or don't sign. I doubt Blake Hawksworth would get the 5th starters role under this scenario, because he was so effective last year in that 8th inning role, Jaime Garcia would be my favorite candidate, but La Russa has already said he will proceed with extreme caution with Jaime after coming off of Tommy John surgery. It'd be nice to have a left handed starter though. Mitchell Boggs pitched okay last year, posting a 4.19 ERA in 58 innings - he seems to be the early favorite. Kyle McClellan has been talked about, but I don't think this is likely. He hasn't started a game in his Major League career and hasn't been a starting pitcher since 2006.
Bullpen - Closer - Franklin, Set-Up - Hawksworth, Middle Relief - McClellan, Middle Relief - Trever Miller, Middle Relief - Jason Motte, Middle Relief - Dennys Reyes, Long Relief - Ben Jukich.
Franklin will obviously be given a chance to be the closer again this year. Hawksworth was very good in that 8th inning role last year, as I said above. Middle relief should be no surprise, other than Motte, all the others were pretty consistent last year. The wildcard is Ben Jukich, our rule 5 draft pick from Cincinnati. We can release him at anytime, but as long as he's with us, he has to be active on our Major League roster. I would assume that we wouldn't have drafted him unless we were planning on using him. He was a starter last year in AAA for Cincinnati, posting a 9-6 record and a 4.10 ERA. He will eat up innings out of our bullpen.
Scenario 2 - We sign a free agent starting pitcher.
Rotation would be the same with the free agent sliding into the 5 spot. The bullpen would be virtually the same too. I'm afraid that means Boggs and Garcia would both find themselves starting the season in Memphis.
Scenario 3 - We sign a free agent reliever.
I would assume that if we spent money on a free agent reliever, he would be a late inning guy. The first four spots in the rotation would be the same, but Blake Hawksworth would become our fifth starter. He was a starter in the minors and there were whispers about converting him back into a starter before we signed Smoltz last year. As a starter in AAA in 2009, he had a 3.58 ERA. The kid is a winner. I'm sure he'd make a fine starter. The free agent would move into the set up role and also act as an insurance policy should anything happen to Franklin.
Possible Free Agent Signees -
John Smoltz - Smoltz has hinted that he would like to come back to St. Louis; at this point in his career, he wants to play for a championship contender. He also has a good relationship with Dave Duncan. I think he would be a great fit for St. Louis, and St. Louis for him, but he would have to accept a very incentive-laden contract.
Noah Lowry - He hasn't pitched since 2007 so he might come cheap, but his durability is a question mark. In his last full major league season, he was 14-8 with a 3.92 ERA for the Giants. With Boggs, Garcia, and P.J. Walters in Memphis, the Cardinals have enough room for error to take a gamble on someone like Noah Lowry.
Joel Pineiro - He is a type B free agent and is reportedly looking for a 4-year deal. He is not in the Cardinals price range.
Vicente Padilla - The Cardinals saw how dominant Padilla could be in the Division series last year, and he posted a 12-6 record and a 4.46 ERA combined with the Rangers and Dodgers. There were murmurs earlier in the offseason that he might be coming to St. Louis but nothing has happened thus far. My prediction is that, whomever he signs with, it will be late in the offseason. Padilla is higher on himself than anyone is on him, and probably thinks he's worth more money than what he'll actually get.
As far as relievers go, your guess is as good as mine. I wouldn't rule out Octavio Dotel, but his asking price might be a little steep.
Over The Hills and Far Away is the anthem of the evening. I love Zeppelin. Have a great night everybody.
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