So, we likely have lost one of the fiercest competitors and best leaders the game has seen in many years. We also saw what looks to be the biggest contract ever for a pitcher happen this past week (in the AL) which will have implications on many pitching studs going forward and we continued to hear more and more about PEDs and that clinic in Miami...but more importantly – "pitchers and catchers please report." Let's get it!
Carpenter's Injury Likely Ends His Career
It looks like Chris Carpenter's career might well be done. After hearing nothing negative at all during this offseason about his arm and nerve issues, even as recently as the Cardinals' winter fan fest a couple weeks, Carpenter then started throwing and began to experience pain and bruising in his throwing arm and issues in the same area and nerves he had surgically repaired last year. After his injury struggles and surgery last year, the effort to just make it back by the end of 2012, and his gutty performance in the post season, he looks to be done. Carpenter hasn't come out and said retirement is coming for sure as he plans to seek medical advice, but the odds are slim to none according to the Cardinals GM that Carpenter will return in 2013 or beyond.
Carpenter's career numbers don't reflect his true value to the team. He is 144-94 with a 3.76 ERA in a career that began in Toronto in 1997. He spent six seasons with the Blue Jays and nine in St. Louis. He won the 2005 NL Cy Young Award, going 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA, and was second in 2009 after going 17-4 with a 2.24 ERA. What sets Carpenter apart from the majority of pitchers in MLB history are his postseason results, including a 10-4 record and 3.00 ERA in 18 starts. Some of the most memorable Carpenter playoff performances - he threw eight innings of three-hit shutout baseball in a Game 3 World Series win over Detroit in 2006 to help the Cardinals win in five games; a 1-0 shutout to beat fishing buddy Roy Halladay in Philadelphia in the deciding game of the 2011 NL division series; and the gutty Game 7 World Series-clinching win over Texas on three days' rest in 2011 to help win his second world series title.
To put him in the HOF is a stretch when looking at his total career numbers and he spent so much time on the DL. If you measured HOF entry by post season performance, or by leadership and competitiveness, he would be a unanimous first ballot choice. I think the game, let alone the Cardinals organization, will miss Carpenter and the fierceness he brought to the mound every time he took it. Odds are we will see him reappear in the STL organization in some coaching type position as I don't think his competitive nature will let him leave.
With his loss, the ripple effect doesn't only affect STL, but the whole NL Central. The door just opened wide for the youngsters in the STL pitching system – Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal. Odds are Miller will win the fifth spot in the rotation in the spring, but the other two will likely not be far behind as Jaime Garcia and his shoulder doesn't inspire much confidence, and Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook may or may not be good (or healthy) all of 2013. All of a sudden the fantasy value of STL starters, other than Adam Wainwright, has just been turned upside down so watch them all closely this spring. Obviously Wainwright is now the clear cut ace and leader of the STL staff and will have to teach and tutor young guns like Kelly, Rosenthal and Miller just as Carpenter did for him. The future still looks bright for the Cardinals pitching staff; it just may be forced to come sooner.
But the effect on teams like the Reds and Brewers, and the whole NL Central, should not be lost. The Brewers either shelled Carpenter over the years or got shut down, not much in between, so they will not miss him in the end. The final verdict for MIL will depend on who his replacement will be and how they pitch to the power hitting Brewers as when Carpenter's sinker was on the MIL power was gone. The Reds will be the team happiest to see Carpenter leave – to say they did not like Carpenter and he did not like Cincy is the understatement of the decade, Carpenter always stood up for his team when the morons like Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips were doing what they do. But, Carpenter owned CIN in his career going 14-5 in 25 starts with a 2.55 ERA, 3 GS and 1 shutout. Carpenter's stats vs. PIT were just as good (12-3, 2.76), and so were his numbers vs. CHC (11-6, 3.06), so both those teams won't miss facing him either. The hole he will leave in the STL rotation is starting to look bigger and bigger...
Some Other News from the NL:
• The Miami Marlins have signed free-agent right-handed pitcher Jon Rauch to a one-year, $1 million contract. The 6-foot-11, 34-year-old Rauch had a 3.59 ERA in 73 games with the Mets last season. He was 3-7 with four saves in eight opportunities. Not much fantasy value to be found here.
• Todd Helton was arrested for DUI this past week when the police nabbed him at a gas station buying lotto tickets after driving erratically. Doesn't sound like the Helton who has been held so highly in COL for a decade or more now...and his mug shot looks like he is taking a nap. Helton carries little fantasy value anymore and this sounds like his last year in COL with Tyler Colvin looking ready to take over at 1B.
• The Giants and closer Sergio Romo avoided arbitration when the two sides agreed to terms of a two-year deal on Wednesday which could be worth up to $10.9M. Romo will be the Giants closer in 2013 and likely a top 10 RP.
• Starting pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Travis d'Arnaud are reportedly extreme long shots to break camp with the Mets, not only because the organization wants them to develop more in the Minors, but also because the Mets want to prevent their service-time clocks from ticking. I still think d'Arnaud will be the starting catcher for the Mets shortly after the All-Star Game, if his knee proves healthy and his bat proves steady in the minors, simply because the Mets need him to be good and be good fast to bring some new energy to a team that needs it.
Rants and Ramblings:
Ryan Braun's name is now linked to that clinic in Miami and PEDs... again. But he says it is not what it seems, he used the clinic owner as a consultant to defend himself in 2012 from the accusations he eventually beat. I guess we should just take his word for what it is... the word of a cheater.
Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners are gone all in on a $175 million, seven-year contract that will make him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history. This contract has huge implications in the NL, specifically for Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw and eventually Stephen Strasburg.
• The loss of Carpenter and this new deal for Hernandez pretty much means the Cardinals have to sign Wainwright to an extension and they have to do it now, before the 2013 season starts, or they will likely lose him in free agency after the 2013 season. Wainwright will still likely give STL a discount to return as it is the only team he has known and he is now the single ace and true leader of the pitching staff. At age 31, the length of his deal won't likely be seven years, maybe five years max, but the AAV should still be close to $25M or more.
• Kershaw is only 24, a lefty, and a FA after 2014, so a seven-year deal (or more) is easy to see happening with talks of a $200M total value – this is what we call ludicrous in the real world as a pitcher's arm is so fragile, but in the MLB free agent world, which has nothing to do with the real world, this will happen somehow. If any team can do it, the Dodgers and their bottomless pockets can, or maybe teams like the Cubs, Mets or Red Sox will take a run at him as they all have big, bloated, albatross contracts coming off the books after 2014 that they will need to replace.
• The biggest winner here in my mind is Strasburg – theoretically at this point. He won't be a free agent until 2017, but that won't matter if he puts up two or three straight Cy Young level years in 2013-15 (as most expect he will) with no health issues. Going into his final arbitration year in 2016 without a long term deal in place and good health would allow Strasburg to build on the deals Kershaw and Justin Verlander will get, as well as Wainwright and David Price – by then the length and value of his potential deal should be the most ridiculous thing we can imagine right now. His rebuilt elbow will have to hold up and show it is strong for the long term, as will the rest of his body, but the sky is really the limit here.
Don't forget to check out the Dobber Baseball fantasy guides for 2013!
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