Sunday, December 19, 2004

Agent Mulder - The Truth is Out There

Am I the only one who was blind-sided by this trade? After missing out on Tim Hudson and Randy Johnson, not to mention Matt Clement, I was certain that the Cardinals were going to be forced to head into 2005 with essentially the same pitching staff of 2004. You know - the one good enough to win 105 games? And honestly? I was fine with that. Morris should be better, Haren should have been better in 2005 than Woody was in 2004, and Ankiel would be waiting in the wings. That should have put the Cardinals in a situation to trade for extra help in July, when they are all but certain to still be within striking distance of the playoffs. So far for what I thought.

First, Mulder. Last year, he wasn't quite himself. On the season, he posted a 106 ERA+, which would have actually made him just the 3rd best starter on the Cardinal staff. However, last year was an off-season for Mark.

2001 - 126 ERA+
2002 - 134
2003 - 136
2004 - 106

If he can only slightly revert to pre-2004 form in 2005 - which I think is likely - then he will have a great shot at being the top starter on the staff this year. He also has been durable, pitching 186.2 or more innings in each of the past 4 years. And maybe most interesting of all, Mulder will give the Cardinals their first veteran lefty starter since 1999 when Daren Oliver went to Spring training with the Redbirds. To have this guy locked up for 2 years at a price below current market value is a good thing. He should be a good addition.

Now, the losses. I honestly hate to see all 3 of the players given up - Haren, Calero, and Barton - leave the organization. But, as is almost always the case with younger players, the true losses won't be known for some time.

Haren has the potential to be a solid #3 starter. However, many believe that he is better suited to be a bullpen pitcher, which would downgrade his value greatly. Calero is a favorite of mine, with the potential to be a closer in the future. However, he turns 30 next month, and was a 6 year minor league veteran before the Cardinals gave him a shot last year. Al Reyes will likely be able to replace Calero nicely in the bullpen this year. And Barton was considered to be the best prospect in the Midwest league last year by many. However, there is a lot of doubt as to if he can stick at the catcher position from a defensive standpoint. If he moves to corner infield, the Cardinals don't have much use for him for the next 5 or more years. If he moves to corner outfield, he may just be one of many solid hitters at that position.

So, the Cardinals did in fact give up a lot in this trade. But if a few small things happen - such as Haren being converted to a reliever and Barton to a left fielder - then this trade starts to look really good for the Cardinals. Assuming, of course, that Mulder does in fact become the #1 starter for the team next year.

Where does that put the Cardinal rotation for next year?

Mark Mulder
Chris Carpenter
Jason Marquis
Matt Morris
Jeff Suppan

That, my friends, is a list of 5 guys that won 15 or more games in 2004. On top of that, the Cardinals will have Rick Ankiel (hopefully) ready to step in and start in the event of injury. What's more, Adam Wainwright and Antony Reyes could in fact be ready to pitch in the majors by the All-Star break this year, providing the Cardinals with yet more chances to upgrade the team if need be at the trade deadline.

Not a bad move. Now if the Cardinals can just get Placido Polanco, along with some stiff to start at short or 2nd they should be ready for 2005.


At 7:13 PM, Blogger Socnorb11 said...

I've been trying since last night to get off of the fence on this one. I just can't decide. With the Drew trade last year, I was immediately convinced that the Cardinals had gotten the "long end of the wish bone", but I just can't make up my mind on this one.

Obviously, I love having Mulder as a Cardinal. I'm just not yet convinced that he's an "ace". Maybe a solid #2? If Mulder was a "rental", I'd be pretty upset right now. The fact that the Cards get 2 years of cheap service from him makes the deal look pretty much like a toss-up, to me. The only thing that's bothering me right now is that the Cardinals are left with exactly ZERO position prospects who look like they could make an everyday MLB lineup someday. ZERO. However, a good draft (something like 5 or 6 picks in the first two rounds in 2005) could go a long way toward softening the blow of losing Barton. I think that in order for me to feel 100% comfortable with this trade, I'm going to have to just focus on the fact that it makes the 2005 Cardinals much better..... and not worry about 2007. As Robb has mentioned before, alot can happen between now and 2007, when Barton looks to be ready to make an impact. Also, just to make myself feel better, I looked up the splits against lefties of the Cubs and Astros for last year. The Cubs hit quite a bit worse against lefties (.735 OPS lefties vs. .800 OPS vs. righties), and the Astros also hit slightly worse against lefties (.762 vs. .782). Considering that Mulder is one of the top lefties in the game, those numbers should hold true, at the very least.

So, all things considered, I think it's an exciting move for the Cards, and just like with every other trade, the "winner" won't be determined for a few years.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Will said...

I love the deal, not a little because it also caught me completely by surprise. When Hudson was dealt, a little rock grew in my gut, right next to the one that appeared before game 3 of the world series. Mulder gives this team every bit of belief that it has a chance to repeat in the division for the next two years, and potentially get back to the WS to take care of unfinished business.

We are definitely losing out on long-term flexibility that the cheaper, younger players would have provided, but I see this as a necessary risk if you truly believe you are only one or two pieces away from a chapmionship.

Now we just have to fill the gaping hole in the middle infield, to gobble up all these ground balls.

At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this deal does in fact give the Cards a true Ace. After all take out the last month and a half from last year for Mulder and he is probably the AL Cy Young winner.

Not sure what caused the fall last month, but looking at his prev 3 years before that there is little doubt in my mind that this guy is an ace. Add in that he ias around 27 years old and we have him for cheaper than market value for the next 2 years and it makes the deal look better.

Yes it is hard to give up haren and Kiko, but honestly they both were bullpen bound which lessens their values. Barton hurts the most because he was our only true hitting prospect in the minors, but then again he is only 19 with no true position yet.

I think Cards got better end of this deal IMHO.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Bobo Hilario said...

I love this deal, If you look at the pitchers, Haren is only a couple years younger than Mulder, and Calero is a couple years older. I would rather have someone who started the All-Star game last year, than someone with potential to maybe make an All Star game at some point. Barton is a loss but he is probablt better off being in the AL where he can fall back on a DH spot instead of depending on his catching skills. I for one think the cards need to try to win NOW, not in 5 years.

You can read more of my meaningless opinions on my blog "Cards Fan in Cubs Land" If you want to trade links let me know,


At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your last sentence is the troubling part. Even if Mulder returns to his April-Aug form from last year, can the Cards do the Mulder deal and still address the huge hole up the middle of the infield? Walt sure spent a lot of time chasing pitchers, which the Cards certainly needed, but now Polanco has agreed to arbitration and Cabrerra has gone to the Angels. Tough to have a good staff with a weak middle infield.

At 7:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polanco is a weird one that is for sure, my guess is he wated a huge raise over his 3+ mil he made last year.

As for Cabrera, at the amount he got from the Angels, thanks but no freeking way.

At 7:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that Eckstein has been cut, I'd like to see the cardinals pick him up to be the starting SS. Does anyone have any insight on this guy other than what the stats can tell me? What is the process for acquiring players that have been cut?

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Robb said...

Thanks for the link to a new Cardinal blog, Bob. A link has been added to this blog.

Don't give up on Polanco just yet. The Phillies may now be willing to trade him for junk just to free up his salary.


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