From Sports Open Line
Okay, let me make something perfectly clear: this is not a list of players that the Cardinals have been connected to in media reports, nor is it a list of players that anyone affiliated with the team has whispered in my ear.
This list is simply all of potentially available relievers on teams that could be called sellers at this point. There are several other teams that could sell if things go badly over the next 10 days but right now the group of sellers is pretty limited.
I’ve decided to focus on the bullpen simply because that’s the area of greatest need. The everyday lineup is solid, the rotation has really come together over the last month (plus Jaime Garcia could return in August) and that leaves the pen as the area of greatest need. I would allow that it never hurts to add a bench bat for the stretch run but since those additions are rarely significant in nature I’m going to leave that alone for now.
On to the list of relievers I’d be looking at if I were John Mozeliak…I’ll go team-by-team.
Shawn Camp, RHP – He’s nothing all that special and certainly won’t blow you away with stuff but he’s been a fairly reliable middle reliever the last 3-4 years and he’s only making $550,000 this season. Given that he’s 36 years-old and a middle reliever the Cubs certainly couldn’t demand a whole heck of a lot for him. He wouldn’t be a primary target for me but isn’t a bad fallback option if other deals can’t be worked out.
Matt Belisle, RHP – His contract is virtually identical to Betancourt’s ($4.1 million for 2013, $4.25 million mutual option for 2014) but he’s just 32 years-old so the Rockies would be less inclined to move him and would probably ask for more in return. Belisle has a 2.20 ERA with a 44-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio and he’s allowed just 1 HR in 46 appearances despite playing his home games at Coors Field. The Rockies will likely have a high price tag on Belisle so he may not be a realistic choice.
Rafael Betancourt, RHP – He’s the Rockies’ closer right now and is having a solid season (3.18 ERA, 15 saves and 34 K in 34 IP) but he’s 37 years-old and they’re rebuilding so they would have to consider moving him if a good deal came along. He’s also under contract for $4.25 million next year and has a mutual option for 2014 at that same salary, so he wouldn’t be a rental player. He isn’t someone I’d move an elite prospect for but he’s capable of handling pressure situations and the salary isn’t ridiculous.
Brett Myers, RHP – His stuff isn’t what it used to be but the Astros’ closer can still get people out. His numbers are okay this year (3.52 ERA, 19 saves) but he’s not striking people out (20 K in 30 2/3 IP) and that scares me a bit. Then you have to deal with his contract – the remainder of the $11 million he’s making this season plus a $3 million buyout on a $10 million option for 2013. Given the contract issues, I’d prefer Lyon to Myers.
Kansas City Royals
Jonathan Broxton, RHP – He’s one of the hottest names in the trade market right now with several contenders considering Broxton, some even to take over as their closer (NY Mets). That complicates matters right there. He’s been really good this season (2.14 ERA with 22 saves) but his strikeouts are down (23 K, 14 BB in 33 2/3 IP) and that makes me nervous, especially since he isn’t likely to come cheap. None of the other Royals’ relievers would be “on the block” because they’re all young, controllable power arms. I’m sure KC would move one in the right deal but that’s not necessarily an appealing option for the Cards.
Matt Capps, RHP – He’s the only reliever on their roster worth targeting (they’re not trading Glen Perkins) and he’s on the DL with shoulder problems so this would have to be a waiver deal in August if you’re going to consider it. He has 14 saves and has done a decent job of closing at times in his career but the shoulder problem makes him a gamble. He has an option for next season at $6 million but there is a low buyout ($250,000) so that’s not an issue. Too risky to target Capps but he could be a fallback in August if he’s healthy.
San Diego Padres
Luke Gregerson, RHP – He’s cheap and he’s controllable so the price would probably be pretty stiff but the former Cardinals farmhand has been awfully good at the Major League level for the Padres. It may be worth giving up something of value to get a controllable asset, though at some point in the near future his salary will be going up. If he’s available, it’s also important to note that a lot of teams would be interested and that competition would drive up the price.
Huston Street, RHP – Street says he wants to close so that might be a bit of an obstacle to a deal with the Cardinals but those things can be worked around. He has had health issues, including some this season, but when healthy he’s a legitimate shutdown reliever. He holds a player option for 2013 at $9 million but is believed to be seeking a multi-year deal after 2012 so that may or may not be an issue. Recently there have been reports that the Padres might offer him a multi-year deal so that could complicate things, though it should be pointed out that that may be a negotiating ploy to drive his price up. Street is likely the most talented reliever available on the teams that are selling right now.
Brandon League, RHP – Behind Huston Street, League is the most talented and proven reliever listed here. He’s making $5 million this season and is a free agent after the season so the price tag isn’t likely to be all that high. League has lost the closer’s job in Seattle but despite those struggles still has a 3.18 ERA. The area that causes some concern about League – and it’s a career long trend – is that he’s not a strikeout pitcher. Despite possessing a fastball in the mid-90′s and a slider he’s had trouble the last three seasons getting strikeouts in key spots. That’s a concern, no doubt, but he’s still been a pretty good pitcher (37 saves in 2011).
The list of available relievers may grow in the next 10-11 days so this certainly isn’t a comprehensive list that includes everyone. It’s also important to note that GM’s often make deals involving players who aren’t “on the block” and there can also be mutually beneficial deals made between contenders too.
That’s all for today. Enjoy the weekend…