I hate to look ahead when the St. Louis Cardinals still have a week and a half worth of games on the 2016 schedule.
But, while they’re still technically in the race, I’m not getting the warm and fuzzies after the way the Redbirds played Friday couple with the fact that their primary competition for a wildcard spot faces a seemingly much softer schedule.
Watching Mike Leake roll over and play dead against the Chicago Cubs made me start to wonder if there was some way to undo the awful contract the Birds gave him last winter. The problem with that idea is that Leake has a no-trade clause, so he’d have to be dealt to a team that not only would want an under-achieving pitcher with a big contract… But it would also have to be a team Leake would want to play with. Leake wanted to pitch in Arizona to be near his father who faces severe health-related issues after a fall from a roof left him paralyzed.
Before he eventually signed with St. Louis, Leake was very interested in signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks. That opportunity evaporated, however, when the Snakes landed Zack Greinke with a stunningly ridiculous free agent contract that will pay him $157 million over the 2017-2021 seasons.
As bad as Greinke’s contract was, I wonder if it would make sense for the Birds and Diamondbacks to trade problems.
The benefit is that the Cardinals would get the ace quality pitcher they need to assume that role from fading star Adam Wainwright without lumping too much pressure on developing starters Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes.They’d also erase an $80 million mistake because Leake is going to be nothing more than a fifth starter in St. Louis. And he makes way to much for his role.
Arizona is desperate to get rid of Greinke. And it’s going to get more desperate, I believe, just after the end of the season.
He earns about one-third of the team payroll on a club that has a lot of needs. The Diamondbacks balked at deadline trade offers that asked them to pay some of Greinke’s remaining tab. But that was the Tony LaRussa/Dave Stewart regime’s position. Those two are on the bubble after a disastrous season and almost surely will be fired. They couldn’t afford to eat money and admit a terrible mistake if they wanted to keep their jobs. But shedding Grienke is an obvious move for their successor as he tries to rebuild.
I’m sure most people who have read this far are saying to themselves “But Greinke wasn’t very good this year…” (He also just had a shoulder MRI because of stiffness, so all bets are off if its anything more than tendinitis.)
It’s true, he’s not having a typical dominant season. But I think that can be explained away by the thin air of Phoenix. At the D-Backs’ home field, Grienke is 5-5 with a 4.82 ERA. Away from that pitcher’s nightmare, he’s 8-2 with a 3.94 ERA. His on-base percentage against in Arizona is .328. On the road, it’s .284.
I think those numbers mean it’s likely he’d fare much better in a more pitcher-friendly situation in St. Louis.He’s 4-2 with a 2.61 at Busch Stadium over the course of his career.
I’m not sure if I am St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak that I would take on Grienke’s entire contract to the tune of more than $3o million a season for five more years. However, if the Diamondbacks were willing to pay something along the lines of $7 million per year and take Leake’s deal, it would at least make the deal more in line with the going rate for ace quality pitchers. And by taking on the bulk of Greinke’s contract, the Cardinals wouldn’t have to give up much talent in return.
It sounds odd to say, but the Cardinals would be much better off throwing cash at their problems than talent. I think all of Redbirds fandom can agree that Alex Reyes is off the table for such a deal — and likely just about any other. So it is unrealistic the team is going to be able to land a cheap, controllable top starter without giving up tons in return. But, after whiffing on their efforts to sign David Price and Jason Heyward, the Birds still have the bounty from their new TV contract in the bank — dry powder, if you will — to take a shot at a flashy move.
The Cardinals have plenty of pitching. But it’s not the quantity but the quality that concerns me. The argument for the last month has been whether the team should use Martinez in a potential wild card game or save him for a potential division series. The upshot is that the team has but ONE starting pitcher who is capable of pitching in a vital playoff game. I’d feel a lot better with a rotation of Greinke, Martinez, Wainwright, Reyes and Lynn than I feel about a set of starters that has Leake in a starting role.