The mystery pitcher: Chris Carpenter


(Tom Gannam/AP)

You might have missed it on the podcast last week, but Mike finally got me to reveal this mystery pitcher he’d mentioned in a chat a while back. Yes, if the Yankees miss out on Cliff Lee and turn to the trade market for another starter, I think they should target St. Louis’s Chris Carpenter. He’s not a perfect option, but the Yankees aren’t going to find one of those — not even Lee himself is a perfect option. In Carpenter they will find a number of benefits.

1. He’s a free agent after next season

There is a small but smart faction of Yankees fans who don’t want Lee at all, because of the effect he’ll have on mid-decade teams. At $23 million per year, he’ll drive the Yankees commitments up to around $96 million to four players in 2014. How they plan to field the other 21 I’m not sure. That’s the point of the anti-Lee movement, I suppose: sustainability in the future. Carpenter would bring no such problem. The Yankees can let him walk after the 2011 season and start over again. At that point their prospects will be one step closer to the majors — the ones they don’t trade for Carpenter, in any case. It might lead to a better outlook for 2012.

2. He could be a burden on St. Louis’s payroll

There’s good reason the Cardinals missed the postseason in 2010. They were lacking at several positions. The only upgrade they’ve come up with is Ryan Theriot, and he’s not a great bet to outperform Brendan Ryan next year. That still leaves a hole at third — David Freese is hardly proven — and second — Skip Schumaker might not have as putrid a year with the bat, but the dude simply cannot field his position at second. The Cardinals also have the Pujols negotiation, and indications are that they want to hammer out a deal this winter. He’ll get a significant raise over his $16 million 2011 salary.

That’s not to say that the Cardinals can’t afford Carpenter. It’s just that he’d be one of their better trade chips. With the need to improve not only in 2011, but for the subsequent decade that Pujols is under contract, they might need upgrades elsewhere. They won’t get Jesus Montero, but they could find a few prospects of their liking from the Yankees’ farm system.

3. He’s, you know, a good pitcher

Carpenter might not be the same guy he was when he won the Cy Young Award in 2005, but he still has something left in the tank. He induces plenty of ground balls and he doesn’t walk many guys. His strikeout rate isn’t killer, but it’s not in the mold of some other ground ball pitchers (a la Nick Blackburn). He also threw over 200 innings last year, another plus in his column.

There are downsides, of course. There are in any potential trade. With Carpenter they are considerable:

  • He’s not the healthiest guy. While he made 28 starts in 2009 and 35 starts in 2010, he missed most of the previous two seasons.
  • He hasn’t pitched in the AL since 2002, and he wasn’t that good when with the Blue Jays. Note, though, that he’s a completely different pitcher at this point.
  • The Cardinals could end up asking for a lot, since he will help them in 2011.
  • If he does become available, a number of other teams will be in on him.

It’s not a perfect fit, but looking around the league there aren’t many others who would work much better. It’s tough to find a guy who can pitch in the middle or top of your rotation who are available in a trade.

I won’t make a trade proposal, since it will inevitably suck. But I do think that the Yankees have the pieces to entice the Cardinals if it comes to that. I hope it doesn’t — it doesn’t sound like that attractive a proposition, and I don’t see many other viable options. This is why there is such a vocal and vehement pro-Lee clan. Without him, the 2011 rotation looks shaky at best.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. JobaWockeeZ says:

    I won’t make a trade proposal, since it will inevitably suck.

    Maybe but GM’s still make these sucky deals so often that I wouldn’t be surprised if a sucky fan proposal is close to the truth. But yes I would love to have CC v2. He would be a great stopgap but not being overly expensive. And unless he gets Vazquez syndrome he should be a lock to post a sub 4 FIP.

    Problem is the Yankees have no prospects nearing the majors except for Jesus. I eman the next closest is Larid who paosted like a .600 OPS in a hitters league. Oh well ninja this Cash.

    • Chris says:

      Maybe but GM’s still make these sucky deals so often that I wouldn’t be surprised if a sucky fan proposal is close to the truth.

      And a million monkeys with a million typewriters…

    • Problem is the Yankees have no prospects nearing the majors except for Jesus. I mean the next closest is Laird who paosted like a .600 OPS in a hitters league.

      He also posted a .878 OPS in a pitcher’s park (in a pitcher’s league) before that. And that .600 OPS was only in 127 PA.

      Laird probably has some real usefulness to the Cards; as the post noted, they clearly could use some power from third base. He wouldn’t be enough to be a centerpiece, of course, it would take one of the Killer B’s, but he’d be a nice #2 or #3 in the package.

  2. Frank says:

    Assuming the Cards even condider training him, he wouldn’t come cheaply, plus he’ll be 36 in April. No thanks.

  3. Granderslam says:

    So basically the only decent options, other than Lee, (via trade) include Greinke, Carpenter, and Floyd. Nice Plan B’s, but with no guarantee of course. If we miss out on Lee, I think Carpenter makes sense. Anyone makes sense if it comes to that point. Well…anyone other than Mitre of course.

  4. Johnny on the Spot says:

    I heard Carpenter has some attitude issues including embarrassing players on the field if they make an error etc. That wouldn’t go over well on this team. I’d prefer to stay away from those kind of players.

    • Clay Bellinger says:

      Yeah, I recall a game on ESPN last year when he was ripping into Brendan Ryan for switching his glove right as the game was about to begin and later being upset with him for playing out of position. Not sure if it’s a re-occuring this with him or not though.

    • whozat says:

      And do…what? We’re essentially talking about a contingency plan if Lee can’t be got. Every player has flaws.

  5. Mike HC says:

    I just can’t imagine this happening. The Yanks and Cards don’t seem like compatible trade partners, especially in this scenario.

  6. Hughesus Christo says:

    Don’t see why the Cardinals would essentially punt a season by trading Carpenter

    And no NL starters. Not now, not ever. Never forget.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      Yup. Screw this Cliff Lee guy too.

      • Jimmy McNulty says:

        I think he only spent half a season in the NL, if that. Not that the “No NL starters” comment isn’t dumb.

      • Hughesus Christo says:

        Cliff Lee would not be an “NL pitcher”

        Success in the AL in addition to NL success is fine.

        Zero AL track record is a no-go unless you are absolutely elite. 36 year old Carpenter doesn’t qualify anymore. Jake Westbrook and Jon Garland are borderline aces in the national league. I can’t rely on anything short of dominance to evaluate an NL starter, and even that has to be brought into questioning depending on your repertoire.

        • Zero AL track record is a no-go unless you are absolutely elite. 36 year old Carpenter doesn’t qualify anymore.

          Carpenter’s 7 years in the NL: 141 ERA+, 1.097 WHIP, 3.71 K/BB, 3 top-3 NL Cy Young finishes, 3 seasons of 220+ IP and a sub 3.25 ERA

          Carpenter’s past two healthy years in the NL: 144 ERA+, 1.101 WHIP, 3.20 K/BB, 63 starts, 427.2 IP, a cumulative 2.78 ERA

          36 year old Chris Carpenter: absolutely elite

          • Hughesus Christo says:

            15th-20th in the league is not qualifying.

            Relative value seems to be “out” this year.

            • bexarama says:

              … are you saying there are 15-20 NL pitchers who were better than Carpenter over the past two years? I’m not rah rah rah we should trade for Carpenter but acting like he’s not an elite pitcher, when healthy, is silly.

              And the 141/144 ERA+ should give you a pretty good idea of his relative value.

              • Hughesus Christo says:

                20/17th in xFIP/WAR last season, and he’s not exactly on the upswing in his career at this point. I would also wager money on Chris Carpenter throwing <170 innings in 2011.

                ERA+ works in this case if you assume the impact of the additional strains placed upon AL pitchers as a whole would be absolutely equal for every other pitcher placed under that strain. The question of generalizability is kind of just swept under the rug, and there's no real way to check it out in hindsight.

      • cano24 says:

        The yankees strategy on lee I think should be and is if you cant beat him buy him

    • And no NL starters. Not now, not ever. Never forget.

      No NL starters, no dicks who cheat on their wives, and for f#$%s sake, no damn binders.

      So Hughesus Christo has written, so it shall be done. Oye, oye, oye.

      • Hughesus Christo says:

        No contextualizing statistics before I write them in a comment… nothing!

        Chris Carpenter is a low-end #1 starter in the NL. That’s not “elite” and not someone I’m willing to give up anything of value for in a trade. Then let’s get into the odds of him finishing next season. I can already see the Javy Carpenter headlines.

        • Your ability to seek confirmation bias once you’ve made up your “mind” on an issue is breathtaking.

          • Hughesus Christo says:

            So you think ti’s okay to throw up a bunch of stats that look impressive without recognizing where those stats would place Carpenter in comparison to his peers. Cool.

            If Carpenter is the 15-20th best starter in the NL, I don’t want to trade much for him. If Carpenter is the 15-20th best starter in the NL and has ridiculous injury history and is coming off the 2nd highest inning total of his career I wouldn’t touch him with a Sergio Mitre.

            • Carpenter has only been the 15-20th best starter in the NL for one single season. The year before that, he was one of the top three or four starters in the NL.

              And he doesn’t have “ridiculous injury history”. He was hurt two years straight. He’s come back and had two healthy years.

              Whatever. There’s no point in having an reasonable conversation with you, you’re intractable once you’ve let your binderesque hatred of someone/something set in. And it’s laughable that you think him coming off his second highest IP season somehow is proof that he’s bound to be injured the subsequent year. You should change your handle to Hughesus Confirmation Bias Christo.

              I’m done with you. You’re a lost cause.

              • Hughesus Christo says:

                The idea that Chris Carpenter doesn’t have an extensive and concerning injury history is hilarious. And it’s a non-issue when a guy with his injury history just hit a career high in starts and an almost career high in innings at 36… Absolutely hilarious.

                • Clay Bellinger says:

                  His high in starts can be viewed as a positive too. The I’d rather have him coming off a year in which he tossed 235 innings over an injury riddled year where he only make like 15 starts.

                  Also, that would be the beauty of having him under contract for just one year. If the worst case scenarion occurs and he gets hurt, they just part ways at seasons end.

      • jsbrendog (returns) says:

        hughesus christo in the highest

    • Accent Shallow says:

      No NL starters? The difference between the leagues isn’t that great. Avoid the Doug Davises of the world, sure. But someone with legit stuff and real success? Sign me up.

      • Hughesus Christo says:

        Do we have examples of these pitchers? Who moved over to the AL and stayed at an elite level without being Pedro/Schilling?

        • Hughesus Christo says:

          So I’m looking for top-5 type pitchers. I don’t have much reason to believe that very good stays very good when you cross over. The difference is huge if only because of the DH. I think there’s a lot of evidence that the players are better in general too, but the DH in itself makes a huge difference.

        • Accent Shallow says:

          More importantly, who wsent AL to NL and significantly lost effectiveness?

          • Zack says:

            Johan Santana is first to come to mind.
            -His 3 highest xFIPs and 2nd, 3rd and 4th highest FIPs came with the Mets.
            -His BB9 the last 3 years are the highest sine 2003.
            -While you can argue the arm injuries hurt his K9 this year, he was in the mid 9s with the Twins, and his first 2 years with the Mets it was 7.91 and 7.88.

          • Louis says:

            Johan Santana, Barry Zito

        • Louis says:

          Ok the only reason that pitchers traded to the american league from the national league lose their elite status is because they are out of their prime. Pedro was sent to the al when he was 26 and because of his age, he remained elite. In reality Schilling only had one “elite” level season with Boston, and it was because he was 36 years old. The fact that pitchers seem to “lose their elite status” when they come to the american league is not a result of the league, but a result of their age. Im not advocating trading for Chris Carpenter, but its ignorant to think that no National league pitcher can pitch in the Al. Can you name pitchers under the age of 33 that were traded to the al from the nl and lost their elite status?

          • Hughesus Christo says:

            Javy Vazquez
            Josh Beckett

            • Louis says:

              Yea but Javy didnt gain any effectiveness again when he pitched for the Dbacks the year after the Yanks. He was consistently inconsistent. and sure Beckett sucked the year he was traded to Boston but the year after he put up the best season of his career. His only bad seasons other than his 1st in Boston have been injury plagued. He definitly was elite his 2nd year in Boston

            • Louis says:

              I mean Cliff Lee pitched in the nl- should we not go after him? How about Roy Halladay? Would you trade for him? Ubaldo Jimenez? Josh Johnson? Clayton Kershaw? none of them?

  7. pat says:

    I’d prefer to give Lee money only as opposed to giving up a package centered around Romine or Banuelos for one year of Carpenter. I don’t see Cash making a deal for a guy like Carpenter to only have it be a rental (IF he gives up significant prospects. If he got him for Noesi and Laird I could see Cash letting him walk.). And if he planned on extending him I’d much rather just pay an extra 5 or 6 mil a year and have CLiff Lee instead.

  8. kosmo says:

    It´s certainly an interesting proposal .I too don´t see it happening .Yanks do have a few good mid-infield prospects as well as PP.Adams or Joseph ,Warren and Nova ? Add or subtract as anyone sees fit…

  9. Brazilian Fan says:

    i know it´s offtopic…

    From RAB: Then don’t post it. Or post it in the off-topic thread.

  10. bexarama says:

    I thought you said you were gonna write a trolly post attempting to convince us all to trade for Ollie Perez :(

  11. Jimmy McNulty says:

    Sign Lee for just money and find a way to get rid of AJ Burnett’s contract before it expires.

  12. eckss says:

    Ah, so this is why my comment wasn’t answered in a previous thread. Haha.

    Anyway, what makes this a no-go for me are his health issues, and what will be a huge asking price for him.

  13. Oliver Queen says:

    Carpenter could be a good fit, but what about any of the Marlins pitchers? Saw a column today that speculated that with the signing of Vazquez, the Fish may be open to moving either Nolasco or Sanchez for OF help.

    • bexarama says:

      I really like Nolasco personally, but he just seems like a guy who underperforms his peripherals. I can really easily see him getting lit up in the AL, nevermind the ALE. Sanchez I’m not too familiar with, but unless it’s Josh Johnson I don’t think I’d be interested in trading for a Marlins starter (and they ain’t tradin’ Josh Johnson).

  14. Craig says:

    Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees go after a guy like Carpenter even if they do sign Lee. Mark Buehrle is in the same boat too (IIRC) in terms of hitting FA after 2011. Who knows how open Kenny Williams would be to moving him, but he kinda has some characteristics of a trade chip. With A.J.’s uncertainty, I’m sure the Yankees would love to find a better option than Ivan Nova as the 5th starter(at least I would) and a trade seems like the best way to address that luxury if they choose to.

  15. Uke says:

    When looking over the list of FA pitchers after this year, one will see that essentially, there is NOTHING available, so signing Lee would be a pretty good idea this year.

  16. LunaticFringe says:

    Pitchers who weren’t much good until Duncan got hold of them, tend to be not much good when Duncan no longer has hold of them.

    • Jobu says:

      Rick Peck: How did the pitching go out there?

      Carpenter: Horrible. Beckett started crying. Then he starts drooling and dribbling, and it wasn’t even part of the game…

      Dave Duncan: Woh…woh..stop right there! You gotta buck up here, Tuggboat. Who cares how much more talented he may be than you? If he cries, you cry harder, man. Didn’t your dog have, like, leukemia or something when you were a kid? I mean, think of that. Boom! End of story.

  17. Kevin M. says:

    Guys not available….Cards have given zero indication he’d be available…contending teams don’t just trade away their #2 starters just because the Yankees don’t get the guy they wanted in FA.

    Total waste of time even discussing this.

  18. Ace says:

    Chris Carpenter is aging, if Mozeliak let’s him go it’s because Duncan (pitching coach) deems he’s run his course, money won’t be the issue, if he has a solid season.Hee also has a problem staying healthy.

    • Tom Zig says:

      He’s as injury prone as Cliff Lee.

      • Zack says:

        2010: Nothing
        2009: 7 days with calf strain, 35 days with rib cage strain
        2008: Made 3 starts after a 486 day rehab
        2007: 1 start then TJS
        2006: 17 days with shoulder bursitis
        2005: Healthy
        2004: Missed 39 days with nerve issue in his biceps
        2003: Rehab
        2002: Labrum surgery

        2010: 35 days with Abdomen strain
        2009: Nothing
        2008: 4 days neck soreness
        2007: 41 days with abdomen/groin strain
        2006: Nothing
        2005: Nothing
        2004: Nothing:
        2003: 61 days with oblique strain

  19. Yanko says:

    Duncan could probably do better with Joba than whats going to happen to him in NY 2011. But Carpenter isnt getting traded before the Cards are out of the race, which means never in NL Central.

  20. nycsportzfan says:

    i would love to get carp over here.. Hes got that Vet savy, and i’d want him even if we do get cliff lee… Trade Jr Murphy, Adam Warren, Hector Noesi and David Adams, and see if they bite..

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