Feb
24

When an NL injury impacts the Yankees

By

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

It appears that for the second season in a row, baseball is losing one of its star pitchers to Tommy John surgery. Last year it was Twins closer Joe Nathan blowing out his elbow in his first Grapefruit League outing, and this year it looks like Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright will have to go under the knife. Nothing’s official yet, but the right-hander flew back to St. Louis yesterday to have the joint examined, and team bigwigs don’t sound optimistic.

“After his bullpen on Monday, he did feel something in his right elbow,” said GM John Mozeliak. “I can say just based on the initial evaluation from our training staff, things do not look encouraging. But before we jump to any conclusions, we’ll just wait until the re-evaluation [Wednesday] afternoon.”

“It’s not a good day,” said manager Tony LaRussa. “It’s a huge hit. You’re talking about one of those quality guys. We have to overcome this.”

Wainwright, just 29 years old, is one of the best pitchers on the planet, posting a 2.99 FIP in 463.1 IP over the last two years, twice finishing in the top three of the NL Cy Young voting. The Cardinals already suffered one big hit this month when they were unable to reach an agreement with Albert Pujols on a long-term deal, but losing their best starter will have a ripple down effect, one that could impact the Yankees.

As you probably know, we’ve speculated quite a bit about Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals’ other ace, being a potential trade target for New York this season. The logic is that the Cardinals may need to free up some cash to sign Pujols, and shedding a soon-to-be 36-year-old starter making $15M a year is a fine way of doing that. Obviously, the Wainwright injury can and almost certainly will change their plans for 2011 and Carpenter, one way or another.

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The quick, knee-jerk reaction I’ve seen is that the Cards should sell, that losing Wainwright essentially dooms their season. I disagree about the last part, but the point I want to make is that selling isn’t as easy as you think. For one, is Pujols really going to want to re-sign with St. Louis long-term if he knows the next year or two or three will be spent rebuilding? Every move the Cardinals make from now through the end of the year has to be focused on keeping Albert around. Can a team with a nine-figure commitment to Matt Holliday with Colby Rasmus and Jaime Garcia and Yadier Molina in their prime years really convince itself that selling is the best course of action? The NL Central is very winnable, so it’s not like they need a miracle to contend.

Now if the Cardinals decide to keep Carpenter and make a run in 2011 without Waino, that will affect the Yankees’ pursuit of pitching. For one, Carp won’t be available, so that right there takes away a prime target. Secondly, there also a chance that St. Louis will look to bolster its rotation at midseason, meaning there would be that much more competition for starting pitching on the trade market.

On the other side of the coin, maybe the Cardinals do decide to sell. Maybe they’ve gotten the indication that Pujols is signable and they need that little extra cash, or they believe he’s leaving after the season and they want to move Carpenter while his value is high. I think it’s unlikely, but we probably shouldn’t rule it out. Carpenter and his salary would certainly fit nicely on the Yankees, and they absolutely have the players to give up in exchange. I suspect Wainwright’s injury will make it more difficult for the Yanks to acquire a pitcher as I outlined above, but there’s always a chance it will make it a bit easier.

Losing Wainwright for the season obviously sucks not just for the Cardinals, but baseball in general. He’s a star player and he helps sells jerseys and fill the seats, and it’s good for the game when a historic franchise like St. Louis is in contention. It’s also possible that his injury will help the Yankees, and it’s also good for baseball when the Yankees are a great team. I don’t think it’ll happen, I think it’s much more likely that St. Louis will now hold onto Carpenter with a death grip, but hey, you never know.

Categories : Injuries
  • Yank the Frank

    This sounds like s definite maybe.

  • CS Yankee

    If the Cards don’t agree with Millwood I would be surprised.

    If Millwood tries to take advantage and the Cards pass; I wonder if that would be the reality check Millwood needs to take an invite?

    • Fair Weather Freddy

      He’d be stupid to do that. Cardinals are his best chance at a major league deal, and he’d be much better off in the NL anyway

      • Ted Nelson

        “He’d be stupid to do that. Cardinals are his best chance at a major league deal, and he’d be much better off in the NL anyway”

        Meet

        “If Millwood tries to take advantage and the Cards pass”

  • S

    I don’t think Rasmus is in his prime yet. He’s only 24, right?

  • Monteroisdinero

    Just be glad it wasn’t CC

    • Yank the Frank

      Amen

  • Fair Weather Freddy

    I can’t see them trading Carpenter now. That would send a bad message to the fans and to Pujols, giving up on the season before it even starts. Much more likely that if he gets traded it would be around the trading deadline, as then they would have a good idea if they are gonna be in the race or not

  • pat

    I hated Johnny Gomes before I heard he was dancing around the Cincy clubhouse singing “Wainwright’s gone, Wainwright’s gone”. Now I really hate that motherf*cker.

    • vin

      Talk about begging for bad karma. I’d stay away from Johnny if I was a Red.

    • Klemy

      Wow. That really is a douche move. I bet when Waino does get back, he’s got a ball with Gomes’ name on it.

  • Ted Nelson

    I disagree with your conclusions about the likelihood of at least looking to move Carpenter (for an acceptable, to the Cards, package).

    I don’t think they should sell right now, or that this is what too many rational people are saying. I think the thinking is more: they are more likely to sell if they fall out of contention, and that they are now more likely to fall out of contention with Wainwright hurt.
    They don’t have to decide what they’re going to do mid-season in spring training. If some team blew them away now, maybe they sell. I think people are really thinking mid-season, though.

    I also don’t think trading Carpenter has to mean “the next year or two or three will be spent rebuilding.” Carpenter is 36, so keeping him doesn’t exactly ensure long- or even medium-term competitiveness. He’s probably got two years left at best.
    They don’t just have to dump him for a couple guys in low-A. The Yankees in particular have a bunch of guys in the high minors (and Joba and probably Nova in the majors) who could collectively help the Cards as much in the short-term as, and certainly more in the long-term than Carpenter. I mean, if you’re Pujols do you want to sign a long-term deal with a team whose aces are 37 (in 2012) and coming off elbow surgery? If the Cards are around 10 games out mid-season would you rather hold onto the 36 year old or trade what is likely to be one of the most attractive starters (or the most attractive) on the market for a good return? Do you want to gut what’s not a particularly strong farm system for a mid-season acquisition so that you can get an expensive vet who hurts the team’s chances of signing you while losing long-term pieces?

    If I’m Pujols and am looking for a 10 year deal, I take a good trade package of young guys over the 36 year old who has a few years left in the absolute best case scenario.

    And at some point if they’re 10+ games out and have reason to believe Pujols is walking/someone will blow their best offer away… they might be best off moving both Pujols and Carpenter. As great as Pujols is, this is baseball. This is not the NBA where you need mega-stars to win. Holliday, Rasmus, Molina, Wainwright, Garcia, and the return on Pujols and Carpenter plus the $ you save and can spend elsewhere might be an even better core than keeping Pujols and Carpenter at high salaries as they age.

    • Ted Nelson

      Basically… I think there are way too many ins-and-outs to just say in spring training “they’re not likely to trade him” or “they are likely to trade him.”

      It’s contingent upon–among other things probably: their team success, Carpenter’s 2011 individual success, their financial resources and projections, what trade offers they can get, their strategy with Pujols, their understanding of/speculation on Pujols’ strategy as well as feelings about dealing Carpenter, what other pitchers (supply) are on the market, the success of various potential buyers (demand) for a 36 year old making $15 mill with a option for $15 mill at 37 (a rich team like the Yankees, for example, is probably more likely to view him as a 1.5 year acquisition and pay accordingly, while a poor team might have to buy him out of his 2012 option and see him as a 0.5 season guy unless the Cards chip in $)… etc., etc.

      If the Cards don’t at least dangle their 36 year old making $15 mill to see what return they can get… I think that would be a serious mistake.

      • Klemy

        I agree with a lot of this.

        Trading a 36 year old starter doesn’t exactly amount to dooming the next couple of years to losing. They could get a younger starter in the deal who’s ready to make an impact next season. If they are out of the race at mid-season, I don’t see why that would have to be a bad thing to move him at the deadline.

        I think this is like anything else that comes up about the Yanks, we’re going to over-analyze it to death until the time comes.

  • Mr Jigginz

    When I saw the news on the Wainwright injury this morning the first thing I thought of was Chris Carpenter should be very available near the trade deadline.Good job on being quick to get a post out about it.

  • Adam B

    I think something else to keep an eye on here, I heard that if Wainwright misses the whole year then his options don’t vest and he becomes a ree agent at the end of the year. He will be the bst pitcher available and you know Cashman will be a big player if he hits the market… They would be dumb to not bring him back, but you never know… Pujols wants 30 mil a year and Holiday already sucks up 20 mil.

    • vin

      Source?

      According to Cots, the Cards must exercise his 2012 and 2013 options at same time. Which is kind of interesting.

      It usually takes pitchers 18 months to recover from TJS. 18 months from now is September, 2012. If the Cards pick up both his options, they’ll be paying him 21 million for 2013 plus whatever he gives them in 2012. Pretty steep for a guy coming off major surgery – especially knowing how TJS can affect a guy’s control.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        It’s not steep at all for a pitcher of Wainwright’s caliber. The Cardinals aren’t poor.

        • MattG

          $21M isn’t steep for 7 months of a player coming off of TJS?

          Remind me not to go skiing with you.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            Where are you getting seven months from? He’ll be back with them next year, worst case around June or July. If he’s 80% of what he was before surgery, he’s still fantastic.

            • MattG

              I got the 7 months from the post to which you responded. You accepted the premise when you didn’t qualify the statement.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            Wait, weren’t you arguing that the Yankees should sign Kevin Millwood for $4M the other day? And now you’re saying that $21M for even one year if Wainwright is steep?

            Does not compute.

            • MattG

              Right, because 21 and 4 are equal numbers.

              • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

                They don’t need to be, the pay scales are wildly out of whack.

                Millwood is a one, maybe a two win pitcher in the best case in 2011.

                Wainwright is maybe six wins total from 2012-2013, and that’s if he comes back to be half the guy he was the last two years.

                You’re okay with paying Millwood $4M for one win (maybe two), but not okay with paying Wainwright $3.5M per win (for six, maybe more).

                • MattG

                  “Wainwright is maybe six wins total from 2012-2013, and that’s if he comes back to be half the guy he was the last two years.”

                  And if he pitches all of 2012, which he should not. If he returns in September 2012 (18 months from now), he is a 7 win pitcher if he pitches every bit as well as he ever did. If he is half the pitcher, that’s 3.5 wins.

                  $21M for 7 wins is a bargain. $21M for 3.5 wins is not too good. Even if you figure Millwood to be a 1 win player, it seems to compute just fine.

                  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

                    When is the last time a pitcher didn’t get back on the mound until 18 months after TJ?

                  • Ted Nelson

                    “$21M for 7 wins is a bargain. $21M for 3.5 wins is not too good. Even if you figure Millwood to be a 1 win player, it seems to compute just fine.”

                    There are a whole lot of options for Wainwright’s WAR total between 2012-13 besides 3.5 and 7… 7 seems like a pretty pessimistic guestimate to me really…

        • MannyGee

          funny, seems like they have been crying poor to try and get Pujols to sign for $50 and a new XBox.

      • UncleArgyle

        The Tommy John recovery time has come along way in recent years. I’d be shocked if Wainwright isn’t on the Card’s 2012 opening day roster. Joe Nathan is already back with the Twins and his injury occured about the same time last year.

        • MattG

          Can you reference any pitchers that’ve had success in 12 months? There’ve been plenty that have returned sooner than 18 months, and in all cases of which I can think, they’d have been better off waiting. Time will tell on Nathan.

          • Ted Nelson

            Josh Johnson. He’s only gotten better since, but he has a 3.37 FIP and 2.1 WAR in 14 starts (going 7-1) after coming back in 11 months.

            Tim Hudson came back in 13 months and posted the same FIP in 2009 as he was in 2008 when he went down.

            Did you research this at all?

      • Adam B
    • A.D.

      Well the options become team options instead of guaranteed vesting, so the Cards would still have control

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    does anybody know anything about their prospects? something like this happens to NY next year, and we’ve got all these young guys fighting for a chance…if they’ve got somebody ready to go too…

  • AndrewYF

    What would Carpenter cost in terms of a trade? Montero’s obviously off-limits, but would it take one of the B’s, or could it be accomplished with lesser prospects like Warren/Adams/Romine?

    • MattG

      Cardinals being contenders and all, I would look to build something around Joba and Nova. WIth Joba/Nova in the deal, it might be possible to round out a package without a B. Joba/Nova/Warren/Adams (or Nunez) would make me comfortable.

      • Ted Nelson

        I tend to agree in principle. Pitchers and (middle) infielders, maybe an OF prospect. Molina hurts a bit because the Yankees biggest strength at C doesn’t really help (without a 3rd team). At least some major league ready talent. Either just that or maybe that coupled with a high-upside low-minors guy.

        In terms of specifics I think we just have to wait as the season progresses. If Nova were to establish himself as a solid back-end starter that’s a lot different than if he struggles in AAA and returns to 2009 form, for example. If Franklin leads the league in blown saves and Joba has an ERA under 2 it’s a lot different than if Franklin’s fine and the Yankees are trying to sell a 4 ERA Joba as a starter. Is Carpenter showing any signs of his age? Etc. etc. etc.

        This matter not only in terms of the trade value of all the pieces, but also the leverage that the Cardinals and Yankees have. Plus all the other factors determining the Card’s willingness to deal from their place in the standings to their financial situation to their thoughts on Pujols’ chances of leaving… And also the Yankees willingness to deal.

        “Joba/Nova/Warren/Adams (or Nunez)”

        Ultimately I probably might be ok with that, but it could be quite a bit to give up for a 36 year old making $15 mill with a $15 mill option at 37 depending on how those guys start this season.

        • MattG

          Well, I was thinking now, not July. Who knows what that offer would look like in July?

    • Jake

      It’s hard to tell at this point. If the Cards are out of contention around the ASB and it’s a straight salary dump, then it shouldn’t cost much. At the same time, there could be other teams vying for his services in which case, it would obviously take more. We’ll have to see how this all unfolds before determining what kind of package it would take.

  • MattG

    I do not think competition on the trade market should be a factor for the Yankees. The Yankees can and should top any offer from the Cardinals, or any other team, this summer for a player that exponentially increases their opportunity to win a world series.

    Wainwright getting hurt shouldn’t much affect the Cardinal’s strategy. While true that Wainwright has been a 6 win pitcher, LaRussa/Duncan will find a way to replace him with a 2, 2 1/2 win pitcher, and that’ll be good enough to content in the NL Central. I can’t remember the last time the Cardinals were sellers at the trade deadline, and this injury probably only moves them the slightest bit towards that end.

    • Ted Nelson

      “I do not think competition on the trade market should be a factor for the Yankees.”

      There are these things in markets called “supply” and “demand.” If the demand goes up, the price goes up. If the price goes up, that will necessarily be a factor for the Yankees. If they suddenly have to give up Jesus and another top prospect for a pitcher they could have gotten without even giving up Jesus had their been less competition… yeah, that is a factor and does adversely impact the Yankees.

      Just look at Oswalt, Haren, and Lee last season. Those were guys who could have really helped the Yankees win the WS in 2010. Had there been substantially less demand and therefore a lesser asking price… Yankees might have gotten Cliff Lee. They didn’t. Demand was a factor.

      “LaRussa/Duncan will find a way to replace him with a 2, 2 1/2 win pitcher”

      Like… And when did pitching coaches start making trades? LaRussa is the same guy who might replace Rasmus in CF at any moment, so I wouldn’t give him too much credit for helping the team.

      “that’ll be good enough to content in the NL Central.”

      That’s pretty hard to say on February 24th. The Reds are a young team that finished 5 games ahead of them with Wainwright and should be expected to improve. Brewers had one of the worst starting staff ERAs in the bigs, but an above average offense before adding Greinke and Marcum. Cubs are kind of a wild card… certainly have talent, but also quite a bit of downside.

      “I can’t remember the last time the Cardinals were sellers at the trade deadline”

      When was the last time they had a 36 year old starter making $15 mill with a $15 mill option at 37, and needed to re-sign Albert Pujols the following offseason?

      • MattG

        Supply and Demand is a free-market concept. MLB is not a free-market. You have a point, but it only goes so far. In every trade negotiation, the concept of leverage is not one that is really relevant in a finite market. You want proof? Look at the hauls these top pitchers bring. In almost every instance (it probably is every instance, but what the hell), rumors have 3 or 4 blue chip prospects being offered, but the actual trades end up underwhelming hauls that leave us scratching our heads, thinking “Why did [my favorite team] top that offer?”

        In 2011, there is no team with the combination of prospects, payroll flexibility, and upgrade opportunity that can compare with the NY Yankees. Unless the player in question has some sort of no-trade, there is no logical reason why the Yankees will not have the best offer for the right player, and this can’t be significantly impacted by more demand. There just isn’t a team out there to match the Yankees’ resources AND need.

        “That’ll be good enough to win the NL Central”

        Not a hard statement to make at all, because I am a baseball fan who pays attention. In the advent of the wildcard era, how many teams are out of the race by the trade deadline? Every year, we have about 4, give or take, in each league. Year after year, without fail. The Cardinals will not be one of those 4. Sellers? They may be, but Wainwright’s injury will not be the primary factor. Those will be Carpenter’s option and Pujols’ contract.

        • Ted Nelson

          “Supply and Demand is a free-market concept. MLB is not a free-market.”

          Supply and demand still determine pricing in baseball to a very large extent, besides the obvious market distortions like team control of young players and guaranteed long-term contracts.

          “You want proof? Look at the hauls these top pitchers bring.”

          As we’re talking about supply and demand it becomes a relative thing: will the Yankees pay more if the Cards also have a HUGE hole in their starting rotation or if they don’t? If there is more/less demand for a pitcher, the team gets relatively more/less. If the team is more/less willing to/desperate to trade the pitcher (supply) they will get less/more. If the pitcher is better/worse (again, supply) they will get more/less (contingent upon the competence of their front office… and even in a totally free market just because prices tend towards efficiency doesn’t mean every transaction will occur at an efficient price… in practice some people will get ripped off before the market realizes the true value of an item).

          There are other, sometimes non-rational, factors influencing supply and demand. The Blue Jays don’t want to deal Halladay to the Yankees at a fair price? They’ve just artificially cut demand. A pitcher is about to make $20+ mill a year for 7 years? that limits demand.

          “In almost every instance (it probably is every instance, but what the hell), rumors have 3 or 4 blue chip prospects being offered, but the actual trades end up underwhelming hauls that leave us scratching our heads, thinking “Why did [my favorite team] top that offer?””

          Santana did bring 4 blue chip prospects, they just didn’t work out.
          Halladay did bring 3 blue chip prospects (BA’s #25, 29, and 81)
          In both cases despite being due extensions that limited demand, but because the team could lock them up in time. Lee being traded in-season last season meant he was only controlled for 0.5 seasons…

          “Unless the player in question has some sort of no-trade, there is no logical reason why the Yankees will not have the best offer for the right player, and this can’t be significantly impacted by more demand.”

          First you claim it’s not an efficient market, and now since it suites your argument it is an efficient market? Can’t have it both ways. It is or it isn’t. Say CJ Wilson is the right pitcher and Texas won’t trade him to the Yankees without a premium out of spite. Say some team values Justin Smoak more than Jesus Montero… which happened just last season. Or a team doesn’t trust the health of Betances/Brackman and thinks Banuelos is too small. Maybe a team takes Mike Axisa’s view on Nunez’s value and also doesn’t like Culver or Adams… but they insist a middle infielder be included (like KC did with Greinke). Say some team is not worried about Liriano’s injury history at all and the Yankees are. Say Garcia and Nova are pitching pretty well and all the AAA and AA guys are just murdering their competition, while Lester and Buchholtz blow out their shoulders, Beckett doesn’t bounce back, Lackey thinks he’s really tough enough to cage fight a pitbull, and Dice-K stinks. There are any number of reasons a team might outbid the Yankees under a certain set of circumstances.

          ““That’ll be good enough to win the NL Central”
          Not a hard statement to make at all, because I am a baseball fan who pays attention. In the advent of the wildcard era, how many teams are out of the race by the trade deadline?”

          You don’t win the NL Central at the trade deadline… as a fan who pays attention I know that much. If the Cards are in 4th place come July 31, they have a bunch of choices to make. When you’re talking about a 36 year old making $15 mill, it’s just not clear that the right answer is to hold. Certainly not if the Yankees are as desperate and willing to overpay as you imply they will be.

          “Sellers? They may be, but Wainwright’s injury will not be the primary factor. Those will be Carpenter’s option and Pujols’ contract.”

          If they’re close to 1st place without Wainwright… where are they with him? It is a factor because it determines where they are and their chances of winning not only in 2011 but also in 2012 when Wainwright will also miss most of the year.

  • Hughesus Christo

    I didn’t think Carpenter was a realistic option BEFORE this. Now the idea is preposterous.

    • Ted Nelson

      Based on what in both cases?

  • http://dosrevival.com Joe DiMaggio’s Ego-Ghost

    Buerhle to the Cards for Jason Motte and cash, Kyle Lohse to the Yankees! All of our problems are solved!

    I hope to God with a capital G that this doesn’t happen.