I recently spoke with Scott Miller of CBS Sports. Here’s what he had to say:
Steve Hirsch: Obviously one of the biggest stories these days for not just Cardinals fans but all of baseball is the news that Chris Carpenter will not be pitching in the 2013 season. You wrote a column a couple days ago on the value that he brought to the Cardinals other than his performance on the field. Would you mind expanding a little bit on those thoughts?
Scott Miller: I just think the world of Chris Carpenter. I know he flashes a temper out there on that mound, and he can rub other teams and opponents the wrong way, but here are a few things on Chris Carpenter: One, he’s the kind of guy that may anger opponents but you want him on your team, no question. He’s as big a competitor as I think there has been in the game these past several years. Second thing on Carpenter is the facts are facts: when he has pitched, he has won. It’s no secret that in the years Carpenter was out with an arm injury, those are the years that the Cardinals struggled. When he’s on that field, he has a chance to pitch your team to the World Series and that’s what is going to really hurt the Cardinals.
The other thing is what his competitiveness meant in that clubhouse. I spent some time with the Cardinals last summer in September in Dodger Stadium…When they announced that he was going to start the game later that week against the Chicago Cubs, that Cardinals clubhouse just came to life…And the fact that they asked him to travel with them throughout the month of August even though he couldn’t pitch? There are very few players that mean that much to a team would ask him to travel even when he’s on the disabled list.
SH: With the Felix Hernandez signing, do you think this gives Adam Wainwright a little more leverage if and when the Cardinals extend his contract, and do you think the Carpenter news puts a little more pressure on the front office to get a deal done sooner than later?
SM: To answer your first question, there is no question that all these contracts are interrelated, and the fact that Felix Hernandez is on deck for that 7 year/175 million dollar deal, there’s no question that Wainwright’s agent will be looking at that and will be using that as a comparison during these negotiations, that’s the way the game is played. The next free agent on deck always looks at what his comparatives are at, and he wants to match that or get a couple dollars more.
As far as the Cardinals go, I don’t think they should necessarily rush into anything. I think it’s a mistake for an organization to be reactive rather than proactive, and I think that if you react, whether it’s to the Felix Hernandez contract or whatever it is, you can get in a world of hurt that way. You better have an organizational plan and you better be comfortable enough with it without side things distracting you from what your old strategy is. If you start going in one direction, and then all of a sudden you react to someone signing this contract or some other team’s move, then that’s a way to get into trouble.
SM: The short answer is I think it’s going to take a committee. I don’t think you can expect a Shelby Miller or a Trevor Rosenthal to all of a sudden step up and throw 220 innings or whatever it’s going to be. I think we’re going to see plenty of all of those guys. The pressure is going to be on Mike Matheny to handle all those guys in such a way that they stay fresh, healthy, and that they don’t burn out, because thats what it’s going to take if they want to compete in the NL Central… The one thing about the game today is in an era of five starting pitchers and an incredible number of disabled list days, you gotta have depth. Those teams who win, generally speaking, are the teams who have depth…Not just a 5 man rotation, but you gotta leave Spring Training with 7 or 8 starting pitchers that you can rely on…because you know someones is going to get hurt, or in the case of some those young arms, you’re not going to get 220 innings from them like you are from Adam Wainwright… I think it’s going to be fun to see all these guys that will compete for Chris Carpenter’s rotation spot and to compete for what should be a lot of opportunity.
SH: Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next week and Kyle Lohse still does not have a team to pitch for this season. Do you think there’s a shot he ends up back with the Cardinals because of Carpenter, and if not, where do you think he will sign?
SM: It’s hard to say where he’ll sign. I think there’s an outside chance he could end up with the Cardinals. I seem to remember it was about 2008 that Lohse was in the same spot – unsigned, Spring Training had started, and it was on March 14th of that year that he finally signed with the Cardinals. Whether we’re in a repeat of that or not, I wouldn’t predict it. The Cardinals seem determined to save some money and go in a different direction with the guys we were just talking about – Rosenthal, Kelly, Miller. I think they are intent on giving their young guys an opportunity, and I don’t think they view Lohse as a guy they want to spend some money on.
Where he ends up is anyone’s guess at this point, because as most people know, his agent is Scott Boras and even at this late date, Boras isn’t about to give anybody any discounts. Lohse is probably going to get a pretty good deal somewhere. I can’t tell you where he is going to land, but a scenario I see developing is [him signing with] some other organization where somebody gets hurt, and all the sudden an opportunity is going to open up. I think that’s probably where Lohse ends up.
SH: What kind of production do you think Cardinals fans should expect out of a guy like Carlos Beltran in 2013? Do you think he has much left or was his second half of last season indicative of what’s to come.
SM: I think he keeps himself in really good shape, and I think he could put up some pretty good numbers still…I thought the Cardinals handled him well last year. They didn’t abuse him – he played 133 games. They know they’re not going to get 160 games out of him, they’re going to make sure he’s rested. I’m sure Mike Matheny learned from last year a couple of other tricks in handling Beltran that he didn’t even know last year. So I don’t know if we are going to see 32 homers and 97 RBIs again from Beltran, but I think he can come close to that.