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UCB Roundtable Discussion: the cardinals’ 2009 bullpen

October 16, 2008

Excuses, excuses…I can say that this week was midterms week, but that doesn’t matter. Now, I’m back at least for a while. Guess what I got for you today; that’s right, it’s a UCB roundtable discussion.
I got to thinking about the bullpen situation for 2009 and beyond. that lead to the thoughts of who the closer, setup men, lefties would be in the cards 2009 bullpen. I would like your thoughts: who will be the closer and why? why should the cardinals sign a fuentes or k-rod or anyone of their type as closer or why not? who do you think will set up for the closer (they’ll hopefully be setting up for perez)? give me your 2009 cardinal bullpen is the main question I guess and your thoughts about it.

Daniel (C70 at the bat): I really like the thought of going McClellan-Motte-Perez in the late innings for 2009.  I definitely don’t think they should bother getting a big name closer–odds are it’ll cost too much and be an albatross of a contract by the end of it.  Closers have such a short shelf life, for the most part (Rivera and Hoffman excluded).  Perez has been groomed for the role and, while he still needs some work, I think that’s the best use of his talents.

Me: let’s add another question to that (I just thought of it after reading daniel’s answer): is perez ready to close? I ask this because tlr thinks that perez needs another season of triple-A.

Daniel (C70 at the bat): Obviously, I think he is, but I’m not an expert.  (I just play one on the internet.) To me, this just seems like one of LaRussa’s standard moves from his bag of motivational tricks.  He wants to make sure Perez (and the others) work in the offseason instead of taking things for granted. I’m not saying TLR has written Perez’s name in pen for the ninth, but I don’t think he really has to worry about Memphis.

Nick (Pitchers Hit Eighth): Perez should and will be the closer.  Motte and Franklin will set him up.  McClellan will hold relatively the same role. The question marks in my mind are Josh Kinney and Tyler Johnson.  Both could be outstanding in this pen if they can get themselves back into pre-injury shape. Personally, I still wouldn’t mind seeing a Fuentes signing.  As I’ve written many times before, I think you can kill two birds with one stone with that guy and get him close to 80-90 IP in a season.  When you need him to be a lefty killer, you use him that way and Perez closes.  In games where Perez has maybe already pitched back to back days and you don’t need Fuentes to get a lefty, Fuentes closes.  He can fill multiple roles, with prior experience, in that pen. And as for the final question…if Perez starts the year in Memphis, me thinks you can expect another looooong year watching this bullpen.  Because that would likely mean the return of Franklin or Mr Izzy to the closer role (obviously barring a signing).

Daniel (C70 at the bat): My problem with Fuentes is that he’s already 33, looking for a long-term deal, and will get closer money from someone.  If we aren’t going to use him as a closer, at least on a regular basis, why spend that kind of money?  Lefty specialists are nice, but are they $6-$7 million per year nice?

Nick (Pitchers Hit Eighth): In my opinion, yes.  Especially if you can get 80-90 IP out of him.  I suffered way too much watching the Randy Flores Fastball of Death last season.  If you’re going to overspend in an area, make it one where you have a desperate need.

Trey (The Cardinal Virtue): My whole feeling on this is that yes, it would be painful to spend a lot of money on a closer, but if we had K-Rod or even Fuentes this past season, we make the playoffs easily.  There is no question the bullpen cost us at least a dozen wins last year (and that may be generous).  I agree with the idea that it’s usually not a good idea to pay big bucks for a closer historically speaking, but in the case of this team, we have one glaring, gaping hole keeping us from the postseason, so I say we fill that hole.  Perez COULD be the guy down the road, but very few pitchers are able to close so early in their career.  Even Mariano had a couple of seasons setting-up John Wettland.  I think Fuentes is the best choice, because he’s cheaper (well, compared to K-Rod anyway),I think he can only be better if you get him out of Colorado, and he’s left-handed.  I couldn’t agree more with the idea that we must have something better than Flores or even Ron Villone next year from the left side.  So to sum it up:  Fuentes will cost way too much, but we have to pay the price if we want to make the playoffs.

Mike (Stan Musial’s Stance):I can’t agree less with spending big free agent money on Brian Fuentes, K-Rod, or any other reliever.  Apoplectic and overly emotional would better describe my feelings on this point. I agree with the expressed sentiment that our bullpen cost us multiple games last season, and that had LaRussa and Duncan shifted away from Franklin/Izzy at the back end of games BEFORE the disastrous Brewer series in July St Louis might have been the wild card instead of Milwaukee.  I also completely agree that any inning Flores and/or Villone entered to pitch caused concern, and by concern I mean yelling at the radio and chugging Maalox. However, in this world of overpriced talent at virtually every position, the one place where you can get more while spending less is in the bullpen.  There are lots of available left-handed pitchers out there who can get people out, at far, FAR less cost than what Fuentes is demanding. I talked about some options for left handed relief in an earlier UCBthread (which, of course, I can’t access from work). Perez closing, McClellan and Franklin throwing the leverage innings (7th and 8th), Thompson as your long man works for me.  Add Motte as another long man/spot starter and the more the better.  Two lefties to add could be Beimel (Dodgers), Miller (Rays), Marte (Pirates), Eyre (Phillies), even Embree (A’s) or Oliver (Angels).  All can be had for less than a third of what Fuentes is asking.

Tom (Cardinals GM): Perez will or should be the closer and hopefully not get the urge to re-sign Isringhausen. His overall contribution has been commendable but time to march on. I believe you will find Kinney as the late innings person and McClellan also near the end. I am not in favor of spending big bucks in the bullpen. Let’s use it for starters and impact infielders. Fuentes is not someone I want us to acquire. Looper may re-sign and be in the mix for the pen and spot starts. Lefthanders will have to be Flores and someone we pay average price for.

Eric (Bertflex): I might be too late to this party, but I’ll go ahead and cast my ballot for “don’t spend money on an Established Closer.” Surely among Perez, Motte, Franklin, and McClellan, we can find a viable solution. I’d also like TLR to reconsider his use of the closer, which in theory is your best reliever — sometimes the game is on the line in the seventh or eighth, not the ninth. Must the closer only pitch in the ninth with a lead? But that’s another topic. When it comes to allocation of funds, I’d spend the most on position players, then starters, then the bullpen. Throwing money at the ‘pen will get you very little (at best) in return.

thanks to everyone for their participation!


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