Major League Baseball | St. Louis Cardinals

Pulling Trigger on Peavy a Dicey Proposition for Cards

Word spread on Tuesday afternoon that the Cardinals were interested in Red Sox starter Jake Peavy. First it was Peter Gammons tweeting that the Cards “want” Peavy, and then’s Jayson Stark reported shortly thereafter that a deal between the two clubs could happen “quick.”

If what Gammons and Stark are reporting is true, then my hope is that the deal falls apart as quickly as these rumors have materialized.

John Mozeliak
John Mozeliak

Chris Duncan and I had John Mozeliak on Tuesday’s edition of “The Turn,” and my impression from the GM is that he’s more concerned about the club’s offense than lack of pitching. Seeing as how the Cards rank 28th in runs, 26th in slugging percentage and 16th in on-base percentage, who could blame him?

Mozeliak also told Dunc and me not to rule anything out, though, so maybe he is considering adding to the one true strength that this team has right now. Instead of possibly trading for an average bat, which would only force Mike Matheny to juggle more players than he already is now, why not embrace the fact that this year’s team will only go as far as its pitching staff?

But while that thought process holds some merit, the problem is that Peavy hasn’t pitched well this season. In fact, it’s been the least productive season of his 13-year career. His velocity is down (89.9 mph average fastball), his ERA is up (4.64 ERA) and his ground-ball rate is currently lower than 40 percent (39.2). Now, one could make the argument that switching leagues would have a positive effect on Peavy’s numbers. But there’s no guarantee of that, just like there’s no guarantee that he’ll stay healthy in the second half.

This is a pitcher who hasn’t started more than 30 games since 2012 and has only reached the 30-start mark five times in his career. If history is any indication, there’s a chance that the Cards could acquire Peavy and he winds up making only five-eight starts. Is that worth Allen Craig (who’s being mentioned as the possible compensation for Peavy), plus the $6.58 million that he’s owned over the remainder of the 2014 season? Hey, it’s not my money, so the $6.58 million won’t keep me up at night. But even with Craig struggling, that’s not good value in my eyes.

When I asked Mozeliak whether or not he would look to strengthen the pitching staff if the offense started to catch fire over these next couple of weeks, his response was pragmatic and direct: Who would you want to replace in the current rotation provided that Joe Kelly doesn’t suffer a setback with his hamstring injury? Even though the question was rhetorical, the response rattling around in my head was, “nobody.” I’d be perfectly fine with a starting five comprised of Kelly, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez. A team could do much worse.

So why make the move for Peavy if questions remain about his production, his durability and whether or not he’d even improve the Cards’ current rotation? I’m fully aware of the hit the Cards’ pitching depth took over the past few weeks with Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha landing on the disabled list. But you’re seeing why Mozeliak was reluctant to part with Wacha and Martinez at the deadline last year. There’s nothing more valuable than young pitching, and Mozeliak has done well to horde his over the past two years. By hanging onto Martinez last year, Mo doesn’t have to take a Peavy-sized risk to address pitching depth this year.

I like when general managers are proactive and take risks. Billy Beane just took one by shipping multiple prospects to Chicago in exchange for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. But Beane has the best team in baseball right now and a proficient offense. A risk like that was calculated.

There’s nothing calculated about acquiring a 33-year-old starter with a 4.64 ERA, diminished velocity and durability issues while paying him over $6.5 million when he might not even improve your rotation.

That’s just called a risk.

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