Exit Interview: Randy Choate

The last couple of years, I spent the time immediately after the season examining each player that had made an appearance in St. Louis during the season.  This series was well received and so I’m bringing this idea back for the 2014 offseason.  More summaries than anything, I imagine the player coming into Mike Matheny‘s office and having a short conference before heading home for the winter.  Stats are just the ones accumulated for the Cardinals during the regular season.

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Player: Randy Choate

Season stats:  2-2, 4.50 ERA, 61 games, 36 IP, 27 H, 13 BB, 32 K, 1.111 WHIP, 82 ERA+

Hero/Goat: Goat 2

Overall grade: B

Positives: Choate limited lefties to .093/.205/.147 line in the regular season….he struck out almost a batter per inning, which is fairly impressive given that often he only faced one or two batters per outing….was dominant at home, allowing a .554 OPS to opposing batters in Busch.

Negatives: Righties had no problem with Choate, putting up a .938 OPS against him….led the league in “you had one job!” comments, having seven different outings where he didn’t retire a batter….the lasting image of Choate this winter will be of him melting down in Game 3 of the NLCS, throwing away Gregor Blanco‘s bunt and giving the Giants the win.

Overview: When Randy Choate was signed, what did everyone expect out of him?  A guy that would get lefties out, right?  Nobody ever thought that Choate would turn into a long man or even a seventh-inning guy.  While there was debate over whether a three-year deal was a good idea, everyone was pretty much on board with Choate’s LOOGY-ness.

Apparently everyone doesn’t include John Mozeliak and Matheny.  Coming into the 2014 season, there was talk about stretching him out, that Choate could be a great guy to go a full inning instead of just a batter or two.  You can look above to see exactly how well that panned out and, to be fair, late in the season it seemed like that they scrapped that plan somewhat.  Then, after a postseason where Choate was less than lights out, Mozeliak claims he’s too one-dimensional for the Cardinal bullpen and wants to trade him off.

If you were to be snarky, you could say the usage of Choate says less about him and more about the bullpen management that the skipper had going on.  It’s amazing how most everyone can carry a left-handed specialist but that it’s too much trouble for this team to have one.  It’s also crazy to think that you can’t hold him in reserve for tough lefties when you have guys like Sam Freeman and Marco Gonzales and even Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons who throw with the left hand but can get hitters from both sides out.

Look, I complained about Choate’s contract when he signed it and I get as frustrated as anyone on those rare times where he can’t get a lefty out.  But saying that he doesn’t fit on this team anymore because he’s a specialist is disingenuous at best.  He’s exactly what you should have expected when he signed the deal.  If you can’t use him that way, perhaps you need to examine other reasons why not.

Outlook: Even though Mo may want to trade Choate, $3 million for a LOOGY is a tough pill to swallow for many teams, especially for a guy that’s “old” (I use scare quotes since he’s a month younger than I am).  I don’t know if Mozeliak is motivated enough to move him that he’d eat some of the salary, but it also seems unlikely that they’d make public comments like that and bring him back.  I’d put it at 70% that Choate will be elsewhere next year, but it’s no guarantee.

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