The Smoky Room

Some discussion on Twitter today led us to open up another Conclave discussion question to the public at large.  The discussion is embedded below, but you can head over to ReplyAll and give us your insight as well.  This post will continue to update as others participate. (EDIT: Technical difficulties at the moment.  Head over to ReplyAll and read the discussion while I tinker.)

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Musial Patch

It’s the time of year when organizations and publications try to put a face on the preceding 12 months.  Time Magazine has its Person of the Year, which went to Pope Francis recently.  Sports Illustrated has its Sportsman of the Year, which was awarded to Peyton Manning (in what could be construed as another sign of the overhyping of the NFL, giving Mariano Rivera and David Ortiz would have been perhaps more reasonable selections).

With the ending of our first calendar year here at The Cardinal Conclave, we wanted to start a tradition as well of naming the Conclave Cardinal of the Year.  This award should go to the person tied to the St. Louis Cardinal organization that stood out the most over the year.  It’s not necessarily the best player or the top pitcher, but someone that truly represented the club during the year.

The initial conversation starter had a number of strong nominees.  Matt Carpenter‘s stellar season was considered as was the work Yadier Molina did both behind and at the plate.  Michael Wacha was not only suggested on his own merits, but as a representative of the influx of young pitching that was almost overwhelming at times in 2013.  John Mozeliak’s work at shaping a team that returned to the World Series, then improving it without using his top trade chips, put him in the running.

And yet, even with all the possibilities, with all the remarkable candidates, there was only one name that could be chosen.  Our 2013 Conclave Cardinal of the Year is Stan Musial.

If you weren’t a Cardinal fan or from the St. Louis area, it seems hard to imagine that a man that passed away only 19 days into the year could have that kind of impact throughout the season.  Those that knew Stan Musial, though, would not be surprised at all.  Stan’s goodness, decency and, of course, amazing baseball ability set him on a pedestal throughout his life, a pedestal that he was never knocked off of even as he continued to try to climb down from it.  Stan was not a celebrity in his mind, just a blessed individual who always wanted to do what he could to brighten someone else’s day or to help some one out.  If you didn’t leave with a smile, he hadn’t done his job.

A woman at a holiday gathering recently told me that she had eaten at Musial’s restaurant in St. Louis back in the day.  While she didn’t interact with The Man personally, she remembered how great the service was in that place, the way they were very attentive to what you needed and filled your glasses and such without even being asked.  You’d expect nothing less from a place that had Stan’s name out front.  We hear about corporate culture coming from the top down and there is no doubt he would set a tone of service to his employees.

The passing of Stan left a shadow over the 2013 season.  Players wore the obligatory patches on the uniforms (white, cream or gray depending on which jersey was being used) and there were numerous remembrances of him throughout the season.  It seems almost fitting that this would be the season Carpenter would break Stan’s record for doubles by a left-handed Cardinal, giving us another reason to talk about Stan and to revel in the almost uncountable records he left in his wake.

More than any other season in recent memory, Stan Musial’s legacy was discussed, analyzed, and celebrated.  That makes him a worthy selection for our first Conclave Cardinal of the Year.

We still miss you, Stan.  The club will move on with a different focus in 2014, but you will never be forgotten, not as long as there is baseball played in a park under the Arch.

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With the annual exhibition game taking place tonight, it seemed like a good time to talk to some of our writers about their thoughts about the All-Star Game and all the ramifications that go along with that.  Dathan has already written about that here at The Conclave and Daniel’s opined in length about it in the past, but it still seemed like a great place for a discussion, especially given the Cardinals weren’t playing.

Daniel kicked it off with the following discussion starter:

I don’t know that I have a specific question, just a general discussion about the All-Star Game that’ll hopefully lend to things spinning out of the talk.  Do you watch the ASG?  Should the fans vote?  Should it count?  Should every team have a representative?  Pick a spot and dive in!

Josh: Open topic with many different ways to go! It is hard to know what it would be like if our favorite team was subjected to the representative rule. As a fan of baseball, I would rather have the best players in the game or make it strictly an exhibition again. It should be fun and instead the running joke is how many of the ‘starters’ will elect out of the game due to a number of reasons.

I like the option of having the fans vote for the last pick or even for a few reserves. Keep the starters in the hands of the players or even the managers, but fans who turn it into a popularity contest drive me batty. It takes away from the game when you have Big Mac hitting .220 and starting in the mid-summer classic.
Injuries happen in sports and will always play a part in the game, whether or not it counts. I typically watch at least a few innings of the game but never again will sit through the entire thing after TLR didn’t play Albert. That was also the same time I decided that maybe drinking while watching baseball wasn’t such a good idea…
As far as the whole experience goes, I still get a kick out of the Home Run Derby and watch the Futures Game, but I really want the next commissioner to fix the ASG one way or another. Baseball can not keep having it both ways.
Daniel: OK, let’s focus it this way.  I don’t think anyone would disagree that the idea of tying home field in the World Series to the winner of this is fairly ridiculous.  If I’m wrong, please speak up, but we’ll assume that as a baseline.

So what about fan voting?  Should the fans vote?  Does it matter that they “get it wrong”?  I’m passionately for the fans keeping the ability to pick the players.
Dathan: To quote my brother from earlier in the week, “One ticket, one game, one seat, one vote.”.  I wouldn’t be opposed to allowing the fan base to collective account for a percentage of the total vote.  Or letting the fans select X number of players to the roster might be another way to approach it.  I fully support allowing the fans to vote…for an exhibition game.

Obviously (or not, rather), this isn’t fully an exhibition game, and I think that’s at the root of the problem–the game has an identity crisis.

HR derby?  Crystal clear–that’s for fun.
Futures game?  Solid–displaying talent.
Fan fest?  Good to go–all about fun.
Celebrity softball?  Fun, fun, fun.
All-Star Game?  <deadpan>
What if there were two?  One in the middle of the summer, that was a serious game (though, I’m not sure if HFA in the WS is a legit “prize” for winning), and one at the end of the season that was more of an exhibition?  It’d bring more money in, and as long as it were, say, within’ a week or so of the end of the WS, it wouldn’t interrupt the players’ vacations, or interfere w spring training, WBC…etc.  Obviously, this would put some serious limits on places it could be played (warm, southern? areas and/or stadiums w roofs–I know, let’s have the first one at Miller Park!).  One positive to that could be that it exposes “non-baseball cities” (New Orleans, for example) to some baseball, when they otherwise wouldn’t be.  That could nudge the needle a bit, and put some feelers out there as to possible sites for the expansion of two more teams, which baseball may eventually consider.  That, of course, starts to get into 4 four-team divisions per league…etc, and all sorts of other talk that expands way outside the scope of the ASG topic, which is for another time.
Josh: I have no problem with the vote if the game returns to what it was always intended to be — a showcase for the fans. Vote for who you want to see and that also takes care of the ‘getting it wrong’ angle. There is something almost magical to me about being able to fill out a ballot at the ballpark, and that is something that should never go away.
Dathan: Totally agree.  I don’t vote online, and I don’t vote until June.  There IS something special about punching chads on those paper ballots at the ballpark.
Daniel: Maybe so and I do remember doing that once as a child, but being part of the large portion of folks that don’t often make it to the promised land, I’m quite happy that there is an online option now.  Punching the ballots might be preferable, but clicking works just as well.

I don’t worry too much people being able to vote X amount of times, because if it’s even, I don’t think one fan base overwhelms the voting.  Look at this year, the starters are pretty reasonable and spread out.  There’s no stuffing of the ballot box–or, more accurately, there’s no EFFECTIVE stuffing of the batter’s box.
Not to end that discussion at all, but let’s open another front: every team has a representative.  I say that’s a good thing.  Am I alone?
Josh: Luckily this year the Marlins and Astros proved that even the ‘bad’ teams can have players step up and earn the spot. My only problem with every team being represented is if it keeps a players off the roster than belongs. Much like Mujica this year, he was almost penalized due to the Cards having five other deserving players. It is almost a moot point, however, since there are widespread changes now.
Dathan: Didn’t mean to imply that voting online or in April was less than a vote cast on paper at the ballpark-it’s just a personal thing for me.

As for each team having at least one player goes, I’m ok with it. I think doing so involves fans that might otherwise have little or no interest. That said, I think it’s another example of how conflicted the game & purpose of the game has become. A person could certainly argue that if you’re trying to win the game, you need to put the best players on the field, and that may result in some teams not being represented.
Daniel: Agree with that.  I think most everything that we talk about should be sitting on the bedrock of the game is a fun, fan-friendly exhibition with no “stakes”, especially since those stakes aren’t taken seriously anyway.  If you really wanted to win the home field advantage, would your best players just get 1-2 AB and your starter leave after the second–and that’s if he’s stretched out?
Steve: To be honest I’m largely indifferent about most everything that has to do with the All Star game anymore.  I’m not sure when that transition happened exactly but I seem to find myself caring less and less with each passing year.  That said, to answer one of the questions posed earlier, I think leaving the selection of the starters in the hands of the fans is just fine.  I’d wager if you look back at the short history of the players selecting participants you’d find just as spotty of a resume as the fans have and clearly the manager isn’t always going to get it right either (see Chris Tillman being selected by Jim Leyland because of his shiny 11 wins – despite and ERA ~4 and a FIP ~5).
Mike M: Lots of good points in this discussion. I probably won’t say much that hasn’t already been said.

The fact that the ASG decides home field for the WS is ridiculous. Baseball is the only major US sport that decides playoff seeding based on the results of an exhibition game. They might as well use Spring Training results; at least there’s a larger sample size, and we could see the starters for more than 4 innings.
World Series home field advantage should go to the team with the best record, and wild cards should never host a best of seven.
If Selig insists on keeping the current system in place then the every team represented rule should go out the window. If I’m fighting for a playoff birth I want the best 30 players in the NL at the ASG to help me secure home field. Sometimes bad teams have a guy who deserves to go (see Everth Cabrera). I would not want to be in the position of having to rely on a guy who made it because his team had to have someone in a key situation with the game on the line.
For fan voting – keep it. I like to vote. I haven’t punched chads in a long time but I do vote online. Yes we run the risk of one team stuffing the ballot box, but so what.
Daniel: Steve brings up something I’ve been thinking of as well.  Some “experts” will say that the fans mess up the starters for the All-Star Game.  Yet who else is going to do it?  Managers and players?  Their selections have been just as questionable at times.  Writers?  Don’t we spend every winter arguing about their choices for MVP or Cy Young?  Front office folks?  The ones that would have a significant incentive NOT to select the guy with the huge All-Star bonus in his contract?

Again, if you were going to make it really “count”, maybe you’d select the top two players at each position in WAR for a starting spot, but being that baseball needs as many reasons as possible for people to watch, fan voting seems like the easiest way to have that happen.
Josh: I just shake my head at the “experts” who know best when just about everyone has access to the same information now.

Of course being an unbiased fan takes work but is possible, you just have to want the best team. All-Star managers need a say but so do the players in my opinion. What about taking the average of the three views (fans, players, coaches) and keeping it open for all to see?

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Welcome to the first in what hopefully will be a recurring theme here at The Cardinal Conclave, a roundtable discussion between our writers.  We’ve done roundtables often as a part of the United Cardinal Bloggers (and likely will again come October) but we wanted to have some good Cardinal discussion amongst us in The Conclave.  And what more fitting title than The Smoky Room when you are using a papal selection method as your website theme?  Where there’s smoke there’s fire, or in this case, perhaps just some hot air.

Our first question was posed by Mr. Gilliam, but it’s been discussed since then by various luminaries.  Never let it be said we let a hot topic go to waste.

The Fightin’ Phils have ‘no interest’ in trading their pitchers which screams $$ to me.  IF they do decide to become sellers, the Cliff Lee to the Cards talk will only become louder.  Instead of being on the defensive, I say push all in and come up with a good plan to present the FO.

And our discussion.  Mr. Grabowski has already let you see his answer to this dilemma, but the rest of us will chime in as well.

Josh: Here is my best two trade options (cause you can’t only have one)! What say the CC?

Phillies deal Cliff Lee and the entire contract to St. Louis for:
2B Kolten Wong
LHP Tyler Lyons
LHP Marc Rzepczynski

As much as I wanted to include Boggs as well, that can be used in Plan B. Since this lives in make-believe land, moving Wong seems steep but the better option given M. Carp and Freese.

LHP Lee and $$ (How much depends on the prospect)
RHP Mitchell Boggs
RHP Joe Kelly
RHP Tyrell Jenkins

Given the stash of arms that the Cardinals are hoarding, this potential deal opens up a roster spot for Oscar Taveras and clears up the bullpen situation as well. It may be time to sell high on Jenkins, who won’t turn 21 until 7/20, but has battled some issues (injuries and repeating levels).

Both deals basically will depend on one thing — St. Louis is not going to deal OT, Carlos Martinez, or Michael Wacha for anybody this summer. Outside of the big three, Wong may also prove untouchable depending on how the 2B/3B gets accessed.

Dustin:  First, looking at Lee’s contract, he’s owed $25mil/per for the next 2 seasons with an option in 2016 vesting if he breaks 200 IP in 2015 or 400 IP in 2014 and 15 combined. Oh, and the option is for $27.5.

‘IF’ the Cardinals looked into this seriously they would have to consider the possible traffic jam they would create in the rotation. Westbrook won’t be back but with Wacha and Martinez looking likely to be ready to step in and Jaime Garcia under contract for the next 2 seasons and expected to be back from shoulder surgery that doesn’t leave much(any) room. This of course includes Waino, Miller and Lynn locked into the rotation for the next few years together at least. So ‘IF’ the Cardinals were going to be serious for Lee I would think they’d have to consider Martinez or Wacha as the main prospect included based on the too many arms aspect and also look to Philly to pick up the check on some the coin due to Lee over the next couple years.

Personally I feel as though the Cardinals have worked hard from a player draft and development standpoint so they can avoid being in the Phillies situation trying to unload a massive deal for prospects they can’t develop on their own. The Cardinals already have too many talented position players and pitchers. Oh no. They will have to figure that out as well for next season but that could be another question.

Daniel:  I agree with Dustin that it seems highly unlikely that the Cardinals are going to pursue anything like this, though Goold didn’t completely rule it out in his chat today. Even though, as Josh likes to point out, I have a fondness for a former Arkansas Razorback, the arms coming up make this likely a non-starter.

Assuming they want to play ball, though, I wonder if they’d take on more money so as not to have to throw in Martinez or Wacha. Teams are going to get something like $25 million more per year in television money when the new contracts start kicking in next year. Couple that with the fact you’ll have a bullpen full of basically minimum wage guys (and a couple of them in the bullpen), plus some relatively cheap offensive talent and it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility if they took on $18 million per year of that deal.

In that case, maybe they could deal a John Gast (assuming he gets back healthy and pitching before the deadline, which might be a long shot)/Seth Maness/Greg Garcia type of deal for him. Something that taps into their prospect depth without skimming off the cream.

Mike M:  To quote Jurassic Park: “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.”

Beyond just showing off or trading for Lee ‘because we can’ I agree with the general sentiment here. There’s no reason at all to make this trade. STL has the best team in the league with the rotation in place, in its many forms.

There’s no need to mess with this.

Josh:  Westbrook has certainly given his 2 cents on whether or not to make the Lee deal, and the team recently implemented a 6-man rotation at Memphis. But while I agree that both the price in dollars and/or prospects to Philadelphia should give pause, it should be noted that a lot will happen between now and the end of July. I am all for being cautious and looking at other short-term, veteran hurlers who just happen to have playoff experience.

Two names immediately come to mind and wouldn’t you know it, the cost certainly sounds more appealing. Both Toronto and Colorado feature imposing lineups and have few holes when at 100% The problem becomes the amount of teams standing in the way of a playoff berth even as the two Wild Card spots offer hope.

The Blue Jays stole the show last winter and are no strangers to making trades with the GM of the Cardinals. They currently sit 4.5 games out of the playoffs and have won eight in a row. Toronto should also get star SS Jose Reyes back around the All-Star break, so why would they even be sellers?

As the standings show heading into play on 6/20, the AL East features four teams above .500 and not a single one hails from Canada. True, they are only one game below that mark but making up that much ground with a little over half the season left doesn’t make for good odds. Would a swap of left handers (looking at you Scrabble) as well as a prospect be enough to bring local boy Mark Buehrle into the fold?

If adding a proven player without years left on the deal sounds more likely, look West instead of North. The Rockies made a curious decision to sign Roy Oswalt back in early May, and it could pay off a number of ways. Colorado has an uphill climb to lock up a playoff spot, especially as the NL Central holds three of the five best records in all of baseball. The club recently made the call to promote Oswalt, and his audition surely will attract plenty of attention. It isn’t everyday that a pitcher with a career WAR of +50 may be on the trade market, and Oswalt is no stranger to battle in the NL Central.

Does this directly answer whether or not I have changed my stance on Lee? Of course not but ’tis the season for wishes! And in case you were wondering, Lee has a career WAR of 39.9 with Buehrle taking top honors at 52.8 among the three potential targets. Happy playoff dreaming Birds on the Bat fans 😉

Daniel:  Expanding the question, are you Mr. Gilliam? All right, your game, your rules.

I think Buehrle would have been a target of Mo’s if it weren’t for two things. One, Toronto is starting to get back into the race (though the next couple of weeks when they take on the Orioles, Rays, Red Sox and Tigers in a row might affect their surge) and two, the Marlins gave Buehrle a ridiculous contract, even more so than Cliff Lee. At least with Lee you have an expectation of upper level quality. Buehrle’s a good pitcher, but $18 and $19 million for the next two years for him rankles me more than the $25 for Lee, for some reason.

And yet, looking at it, it shouldn’t really. Buehrle is almost a year younger than Lee (I seriously thought he was older than 34) and while he’s not hit the level that Lee has in his career, he’s a solid pitcher that pitches a lot of innings. He’d improve his numbers getting out of the AL East and into a situation he’s always wanted to be at. I’d still rather Lee, given that he’s performing better now and has always limited the baserunners to a greater extent, but if you could get Buehrle with the Jays eating some money (and not sacrificing any upper-level prospects) it’d be intriguing. Big ifs, though.

As for Oswalt, I’ve always been a fan of his. He’d obviously come significantly cheaper than anyone else we’ve discussed. That said, he still hasn’t made his first start in the bigs this year (he will tonight) and Colorado is still in the NL West hunt (though we’ll see how much Troy Tulowitzski’s injury affects that). I can’t believe that he’s going to be available unless Colorado tanks in the next few weeks and, if they do, he’s probably going to be part of the reason why.

Looking at the struggling teams, you could argue (as Josh has before) that Yovani Gallardo would be someone to look into. Gallardo is owed just over $11 million next year and $13 million in 2015. That said, trading inside the division is always dicey and with Gallardo’s youth (he’s only 27), odds are Milwaukee would want some significant prospects, which would likely give Mo pause. There’s also Bud Norris, of course, who could never pitch as well for the Cards as he has against them, but being that he’s cheap and under team control (even though apparently unhappy in Houston), you probably wouldn’t want to go up against Jeff Luhnow in that situation.

Steve: For the sabermetric disinclined feel free to turn away for a few minutes 🙂  I’m just going to hit the Cliff Lee deal for now.. maybe I’ll hit some of the other proposals in a post later…

There’s two ways we can look at a potential deal 1) in a vacuum 2) as part of the broader picture of how things may play out

1 is a little simpler so let’s start there.  Cliff Lee is projected at ~6 WAR for the year (more or less both before the year and with the updated projections) so we can prorate that number and create a table like below

Year WAR Salary Surplus
2013 2.5 10.5 2
2014 5.5 25 2.5
2015 5 25 0
2016 4.5 25 -2.5

which if we assume the Cards pick up all of the remaining salary that they only get ~$2M of surplus value out of the deal.  That would require something like a C-C+ prospect + whatever penalty you apply to an “immediacy factor” so say upgrade that to a B-B+ prospect (so Jenkins would seem to fit here).  Clearly if the Phils were to pick up money then that would necessitate higher/more prospects.

An alternate look would be to evaluate with and without scenarios to see how they impact the overall structure of the team.. probably a little harder (read more assumptions needed) but more telling I’d say

First a “with” WAR table

Year SP WAR Salary Salary Slack Additional WAR from slack Total War
2013 2.5 10.5 0 0 2.5
2014 5.5 25 0 0 5.5
2015 5 25 0 0 5
2016 4.5 25 0 0 4.5
4 year WAR 17.5

To explain a little, the SP WAR is for the “empty rotation slot”, in this case Lee, in the next scenario Wacha or Martinez.  I’m basing salary slack on saying we can take Lee’s salary on (it’ll make more sense after the next table)
And now the “without” for comparison

Year SP WAR Salary Salary Slack Additional WAR from slack Total War
2013 0.5 0.25 10.25 0.5 1
2014 1.5 0.5 24.5 4.9 6.4
2015 2 0.5 24.5 4.9 6.9
2016 2.5 3 22 4.4 6.9
4 year WAR 21.2

So here we assume that we gain buying power with the Salary Slack and use it to purchase (or keep) additional WAR.  Note in year 1 we don’t get full purchase power simply because of availability, so I assumed we used some of the slack on a bullpen arm or something like that (you could re budget the savings, although I did not in this particular chart).

What does the comparison tell us?  Not much that we didn’t already know really.  We’d be trading an increase in future wins for some additional wins today.  So the question boils down to, “Is 1.5-2 wins this year + having another elite pitcher in the playoffs worth 3-4+ future wins?”  My answer is no, but I think it’s closer than I had thought before I started this exercise.

Another note, there’s lots of embedded assumptions in here that could sway these things substantially one way or the other.. we can debate if you want 🙂 that’s what these roundtables are about right?

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