Miles Mikolas was the object of some curiosity when the St. Louis Cardinals introduced him as the newest member of their starting pitching rotation at the annual Winter Warm-Up on January 13.
He had last pitched with the Texas Rangers before toiling away for three seasons in the Nippon Professional League in Japan as a member of the Yomiuri Giants. And then there was the viral video of Mikolas eating a live lizard on a bet.
John Mozeliak, the Cardinals' president of baseball operations, copped to the optics of bringing in an MLB outcast in lieu of a better known and more proven free agent like Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish. The Cardinals even passed on their own guy, Lance Lynn, and a potential free agent bargain in Alex Cobb.
“Adding somebody like Miles Mikolas might be a little curious to some of you who don’t do what we do for a living,” Mozeliak told media on a frigid winter day at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch in downtown St. Louis.
Yes, it's only been a half a season and hindsight, as the saying goes, is 20-20. But if you're keeping score at home:
Arrieta signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and so far has a 6-6 record with a 3.47 ERA. That's not bad until you realize his ERA has increased month-over-month and opponents have batted .305 against him since the beginning of June. And this: the 32-year-old right-hander is making $30 million this season. He'll get $25 million next season, $20 million the year after, then has a pair of incentives-laden club options for 2021 and 2022.
Darvish, who signed with the Cubs, is 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA and has been on the disabled list the past six weeks with elbow trouble. He's due $126 million through 2023 if he doesn't exercise his opt-out clause at the end of next season.
Lynn, was an option for the Cardinals, though they showed no interest in bringing their own reliable free agent back to the fold. Instead, Lynn languished on a slow-moving offseason market until catching on with the Minnesota Twins for $12 million two weeks into spring training. He's 6-7 with a 5.21 ERA, and there's talk he will be a deadline trade.
Cobb found free agency about as welcoming to him as it was to Lynn. The Cardinals passed, and the 30-year-old right hander landed in Baltimore, where he leads the American League with 11 losses in 13 decisions. He'll be paid $57 million over four years with the Orioles.
Finally, there's Mikolas, the guy nobody saw coming, neither literally or figuratively. The Cardinals took the "Lizard King" on for $15.5 million over two seasons. He's 9-3 with a 2.63 ERA. Even in his three losses, he has allowed a mere six earned runs. As of now, he's the only player who will represent the Cardinals on the National League All-Star team.
Third baseman Matt Carpenter still has a chance to make his fourth all-star roster. After a horrible start, Carpenter has been one of baseball's hottest hitters. He's batting .258 with a team-high 17 home runs and 41 RBIs. There's nothing eye-popping about those stats, until you consider he wasn't hitting his weight at the start of June.
As a result of his current six-week tear, Carpenter was one of five NL players included Sunday in the MLB Final Vote. Fans can log into MLB.com and vote in one more member of each league's roster. Carpenter is on that ballot with the Dodgers' Max Muncy, the Brewers' Jesus Aguilar, the Giants' Brandon Belt and the Nationals' Trea Turner.
Had we known this past January that Carpenter would be a candidate for the All-Star Game, it wouldn't have been much of a surprise.
But Mikolas? A forgotten man who isn't just an All-Star but maybe the biggest bargain in baseball?
That would have been a curious prediction.