It's an interesting statement about the financial condition of the national game that the Cardinals doled out $17.5 million to a guy who is considered to be a third or fourth starter.
Jake Westbrook, who missed almost two entire seasons because of major arm problems, is 33 years old and a sub .500 pitcher who hasn't won in double figures since 2006. Still, his statement about a contract that will pay him $8 million in 2011, $8.5 million in 2012 and a $1 million buyout if the Redbirds don't pick up an $8.5 million option for 2013, was that he wasn's sure that he got fair market value for his services.
I don't know what it is that players expect these days. You'd think a guy who just was handed the sort of pay day that the rest of us will only see if we hit the Powerball wouldn't be patting himself on the back for taking less. But, then again, it is a paycut for him. He earned more than $10 million per year, on average, for his last three-year contract which saw him make a Mark Mulderesque five combined starts in 2008 and 2009. I hope the Cardinals get a much better return on their investment than Cleveland did.
I don't mind the gamble on Westbrook. At least the Cardinals seem to be past the days of dumpster diving for the likes of Sidney Ponson and Matt Clement. By all accounts he seems healthy now. And you can never have too much pitching, as we were so cruelly reminded in 2010. But what happened to those crazy days when a mediocre starter got $1-$2 million, not $8 million.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not panning the deal from a baseball standpoint. It's just that the money involved in the deal makes me nauseous. Westbrook has made $45,697,500 over the course of his major league career -- not including his new contract with the Cardinals. That works out to an average for $625,993 per victory. Yikes.
It will be interesting to see how much the Redbirds are willing to spend on their other needs now that they have spent about half of their budget wiggle room on Westbrook. If they can find another power bat, it isn't going to be cheap. So there won't be much -- if anything -- available to address the bullpen and the middle infield unless they up the budget. And upping the quality of the middle infield would seem to go hand in glove with the Westbrook signing. He's a groundball pitcher, so the defense at second needs to be improved. Meanwhile, the Cardinals need to find more offense from the shortstop side to help their pitchers with more run support.
Would the Cardinals have had the juice to hold off the Reds if they would have had Westbrook last season when Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse went down to injuries? We may find out if the team doesn't invest in any other major moves this offseason.