The Cardinals have announced that they have signed starting pitcher Jake Westbrook to a contract extension.
It's a move that gives the club some security in the rotation in 2013. But it probably guarantees that fellow starting pitcher Kyle Lohse won't be back after this season because of cost concerns and an effort to give some of the pitching prospects the team has a chance to play.
Lohse is in the last year of a four-year deal that paid him an average of a little better than $10 million a season. Terms of Westbrook's one-year deal with an option have not yet been revealed. But he was supposed to make $8.5 million on a mutual option for 2013 if both sides agreed. So I doubt it's for any less than that. Especially since Westbrook has had a pretty good season.
But here's why I don't like it: Westbrook is a guy who doesn't strike out a lot of batters and he's prone to long funks. He doesn't have nearly the upside that Loshe has. And Loshe has been key to the St. Louis rotation each of the last two years as alternately Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter have missed entire seasons with arm problems. I just don't see Westbrook as a potential number two starter.
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I would have rather seen the Cardinals make a run at Lohse and, if it failed, they could have picked up Westbrook's option. Maybe they did and Lohse said he wants to test the free agent market where he could command $12 million or more a year after a pair of fine seasons back-to-back. But now that Westbrook is locked in, the Cardinals lose a great deal of payroll flexibility.
Here's what I do like: I'm not a fan of risking the Cardinals' entire investment in their roster on the health of a pair of injury-prone aces, the equally fragile Jaime Garcia and a bunch of kids. It's great to have one or two young guys in the rotation. But not three or four.
Assuming Carpenter, who had surgery to relieve pinched nerves that caused weakness in his pitching shoulder a few weeks ago, and Wainwright, who has been increasingly strong in his first season back after elbow ligament replacement surgery, are both healthy, they'll be number one and number two in the rotation next year. Westbrook will be bumped to number three from number four and Garcia will be the fourth starter. That leaves one spot to go to the victor in a battle between Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and potentially Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller.
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