Cheap Seats

Trevor Rosenthal still wants out of the bullpen

Potentially adding a wrinkle to the St. Louis Cardinals off-season plans is the fact that, despite his emergence as the closer-apparent, that Trevor Rosenthal has reiterated his desire to become a starting pitcher.

I don't get it.

In 11 2/3 innings as the Cardinals closer in the post season Rosenthal allowed no runs on four hits. He walked three -- two of them intentional -- and struck out a ridiculous 18 opposing hitters. It certainly seems to me like someone has found his niche.

While Jason Motte will return next season -- barring a trade -- after a year on the shelf thanks to Tommy John surgery, Rosenthal is going to get plenty of opportunities to get saves. I doubt that Motte, even if he returns immediately to form, is going to be capable of working multiple days in a row. But Motte's contract is up after this season and it's a relative certainty that the Cardinals would go with the cheaper and more effective option in Rosenthal.

Instead, of filling an area of need for his team, Rosenthal wants to be included in an already crowded derby for five spots in the starting rotation. 

We know one of the spots is going to Adam Wainwright. Barring injury or trade I would have to imagine that three others are going to Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn. That leaves one spot left for Joe Kelly, a rehabilitated Jaime Garcia, Carlos Martinez, John Gast and Rosenthal.

If Rosenthal is successful in winning the bid, what happens to the other guys? None of them is really cut out to be a closer. Are the Cardinals going to pay Garcia $7.75 million if he's healthy to be a third lefty reliever? The only way I can see Rosenthal ending up as a St. Louis starter is if the Redbirds spend the money to keep John Axford around as an alternate closer and if they trade away more than one of the other candidates. Or, I shudder to think about this, if there are multiple injuries.

I hope Rosenthal has a good attitude about it if he doesn't get his wish. Being a closer at the MLB level is a pretty darn good job. It's not like the Cardinals are asking him to be a middle reliever. If it's money Rosenthal is worried about, he'd probably be able to establish himself quicker as a closer and drive up his value. There are only 30 closer jobs at the major league level. There are 150 starting pitcher jobs, so quality closers are a much rarer commodity.

And it seems, at least in the short term, that Rosenthal could help the Cardinals a lot more at the back of the bullpen than he could in the rotation where Lynn, Miller and Wainwright are already established 15-game winners. 

Rosenthal might, indeed, be a very good starting pitcher if given the opportunity. But the guy looks like he was born to be an elite finisher.