So the St. Louis Cardinals went out and landed the free agent pitcher many thought they needed.
Unfortunately, it wasn't Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or even Cole Hamels.
It was Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers reject Carlos Villanueva who is better known for his handlebar mustache than he is for his ability to get people out. Sort of a Rollie Fingers with less talent.
Villanueva, 45-50 over the course of his career with a 4.26 earned run average, has only had two seasons during his eight year career in which he logged an ERA of 4.00 or less -- the first two. And in his initial campaign he logged only 53 2/3 innings of work over 10 games.
The second year, 2007, was his best with a record of 8-5 with a 3.94 ERA.
The Redbirds need to hope that Villanueva, who has been a swingman over his time in the big leagues, isn't needed for the big league rotation. As a starter, over the course of his career, the right-handed pitcher is 18-33 with a 5.00 ERA and a .277 batting average against. As a reliever, he's 27-17 with a 3.55 ERA and opponents hit .226.
It doesn't seem there is a really obvious place for Villanueva to play in the major leagues unless someone is injured -- or if Carlos Martinez and/or Marco Gonzales earn a ticket back to Memphis.
His true value is that he's an arm the Cardinals can turn to if they suffer an injury to a major league pitcher. But he's not going to be able to offer the ceiling any of the top five or six St. Louis starts enjoy. And, as a reliever, he's sort of just a guy. He's not going to make anyone forget Trevor Rosenthal.
According to mlbscoutingreports.com, Villanueva's fastball hangs out in the 90 mph range, and that's the reason he's never had success as a starter. His out pitch is a slider that he can usually control well. His change-up is mediocre and his curve is inconsistent, either fantastic or terrible.
He seems to struggle with runners on base and telegraphs his off-speed pitches by short arming them. He also has problems with giving up home runs because he pitches high in the strike zone.