07/18/11 6:07 PM ET
Inbox: Berkman a long-term solution?
Beat reporter Matthew Leach answers Cards fans' questions
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Welcome to the Cardinals Inbox. As always, if you have a question, use the link above to submit it -- and please be sure to include your first name, last initial and hometown. If you send a regular e-mail, rather than using the form, be certain to use the word "mailbag" in the subject header -- otherwise your mail may be directed to the spam folder or possibly be ignored in an unbecoming manner. Also, please understand that literally hundreds of e-mails arrive every week, so they can't all be used in the inbox or receive personal responses.
With U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" playing on the stereo, let's get on with the questions.
We recently heard that the Cardinals were one of the most aggressive teams pursuing starting pitching help in the past few weeks. Do you have any sense that the Cards attempted to pursue positional upgrades at second base or shortstop before aggressively pursuing a starter, perhaps Jose Reyes or J.J. Hardy? Do you have any sense that the relative superiority of pitching in MLB this season has created a buyers' market with respect to starting pitching? Thanks!
-- Ken K, Iowa City, Iowa
Short answer: no. They're not entirely ruling out anything, but it's very clear that the priority is pitching, rather than the offense. Whether that turns out to be relief pitching, starting pitching or both remains to be seen. But the goal is to upgrade the pitching staff. Hardy, by the way, was never really available; the Orioles just signed him long term, and that was the plan all along, it sounds like.
As for a "buyers' market," it seems to be the contrary. There are apparently quite a few decent, useful starters available, but very few difference-makers. That will make it a challenge for any team looking to upgrade its rotation.
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Here's one for you: Is there a chance that the Cardinals would place Adam Wainwright on the roster when it expands in September to technically have the options kick in? This wouldn't be to use him, since there would be enough bodies not to need him. Or could Tony La Russa not resist the temptation?
-- Daniel S., Russellville, Ark.
No reason to do it, actually. The options remain in place whether Wainwright is on the roster or not. So the club could still exercise Wainwright's options even if he's on the DL. It's the opposite that's mandated -- if he is on the active roster, the options vest and it's a done deal. So there's really no incentive for the club to make that move unless Wainwright was fully ready to pitch. And that seems just about impossible.
It's hard to see Lance Berkman putting up this season's numbers again next year, but it's very reasonable to assume his tank is not empty just yet. Do you think the Cardinals will do something in-season and try and secure him for a couple of seasons? Or is it more likely he ends up on the open market and cashes in big on what is likely to be his last MLB contract?
-- Bob P., Paris, Tenn.
It's my understanding that club and player both have at least some interest in continuing the relationship. That, of course, doesn't mean that they necessarily see the terms of such a continuation in the same way. I wouldn't rule out some conversation.
However, unlike with Jaime Garcia's situation, Berkman's situation has to be at least somewhat interconnected with Albert Pujols. It may be tough for the Cards to commit to a Berkman deal in the near term without knowing what or whether it will pay Pujols from 2012 on.
This is wishful thinking considering any number of things can happen in the next few years, but is there a chance we could see a future rotation (2013 or beyond) that includes Wainwright, Garcia, Shelby Miller, and Carlos Martinez? If that happens, would that be considered a relatively cheap rotation since Garcia's deal is modest and Miller and Martinez will still be early in their MLB careers?
-- David J., Nashville, Tenn.
Because you framed it that way, yes, there's a chance. But the unfortunate truth is that pitching prospects, even great ones, often blow out. One of the best things about the Cardinals having both Miller and Martinez is that if one of them gets hurt or simply doesn't develop, they still have the other one. They're two of the most exciting pitchers in the Minor Leagues, and both of them have extremely high ceilings. But it would be unwise to count on both of them simply rolling to St. Louis unabated over the next couple of years.
I was wondering what happened to the young and very talented pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins? I haven't noticed him playing with any of the Minor League clubs. What is his status?
-- Michael L., Dixon, Ill.
Jenkins is pitching, and pitching well, for Rookie-level Johnson City of the Appalachian League. It was known when he was drafted that he was a bit raw, so patience will be required. But after a very brief debut last year, his 2011 is going quite well. Through five starts, he has a 2.73 ERA, 30 strikeouts and five walks in 26 1/3 innings. He's allowed two earned runs in 17 innings over his past three starts.