Yesterday, the Cardinals solved their one must-address issue of the offseason by signing left-handed reliever Randy Choate. The reaction was less than cordial by a large portion of the fanbase.
The deal was for three years and $7.5 million for a 37-year-old. Two reasonable issues can be taken with that. First, you’re giving a guy a contract that will last until he’s 40; and second, elite left-hander Sean Burnett went to the Angels for $8 million over two years.
Admittedly that second one is curious. If reports are to be believed, the Cards were in on Burnett to the very end, yet they weren’t able to get him and instead turned around and spend almost the same amount on Choate.
However, this and the first point are being blown way out of proportion. We forget that this is a very small contract, occupying a small percentage of salary ($2.5 mill) over the course of three years. If Choate does in fact peter out in old age, the Cards can cut the line with virtually zero consequence.
But in the meantime, I believe Choate will be a valuable asset. He led the Majors in appearances last year, and this is how he fared against lefties and righties:
v. Left: 116 faced, 16 hits, .158 opp. avg. (.201 career)
v. Right: 52 faced, 13 hits, .325 opp. avg. (.279 career)
Moral of the story: Mike Matheny must abstain from using Choate against any right-handers whenever possible. He made the mistake of not doing that with Marc Rzepczynski in 2012 and it cost him dearly more than once.
But his effectiveness against lefties is obvious, and combine that with his three-to-one ground ball-to-flyball ratio makes him a great buy. Not to mention that he’s durable after only three hundred career Major League innings and will take a lot of playing time away from the dulling Rzepczynski. And again, even if he begins to suck, it’s no big deal. The Cards can drop him without much of a thought similar to what they did with Brian Fuentes this year.
This is the new era of reliever contracts. Once one guy here and another guy there start to get longer term contracts, the rest of the market will follow. I think Mozeliak did a good job outbidding the Dodgers and possibly other contenders to seal up one of the very best lefties on the market.