What about Jason Motte?
He was a late season revelation in 2011 that parlayed his opportunity into 42 saves in 2012.
He's also the first winner of the Darryl Kile Award – given and voted on since 2004 by the Cardinals to an inspirational teammate – to not play a single inning in his award winning season.
By all accounts, this is a dude that you want on your team. Not only good on the field when he's playing, but also a leader inside the clubhouse and outside in the community. He's formed the Jason Motte Foundation to 'Strike Out Cancer'
Unfortunately, he underwent Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2013 and was usurped by Trevor Rosenthal, who manager Mike Matheny has already tabbed as the closer for 2014.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Derrick Goold profiled Motte's recovery today.
While Mr. Goold's piece portrays Motte's goals as simplistic (get to Spring Training, keep building up strength, take it one throwing session at a time…), the story got me thinking about Jason Motte in a more complicated way.
He's kind of been this little treat we could look forward to indulging in come spring '14. But now that the calendar has turned over and pitchers and catchers are just 6 (or so) weeks from reporting to camp, the realities of Jason Motte's situation with the Cardinals are real.
And they might not be pretty if you're a huge Motte fan.
1) He's trade bait.
Jason Motte is scheduled to make 7.5M dollars in 2014 before hitting free agency after the season. As many platitudes as Mr. Motte wants to espouse, his agent probably isn't as willing to let a contract year go by with a 'whatever happens… happens' approach.
Closer's windows of opportunity are short. And once Motte shows that's he's fully healthy, other teams WILL be interested in seeing if the Cardinals would part ways with him. After all, he's a free agent after the season, a proven closer in the bigs and the kind of guy you want around your team.
The Cardinals don't have a great role for him.
He isn't young enough to be an 'up and comer' type fireman in the bullpen. He wasn't the former closer that's willing to do anything to stay on a MLB roster. He got screwed by an injury. And you better believe that there are several teams that are having conversations internally, waiting to see how this spring plays out.
2) Matheny's track record in the playoffs with pitchers…
The strange "benching" of Shelby Miller and Edward Mujica in the post season doesn't necessarily prove that the Cardinals manager is willing to bury assets to the detriment of his roster… but it does make everyone kind of wonder how he'd find the right role for Motte, assuming that Rosenthal and Martinez handle the 8th and 9th innings. Will he have Motte on the 25 man roster just t0 be there.
Pragmatically, there are opportunities for innings over the course of 162 games.
But the Cardinals aren't stretching Motte out to be a long-relief guy. And they aren't going to use him in just mop-up roles, either. Only time will tell what the plan is for Motte, but doesn't it feel like everyone involved is taking a wait and see approach?
The waiting could last into the season. Just like Miller and Mujica found out.
3) No place moving forward.
Even if you believe that the Cardinals and Matheny can find a role for Motte in 2014.
Even if something happens and Motte closes some games in 2014 and proves to be a wise insurance plan.
He's not coming back to the Cardinals in 2015 without taking a huge paycut. Yes, he seems to be a good dude. Yes, the Cardinals are happy with how he's handled a difficult situation. But the byproduct of having a thriving farm system is that sometimes people that you don't want to get squeezed out?
Motte still has to prove that he's ready to pitch again. All indications are that he's on track to return to work in the 2014 season. The possibility of something coming up that changes everything written above is out there.
The time we find out what happens is coming soon. And on a team with very few (interesting, at least) storylines heading into the spring… Motte figures to be on everyone's mind.