Thursday, January 03, 2008

Cardinals Sign Matt Clement

Joe Strauss reported earlier today the Cardinals signed Matt Clement to a one-year deal with a club option for 2009. I had hoped Cot's would have more data on the deal, but they don't as of the writing of this post.

Clement last toiled for the Boston Red Sox, going 13-6 in 2005 and 5-5 in 2006. He noticeably lost velocity in 2006 and was shut down in August, undergoing surgery to repair what's been called 'extensive' damage to his right shoulder.

Clement becomes the latest rehab project to join the staff. Since he spent the last 4 years in the Red Sox organization, I'm fairly confident his rehabilitation was done correctly; there was no need for Boston to rush him back to service, and they currently epitomize a first-class operation in taking care of their people, so the Cardinals get a guy on the plus side of his rehab.

Clement came up with the Padres, and I had a chance to see him pitch a couple of times. He had good velocity on his fastball, and I thought if he could ever fix his control problems (he walked an awful lot of people) he'd be pretty good. San Diego traded him to Florida and got Mark Kotsay in 2000; Florida traded him to the Cubs in the deal that sent Dontrelle Willis to Miami. I remember thinking the Cubs had done very well in landing Clement because he had lots of potential.

If he's actually available Opening Day, as the Cardinals have been reported as expecting, he will be a big up-check in their patchwork rotation. Right now I'd rate Clement as a #3 starter, with the potential to be a #2 or #1 depending on his control and how well he works with Dave Duncan.

Yep, it's safe to say I like this deal pending the contract Clement got.

Suddenly we've got 4 reasonable starters for next year in Wainwright, Looper, Piniero, and Clement. Assuming Wainwright continues to pitch like he did in the second half of the season, Looper continues to progress (and can go deeper than 6 innings), and knowing Piniero and Clement are obvious improvements over Wells, Maroth, Reyes, Thompson, Wellemeyer, a guy from section 447, a pitching machine, or whoever the team was running out there last season, our starters should keep the team afloat (preferably over .500) until reinforcements arrive after the All-Star break. And, now instead of Reyes/Thompson/Wellemeyer taking two starter slots, they will only fill one - and that's a significant improvement.

There are still a lot of if's with this club. The rotation, though improved, is still a wild card other than Wainwright and Looper. Will Rolen return to some semblance of his 2004 form. How will Rasmus and Izturis hit. And so on. But to me this group suddenly looks capable of a .500 or better campaign.

If Carpenter and Mulder are able to return around the All-Star break and pitch effectively, 2008 may not be a rebuilding year after all.

I'm thinking Mozeliak knows what he's doing.

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