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Which One would be the best rotation?


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A: Peavy/Harden/ Zambrano/Dempster/Lilly

B: Sabathia/Peavy/Lackey/Santana/Saunders

C: Sabathia/Peavy/Matsuzaka/Lester/Beckett

To get A, the Cubs trade Vitters and some other players in a 3 way deal to obtain Peavy.

To get B, the Angels trade Weaver and some other players to obtain Peavy, then sign Sabathia.

To get C, the Red sox trade Bowden and some other players to obtain Peavy, then sign Sabathia.

Rotation C is probably not going to happen, but A and B have a chance of happening.

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Peavy, Adam Wainwright (11-3, 3.20), Todd Wellemeyer (13-9, 3.71), Kyle Lohse (15-6, 3.78), and a healthy Carpenter (CYA in 2005, 15-8 and 3.09 in 2007, DL in 2007-2008).

I'll concede that Carpenter's health is a big question mark. He has recovered from his TJ surgery in 2007, but he has some unusual "nerve conduction issues" with his shoulder muscles. He had something similar with his biceps in 2004 which caused him to miss the post season, but recovered to earn the CYA in 2005. Still, this is a rather uncommon medical problem, so there's little history upon which to base a prognosis. The Cardinals team physician said back at the beginning of October that there was a "90 percent chance" that Carpenter pitches in 2009, but we're going to have to wait until next spring to see whether he is ready.

To acquire Peavy, the Cardinals trade top prospect Colby Rasmus (injured much of last season, but still highly regarded as one of the top half dozen position prospects in all of baseball), star rookie pitcher Kyle McClellan (75-2/3 IP, 4.04 ERA, faded down the stretch), rookie closer Jason Motte (11 IP, 0.82 ERA for the Cards last season), 2B Adam Kennedy (and $3M towards Adam's $4M salary), and possibly 21-year-old AAA catcher Brian Anderson (.306/.369/.420/.789 over 4 minor league seasons). The 24-year-old McClellan was a starter in the minors who's already been through TJ surgery, but surprised everyone last spring by pitching well enough to win an opening day spot in the Cards bullpen and might be ready to move into the Padres rotation.

I don't think it's likely to happen. I'm not sure the Cardinals will be willing to give up Rasmus, even for Peavy, and the Padres seem to want "ML-ready" young pitching more than they do outfielders. I predicted over a month ago that Peavy would end up either in Chicago or Houston and I still think those are his most likely destinations. Peavy wants to join his buddy Oswalt in Houston and he has veto over any trade, which might help the Astros get past their lack of quality trade material to offer in return.

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I don't know. Adding Peavy (2007 CYA) to a rotation with Carlos Zambrano (.611 WPctg, 3.48 career ERA) and a healthy Harden (.672 WPctg, 3.23 career ERA), with two 17 game winners in 2008 (Dempster, 17-6, 2.96 ERA and Lilly, 17-9, 4.09 ERA) filling out the rotation, isn't something to sneeze about.

Peavy and Zambrano both had injury issues in 2008. Let them both bounce back to their 2007 levels of performance, Harden remain healthy, and Dempster and Lilly avoid a significant dropoff, and it's probably all over in the NL Central before opening day.

Of course, Harden has never really been a fully healthy pitcher, with 190 IP in 2004 being the pinnacle of his career thus far. I think Zambrano's issues last year probably won't carry forward, but he has been worked pretty hard over his career. Dempster had a "career year" and Lilly came close, but they'll be 32 and 33 years old respectively next season, so I'm not counting on a large dropoff in their level of performance in 2009. Lilly is signed through 2010 and Dempster through 2012, so the Cubs obviously expect them to remain competitive.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cubs pay a substantial portion of Marquis's 2009 salary to move him to another team in need of an "innings eater" at the back end of their rotation, whether the Cubs acquire Peavy or not. I'm still predicting that Peavy ends up either with the Cubs or the Astros, even if the trade package offered by those two teams is inferior to that offered by the Angels or Dodgers.

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