Fuentes like a lottery ticket to Redbirds

Fuentes like a lottery ticket to Redbirds

Credit: Getty Images

DENVER, CO - JUNE 14: Brian Fuentes #40 of the Oakland Athletics delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague Play at Coors Field on June 14, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The A's defeated the Rockies 8-2. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)


by Brian Feldman / BaseballStL


Posted on July 15, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Updated Saturday, Oct 19 at 1:23 PM

ST. LOUIS (BaseballStL) -- 6.84 ERA's typically aren't very good. .291 opponent's batting averages really aren't either.  And 1.60 WHIP's especially don't strike much confidence in the not-so-proud owner.  Looking at stats like that you normally wouldn't be very excited about acquiring a pitcher sporting those numbers.

Frankly, they're horrendous.

But Brian Fuentes is not your typical case.  He's a 3-time All Star.  He had 48 saves just 3 seasons ago.  He used to be as dominant of a reliever as there was in the game. 

Lately, though, he's fallen on rough times.  This season after starting the season with a 2.84 ERA through 19 innings on May 29th...he got into a rut that led to his release from Oakland.  Fuentes' next 7 appearances totaled 6 innings.  His ERA?  19.50.  Opponents hit .452 off him with a borderline hilarious 1.456 OPS during that span. 

Numbers like that don't constitute receiving paychecks for long.

Barring a physical complication, which there have been no reports of, Fuentes is simply falling victim to good old mother nature.  The soon-to-be 37-year old has drastically declined over the last couple years.  His velocity's been way down.  His command has been erratic at best.  The guy the Cards wanted to succeed Jason Isringhausen as its closer a few seasons back just isn't there anymore.

So why are the Cardinals bringing him on board?

Simple.  He carries no risk and could potentially bring fairly significant rewards.  Kind of like a lottery ticket.

If Fuentes really is finished, what did they lose?  A few bucks?  It's not like they're ruining some momentum the bullpen's been building.  The Cards' bullpen is reason number one they're sitting in 3rd place.  GM John Mozeliak has to try something.  And Fuentes is as deserving of a chance as anyone at this point.

But if Fuentes isn't finished?  If he does have something left in the tank and just needs a change of scenery and a little time in the minors to tweak his mechanics?  The Redbirds could have something really valuable down the stretch.

A veteran reliever who's been there, done that and knows what it's like to pitch in big situations.

Look...I like Barret Browning.  I don't know how you can't at this point.  He's been all sorts of terrific since being given a chance in St. Louis.  And I don't know what's going to end up happening with him once Fuentes gets promoted to the active roster.  But there's a huge difference in pitching to Joey Votto on July 14th compared to pitching to, say, Josh Hamilton in the World Series.  It's impossible to gauge how Browning would respond in that environment.  You don't have that question with Fuentes.

This Redbirds 'pen has next to no experience.  Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs are considered the seasoned veterans back there.  That's it, folks.  As of now there's no Octavio Dotel, no Arthur Rhodes, etc. 

Fuentes could potentially fill a need of not only getting out left-handed bats...but he could also be a veteran presence for the young kids.

This may not work out.  Fuentes very easily could be finished and offer little to the Cardinals in 2012. 

But very easily could he have a little bit left in the tank.  Just like Arthur Rhodes last year.  And we all remember how 2011 turned out.