St. Louis Cardinals: Top Ten Free Agent Signings

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#6 Chris Carpenter 

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In all likelihood this was the best. Carpenter thrived in St. Louis after having so much promise throughout his career in Toronto. Carpenter, was a Dave Duncan project that was signed in the offseason of 2002, who didn’t appear in a single game in 2003 due to injury. Carpenter then was put into the rotation in the 2004 season and he responded by having a career year going 15-5 with a 3.45 ERA (3.85 FIP), unfortunately it was the injury bug that bit him again in 2004 that kept him from the playoffs and likely was part of the reason the Cards lost in the WS that year.

Carpenter followed that year up with an even better year the next, posting yet another career year going 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA (2.90 FIP). This season he was healthy enough to pitch in the postseason and he performed admirably, in three starts he only allowed five earned runs and struck out 12. He was rewarded with the Cy Young that year.

Again, in true Chris Carpenter fashion, he had yet another successful season. It wasn’t quite as good as his 05 regular season, but still really good. He finished a ho-hum 15-8 with a 3.09 ERA (3.44 FIP), and another trip to postseason. Carpenter made mincemeat of the Padres in two starts allowing just 3 earned runs in two starts in that series.

Carpenter, however struggled in his first start against the Mets, giving up five runs and getting bailed out by the offense in the 2nd game of the series. Carpenter would shoulder the loss in Game 6 despite only giving up two runs in the six innings he pitched.

When the team advanced on to the World Series, Carpenter shined in Game 3 going eight scoreless and not allowing a single run on just three hits. Unfortunately, 2007-2008 were years mostly lost to injury.

In 2009, clutch Chris Carpenter was back and he finished the season with another career low ERA of 2.24 (this one would stick) which led the league led his team to a first round playoff series against the Dodgers where Carpenter proved his humanity by giving up four runs in five innings in his only appearance in the series. Somehow, Carpenter finished second in Cy Young voting that year to Tim Lincecum, despite having a better ERA, ERA+, and W-L record.

Carpenter had another great year in 2010 (16-9 3.22) and was an all-star. Unfortunately, this wasn’t good enough to get the Cardinals into the playoffs. However, in 2011 Carpenter posted another solid season (11-9 3.45 ERA) and fired his team up to fight the last month and a half of the season to make the playoffs. We all know the story, so I will spare the details.

Once the Cards got in the playoffs Carp put them on his back, as despite a rough outing in Game 2 of the NLDS, Carp outdueled good friend Roy Halladay in Game 5 pitching a complete game shutout and moving the Cardinals’ on to an NLCS date with the Milwaukee Brewers, where Carpenter was 1-0 in his only start only giving up three runs in his five innings of work, helping the Cardinals win the series and move on to the World Series for the second time in his career.

Carpenter pitched in three games that series, limiting the Rangers to two runs in on six innings in Game 1, two runs on seven innings in Game 5, and coming back on three days rest to pitch six innings, allowing two runs on six hits, striking out five, finishing his career in the World Series as a perfect 3-0 with an ERA of 3.00. Had it not been for the heroics of David Freese, Carpenter could have been the series MVP.

Despite suffering through shoulder problems throughout 2012, Carpenter managed to make three playoff starts in 2012 allowing just four runs in 13.2 innings. After that season, Carpenter tried to make a comeback from the Thoraic Outlet Sydrome, but it was unfortunately too much for the veteran ace. Carpenter finished his career in St. Louis officially retiring after the 2013 season.

He was without a doubt one of the best pitchers in Cardinals’ history and the best free agent signing this team has ever had.

Next: Jeff Suppan