Two former California pitchers are attempting to make comebacks. Should the St. Louis Cardinals take interest in these reclamation cases?
The St. Louis Cardinals have had a decent history with reclamation cases in the pitching arena. Having said that, we must admit that the majority of these came during the Dave Duncan era when this pitching mastermind would take a once-assumed-expired pitcher and make them great once more.
News has been released of late that two former pitchers who once performed for California teams are planning on pushing back into the realm of active baseball. During their playing days, these two pitchers were formidable to say the least. These two pitchers are Brian Wilson and Eric Gagne.
Let’s take a look at these two pitchers during their playing times and examine a few things. First, let’s look at their numbers and notice their natural regression and decline with age. Second, let’s look at what could be expected from them rejoining any team. Lastly, I intend to offer my take on whether the St. Louis Cardinals should care at all.
First up, Eric Gagne. The news of Gagne’s desire to return to baseball surfaced shortly after the rosters were released for the World Baseball Classic. Gagne fully intends to use the WBC as a showcase for potential teams. Originally from Canada, Gagne will appear with the Canadian team in the WBC.
Gagne, now forty-one years old, last pitched in active duty in September of 2008. Should he successfully return this year, he will have experienced a nine-year hiatus from Major League Baseball. Post-2008, Gagne appeared in games in Canada in 2009 and then again in 2015 and 2016; the hiatus is not a complete absence from athletic endeavors.
Here’s a quick look at his numbers from his playing time:
Report from Baseball-Reference.com.
Notice that his youth years (those sub-thirty) showed incredible prowess. Notice too that his post-thirty years show regression. Of late, however, the small sample sizes shown in 2015 and 2016 show some promise. I’ll come back to this a little later after reviewing Wilson so stay tuned (or jump to the bottom if you are impatient).
Next up, Brian Wilson. Wilson, who will turn thrity-five next month, last pitched for the Dodgers in 2014. Wilson was known during this playing time as a strong closer who batters feared to face. This was due in large part to his mid-90s fastball and devastating slider. Likewise, Wilson was known for his on-the-mound antics and (who could forget) that black-black beard.
A comeback for Wilson might not be so straight forward as the one being faced by Gagne since Wilson suffered two Tommy John surgeries during his playing career. Before making a statement on that, let me share with his numbers:
Report from Baseball-Reference.com.
Notice the up-and-down of his career. Notice the scary closing years. Notice too, then, the disappointing attempt to climb back into the majors in 2013 and 2014 following surgery.
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Now to what has been reported as Wilson’s return to active duty and the difficulties he would face thanks to his two Tommy John surgeries: Wilson is reportedly working to return as a knuckleball pitcher. Writers all throughout baseball (here’s one for your perusal) are calling this attempted comeback to be one of novelty over substance.
To conclusions then, should the St. Louis Cardinals take interest in either of these? While both held great careers during their youth, is it wise for the Cardinals to toss money at aging arms? Hasn’t the organization moved away from older players this season in an effort to make a youthful movement?
Here’s what I think is the bottom line: watch, observe, and contemplate. It will be easier to watch Gagne perform in the WBC and I think this will be a good name to watch. Likewise, then, I also think the St. Louis Cardinals should seriously kick the tires on Wilson. Adding a knuckleballer to the roster could be massive.
More bottom line… I don’t honestly believe that Gagne has a place on the Cardinals but you can never have enough pitching. I do think that Wilson could be interesting on a minor league deal. In other words, of the two listed here, I’d take Wilson over Gagne. That could certainly change as things progress with the WBC, however.
Why want a knuckleballer? Have you seen one of these guys make fools out of batters? Let me simply point you to R.A. Dickey and his stuff. In addition to his stuff, let me highlight his age- 42- as an example of how the knuckleball pitch helps maintain an aging arm. As a reminder, Wilson is a mere thirty-five in March, and perhaps could add years thanks to the knuckleball.
What do you think? Would you advocate for the St. Louis Cardinals to take either? Cost would certainly factor but would YOU spend DeWitt’s money? Follow me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts.