An Off-the-Wall Idea - Tavarez as a Starter?

Thinking out loud, Brian Walton puts two and two together. Does he come up with four or five? You be the judge.

From Sunday's Post-Dispatch:

"Interest exists in bringing back Julian Tavarez, but not as primary righthanded set-up man. The Yankees are believed in competition with the Cardinals for the pitcher, who made 151 appearances for the Redbirds the last two seasons."


Ok, if he is not the main set-up man, exactly what do the Cardinals see Tavarez as? This isn't hockey, so the designated enforcer role is not needed. How about a long reliever, then? That seems highly unlikely at the salary he will surely command as a free agent.


On the other hand, Tavarez' and Scott Boras' likely asking price of $4 million or so per season on the free agent market would be classified in the very reasonable range for an experienced starter. Putting Tavarez into the rotation would free up another pitcher (Suppan plus Marquis?) to help fetch needed help for the rest of the roster via trade.


Along with many others, we've noted that the fourth and fifth starters are not all that useful in the playoffs, though they surely do play a role in getting there through the regular season. With his proven relief experience, sliding Tavarez into a postseason relief role should not prove to be as traumatic as it was for the Cardinals in trying to deal with an obviously miffed Marquis in the 2005 playoffs.


Would you be comfortable going into 2006 with Anthony Reyes and Tavarez backing up Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder and A.J. Burnett, if the latter is signed?


I might be able to get there, knowing that Suppan and Marquis fetched badly needed components for other parts of the team in a year that the free agent market is thin and overpriced as a result and the Cardinals have precious little else to trade. Unlike's Matthew Leach, I do not think the Cardinals offense is anywhere near "set" for 2006.


What makes me think that the 32-year-old Tavarez could be starter material?


First of all, that is where he began. Almost all of his appearances in eight years as a minor leaguer were as a starter. The Indians made him a reliever in 1985, but Tavarez opened 12 games for the Rockies in 2000 and was basically a full-time starter with both the 2001 Cubs and 2002 Marlins. Tavarez returned to relief upon joining the Pirates in 2003 and continued that role in his two years in St. Louis.


Tavarez' career results in 79 games starting have been mixed at best. In the two most recent seasons as a starter noted above, he won ten games each season in 28 and 27 starts, respectively. His 2001-2002 ERA was 4.94 and his strikeout to walk ratio was especially poor at 1.22 (174K/143BB).


But, is that good enough for a #5 man?


In addition, Tavarez has been a starter every season in winter ball. In fact, he is currently doing so in his homeland Dominican Republic for Las Aguilas Cibaenas. So far, he's only had one four-inning outing, during which he allowed two runs and fanned four. But, he'll likely get more work as the playoffs get closer.


Now, don't get me wrong. I am not wild about the idea of seeing the combustible Tavarez on the mound for 180 innings next season. Regular readers have seen my documentation of his past antics. But based on where the Cardinals and the marketplace are, this is an idea that I have to imagine I am not the first to consider.


Yet, this is far from a slam dunk. Realistically, I don't know whether Tony La Russa would have the stomach for this, given his strong reaction when Tavarez beaned Mike Piazza late in the 2005 campaign, not to mention Tavarez' recent struggles on the mound.

Tavarez' second-half ERA in 2005 was 5.13 as opposing hitters teed off against him at a .317 clip. Certainly, Tavarez as a starter would put more pressure on a questionable 2006 bullpen. But, again maybe part of the Suppan and Marquis take in this scenario could include bullpen help, too.

In closing, let me make this clear before I am misquoted on every message board from here to eternity. This is simply an idea that I am offering up. It is NOT a rumor that I have heard from anyone, so please don't misrepresent in that manner.


But, it is kind of interesting, isn't it?


Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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