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St. Louis Cardinals - Chris Carpenter

Yesterday, the Cardinals announced that ace Chris Carpenter will undergo Tommy John surgey and miss most of the 2008 season.  Following the 2008 season, Carpenter's five-year contract extension he signed in December 2006.  Acutally, the deal replaced a $9MM club option for 2008 which makes the 12/06 extension even worse.  There is no reasonable person who would believe the Cardinals would pick-up that option this coming winter, and now the Cardinals are on the hook for $55MM dolars - $10.5MM next year, $14MM in 2009, $14.5MM in 2010, $15MM in 2011, and a 15MM club option with a $1M buyout for 2012.  Carpenter will be receiving this money in his 33rd through 36th year of age.

Hindsight is 20/20, but occasionally it makes that which should have been obvious obvious.  A 31-year-old pitcher with a prior history of injuries should not be projected to stay healthy despite whatever salary escalation projections one relies upon.  This in no way casts aspersions upon the Cardinals medical staff for Carpenter's current condition.  (The fantasy player in me seethes with the news though.) As Will Carroll states in this morning's ESPN chat:

Let's end this idea that the torn ligament was "missed" -- it tore during the rehab, which is unfortunate. It was also not a complete tear, which is why so many doctors were consulted.

...and writes in his most recent Under The Knife Column (free so click through and read it):

Reports from when he had bone spurs removed indicate that there was no problem with the ligament, but as we've learned, teams don't always tell us everything.

There seems to be only a question of when the Cardinals became concerned and that was likely fewer than a couple handfuls of days ago.

What we can learn from this incident is to automatically disparage any team who signs a pitcher to an extension when they have a couple of years time to see how things work out (Ed: Does that mean you believe the Jays made a mistake extending Roy Halladay?  FT: Oh yeah.), and, second, remember all the glowing injury updates mean nothing until the player is actually back and demonstrably healthy.  (ed:  Is this for Pedro Martinez owners?  Ft:  Amongst others.)