Cards Blog: A Cautionary Tale for Anthony Reyes

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Awful game last night. Just awful. Exact same thing we keep seeing, night after night. Struggling bullpen, no hits with runners on base, it all adds up to another painful loss. Not much else to say, really.

One thing that was interesting about the game last night, though, was the Pirates' starting pitcher, Phil Dumatrait. What we saw in Mr. Dumatrait is a very nice cautionary tale for the Cardinals with their own prodigy-turned-problem child, Anthony Reyes.

Dumatrait (last name pronounced "doo-MAH-tray") was originally in the Cincinnati system. He was drafted in the first round in the 2000 draft out of junior college in Bakersfield, California. He moved slowly through the Reds' system for the first few years of his career, moving up little by little. He was still in High A ball in 2005, when he really started to take off a bit. He reached Double A that year, after posting a 2.70 ERA in High A to start the season, and held his own there. He posted a 3.17 ERA in his short Double A stint, and started back there in 2006. He had another solid showing in Chattanooga, (the Reds' AA affiliate) posting a 3.62 ERA, and then was moved up to Triple A Louisville.

Anthony Reyes, the Cardinals' flat-brim hat wearing engima.  -
Anthony Reyes, the Cardinals' flat-brim hat wearing engima.

Dumatrait then got worked over pretty good in his first taste of Triple A, with an ERA near 5.00, but wasn't completely over-matched. He went back there to begin 2007, and pitched very well, posting a 3.53 ERA and solid peripheral numbers. He got the call to come to Cincinnati, and that's where things got ugly. He was absolutely shelled in the majors, going 0-4, with an ERA of 15.00(!) in six starts overall. His confidence took a hit, and there were some whispers that he didn't mesh well with the coaching staff. He went to winter ball over the off-season, but wasn't much better. The Reds, apparently deciding they had seen enough, released him, and the Pirates picked him up on the waiver wire.

The thing is, Dumatrait has always had talent. He throws hard for a lefty, with a four seam fast ball he cranks easily in the low 90s, and a two seamer in the upper 80s with good sink. He has a very nice slider, and a little bit of a change-up. Overall, he has plenty of stuff to succeed in the major leagues.

This year, for the Pirates, Dumatrait looks as if he's finally making good on all that promise he previously showed only in bursts. They brought him in initially to pitch out of the 'pen, but following the release of Matt Morris, the Pirates have shifted him into the rotation and he's performed admirably. Overall, he's carrying an ERA just under four, at 3.96, and he's getting paid the league minimum. The Cardinals are paying Joel Pineiro about six million dollars this season to get roughly similar production.

That's the problem with trading players who are still young, still cheap, and talented. Even if a guy like Phil Dumatrait just puts up league-average numbers, (the average National League ERA last year was right about 4.50) he's a huge bargain. Cost controlled players, especially arms, are so valuable when you look at what it costs to bring in even a mediocre veteran free agent.

Anthony Reyes, the Cardinals' flat-brim hat wearing engima.
Anthony Reyes, the Cardinals' flat-brim hat wearing engima.

Anthony Reyes, the Cardinals' flat-brim hat wearing engima.
It took Phil Dumatrait seven years to finally make it to the big leagues, and even then, he struggled. He may just have if figured out now, though, and if so, Cincinnati's loss is the Pirates' gain. It's a lesson the Cardinals would do well to learn when considering what to do with young Anthony Reyes. He's certainly struggled, arguably much more than Dumatrait. But he's also had a pitching coach and a manager who have handled him in an – ahem – less than optimal manner. He's still young, he's still cheap, and he's still talented. It may very well never work here for Anthony; in fact, I sort of doubt that it will. But the Cards should still think very long and hard about just what kind of value he may still have to them before they just ship him down the river.

- Aaron Schafer

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