Randy Choate (50) in the eighth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
By Keith Kuetemann
(KSDK Sports) -- The Cardinals filled a much-needed gap in their roster on the Wednesday of this year's Winter Meetings by ending the club's search for a lefty-specialist. Today the team finalized a three- year contract with Choate. The deal is reportedly worth $7.5 million.
A 3-year deal worth $7.5 million for a guy who may not be the sexiest free agent on the market could be a great deal for years to come, because Choate provides the Cardinals with exactly what they needed at a price that should make everyone happy.
Choate, 37, is the very definition of a lefty specialist. Last year, Choate pitched a total of 38.2 innings and all but 9 of them came against left-handed batters. And for good reason.
The deception of his sidearm delivery makes it very difficult for left-handed hitters to hit Choate. A .154 batting average and .218 slugging percentage versus left-handed hitters prove that. Being a lefty specialist, Choate knows he will be asked often to come into the late stages of a big game and get an out. A simple look at his numbers should calm some fears about whether or not he can do that.
A guy who relies on deception, movement, and location (his fastball averages around 87 MPH), Choate's repertoire features, almost exclusively, a sinker and a slider.
Though a small arsenal, those 2 pitches have been deadly weapons for him in his career. His sinker produces a ground ball 71.4% of the time, making him a perfect candidate to come in and get a big double play if need be.
Need a strikeout you say? No problem. Choate's slider, when swung at, is missed over 53% of the time.
Randy Choate should provide a perfect supplement to current left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski. Last season was a rough one for Rzepczynski. He allowed 22 earned runs and 7 homers in only 46.2 innings pitched. Having Choate to take some of the load off should keep Rzepczynski from getting spread too thin again in 2013.
Mozeliak and his savvy staff finished this year's Winter Meetings much the same way they have every year since Mo took the GM job from Jocketty in 2007. They filled a need without breaking the bank in the process. This St. Louis club desperately needed a reliever who could come in and shut down left-handed hitters consistently.
Over the course of his career, Choate has been one of the best in that field and the Cardinals are much better off with him in their bullpen.