The St. Louis Cardinals' Winter Meetings bounty turned out to be—exactly as they said it would—a left-handed relief pitcher; they signed Randy Choate to a three-year, $7.5 million deal Wednesday afternoon, pending the results of a Friday physical. Choate is about as left-handed reliever as you get (just look at his throwing motion), but is he valuable? Viva El Birdos's analysis would suggest yes, but only if he never, ever pitches to left-handers.
VEB has all the charts and analysis you could possibly want on the deal, but the short form is this: Randy Choate turns left-handers into pitchers, and right-handers—well, he hardly even pitches to them, because he's the purest kind of left-handed specialist, or LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY), there is. For his career he's walked 7.7 percent of left-handers he's faced, against a cool 14.9 percent of right-handers—that's the difference between an average pitcher and Carlos Marmol, basically, only Choate is doing it on purpose.
That makes him a valuable pitcher in extremely limited circumstances. If-and-only-if the Cardinals can afford to devote a spot in their bullpen to a pitcher who will only be useful one batter at a time—and Mike Matheny can maneuver the bullpen such that he's never exposed beyond that role—Choate will make the Cardinals better.