The St. Louis Cardinals made their yearly trip through the veteran relief pitcher aisle of MLB free agency over the weekend, signing Scott Linebrink to a minor league deal with a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Linebrink is a classic minor league pickup at the position, a hard-throwing former set-up man who's been floating around for a while just above replacement level and could help the Cardinals out of a depth problem if their younger options flail. The problem, as bgh discovered at Viva El Birdos, is that he's an eerily exact clone of Kyle McClellan, who the Cardinals offered a Roy-Oswalt-confounding $2.5 million to earlier in the offseason.
It's more a lesson on the fungibility of pretty-okay relief pitchers than the fungibility of Kyle McClellan in particular, but it's salt in the wounds of a fanbase that briefly imagined Oswalt to be a done deal.
Here's the good news, though: He isn't Miguel Batista. Given 50 innings, for whatever reason, Linebrink's a reasonable bet to strike out some batters, keep his walk rate bearable, and—well, and allow too many home runs to ever get a shot at a closer's job, in spite of those big years he had in San Diego. There's a reason he was available for free, after all—it just happens to be the same reason Kyle McClellan should also have been available for free.