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St. Louis Cardinals' Randy Choate is effective, but extremely limited

In Randy Choate, the St. Louis Cardinals got an effective lefty specialist. But he'll probably pitch fewer innings than Adam Wainwright does by the All-Star Break.

Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

Left-handed specialists are the field-goal kickers of Major League Baseball, and the St. Louis Cardinals just signed theirs, 37-year-old sidearmer Randy Choate, to a three-year deal. It's not worth very much money—$7.5 million, apparently—and Choate is very good at his job; since reaching the majors with the New York Yankees in 2000, he's held left-handers to a career line of .201/.278/.284. He'll give the Cardinals a lockdown option against top left-handed hitters, and he's proven himself able to go 80 times in a season.

But: He also barely pitches. Like a placekicker, he's on the field all the time, but he's rarely there for very long. In leading baseball with 80 appearances last year, Randy Choate completed a grand total of 38.2 innings. Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals' injury-plagued walking World Baseball Classic controversy, threw 36 innings in September, while his shoulder was falling off. To steal another football term, bringing him in is like calling a trick play—you have to make sure the situation is right, and you have to be certain the other team won't react quickly enough (in this case, with a pinch hitter.)

In his last three years, Randy Choate threw about 108 innings. He was better than the kind of starter you'd get for $7.5 million these days, but only against certain players—and only for a little more than half as many innings as you'd expect from a guy making 30 starts. The Cardinals got what they wanted, but what they wanted is a very specialized tool for one of their 25 active roster spots.