Right-handed starting pitcher Matt Clement has agreed to a one-year incentive-laden deal with the St. Louis Cardinals along with a second year via club option. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians were also rumored to have been in the hunt for his services.
According to FOXSports.com, the terms are as follows: Clement receives $1.25 million in salary this year and can earn an additional $5.25 million in performance bonuses, receiving the full amount if he pitches 200 innings. The Cardinals hold an $8.75 million option for 2009 with a $250,000 buyout. The option would increase to $9 million and the buyout $500,000 if Clement reaches 160 innings this season; $9.5 million and $1 million for 180 innings; and $10 million and $1.5 million for 200 innings. The option would become $11 million and the buyout $2 million if Clement finishes in the top five in 2008 Cy Young Award balloting.
The 33-year-old sat out the 2007 season in the employment of the Boston Red Sox while recovering from shoulder surgery performed in September, 2006. According to reports at the time, famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews discovered tears in both the labrum and rotator cuff in Clement's shoulder and three separate procedures had to be performed in what had been expected coming in to be a relatively simple exploratory arthroscopic procedure.
Clement began to toss in March, 2007, play catch in April, throw off a mound in June and progressed to throwing several simulated games last September, but did not appear in game action last season. This past fall, the Sox chose not to offer arbitration to Clement, who was free agent eligible.
Clement was originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the third round of the 1993 draft. He first reached the bigs for a cup of coffee with the Padres in 1998 at the age of 23. After two seasons in their rotation, Clement was traded to the Florida Marlins in 2001 and moved on to the Chicago Cubs a year later in the deal that sent future star Dontrelle Willis to Miami.
After posting a 35-36 record starting for the Cubs for three seasons, Clement departed for Boston as a free agent following the 2004 season, signing a three-year, $25.5 million deal. Midway through the 2005 campaign, a year in which he would eventually win 13 games, Clement was named to the American League All-Star squad.
Clement owns a career record of 87-86 with an ERA of 4.47. He is often ranked among league leaders in strikeout rate, but also in walks allowed, hit batters and wild pitches. Once game ready, he is expected to compete for one of the openings in the 2008 Cardinals rotation, but given the nature of his injury, expectations should be tempered.
Cardinals Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak is optimistic. “Matt is a very talented pitcher who has been beset by injury the last few years. Based on our findings from his rehabilitation last season and his recent physical, we feel that he can be a solid addition to our starting rotation and should have no limitations upon reporting to spring training,” said the GM.
Clement joins fellow recovering starting pitchers Chris Carpenter (elbow - second-half return) and Mark Mulder (shoulder - May/June return) on the 40-man roster, now at 38 players, and increases the club’s ex-Cub factor to three, along with pitcher Todd Wellemeyer and shortstop Cesar Izturis.
Clement will have company in that Mulder originally suffered a partial rotator cuff tear and another recent Cardinals signee, reliever Cliff Politte, also is trying to come back after rotator cuff surgery. Past history indicates players returning from this ailment often lack flexibility, velocity and control. Depending on the severity of the tear, some have returned to past effectiveness, but many more have not.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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