As you all know by now, Mark Mulder re-signed with the Cardinals for two years, $13 million. He won't be back to pitch for St. Louis until midseason at the earliest, and he's no guarantee to pitch much better once he is healthy. Mulder has posted FIP figures of 4.60, 4.24 and 6.05 the past three years, along with PERA's of 4.49, 4.47 and 5.64. At best, he's an average pitcher, which means the Cards did not overpay for him. If former Cardinal Jason Marquis is going to make $7 million per year to be a replacement level-ish pitcher, than Mulder is certainly worth this relatively cheap investment.
The worry is that surgery won't correct all of his problems; Mulder logged a ton of innings in Oakland, and his days as a serious workhorse and top-level pitcher may be behind him. The pitching market was certainly thin, but the Cards may have been able to do somewhat better than Mulder and his 4.82 PECOTA forecasted ERA, which is enhanced by St. Louis' fantastic defense as evidenced by his projected 5.33 PERA and 5.27 Equivalent ERA. (get your copy of the PECOTA spreadsheet here; click the above link for an explanation of the projection system)
Tony Armas has better strikeout rates than Mulder, but has had health issues throughout his career as well. His PECOTA forecasted PERA of 5.55 is even worse than Mulder's, although some of that can be attributed to his poor K/BB ratios and homerun rates from 2004-2005. His 2006 season was not all actually all that bad, although batters teed off on him a bat, which is certainly worrisome. Armas is the perfect candidate for an incentive laden deal though, and if you get lucky and have him pitch 3/4 of a season, you shouldn't be disappointed.
Tomo Ohka may have been the best pitcher left on the market though; his forecasted Equivalent ERA was 4.92, although his PERA is also a poor 5.22. Ohka's peripherals have improved somewhat since he moved to Milwaukee, which only makes me nervous because he'll be leaving pitching coach Mike Maddux. Dave Duncan is an excellent pitching coach as well though, and has a lot of success with veteran pitchers who struggle with their peripherals. Not to mention the fact that Ohka would get to play in front of the St. Louis defense.
The Cardinals could still re-sign Ohka over Jeff Weaver, who is seeking a four-year, $40 million contract, something the Cardinals should stay far, far away from. Jeff Weaver's projection is actually the most impressive of the four pitchers included in this piece, but he is by far the most expensive in both years and dollars, and therefore not worth the commitment relative to the other pitchers. PECOTA projected a 4.85 PERA and 4.77 Equivalent ERA for Weaver, and although those are probably realistic, the dollars and years just don't make sense for an erratic 30-year old pitcher whose only consistency is found in his inconsistency.
Given the market, re-signing Mulder was something the Cardinals seemingly had to do, especially since they would have lost him to the Rangers or another team if they had not pounced. Given the lack of useful alternatives, I can excuse this transaction. Re-signing Weaver is something I don't feel comfortable with the Cards doing, playoff performance notwithstanding.