Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas stalwarts of the Cardinals 2022 rotation.
Adam Wainwright by Ron Vesely via Getty Images Miles Mikolas by Keith Srakocic via AP
In the past two seasons, the ST Louis Cardinals have gone into Spring training only to have pitchers not available when the season starts. Then they find out the depth they thought they had was not that deep. They depended on the Memphis shuttle to provide that depth when many times that depth is unproven at the MLB level. It has forced them to make pitching acquisitions at midseason. Now while yes, those acquisitions did help steady the pitching situation. Had St Louis been proactive, The pitching drama of the last two years could have been largely avoided. Now hopefully the Front Office has learned its lesson but I will believe that when I see it.
Now, this past off-season the Cardinals had the opportunity to upgrade the pitching staff considerably. The only known pitcher they had before the lockout was Adam Wainwright. By that, I mean the only one who was without question marks; as Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, and Dakota Hudson were coming off of injury. Now they did go out and sign Steven Matz which I thought was a solid FIRST move. But they never made another one, they decided instead, to groom Alex Reyes and Jordan Hicks as starters. Both ALSO recovering from injuries. It does not take a math wiz to see that this did not add up to a staff one should be confident in.
Then, As Yogi Berra said it was "Dejavu all over again". Just like in 2021 when Miles Mikolas and Kwang Hyun Kim didn't make it out of Spring Training. Reports that Reyes and Flaherty were experiencing issues in their recovery, and they did not start the season. So instead of pursuing options that were there, both Free Agent and Trade. The Front Office decided to wait and see what would happen and for a while, the club was able to weather the storm with solid bullpen help and efforts by Waino and Mikolas. Then Matz who seemed like he was starting to come around got hurt and Dakota Hudson was inconsistent. Arms from Memphis were called in and the club treaded water until the acquisition of Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery. (Again just like in 2021). But what if they had addressed that pitching BEFORE the defecation hit the rotary oscillator? We might have been able to make a deal for more offense. (just saying)
Ok, so where does that put us this year?
Well here is what we know we have 41-year-old Adam Wainwright, and Miles Mikolas both coming in this season relatively healthy and all-in-all pitched well last season. We have Jordan Montgomery who along with Quintana saved the Cardinals rotation last year and quite possibly the season. So three-fifths of the rotation looks good. as for the last two spots we have Steven Matz coming off an injury-plagued season. Jack Flaherty is the same. Dakota Hudson was demoted to the bullpen late in the season. Matthew Liberatore had seven starts with mixed results The Cardinals won five of his seven starts but Statistically, Libby had an ERA of 5.90 and a WHIP of 1.78 with 23 strikeouts to 18 walks. So not something you can point to as overall positive. Now you do have Andre Pallente who did show promise both out of the pen and as a starter. The question needs to be asked; (just like I did with the outfield) is THIS a Championship Rotation?
I think I could actually live with Pallente as a starter and that he could do quite well. I am not saying he will be an ACE, (I think we throw that title around way too much.) I think Pallente could get 6+ innings per outing, but I am just not sure. I think most people agree that what the rotation is missing is a true swing-and-miss starter.
Now the cards do have two guys who just might be capable but need to prove it, Jordan Montgomery and Steven Matz.
Matz in his limited engagement in St Louis (15 games) Averaged 10.1 Ks per 9 innings and 1.9 walks per 9 innings. that works to a 5.4 K/BB ratio. Matz has always been close to that 9K per game mark. topping 10 twice, once with the Mets in 2020 and this year with St Louis. Matz has a durability factor in that he has only started 29 games or more 3 times in his 8 years in the big leagues and his best year in terms of innings was 160 1/3 in 2019. To be ultimately viable for the rotation I would like to see the innings up around 185-190
Montgomery improved AFTER coming to the Cardinals. His strikeout per 9 went up from 7.6 with New York to 8.6 as a Redbird. His walk rate stayed the same at 1.8 per nine innings. Now he has been in the 9+ K per inning posting a 9.6 and 9.3 in 2020 and 2021 respectively. So he has that type of capability, the bigger issue is the number of innings. This past year was his career high in innings 178 1/3 between the Bronx and the Lou in 32 starts, or about 5.5 Innings per Game(63 2/3 in 11 games for St. Louis or 5.7 Innings per Game He needs to get into the 190 innings plus category or average at least 6 Innings per Game before I would say he is a lock for the rotation.
What I like about both guys is that they are Left handers. Color me crazy or old-fashioned but I like to have 1 or 2 lefties in the rotation. So given that where do the Cardinals go? It is a fact that we do have an abundance of pitchers. However, that abundance to me is not filled with quality. It would behoove the Cardinals to take a look at the pitching market.
First would be the TOP Left Handed Pitcher available
That would be Carlos Rondon
Over the last two years, he is 27-13 2.67 ERA with a 0.998 WHIP. More importantly, he has struck out 422 batters in 310 2/3 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.8, which is something that would be a welcome sight in the Cardinal rotation. Rondon is 29 and will command top dollar, market value right now is projected at $32.4 Million dollars and possibly a 6-year deal ($194.6M). The Cardinals will probably balk at that unless they could deal say Steven Matz and use part of his $11M per year to offset a Rondon contract. One other factor is that Rondon did turn down a Qualifying Offer so the Giants would get a draft pick.
Another name that could be looked at and I think is flying under the radar is Andrew Heany.
Heany missed pretty much 3 months of the season with shoulder issues but finished very strong, starting in 11 of 13 games in the second half of the season. Sporting a 3.77 ERA and a 1.151 WHIP the biggest number is 87 strikeouts in 57 innings and only 15 walks. Heany's market value is $11.6M at age 31 you are looking at a three-year deal worth just shy of $35M.
One guy that might pique interest could be Chris Bassitt.
Bassitt had career highs this past year in Wins(15), Innings Pitched (181.2), and Strikeouts (167). he had a decent ERA (3.42) and WHIP 1.145. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is not what you would expect but it is decent in 2021 4.1 and this past year 3.4. His Market Value is just a touch over $21M and about three years making it $63.1M. He also turned down a QO so a draft pick would be involved here as well.
Now do the Cardinals make another pitching move? I would not be surprised if they don't and gamble on fewer injuries and guys like Hudson, and Flaherty having comeback seasons or Pallente, Liberatore, or Woodford coming through with breakout years. With the Winter meetings starting Today we won't have long to wait.
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