Going back to the end of 2020, the Cardinal starting rotation had more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. Coming out of 2020, The list of starters kept shrinking
*Dakota Hudson had TJ surgery
*Miles Mikolas had flexor tendon issues
*Carlos Martinez had a procedure done on his shoulder
*Adam Wainwright became a Free Agent
All that was left from the 2020 staff was Jack Flaherty and Kwan Hyun Kim. Internally The Cardinals thought they had options such as Ponce de Leone, John Gant, Austin Gomber, Jake Woodford, and Genesis Cabrera, Who could be stretched and used as starters.
Several names on the FA market could have provided a much-needed addition to an MLB arms race. Names like; Trevor Bauer, Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton, Jose Quintana. Now whether or not those names ever seriously crossed GM Mike Grisch's desk or John Mozeliak's desk, we will probably never know.
The fact is they opted not to pursue pitching and focus on a bat instead of picking up Nolan Arenado. Filling an offensive need to partner with Goldschmidt. While this WAS welcome news, it did cost us a potential rotation arm in Austin Gomber.
The news was that Martinez and Mikolas would both be ready by Spring, and they were able to bring back Adam Wainwright. (Did anyone think they wouldn't do it?).
Entering Spring Training, the rotation seemed intact Flaherty, Mikolas, Martinez, Wainwright, and Kim.
We are now in June:
*Mikolas has only pitched 4 innings and on the IL for the second time until August.
*Jack Flaherty on the IL until August.
*Martinez has been inconsistent.
*Kim has had issues getting deep into games and is now on the IL due back in June.
*Rotation Fill-in John Gant has pitched well but has walk issues and can't get deep into ball games.
*AAA call-up Johan Oviedo has been, at best, inconsistent.
All of this is leaving fans saying what now and why were we not prepared. As I said, earlier the why may never be answered, at least not the complete truth. As of right now, the most. The dependable starter we have is Adam Wainwright.
So, Where do we go from here?
* AAA? The unfortunate part is that the Cardinals have significant injury issues in the minors that give us few options.
* Trade for MLB-ready prospects. This is a possibility. However, you are still talking about largely unproven arms. If the Cardinals want to remain in contention, they need proven arms with solid MLB experience.
*That only leaves trading for current MLB arms that are available. Good idea, but what is available? More importantly, what will it take?
Max Scherzer - Washington Nationals
On top of just about, every fan's shopping list is Max Scherzer. The 36 yr old Right-Hander from the Nationals. a 7-time All-Star and 3 times Cy Young award winner. 8 years in a row of over 170 IP and 230+ Strikeouts.
After a lackluster 2020, Mad Max is back in form. 5-4 in 12 starts, with a 2.22 ERA. He has struck out 104 batters in 77 innings, giving him a 12.2 SO/9 rate to go with a 1.8 BB/9 rate and a 0.818 WHIP.
MLB veteran at the end of a 7 year $210 million contract. With approximately 34.5 mills left on his contract, including a yearly bonus. (which adjusting for his time this year with the Nats the Cards would be on the hook for between $13 -$15 million. The Cards could sweeten the deal and agree to pick up the bonus costing them another $7.1 mil. Doing that might lessen the number of players going to Washington.
With Washington still in contention in the NL East (currently, 7 games behind the Mets and have lost 6 out of their last 10), the real question is. With Strasburg out and the rest of the rotation faltering. Could Washington be motivated to move before the deadline?
Anything is possible but be prepared to pay. My guess would be a roster player and at least one if not two top prospects. Again, this could be affected by how much salary and bonus St. Louis is willing to take on and his recent injury.
John Means - Baltimore Orioles
John Means is a name that pops up as a pitcher with a team-friendly $593K contract and is arbitration-eligible in 2022 and a free agent in 2025. He is a 28 yr old left hander. After working his way into the rotation in 2019 and having a so-so 2020 Covid season, he hit the ground running this year. He is 4-2 in 12 starts with a bad Orioles ball club. 71IP with 69 Strikeouts, an ERA of 2.28, a WHIP of 0.831, an 8.7 SO/9, and a 1.6 BB/9. Much depends on Baltimore's attitude.
They are currently 17 games under .500, last place in the AL East, 16 games out of first. The Question for Baltimore is A rebuild is going to take time.
Do they want to commit to Means as part of a core or go total burn down?
Means would probably cost us a top-arm prospect like Thompson And possible 2b/3b type players(doubt we give Gorman). I would package Thompson with Mason Wynn or a catcher not named Herrera. Although right now, Means is on the 10-day IL with shoulder fatigue. That could temper the mood around him.
Kyle Gibson -Texas Rangers
Gibson is a 33 yr old Right- Hander in his second year with the Rangers after 7 years in Minnesota. Pretty much a .500 pitcher in terms of won-loss and average ERA in the mid to low 4s. He is in the second year of a three-year deal and Will be a FA in 23. He currently owns the lowest ERA among Starters 2.13. Not a big strikeout guy 7.3 SO/9. He is very consistent and rock steady, making it through the 6th inning in 10 of his 12 starts. At an annual salary of $9.3 mill, he would allow the Redbirds payroll flexibility. With Texas floundering, they could be looking to unload even a small salary like his.
Matthew Boyd - Detroit Tigers
Matthew Boyd a 30 yr old Left -Hander. Over his career, his numbers don't catch your eye. With a career ERA over 5 comings into this year And only topping 170+ innings twice. This year in April, even though wins didn't follow in 6 games, He had a 2.27 ERA and was doing almost 6+ inning per start (going 7 IP or more 3 times). He Struck out 24 and walked only 7. Boyd had a particularly rough patch in May that ballooned his ERA to 3.90. He seems like he may be back on track. He went 6IP gave up 5 hits and 1 unearned run in his last start, striking out 3 walking 1.
He signed a 1 year deal with Detroit for $6.5 mil. He is arbitration-eligible in 2022 and a FA in 2023. A change of scenery with a contender might be what he needs to get back on track, and with the Tigers 12 games out, they might be looking for some prospects. With the Tigers needing help almost everywhere in their line up a deal can be made.
Alex Cobb - Los Angeles Angels
33 yr old Right-Hander Alex Cobb could be a target to look at While not flashy or high profile as Sherzer or Means. He has been an average pitcher most of his career. This year he has good year by any standard. He spent time on the IL (14 days) for a blister on his finger. in his 3 starts, since coming off the IL, he has gone 19 innings giving up 6 ER on 10 hits for a 2.84 ERA. Cobb has only walked three while striking out 18. he has a 10.9 SO/9 and a BB/9 of 2.9
Cobb, like Scherzer, is in his walk year. He is owed $14.2mil. The Angeles, like the Nats, are still in the hunt in their division. So Cobb might come with a price tag.
Michael Pineda Minnesota Twins
Pineda could be had before the end of June. He is a 32 yr old Right-Hander. While not as desirable as rotation mate Jose Berrios, He has a similar upside.
3.46ERA SO/9 of 8.7 and a 2.4 BB/9. WHIP of 1.096. He is a FA in 2022, So he would be a rental at about $5 mil in salary.
He would not demand high-level prospects but for some appreciable talent nonetheless. The big thing here is how healthy he is. He is coming off of forearm tightness. Which could dictate what his trade value is.
Jose Barrios - Minnesota Twins
As I mentioned before, the stir around the Twins rotation is caused by Jose Barrios. The 27 yr old Right-Hander has made a name for himself in Minnesota.
If you take out his first year 2016, his career numbers before this year are;
3.82 ERA, 1.209 WHIP, 9.0 SO/9, and 2.8 BB/9. Consistently gets through 6 innings. This year his numbers are even better!
Barrios' numbers are 3.58 ERA, 1.109 WHIP, 9.3 SO/9, 2.4 BB/9. He has won 4 of his last 7 games, and the Twins won in 6 of those starts, including his last 5 starts in a row. If the Twins decide to blow it up and start over, he could be had, or he could be their focus to build around. The Twins are 13 games out and 12 under .500, so they should be making a decision soon, one would think.
There are other names out there, such as Jon Gray of the Rockies (After the Arenado deal, they may not accept Mo's calls). Also, Dylan Bundy and Andrew Heaney of the Angels, Kenta Maeda of the Twins, Caleb Smith of Arizona.
There is talent out there that can help but How eager are teems to deal in June?
The one clear thing is that; the Cardinals need to make a move while still close. They cannot wait for the deadline. They have made and are reportedly making acquisitions to shore up the decimated minor league depth seemingly. This could point to a move being worked on: no inside info, just a gut feeling. If I were a betting man, I would look for a deal by the All-Star break.
Just my thoughts. I would love to hear yours.