Within 24 hours the Cardinals lost two keys members of the 2017 pitching staff, quite possibly effecting the 2018 pitching plans. Adam Wainwright looked compromised for the second consecutive start. He struggled to get people out with a noticeable lack of velocity. Trevor Rosenthal was clearly a different pitcher in Boston than the dominant weapon he had become in the second half of the season. Flexing his elbow through his last appearance, Rosenthal also showed decreased velocity. All signs point to major trouble for two veteran members of the pitching staff. Any possible Wainwright injury adds more uncertainty to the rotation in 2018. Lance Lynn has become the most important free agent target for the Cardinals.
Possible 2018 rotation
As my teammate Rusty Groppel mapped out in July, the Cardinals have rotation pieces in line to replace Lynn if he were to depart. Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake, Micheal Wacha, and Luke Weaver would presumably be the first options to fill out the rotation. Alex Reyes will be ticketed for the bullpen and will be a key if Rosenthal were to miss significant time. Jack Flaherty has pitched himself into the conversation, but has the look of the potential sixth starter waiting in Memphis.
We all hope that Martinez is turning the corner to being one of the leagues best starters. At this point he is still a couple of steps away from truly being involved in that discussion. Wainwright has been sliding in the wrong direction without any potential injury. Leake was the teams best starter early in the year but has hit a wall and his performance has left the club to consider alternatives right now. Wacha has been a pleasant surprise this year, but any stretch of sub-par starts automatically triggers the thought that his shoulder is giving him trouble. Weaver has looked really good at times and over-matched in others. That should be expected from any young starter and should be expected for at least a year or two.
Future Pitching Uncertainty
The system is loaded with capable starting pitching, but the Cardinals have a system to promoting the young arms. According to MLB Pipeline, five of the top ten Cardinal prospects are pitchers. Alex Reyes is the top rated arm, but will definitely be sidelined until 2018. Of the four remaining prospects after Reyes, Jack Flaherty is the only arm expected to see a promotion in 2017. St. Louis has shown that they like to use prospects out of the bullpen to dip their toes in the water. Necessity may force the club to promote some of the arms this year but don’t expect these guys to provide rotation help for next season.
In today’s baseball environment, injury factors must be in the equation with young pitching. The top pitching prospects almost always hit a roadblock in regards to injury. We all know this too well right now as we feel the effects of the Reyes injury in the bullpen and rotation. All the factors listed above will all lead to rotation question marks for the next few seasons.
Lance Lynn is a proven commodity
Lance Lynn has arguably been the best starter this season only one year removed from Tommy John surgery. Lynn can be counted on to make 30 starts a year and strike out close to 200 hitters. He averages over 175 innings per season and has reached the 200 inning plateau twice in his career. This season may come just short of these numbers but, once again, he is one year removed from major arm surgery.
The rumored numbers for a free agent profile similar to Lynn’s is close to 5 years and 100 million dollars, Comparable to Jeff Samardzjia, whom I think is a lesser pitcher than Lynn, and Homer Bailey who I know is a lesser pitcher. Expect the Cardinals to let Lynn test the market but only to get a gauge of the contract offers he may entertain.
Lynn has grown up in the Cardinal organization and pitched on the biggest playoff stage. We know what he is and it is a commodity that will clear up a major area of uncertainty in the Cardinals future.
The free agent target the organization needs to focus on is already in the clubhouse.
Thank you for reading!