Anyway you look at it, the news that dropped today about Alex Reyes needing an MRI after experience elbow discomfort is bad news. It’s a blow anytime that a player is positioned to have a key role but ends up injured. And it usually hurts even more when it’s a player that represents the bright future ahead of the Parent Club.
However, this is not the end of the world. Reyes was still very much a wild card. There was no guarantee, especially with Mike Matheny at the helm, that he was going to start the season in the rotation. Hell, there wasn’t even a guarantee that he was going to start the season on the big league club. Still, losing a player that is unanimously consider one of the best prospects in baseball has long term implications for a club entering the season with plenty of question marks.
So, yes, the news is bad. But there are at least a few reasons to back off of the ledge instead of jumping.
DON’T JUMP YET
First, the Cardinals still have five starters slotted in for five rotation spots. They’ll enter the season with a rotation of Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Mike Leake, and Michael Wacha. There are more than a few question marks between those five, but at least they aren’t working from a deficiency and scrambling around to fill a fifth spot. I’m just as worried about Wacha, Leake, and Waino as anyone, but if the improved defense narrative is to be believe, you can expect a little rebound from these three. At least the Cardinals aren’t trying to sign someone like Justin Masterson to a minor league deal to fill a fifth spot.
Second, the Cardinals enter spring with the intent of stretching out Trevor Rosenthal. I personally think that, other than Wacha, Rosenthal benefits the most from a potential Reyes injury. I’d love to see him get a legitimate shot to crack the regular season as a member of the rotation. Even if he doesn’t, he offers at least a little bit of depth and some spring competition. Maybe all these years of talking about wanting to start will fuel him and he’ll blow the lid off of spring training.
Third, the Cardinals have at least two other pitching options ready to compete at the major league level right now. A lot of Cardinals fans have soured on Luke Weaver and his potential after a lackluster showing after being called up in August. They shouldn’t. He’ll be really good if he can live low in the zone, just like he did while dominating Springfield. The injury also gives Marco Gonzales, a man coming off of Tommy John Surgery himself, a chance to retake his spot as one of the top pitching prospects in the system. The light is going to be shining a little bit brighter on Marco over the next two months, I think. Sure, these two are not Alex Reyes, but there aren’t a lot of teams that have that kind of talent sitting around to absorb that kind of loss.
Fourth, the pitching depth in the minor leagues is pretty incredible. Say, theoretically, that Gonzales and Weaver both somehow make the opening day roster. That would decimate a lot of systems and force a lot of other organizations to spend on minor league free agents to fill out their Triple A rotation with “four A” pitchers so that they wouldn’t have to promote arms to a level that they aren’t ready for. This is not the shape that the Cardinals system is in. They have prospects ready for that jump. Guys like Austin Gomber, Arturo Reyes, Trey Nielsen, Matt Pearce, and Daniel Poncedeleon have proven at the lower levels that it’s time for them to take the next step in their development. If Reyes misses significant time, we’ll get to see what these kids are made of.
Fifth, it isn’t Tommy John Surgery yet. There is still an MRI pending. Sure, by this time tomorrow Reyes could end up needing TJ, but as of right now it isn’t. And it isn’t like it’s 1994. Players recover from TJ. Do you really want to know how this could be worse? It’s simple; It could be a shoulder injury. It’s still really hard to come back and recover from those.
Yes, today is a terrible day to be a Cardinals fan. From the summer part of the 2016 season until this very moment, Alex Reyes has been flirting with Cardinals Faithful. Fitting that he rips our hearts out on Valentine’s Day. Baseball is a fickle mistress. But at least there are other options….?