There may be no greater truth in baseball than “you can never have too much pitching.” The St. Louis Cardinals have shown this to be true as recently as last season, and once again, the Cardinals rotation looks thin. With fewer than three weeks to opening day, the team may open the season with a four-man rotation.
Projected Cardinals Rotation
Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Steven Matz, Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson, Jake Woodford
Ace Jack Flaherty has received an injection to relieve inflammation in his throwing shoulder. He won’t throw for at least two weeks. Flaherty missed significant time last year with a torn oblique, but he was elite when able to take the mound. Flaherty had an 8-1 record when the injury took him out for most of the remainder of 2021. The team’s optimism regarding his health might dictate whether they pay for outside help. Flaherty has pitched the last few years with a small tear in his shoulder, and there is no reason to believe he can’t continue pitching with the tear.
The opening day starter is a Cardinals’ legend. If Adam Wainwright can come close to replicating his 2021 year, he will again be a force on the mound. Last year, he finished seventh in Cy Young voting while pitching the most innings he’s thrown since 2014. The 40-year-old hurler could show his age more this year, but betting against Wainwright is ill-advised.
The Cardinals signed Steven Matz before the lockout. The lone lefty in the rotation should be a strong middle of the rotation piece for the Cardinals. Matz appears healthy and threw 150 innings last year. He is a ground ball pitcher who will be pitching in front of elite infield defense.
The Cardinals would love to see 2018 Miles Mikolas take the hill this year. In his first year with the Cardinals, he led the league in wins. Since then, he’s battled both injuries and ineffectiveness. His 2021 campaign ended with only nine starts and under 45 innings pitched.
Last year, Dakota Hudson made one start and had one relief appearance after returning from Tommy John surgery. Before the surgery, Hudson was shaping up to be a mid or even top-of-the-rotation pitcher. If he can return to form, the Cardinals have a pitcher who can throw 175 innings, win 15 games, and give up around three runs a game. If he can’t, the Cardinals have a serious problem.
As a spot starter and long man, Jake Woodford holds significant value. As a rotation fixture, questions start to mount. He’s never started a game and finished the sixth inning in his career. Granted, he’s not been stretched out for that role for an extended period of time. His ability to pitch on back-to-back days or throw three to four innings after a few days’ rests is valuable, and he should remain in that role. He has started nine games in his career.
Potential Additions to the Cardinals Rotation
As the offseason winds down, the available options are growing thin. The most prominent internal options would be Alex Reyes or Matthew Liberatore. There has been talk of transitioning Reyes to the rotation in the past, but he has his own injury issues. He is unlikely to be available until May or June due to a torn labrum. Liberatore would benefit from more time in the minors, and the Cardinals might be hesitant to rush one of its more valuable assets. The lefty is the team’s number two prospect. He threw 124 and 2/3rds innings last year in Memphis.
Pitchers such as Chris Archer and Zach Davies are still available in the free-agent market. A reunion with 2021 season-savior J.A. Happ makes some sense. A trade with the Oakland Athletics for either Sean Manaea or Frankie Montas makes a lot of sense, depending on the cost in terms of prospects. The recent signing of Cory Dickerson gives the team the flexibility to move Lars Nootbaar or Juan Yepez in such a deal. Regardless, the price will be steep for either pitcher as Oakland seeks a significant return in a sellers’ market.
Embed from Getty Images
Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Steven Matz, Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson, Jake Woodford, Alex Reyes, Matthew Liberatore, Chris Archer, Zach Davies, J.A. Happ, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Cory Dickerson, Lars Nootbaar, Juan Yepez