Despite the fact that the Cardinals lead all of baseball in ERA and rank 4th in WHIP, There remains a glaring need to fill holes in the backend of our rotation.
Jeff Suppan hasn’t won a game since last September. Two of the other projected Redbirds starters still find themselves on the DL. Lohse will return but the Cards don’t really know what to expect to get from him after he’s rushed back from surgery. Penny, who recently had his throwing program shutdown, may not return this season.
The other three starters have been spectacular and have done a great job of carrying the load but fans shouldn’t expect that to continue down the stretch. Garcia is a rookie and will likely pitch more innings this year than any time in his career. Wainwright and Carpenter should be fine, but we have to be careful to not overuse them in order to save the bullpen.
The bottom line: we need another starting pitcher.
Could we try to solve the problem from within the organization? Sure. But we already tried that and it didn’t work. Adam Ottavino proved that he wasn’t ready, P.J. Walters was inconsistent, and Blake Hawksworth (who still holds the 5th starter spot) still has some work to do before I’d have a lot of faith in him on the mound. So we do need another starting pitcher if we want to establish a firm grasp on the division. But at what cost?
I would love to see Roy Oswalt or Dan Haren in the rotation for the Redbirds. Adding them to a list that already includes Carp, Wainwright and Garcia would secure the Cards as the favorites in the division and make them much stronger in the playoffs. But they are both owed huge amounts of money and the Cards would have to give up several prospects for either of them. While they do have the prospects, the Cards farm system has already been decimated by trading seven prospects for Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and Khalil Greene over the past two years. They parted with infielder Brett Wallace for Holliday, reliever Chris Perez for DeRosa and reliever Luke Gregerson for Greene. The Astros have strong interests in their top prospect pitcher Shelby Miller (3-4 with a 4.04 ERA at Class A). Miller is only 19, so he could have a tremendous upside.
There are other, much cheaper options out there for the Cards to consider.
The Cleveland Indians’ Jake Westbrook (6-6, 4.74 ERA) would be a lot cheaper for the Cardinals. Between 2004-2006 Westbrook won 44 games. Since then he’s only won 13 games and so that may be a red flag for the Redbirds. Though maybe working with Dave Duncan he could get back into the form he had back then. He is due 11$M this year and is a free agent at the end of the season. With that high of a price tag the Cards would most likely go after Oswalt for Haren first.
Another option on the Indians roster that could be more appealing is Fausto Carmona (9-7, 3.65 ERA). He’s only 26 and is due less money. He’s owed $4.9M this year and has options through 2012. So the Cards could have control of him longer and it wouldn’t cost them that much. He’s due $6.1M in 2011, and has options for 20111 and 2012 for $7M and $9M.
The Royals Brian Bannister (7-8, 5.65 ERA) could be a target as well. He is only due $2.3M this season and he could be a good innings eater for the Cardinals. Other options include the Mariners Ian Snell (0-8, 6.41 ERA) who was DFA in June. He’s due $4.25M this year and has options in 2011 and 2012 worth: $6.75M and $9.25M. Oakland’s Ben Sheets (4-9, 4.53 ERA) could have been an option but he is owed $10M this season and I just don’t see the Cards dealing for him.
The deadline is a week away and with contract talks with Pujols looming this decision goes beyond what makes the Cards a better team on the diamond this season.
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