Being that the Chicago Cubs now hope to compete in 2015, it’s fun to be able to discuss other NL Central teams’ strengths and weaknesses like they matter. An area I’ve been wanting to address for a while is the St. Louis Cardinals rotation, and the potential dangers lurking therein. I discussed it a little bit back in December, but got only this far:
If there was any discord [between the Cardinals and John Lackey over his minimum salary], the Cardinals’ pitching situation would get even more perilous – Lackey is aging and there’s this situation, Adam Wainwright is coming off of (minor) elbow surgery (and also is aging – then, I guess everyone is), Shelby Miller is gone, Michael Wacha was hurt last year, Jaime Garcia is always hurt, Carlos Martinez is unproven as a starter, Marco Gonzales is unproven. Lance Lynn’s pretty good. But that’s a lot of questions. They’re going to have to add at least one sure-fire starter, aren’t they? Maybe it won’t be Jon Lester – but you really can’t rule them out – but they’re going to be involved, maybe quietly, in other names this offseason.
With so much going on the Cubs’ world lately, I didn’t really have a chance to come back to the idea until today, when Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi kicked this out there. In short, the Cardinals are reportedly exploring the idea of a trade for David Price or Cole Hamels, or signing Max Scherzer.
So, um, yeah. I’d say that’s the Cardinals considering adding a sure-fire starter.
It sounds like this is all very exploratory at this point, and the odds are always against a huge move like this, but it’s interesting to think about our reaction, as Cubs fans, if the Cardinals picked up any of these three guys.
Cardinals brass has indicated a willingness (even an expectation) to continue to increase payroll in the coming years, so the money side of things might not be a reason to hope the Cardinals, for example, sign Scherzer to a $200 million deal. It’s likely they can afford it without crippling the rest of their machine.
On Price and Hamels, it would all come down to how much the Cardinals would have to give up to get the guy. Some deals we might really like to see, while others we might feel like were a little Cardinals transactional voodoo magic.
In general, if we were to assume for the sake of argument that the Cardinals were going to get one of these three guys, the best case scenario is probably the Cardinals trading a boatload to get one year of David Price. Yes, it makes the NL Central all the tougher for the Cubs in 2015, but the Cubs are already mostly a scrappy-contender-type this year, rather than an obvious winner. If the Cardinals shorted themselves a bit for the 2016-18 window by acquiring Price (seems like the Tigers would want near-term pieces), that could ultimately help the Cubs by better aligning a Cardinals decline (not that you’d expect a huge one) with the Cubs’ increasingly mature club. That assumes, of course, that the Cardinals don’t then extend Price on a reasonable deal, and a half-dozen surprising non-prospects don’t break out from nowhere, and Mike Matheny isn’t nibbled by a radioactive spider allowing him to return as an All-Star player-manager at any and every position when he’s not fighting crime and making bizarre bullpen decisions.
All in all, I find this to be a bit of an exercise in futility. On the right deal (Scherzer) or in the right deal (Price/Hamels), Cubs fans would be thrilled if the Cubs acquired one of those three pitchers, right? So that should tell you all you need to know about whether or not Cubs fans should be pulling for the Cardinals to get one of ’em, regardless of any tenuous, hypothetical future impact to the Cardinals. It wouldn’t be a good thing.
That’s especially true when we circle back to the Cardinals’ rotation. If there is going to be a weak point and a downfall for the 2015 Cardinals, the rotation is it. It’s full of good pitchers right now, so I don’t want to overstate things. But, as my earlier piece indicates, there are particularized risks throughout, mostly tied to the two things that can quickly take things off course: aging and injuries. If I’m in the Cardinals’ front office, I’m looking at our excellent (but window-shortening) offense, and I’m thinking we can’t afford to go into 2015 with a series of questions about the rotation. I’m wanting us to add another sure-fire starter, and maybe even a front-line one.
So, the idea that the Cardinals are considering something big makes a lot of sense to me. And it stinks a little.