I am a St. Louis Cardinal fan dealing with a ton of internal conflict at the moment. I am heartbroken that a longtime favorite of mine, Chris Carpenter is potentially on the shelf for an extended period of time. In the past couple of weeks I have written about how his injury could impact the team and then I was excited about his apparent speedy recovery. I have come crashing back down since Carpenter was sent back to St. Louis for further evaluation.
One of the things that has me most concerned is how similar this is to his previous injuries in 2004, 2008, and 2010. This nerve issue will keep Carp from his opening day start and just how long after that is a looming question. While I am devastated that one of my favorite players is out, I am confused about how I want the Cardinals to proceed. My immediate knee jerk reaction is get Roy Oswalt’s agent on the phone right now and get him on a plane. The other part of me knows that baseball is a long season and the Birds have plenty of time to see if Lance Lynn can provide some quality starts or not.
John Mozeliak made a play for Oswalt this past winter. They two parties could not reach an agreement on a dollar amount and Oswalt has decided to wait for a better offer. It will come, it is just a matter of when and who will make the offer. This is the part of this that concerns me if it comes down to the Redbirds needing to make a move for Oswalt. The price may go up or he may not be there when the time comes. It is a calculated risk at this point. Is it a risk worth taking? I am not sure just yet. It is an interesting situation considering that the Cardinals could lure him with an incentive laden two-year deal and could back load it with the contracts of Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse expiring. It could make it a solid investment if Oswalt can perform at an acceptable level.
Oswalt was a stud. He is obviously in his declining years. He still has some stuff left in the tank and could be a valuable member of the Cardinals if called upon. He may even benefit from a late start and be fresh for a playoff run. Oswalt could provide some veteran leadership and a voice of experience. I sincerely hope that Carpenter is not lost for the season but if he is Oswalt may be a viable option to fill in.
Lance Lynn has proven to be a player worthy of a shot. He was a solid starting pitcher in the minor leagues. Although he was slated to be in the bullpen, he has proven to be versatile and capable of providing some innings. Lynn has a reputation of being a sturdy pitcher. He is perpetually healthy. That would be wonderful at this point. My issue here is that he is capable of providing innings but not capable of filling Carpenter’s shoes. He is not Chris Carpenter and while I hope one day he will be, it is not now.
Fortunately, the Cards have the luxury of time for a little while. Carpenter can now be considered a Co-Ace with the return of Adam Wainwright. While this is an extremely fortunate situation if everyone is healthy it becomes much less so with the extended loss of one or both of them. My fear here is if Wainwright struggles (all signs indicate he won’t at this point) or is injured again coupled with an extended absence of Carp, Lynn cannot make up for that. By the time that plays out Oswalt will in all likelihood be off the market. The organization does have other options such as Shelby Miller waiting in the wings along with trades that could be made. I sure hope we don’t see Miller before the brass feels that he is completely ready. I do not want to see the best prospect in a long time implode like Rick Ankiel did a few years back. There is time to make it through this minor storm.
I am torn about what needs to be done. I am inclined at this point to lay back and wait to see what happens. If Lynn shines and Carp’s diagnosis is a short time on the DL the Cards can easily manage to get through. This is the best scenario. If Carpenter is shut down for the season I am hopeful the Birds make some sort of move whether it is Oswalt or not. I will be surprised if Lynn is a long-term solution. However, I don’t want to see him thrown from one role to the other and back. This could be much more damaging than underperforming in either role. I think I am going to take a wait and see approach until we are certain what the diagnosis on Carpenter’s neck/shoulder/arm is and form an opinion then. It is going to be an interesting and stressful few days for Cardinal Nation as we await the final word on how long we are going to miss the team’s emotional leader.