With news coming out that Jaime Garcia is back in St Louis for examination after a poor two inning outing in his last start, it becomes vital for the Cardinals to examine their starting pitching situation. Obviously, the Cardinals took a huge blow to their depth early as Chris Carpenter went down with his nerve injury. The Cardinals survived that hiccup thanks to the great starts of Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook, and Kyle Lohse. Now that Lynn has labored in a few starts, Garcia could be injured, Wainwright has been shaky in his return from Tommy John surgery, and Lohse and Westbrook have started to come back down to Earth, what are the Cardinals options to shore up an inconsistent rotation?
The Cardinals strength in the minors is their depth at the pitching position. They have a few impact arms, but what they really have a glut of is fill-in guys. There are a handful of players who could step in and pick up a few starts
- Shelby Miller – This is obviously the name that gets people excited. If he gets called up, it would presumably be for the long haul depending on his success. I’m not really an advocate for this move, as Miller has shown control and longball issues at AAA. Reports are that he’s “bored” but that isn’t a good indicator of his attitude.
- Joe Kelly – Kelly is actually the name I am most excited about. He’s been putting up solid numbers at AAA. He doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters like Miller, but he induces groundouts and avoids walking players. Since he doesn’t give up a ton of fly balls, he also isn’t as prone to the gopher ball as Miller. Kelly could definitely be successful for a short audition.
- Brandon Dickson – Dickson already made the majors once in the bullpen, but he actually works as a starter in the minors. He is a groundball pitcher like Kelly and doesn’t walk a ton of hitters. His upside isn’t very high, but he could be a serviceable fifth starter.
Honestly that’s it. The bullpen doesn’t feature many pitchers that could be relied upon for spot starts. Mikael Cleto, Marc Rzepczynski, and Mitchell Boggs have experience as starters, but would have to be stretched out first and wouldn’t guarantee very positive results. Let’s examine the other source of pitching help.
It’s always hard to determine who is truly available. Normally it is contract year players, but often times pitchers under team control can be moved if the deal is right, like Ubaldo Jimenez last season. For the right price, any player can be had, but it depends on how badly the Cardinals think they need pitching and how much they are willing to give up. The first areas to look are underperforming teams who may be looking to rebuild or already are.
- Kansas City Royals – The Royals aren’t performing as well as they had hoped thanks in large part to the early injuries to Salvador Perez and Joakim Soria. With their poor play, they could look to move Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez has dealt with injury and poor play this season, but showed that he can have success in the National League when pitching for the Giants. Sanchez could potentially be had for a couple of low-grade prospects.
- Oakland Athletics – Oakland has been in a perpetual state of rebuild since about 2004, so their pitchers could obviously be had. Brandon McCarthy has been pitching exceptionally well and is only 28. He could fetch a decent return for general manager Billy Beane.
- Seattle Mariners – Jason Vargas only stands to get more expensive in his last arbitration season and obviously won’t be a part of the next Mariners playoff team. With solid numbers, he could fetch a return for the Mariners.
- Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs – Both teams could be looking to move players like Zack Greinke, Randy Wolf, Shaun Marcum, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, and Paul Maholm, but would either demand too much in general or put a premium price tag due to the division rivalry.
- Houston Astros – It’s conceivable that Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez could potentially be available for the right price. With the Astros move to the AL West, they could be more receptive to dealing with the Cardinals.
- Arizona Diamondbacks – The Snakes aren’t the juggernaut they were last season and with young pitchers on the horizon, they could look to deal Joe Saunders.
- Colorado Rockies – The Rockies are getting strong play out of rookie Christian Friedrich and Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio, and Jhoulys Chacin are set to return at some point. This could make Jeremy Guthrie expendable.
As you can see, the Cardinals have some options to work with at the deadline. It’s hard to say what truly is the best option, but the Cardinals have a deep enough farm system that they can potentially shoulder the loss of both Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia.