The news of Carlos Martinez working out in Spring Training as a starter got me thinking about the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff and possible scenarios for the rotation and bullpen. First off, let me make it clear that I do not believe Martinez will be in the starting rotation in the first half of the season. The rotation will surely consist of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, Shelby Miller, and Lance Lynn. If there happens to be an injury to one of those 5 (possibly Garcia as he has been shut down with shoulder discomfort), I expect Joe Kelly to step into the rotation. So why have the Cardinals decided to workout Martinez as a starter this spring?
We all know Martinez has amazing talent. He was great in the 2013 postseason as a set up man for Trevor Rosenthal. The kid flat-out throws electric stuff with a lot of movement and a ton of speed. Could he make it as a starter? Absolutely. He was a starter in the minors. But, with all of the depth the Cardinals have in their system for pitchers, why convert Martinez to a starter?
When I originally started writing this post I was going to discuss each pitcher’s role, and how converting Martinez to a starter might mean one of the current starters could be used as a potential trade piece. Perhaps the trade would be to acquire more depth at the short stop position. Now that I have learned Garcia is being shut down and sent to St. Louis for evaluation on his ever troublesome throwing shoulder, Martinez’s role may be much clearer. If Garcia is in fact injured and unable to pitch for a duration this season, Martinez will now be that back-up starter like Kelly was originally going to be. Perhaps Kelly and Martinez would share some time in the rotation. However, if Garcia is able to pitch and the discomfort he is currently experiencing is non-serious, then I expect Martinez to primarily be a piece in the bullpen. But, as I stated earlier, his ability to be a starter could mean the Cardinals would move one of the other starters if a deal needs to be made at some point in the season. Let’s take a look at who they are most likely to move.
As we all know, Wainwright is a lock to stay. He is under contract through 2018. I do not see the Cardinals offering up Wacha either due to his young age and success. They can have a solid #2 pitcher for cheap for 3 more seasons before he becomes arbitration eligible. Miller is also a young and inexpensive successful pitcher. He is not arbitration eligible until 2016. I do not see the Cardinals dealing him unless a high dollar deal is needed. The same can be said of Joe Kelly. Kelly’s ability to pitch out of the bullpen makes him that much more desirable to keep around. Then comes Jaime Garcia. He is under contract through 2015 with options for 2016 and ’17. He has had limited success in the majors. If he could stay healthy, he could easily be a #2 or 3 starter in just about any rotation. That makes him a very desirable trade piece. However, his injury history limits the number of teams that would be interested in him. That being said, I don’t see the Cardinals trying to move him either, unless there is some sort of package deal. What is likely to happen with Garcia is that the Cardinals do not pick up his options in ’16 and ’17 and he becomes a free agent and leaves the club. Finally, Lance Lynn. He is eligible for arbitration in 2015, so his price is going to increase soon. He has been a successful starting pitcher for the Cardinals, other than the tail ends of the past 2 seasons, and I am sure many teams would be interested in having him on their staff. He could be a very good #2 or 3 pitcher in just about any rotation. With the Cardinals he is a #4 or 5 starter with the amount of young talent the Cardinals have. Therefore, with Martinez working out as a starter, I see the Cardinals likely making a move with Lance Lynn at some point this season.
The other possibility, which I think is very unlikely, is that the Cardinals are readying Martinez to be a starter so they can use him as a piece of a trade. I think this is unlikely due to his age, talent, and current cost. Surely the Cardinals will keep him around since he is so inexpensive.
I see the rotation panning out as I stated earlier, pending Garcia’s injury status. As for the bullpen, I do not see many changes from last season. Jason Motte is back this season, but I do not see him being used as the closer. I still see Rosenthal in that position. Motte will likely be used as a setup man. That means Martinez, with his added endurance, will be used as a long reliever, or in platoon with Motte. Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist will be the left-handed specialists. Seth Maness will also be in the bullpen providing middle inning relief.
One last wildcard to look at is Tyler Lyons. If he has success this spring, and early in the season in the minors, he could also make a few spot starts for the Cardinals. I see him being used in spot starts to replace an injured pitcher. He may also be asked to start a few games to give some of the young arms, such as Wacha, Miller, Kelly, and Martinez, a rest from the rotation.
The only other possible scenario I can think of is if Martinez does great in spring training, and Miller, Kelly, or Lynn perform poorly. Could Martinez jump one of them and be part of the rotation? In my opinion, I don’t see that being very likely. I think the Cardinals want to break him in to this starting role slowly to not over stress his arm. The only chance of that happening would be if Kelly struggles. I think Miller is a lock in the rotation, and I think the Cardinals will want to keep Lynn in the rotation to advertise him out to interested clubs. Even if Kelly struggles, I still see the Cardinals keeping Martinez primarily in the bullpen the first half of the season, then having him, Kelly, and Lyons be a platoon #5 starter.
Thanks for reading.