St. Louis Cardinals: Is C.J. Wilson the Next John Lackey?


Last night, multiple reports surfaced that another possible acquisition for the St. Louis Cardinals starting rotation, Los Angeles Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson, is on the trading block. In return, the Halos reportedly want a second baseman, third baseman or a left fielder.

This, from NBC Sports:

"It’s not going to be easy. Wilson is owed $20 million in 2016 and logged just 132 innings this past season (his fewest since transitioning to a starter in 2010) before undergoing surgery in August to remove bone spurs from his pitching elbow. The Angels will almost certainly have to cover some of his salary in order to make a deal palatable. It’s worth noting that he has the ability to block trades to eight teams."

Whether the St. Louis Cardinals are among those teams is unknown, but unlikely. What baseball player wouldn’t want to come to St. Louis? Amiright?

What isn’t mentioned in the NBC Sports report is that unnamed teammates were ticked off about Wilson’s decision

Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

to have the surgery last year, implying that Wilson is a quitter. At the time, the Angels were two games out of first in the American League West, which they ultimately won. The left-hander had already had his elbow drained in April, which sounds pretty gross and underscores the point that he probably did the right thing.

However, the damning accusations weren’t just rooted in Wilson’s choice to have surgery. He has a track record of folding like a cheap tent in pressure situations. According to Baseball Prospectus, in high-leverage circumstances the season before, Wilson’s strikeout rate dropped by half and hitters increased their slugging by 150 points. He lost his last two starts of 2014, failing to crack 100 pitches in either game and dooming the Angels in the process.

The Angels have a surplus of starting pitching. Hector SantiagoMatt Shoemaker and Tyler Skaggs could also be moved. But 2016 will be Wilson’s walk year. Combine that with his reputation and uneven track record in L.A., and it’s clear why his name is at the top of new Angels GM Billy Eppler’s purge list.

What the St. Louis Cardinals or any other acquiring team would get from Wilson is a sinker baller who is particularly tough on left-handed batters. Despite his reputation, Wilson’s career numbers suggest he pitches better when he lacks run support. He limits opposing hitters to a .214 batting average when his team scores 2 or fewer runs, something worth mentioning if the St. Louis Cardinals don’t acquire a run producer this offseason.

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The St. Louis Cardinals would also be getting a one-year rental of a pitcher who is highly motivated to return to All-Star form. Here’s hoping Cardinals GM John Mozeliak can do better. But as an icing-on-the-cake-type acquisition, Wilson wouldn’t be terrible.