#3: Michael Wacha (Starting Pitcher)
The St. Louis Cardinals were rumored to have been shopping Michael Wacha over the winter so it should come as no shock to see his name listed here. The 25-year old right hander also seems to be the most likely starting pitcher to be left out of the mix. Right now, Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, and Mike Leake are locked into the starting rotation but the 5th spot looks like it may come down to a battle between Wacha and Alex Reyes.
If Wacha does become the odd man out, it makes him very expendable and he becomes even more so when we consider the depth the Cardinals have at the position. Guys like Luke Weaver, Austin Gomber, and John Gant can be called upon in the future if the Cardinals find themselves in a situation where they need a spot starter.
Wacha likely wasn’t traded this offseason because his value wasn’t as high as the Cardinals wished which is due to the injury issues Wacha has faced as of late. He suffers from a shoulder issue that results in repetitive stress fractions. While most arm injuries in baseball can be fixed, Wacha’s injury has stuck around. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy suffers from the same condition and he hasn’t pitched more than 40 innings since 2014.
Like Lynn, Wacha’s 2017 season will be huge for his value going forward. Wacha is expected to be healthy entering spring training but the strength of his shoulder won’t be tested until the actual season. His health will be important because before his 2016, Wacha was a fantastic pitcher.
In 2016, Wacha pitched in 27 games making 24 starts and had an ERA of 5.09. Before that, his highest ERA was 3.38 back in his All-Star 2015 season. Wacha only managed 138 innings in 2016 and was part of a dreadful starting rotation. All of his struggles are hopefully tied to his health but if that is the case then Wacha’s durability needs to be put on display for other teams to be interested.
Question marks surround Wacha and his shoulder and the St. Louis Cardinals are in a tough spot. The club needs strong starting pitching to compete in the NL Central and if Wacha doesn’t give them his best, it may be time for him to be traded or relegated to a bullpen role. However, even if Wacha does get back on track and helps the Cardinals, he could be worth quite a bit in the right trade.