St. Louis Cardinals: A plan for the permanent loss of Adam Wainwright

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 22: Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals leaves the game during the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs on July 22, 2017 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Cardinals 3-2.(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JULY 22: Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals leaves the game during the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs on July 22, 2017 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Cardinals 3-2.(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

The time has come for the St. Louis Cardinals to make a plan for the eventual finale of another ace from the rotation. Definitive news should arrive on today.

The St. Louis Cardinals wait anxiously for official news to release on Saturday regarding the likely conclusion of Adam Wainwright‘s 2017 season and/or the even more likely scenario that his career might end today. Waino is already on the DL and had return to St. Louis on Friday after a miserable start on Thursday facing the Pirates.

Writer’s note: the following piece is speculation and is a worst-case scenario. The piece was written long before we fans knew that Wainwright would miss only a few weeks and that he did not need surgery.

If reports are true now, Waino is likely looking to go under the knife again and this could spell the end of his career.

Wainwright hasn’t exactly been the same Adam of old this season. In fact, he has seemed more like an old man than the ace that St. Louis Cardinals fans had known and expected. This is to be understood, however, as the pitcher and his arm are a solid 35 years old.

If Wainwright has no other choice than retirement (thanks to a second round of Tommy John surgery), the St. Louis Cardinals will only lose his 2018 money unless they do an insurance claim on it. They will, of course, lose an arm from the rotation.

If Wainwright is done for this season (seems VERY likely) and/or if his career is done (seems likely), the St. Louis Cardinals rotation will look like this:

Carlos Martinez

Lance Lynn

Mike Leake (see below)

Michael Wacha (see below)

[open slot]

Let me address Mike Leake first. I (and I’m not alone here) am worried about Leake. He seems tired and his recent start was rough. On August 15, Leake faced the Red Sox and pitched only 4.1 innings before giving up eight earned runs on nine hits. His start before that- on August 9th- saw him pitch only five innings before giving up four earned runs on 11 hits.

Likewise, I have serious concerns about Michael Wacha. I have found that I worry each time he climbs the mound this season. I have often advocated for him to be moved to the pen and I still hold these thoughts. In his last three starts, Wacha has surrendered eight earned runs on 19 hits.

So, what should the St. Louis Cardinals do when the news falls today on the inevitable end of Adam Wainwright? I think the club should look at its internal options, use the arms it already has, and get creative.

For starters, I think they should put Wacha in the bullpen as their closer. I’m probably going to get flack for this as many will argue that I’m a fool for suggesting opening yet another starter slot with this move. I urge those dissenters to take a look at Wacha’s abilities the first time he goes through a lineup. Have a look:

Times Facing Opponent in Game
1st PA in G, as SP2219818310336241014543.
2nd PA in G, as SP2219717731568150016412.56.316.371.458.82881410301.381129113
3rd PA in G, as SP21109981332903019182.00.327.389.510.89950311000.377147125
4th+ PA in G, as SP255010000003.
Pitch Count
Pitch 1-2522123115618211108344.
Pitch 26-502214713317408260011282.55.301.356.526.88270311120.340141135
Pitch 51-752214713224418040013332.54.311.367.462.82961500201.381129116
Pitch 76-100218577722501016193.17.286.345.390.73530211000.36810487
Pitch 101+4760100000122.

Notice that Wacha’s numbers are beyond impressive when he initially faces batters and when his pitch count is low. This would behoove the St. Louis Cardinals in the closer role in the absence of Trevor Rosenthal. This move would also extend his season and keep him fresh.

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This means the rotation would now be vacant two slots. I urge that the Cardinals place Luke Weaver into one of the vacant slots. Likewise, I urge that the St. Louis Cardinals purchase the contracts of Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson.

I believe that these are names that fans are likely to see in September anyway, but I urge that either one of these take the second vacant rotation spot. Whichever does not take the vacant slot will be insurance for Leake.

These are wild changes, I realize, but are ones that will add energy and could be really viable solutions to the problems the club now faces. I hate that Waino might be done, but at least he will go out as a St. Louis Cardinals All-Star. And I trust that the organization already has plans for him to enter the front office in some capacity.

Next: Waiver solutions

The Wainwright news is set to drop at some point late Saturday. We will have you covered here at Redbird Rants so stay with us!