St. Louis Cardinals: Three targets necessary to win the winter

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: Chris Archer /
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St. Louis Cardinals
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – AUGUST 12: Chris Archer /

The St. Louis Cardinals have an opening in the starting rotation by letting Lynn walk and should add a verified arm to the starting core in order to win this winter.

The St. Louis Cardinals decided to let Lance Lynn walk with only the qualifying offer issued at the conclusion of 2017. This means that there is a vacancy at the inn of the starting core. As a potential stopgap to this vacancy, the Cards added Mikolas. But is that enough?

A quick look at Mikolas who could slot in as the fifth starter, and might even if the St. Louis Cardinals snag another starter… Mikolas last pitched in Japan from 2015 to 2017. In ’15, he appeared in 21 games, covered 145 innings, posted a 13-3 record, and recorded a 2.11 ERA (0.897 WHIP).

He pitched in only 14 games in 2016 covering 91.2 innings. In 2016, Mikolas recorded a 2.45 ERA (1.167 WHIP) and a 4-2 record. This all improved yet again in 2017 when he pitched in 27 games and 188 innings. In 2017, “The Lizard King” posted a 2.25 ERA (0.984 WHIP) and a 14-8 record. Mozeliak has stated that he will be placed in the rotation.

If you are keeping score at home, this means that the St. Louis Cardinals (with no further additions) will present the following rotation: Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Luke Weaver, Miles Mikolas. This likely means that Alex Reyes will start in the pen and monitor his progression from Tommy John surgery, and this is a good thing.

But wait… The rotation listed above- not bad by any means- isn’t the most reliable. What if Wainwright doesn’t come back to form? What if the 2017 Wacha (or the World Series Wacha of yesteryear) was a fluke and he isn’t back? The St. Louis Cardinals could be looking at other holes in the rotation and that concerns me.

Enter then the idea of grabbing another top-of-the-rotation arm. Let’s be honest, the Cardinals have the farm system and the money to make this happen, so- to me at least- they have no reason not to make it so.

There are two names that make sense to me and both of them reside in the Tampa team with fellow arm Colome. These are Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer. Yes, Archer will cost more but will certainly bring the biggest bang for the buck. Odorizzi will cost less but has been on the Cardinals’ radar for a few seasons now.

To some quick numbers: Odorizzi posted a 4.14 ERA (5.43 FIP) in 2017 and a 10-8 record. Archer posted a 4.07 ERA (3.40 FIP) and a 10-12 record. Admittedly, both of these arms were affected by the team around them.

Financially speaking, Odorizzi is under team control through 2019 and is in his second year of arbitration after earning $4.1M in 2017. The Cardinals could grab Odorizzi and buy-out the remaining years.

Archer is under team control through 2019 as well but carries two options on his current contract. He is set to be paid approximately $6.4M in 2018 and approximately $7.6M in 2019. His 2020 option is valued at $9M with a $1.75M buyout and his 2021 option (both are team options) is valued at $11M with a $250K buyout.

Clearly Archer is the more expensive arm but he is also a top-of-the-rotation guy. If I had my druthers, I would insist that the St. Louis Cardinals do all they can to snag Archer in the same deal with Colome. Send the rebuilding Rays whatever prospects it takes to get this done (but really hold some back for the next step to win the winter).