The St. Louis Cardinals should have an open debate on who is the best starting pitcher on the team moving forward.
There is a simple way to look at baseball with a “three strikes and you’re out” encompassing philosophy. The St. Louis Cardinals have now missed not one, not two, but three consecutive years of playoff appearances. Take each miss as a strike—and well—you’re out of there.
This is the point where many fans start asking questions about the commitment of the front office. The question here is if you’re willing to believe that now is the time to part with Carlos Martinez?
Debate among yourselves who the current best starting pitcher on the team is. Many fans, both St. Louis or from other cities, will arrive in likelihood with an answer of Carlos Martinez (C-Mart).
By popular vote, they may be right – statistically, they may be right. The St. Louis Cardinals hold an asset in Martinez. Many other teams around the league know it will take a hefty price to acquire such an asset.
First, we’ll look at Carlos Martinez by the numbers utilizing Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement. Carlos finished third in pitching fWAR (2.2 fWAR) in 2018 behind Miles Mikolas (4.3 fWAR) and Jack Flaherty (2.3 fWAR). Carlos Martinez was the best pitcher in 2017 (3.3 fWAR) with Michael Wacha narrowly in second place (3.2 fWAR); albeit, Michael Wacha pitched 40 less innings.
In 2016, Carlos Martinez was easily the best starting pitcher (3.3 fWAR) with Adam Wainwright being the runner-up (2.9 fWAR). The last year we’ll be looking at is 2015, when Carlos Martinez finished second (3.4 fWAR) to John Lackey (3.6 fWAR) even though Lackey pitched nearly 40 more innings. The point is to reflect that Carlos Martinez has been a leader who is consistently at the top of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation.
Following an injury-marred season, Carlos Martinez enters his age-27 season under contract until 2021 with two team-option years, five years of control in his prime. Five years of control with a team-friendly contract offers the St. Louis Cardinals an opportunity to listen to offers on Martinez.
There are several reasons a person can conclude that now is the optimal time to field offers for Martinez. The injury was an oblique strain, so trade suitors know his shoulder and arm are fine. Miles Mikolas produced numbers that if replicated can alleviate the loss of Carlos Martinez in the rotation.
There are several young starting pitchers that appear poised to cement a role among the starting rotation. Veteran Adam Wainwright was brought back on an incentives-driven deal to pass off the torch to the next wave of St. Louis Cardinals pitching (like what Chris Carpenter did with Wainwright).
The St. Louis Cardinals may have no better trade asset that the team can afford to trade without the trade possibly being more detrimental than helpful. Pitching has been a consistently strong development for the Redbirds in recent years.
The team is currently facing an abundance of cost-controlled youth pitching. The Cardinals stand to possibly re-sign Michael Wacha or Miles Mikolas following the 2019 season so that person could fill the role of a veteran presence.
With inconsistencies from Wacha, he may not be as expensive even though his production has been above-average. Mikolas will enter free agency next year another year older than 30 with only two potentially good seasons on his resume.
Many fans will not take a liking to the thought of moving who many see as the current ace of the St. Louis Cardinals. Just ponder the return Carlos Martinez can bring with his loss being somewhat offset by the team’s ability to produce quality pitching. Not to mention there are currently several starters ready to step into the starting pitching role.
Jack Flaherty is a big reason why now may be the best time to crown a new ace of the rotation. We can move on from the years of falling just short; especially, if the return for Carlos Martinez, similarly to Flaherty, can place fans with a new “face of the franchise” feeling. Now is the time to shop C-Mart (author’s note: this is not a subliminal message to go to any stores named C-Mart).
Thank you for reading, and go Cards!