After the St. Louis Cardinals locked up Adam Wainwright to another one year deal, here is a bold prediction: the starting rotation is set.
Some may not say that this is a bold prediction at all, and I will give you that, but many people still believe that the St. Louis Cardinals are not done adjusting their starting rotation for 2020.
While the team technically had both Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright become free agents, Waino is already resigned and the team has said that they want Carlos Martinez back in the rotation in 2020. These two moves would set the rotation up as follows:
That is what the rotation would be if the season started today, and when I predict that it will stay these five, I more mean that I don’t think the team is going to even sign any other starters.
In the case of injury, Ryan Helsley, Daniel Ponce de Leone, Austin Gomber, or even Alex Reyes all could take their shot in the rotation, and I think the team is happy with them as replacements. Whether or not they should be is the question.
While all four of those players have MLB experience, none are very proven. Ponce de Leone is the most proven of the four and Helsley is a great sleeper option to pull out a role, but with so many free agents who are proven, it seems idiotic to not entertain the idea of signing one as a backup option.
If the team really does want to keep payroll where it was in 2019 ($157.5 million), then they only have $5M to play with this offseason without dumping a contract. The current $152.6 million on the books for 2020 is a testament to how financially tied the Cardinals’ hands are right now. Even increasing the salary to $160 million doesn’t give much room for improvement.
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It’s these numbers right here that are why I call B.S. on the Cardinals being engaged in talks with Marcell Ozuna for five years. It should also tell you that if any rumors come up about the Cardinals being interested in any of the big free agents out there, don’t believe them.
The Cardinals have almost always stuck to their word, so unless you see a move to dump the salary of Matt Carpenter or Dexter Fowler first, this is going to be an especially boring offseason. John Mozeliak could get creative and trade bad contract for bad contract, but as far as free agency goes, I believe there’s no chance the Cardinals sign any starters.
Those five starters could easily be better than the rotation the Cardinals had in 2019 as trading out Wacha for Carlos Martinez is a huge upgrade if Martinez pitches as he did two years ago. Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson are going to continue to mature, and we know after 2019 that if Wainwright can stay healthy, he still has what it takes to pitch in the MLB.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing if nobody else gets signed to help the rotation, it’s just relying on health more than the team should.
I am confident that Mozeliak will try to get at least a little creative in manipulating the self-imposed salary cap, but I wouldn’t expect any help to come in the form of a rotation arm. In my eyes, the rotation is set for 2020.