There is reason to be concerned about St. Louis Cardinals’ rotation. Just look at the injury history surrounding 80% of the starters.
The Steven Matz addition was supposed to finalize the St. Louis Cardinals’ rotation. The contract – a four-year, $48 million commitment – gives them a fifth bonafide starting pitcher alongside Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson.
But there is reason to be skeptical that it will survive another 162-game season. Just look at last season. Wainwright, while dominant the last two seasons, is 40 years old and has an extensive injury history. Flaherty, Mikolas and Hudson all dealt with long-term injuries last season. Matz, meanwhile, has only thrown more than 160 innings once in seven seasons.
Of course, the Cardinals have Jake Woodford available out of the bullpen in case they need 1) a spot start or 2) an internal option to make multiple starts. But even after signing Matz, the Cardinals may be wise to invest in another starting pitcher in addition to potentially two impact relievers. It seems like president of baseball operations John Mozeliak feels the same way based on his comments before the lockout to Katie Woo of The Athletic:
“Even when you think you have enough [depth] you don’t,” Mozeliak said. “So, I think we want to approach this offseason where we’re looking to make sure that we can shore those things up and not solely just rely on what we may or may not have coming at the minor league level.”
The options available, at least right now, are not that inspiring. Max Scherzer, Marcus Stroman, Kevin Gausman and Robbie Ray are all off the board. But, to steal a line from Scott Boras, the Cardinals were never shopping in that aisle anyways. If the Cardinals make an outside addition, it will be something along the lines of what they did at the trade deadline: Jon Lester and J.A. Happ.
Both players remain available and all indications are that Lester enjoyed his time in St. Louis. Signing him to a one-year, $2-3 million deal comes at no risk and allows them to sign one of Joe Kelly or Ryan Tepera, if not both.
It helped the Cardinals advance to the postseason in 2021. Given the injury concerns that the 2022 rotation presents, perhaps Lester – or another veteran pitcher – could do the same.