The St. Louis Cardinals received some bad news this week when it was discovered that right-hander Chris Carpenter’s injured throwing shoulder would likely keep him out for the entire 2013 season. Carpenter was expected to be the team’s number two starter and one of the keys to their hopes of returning to the postseason. Instead, the Cards now find themselves in a position where they are forced to rely on the unknown.
The Cardinals should have been better prepared for news such as this. They allowed Kyle Lohse to enter free agency this winter and have made it pretty clear that they don’t intend on bringing him back. It may have seemed logical at the time, as it appeared that Carpenter—who missed most of the 2012 season—would simply replace Lohse in the rotation. But there are other red flags all over the Cardinals’ pitching staff, and GM John Mozeliak should have done more to address them.
First, there’s Jake Westbrook, who will now be forced to move into the number two spot behind Adam Wainwright. Westbrook turns 35 this year, and his last two seasons in St. Louis, although steady, are nothing to be excited about (25 wins, 4.32 ERA, 1.464 WHIP). Then there’s second-year starter Lance Lynn, who took the NL by surprise last season with an 18-7 record. Lynn should be solid again this year, but the expectations should be lower as the league begins to adjust. Beyond these three, the rotation is full of question marks.
Jaime Garcia missed more than a third of the 2012 season due to shoulder problems of his own. He finished the year with a 7-7 record and a 3.92 ERA, which amounts to another backwards step taken since his impressive rookie campaign of 2010. Further complicating any projections for the upcoming season is the fact that he needs surgery. Some within the organization think he needs it now, while others think he can wait. The Cardinals will be walking on eggshells with him all year, as every pitch that the left-hander throws could be the one that lands him on the 60-day DL.
The Cardinals did virtually nothing this off-season. They knew about Garcia’s shoulder. They knew Carpenter was turning 38 and Westbrook was turning 35. They knew Lohse was not coming back. Still though, they did nothing to help their depth. Now they’ll be forced to depend on rookies Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal to figure out that fifth spot in the rotation. It’s not a very enviable position to be in, and you can bet that the rest of the NL Central is chomping at the bit right now.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)