Major League Baseball | St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals’ Pitching Depth Remains in Question

The Washington Nationals have scheduled a press conference Wednesday afternoon for a “major baseball announcement.” That announcement will be the signing of free agent Max Scherzer, who will join an already stacked Nationals’ rotation.

Adam Wainwright 2
Wainwright’s health is a question mark in the rotation heading into 2015.

That also means no birds on the bat, hometown discounts or a one-two punch of Waino and Scherzer. My radio partner Chris Duncan had it right all along: Scott Boras was never going to take any sort of discount from the Cardinals so that Scherzer could come home and pitch for the team he rooted for as a child. As Kevin Wheeler noted on Tuesday, that’s not why, as a player, you hire Boras. You hire him to cash in. Like $210 million over seven years cash in.

Bottom line, my prediction that Scherzer would wind up in St. Louis was wrong. It would have been nice to see Scherzer team with Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and John Lackey, but in the end Scherzer had $210 million reasons to head to D.C. The backend of his contract might be messy, but for now, Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark (wherever he may fit) make the Nationals the best team on paper heading into the 2015 season.

But what about the Cardinals?

If it’s true that they were at least entertaining the idea of signing Scherzer, how worried should we be about their starting rotation with spring training quickly approaching?

Despite what Anthony Rizzo said a week ago, I still wholeheartedly believe the Cardinals are the team to beat in the NL Central. There’s no doubt that Chicago has improved, but Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Arismendy Alcantara are still relative unknowns. Conversely, the Cards have proven veteran talent, very few weaknesses and a better bench than the one they ended the season with last year. They don’t need to add anything in order to be considered the favorites to win the division.

But I also can’t shake the feeling that the Cardinals will need another arm at some point during the 2015 season. Maybe that’s because we’ve seen this team forced to overcome the losses of Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia (on multiple occasions) and Michael Wacha in years past. For as kind as the baseball gods have been to St. Louis over the years, they can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to watching the Cards overcome adversity to their pitching staff.

John Mozeliak
Will Mozeliak make a bold move to bolster the Cards’ rotation?

It’s also important to look beyond this year, where Wainwright, Wacha and now Lynn are locked up, but Lackey is in the final year of his deal. For as much potential as Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales have shown, I wonder if it’s wise for John Mozeliak to acquire a durable, proven commodity given that Wainwright and Wacha battled with injuries last year. Garcia is said to be healthy, but the reality is that he cannot be counted on to stay that way.

But I also trust Mozeliak to resist the temptation of having to do something just because he has the resources (monetary or otherwise).

The Cards draft well, develop well, and avoid shelling out $200-plus (or even $100-plus) million contracts to free agents that are never going to deliver enough production to match their cost.

It’s no wonder that, under Mozeliak, this organization has found sustained success.

So whether the Cards rely on the promise of Martinez and Gonzales or make a bold move to acquire Cole Hamels (assuming Ruben Amaro Jr. is willing to take less than Wainwright, Wacha, Yadi Molina and Kolten Wong to get a deal done), I trust that Mozeliak has one eye on the current roster and the other on the team’s future.

What’s next is unforeseeable. On paper the Cards’ rotation is set, but with Joe Kelly in Boston and Shelby Miller in Atlanta, the depth is drying up. A significant injury to either Wainwright, Wacha or Lynn could mean Mozeliak being forced to make a move, as opposed to striking when he’s in an advantageous position. We’ll find out soon if he’s prepared to ride with what he currently has or if he too gets the suspicion that the baseball gods will strike yet again.

More: Should Cardinals Reconsider Approach to Big Name Free Agents?