Mike Matheny describes what makes a good closer
Well, it appears we can all at least stop wringing our hands about whether the St. Louis Cardinals will add another pitcher to their thin starting rotation.
With the news over the weekend that former Redbirds hurler Lance Lynn signed a one-year pact with the Minnesota Twins and former Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta inked a three-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, the answer is now a definitive no.
This went from the winter I hoped it would be to the winter I feared it will be: No top of the rotation starter. No new closer. The Cardinals did go get a power bat in Marcell Ozuna. But I have to wonder why they traded a top pitching prospect and a top outfield prospect in the midst of what is now a quiet rebuild.
The unspoken fact is that the Birds didn't re-sign Lynn or chase Arrietta, Yu Darvish or any other starter of note (sorry, Japanese League import Miles Mikolas and former St. Louis nemesis Bud Norris don't count as noteworthy in my book) because they plan to use at least three prospects in the starting rotation this year: Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes.
I have no problem with trying to develop stars from within. But I disagree with the idea that you have to tear down your roster to the foundation in order to reload.
Smart planning should allow for fading veterans to be phased out and replaced incrementally with youngsters. So what's wrong with putting one or two of the kids in the bullpen to earn their stripes and wait for an opportunity to prove they deserve more?
I wasn't interested in the Birds inking competition for the fifth spot in the rotation. I would've liked to see them get a top-of-the-order hurler who not only would take pressure off the kids but serve as a mentor to them as well. What happens if Adam Wainwright's arm finally gives out altogether? If they sink or swim with the kids, is that what's best for their development? Do we want to see Reyes go 2-10 with a 5.14 ERA in the big leagues while the Cardinals keep throwing him to the wolves because they don't have another option?
The front office has a lot of faith that their kids aren't going to need to be sent down for additional seasoning in the minors. Especially for a club that repeatedly sent Sam Tuivailala, Kolten Wong, Randal Grichuk and others back to Class AAA Memphis.
There are a lot of cliches in baseball that don't hold water. But one I believe in wholeheartedly is the one about how you can never have too much pitching. We've certainly seen this club have too little pitching in recent years, trading prospects for has-beens and never-weres just to try to get through the rest of the season.
Supposing Wainwright and Michael Wacha bucked their recent past and stayed healthy all year and that Mikolas turned out to be a steal of a find and Carlos Martinez was pitching well, there is still one spot in the rotation and a couple of slots in the bullpen up for grabs. If the Cardinals would have signed Lance Lynn to the one-year deal Minnesota got, the team easily could have traded him to bolster another club.
But I think that's fantasy land. Hopefully Wacha's healthy season last year was the new normal. But I am much more skeptical about Wainwright's ability to stay healthy after two consecutive rough seasons following an Achilles tear. Wainwright is in the last year of his contract. So, one way or another, the Cardinals can clear that spot in 2019.
There are a lot of places I would have liked to see this club improve. But its offense ought to be good enough to keep it competitive and the bullpen has quantity of options if not dominant quality. The starting rotation is the spot where a wise investment could have turned this club from a pretender to a contender.