Thursday, July 18, 2013

Do Cardinals really need to acquire another pitcher?

With less than two weeks to go before the trade deadline, rumors are flying around the Cardinals regarding their possible pursuit of Matt Garza or reliever Jesse Crain.  However, with the best record in the NL and a seemingly endless supply of young, power arms waiting in the minors, do the Cards really need to acquire another pitcher?

Let's take a look at both side of the argument:

Why the Cardinals need more pitching.

After starting the season on fire, the Cardinals starters have struggled a bit since as of late.  Since June 1st, Lance Lynn is 3-3 with a 5.51 ERA, Shelby Miller is 4-3 with a 4.25 ERA and Jake Westbrook is 3-3 with a 4.25 ERA.

That is not even considering the seemingly endless string of 5th starters that have been plugged in to replace the injured Jaime Garcia, starting with John Gast (now on the DL), Tyler Lyons (sent to the minors, due to ineffectiveness), Michael Wacha (sent to minors to limit innings) and the current incumbent Joe Kelly.

Let's face it, the Cardinals rotation could use a boost.

In addition, adding a quality starter, like Mike Garza, could allow the Cards to move Joe Kelly back to the bullpen and let Carlos Martinez return to the minors to continue his development.

As for the bullpen, the Cardinals have had to rely on several rookies since banishing Mitchell Boggs (who was later traded) and Marc Rzepczynski to AAA.  While the rookies have fared pretty well, the Cardinals could definitely benefit from having another veteran arm in the pen, especially come playoff time. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, it would allow the Cards to send Martinez back to AAA.

Why the Cardinals do not need more pitching

Despite the Cardinals starting pitching struggles, is Matt Garza really that much of an improvement?

In his career, Garza has had only one really good year, in 2011, when he posted a 3.32 ERA (2.95 FIP).  Other than that though, he has been pretty mediocre, with a career 3.80 ERA (3.98 FIP).  He has always had excellent stuff, but never seems to be able to put it all together.

Compare that to Joe Kelly's stats (3.64 ERA, 4.15 FIP) and are you really getting much of an improvement?  Granted, Kelly's stats are over a much smaller sample size than Garza, but even if Kelly were to falter, the Cards have other internal options (the aforementioned Martinez and Wacha).

Plus, add in the likely cost of a top prospect or two and you can see why it might make sense to stand pat.

As for the bullpen, what was once a weakness for the team, thanks in large part to the struggles of Boggs and Rzepczynski, has now become a strength.  While the starters have struggled, the bullpen has picked up the slack, dropping the team's bullpen ERA from a major league worst 5.37 on April 24 to a more respectable 3.56 ERA, good for 16th best in the majors.

Thus, while another bullpen arm might be nice, it is definitely not necessary, as the Cardinals can always use Carlos Martinez in the pen (as they are doing now) or add Wacha to the pen for the stretch run.

Overall, I do not think the Cardinals need another starter, but I would like to see them add an experienced bullpen arm, as long as the cost isn't too high.  The main reason is that I would prefer to see Martinez sent back down to AAA to continue his development and adding another bullpen arm is probably the best and most cost-effective way of accomplishing that.

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