Thursday, November 7, 2013

UCB Roundtable Day 3: The Cardinals 2014 starting rotation

For the United Cardinals Bloggers November project, we are conducting a roundtable discussion taking a look at the 2013 season and what the 2014 season may bring.  To follow the Roundtable, be sure check out the United Cardinals Bloggers' website.

Today's question, posed by your truly, was as follows:

With incumbents Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly returning, Jaime Garcia and John Gast likely returning from injury and Carlos Martinez, Tyler Lyons, Seth Maness and even Trevor Rosenthal as possibilities for the starting rotation, who would want in the starting rotation and what would you do with all the leftovers?

Here are the responses from my partners in crime.

Christine Coleman - Aaron Miles' Fastball

So many arms! So few starting slots! Obviously Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha are in the rotation, and Jaime Garcia too. Trevor Rosenthal, as John Mozeliak said the other day, is going to be in the bullpen and Seth Maness was too valuable this season with his double-play-inducing magic out of the bullpen to give that up. 

Despite all that he did this season, I just don't see Joe Kelly being guaranteed a spot and can see another spring training competition happening -- probably with the remaining pitchers you listed here, in John Gast, Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons. I really liked Martinez in that eighth inning role out of the bullpen, though, and he succeeded there but I can see him more as a starter. Gast seems headed to Memphis for me. Lyons is intriguing -- perhaps in the bullpen to begin with, but available as a starter as needed too or if someone else falters (which of course won't happen, right?)

Mark Tomasik - Retro Simba

Strongest rotation: Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Jaime Garcia. Like Wacha, Martinez is a special talent and needs to start.

Trade material: Lance Lynn or Joe Kelly for a starting shortstop.

Bullpen: Trevor Rosenthal, closer; Lynn or Kelly, 8th inning; Seth Maness, 7th inning; Kevin Siegrist and Randy Choate as left-handed specialists.

Ready in Memphis: Tyler Lyons and John Gast are on-call to replace an injured or faltering starter.

Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants

I couldn’t agree more.  So many arms, not enough spots!

Christine Coleman (follow-up)
In seeing Mark Tomasik's reply, I realized I totally forgot to mention Lance Lynn. And, not surprisingly, that's because I don't see him staying -- trade bait, for sure, hopefully part of a trade to land a quality shortstop.

In my opinion, you give every single pitcher that wants to start a chance to do so in Spring Training, and this includes Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist. Will both likely end up in the bullpen? Yep, but down the road when it comes time to re-sign them, the Cardinals will have the leverage to say that they at least gave them a shot to be a starting pitcher. Otherwise, their agents could use that against the Cardinals saying they "misused" their client or "didn't allow them to reach their full potential."

However, this is my starting rotation at this time: Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Jaime Garcia, and Carlos Martinez. I honestly believe Martinez has the best "stuff" of that group and has the potential to become great. Will he succeed in the role as a starting pitcher? That is yet to be seen, but we will never know until he is given that shot. The bullpen will always be a solid fallback option for Baby Pedro.

As Mark said, this leaves Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn out. Do I think they are able to bring the return that the Cardinals want at shortstop? No. Thus, given the risk of injuries, especially with Garcia (as most of you will soon find out, I am not a big fan of his), I think you hang on to Kelly and Lynn for at least the first part of the season. Gast, who I do not think will be healthy yet, will be in Memphis, and Lyons will likely be in the 'pen or shipped out.

Ben Chambers - The View From Here
This is a great problem to have. The Cardinals have too many talented starting pitchers and they have to figure out who it’s going to be in the rotation! 

Let’s start off with the easy ones: John Gast had shoulder surgery near the end of July. The initial reports were unclear as to the timetable for him to get back, but reported that it would be 8 to 12 months. If that is the case, then the earliest he would be able to throw again is right around opening day, so I expect him to be in Memphis getting stronger and being able to step in during the middle/late season if injury prompts a need for him. 

Mo and Matheny have already said that Rosenthal is coming back as the closer. This is probably the best move for the team. Motte will be back next year, but there are too many questions that need to be answered first: Will he be able to pitch on back-to-back days? Will his stamina hold all season? Will he have a semi-struggling year like Wainwright did coming back from Tommy John? Will he still be able to hit 100 on the mound? There are just too many unknowns at this point. I hope that the Cardinals give him a shot in 2015 (although I am not sure how much of a shot he’ll have then, either), but for 2014 he’s needed in the 9th inning.

So, that leaves: Wainwright, Miller, Garcia, Lynn, Wacha, Kelly, Martinez, Lyons, and Maness. I think Maness continues in the bullpen. It’s always nice to have a guy out there who you can trust to come in the game with runners on in late innings. Even if he doesn’t get all the double plays next year, every bullpen needs at least one guy like that. Lynn has been up-and-down both of the last two years, and I really hope that they put him in the bullpen. He has the ability to be great, and he’s shown that, but he also has the ability to lose quite a few in a row, and he’s shown that, too. 

Wainwright, Wacha, and Garcis are the only three that are locks for the rotation. Wainwright because he is the ace, Wacha because he is so talented, and he has ice running through his veins. Garcia because he has been a starter the entire time he’s been with the Cardinals and being a lefty, it does keep the rotation from being strictly right-handed. 

I expect Lyons to also be in Memphis. He was great his first few starts, but then he just went downhill. I don’t know why, but maybe the Cardinals do. Either way, he probably needs a little time to get himself back on track a little, and Memphis will provide him that opportunity.

Who gets the last two spots? I think it’s Miller and Martinez. I would personally like it to be Miller and Kelly. I think Kelly has good stuff, and he showed it in 2013. He was one of the best pitchers in the second half last year. Lowest ERAs for the second half of 2013 in the NL: Kershaw at 1.59, Grienke at 1.85, and Kelly at 1.91. I really like him, and I think he can be a 15-20 game winner if the Cardinals give him a chance. Martinez might get the nod over him, but I would be personally upset if it happens. Kelly currently is the better pitcher. If Martinez gets the spot, Kelly will go back to being the long man out of the bullpen. If Kelly gets the spot, I expect Martinez to be in Memphis.

No matter who actually gets into the rotation, I am excited to see those arms. The depth that the Cardinals have in starting pitching is unlike any other team has. I will end with this stipulation: I could see one or two of those guys being traded to get a SS, and that would change this quickly, but as of right now, that’s what I think will happen.

John Nagel -

My rotation would be Wainwright, Miller, Wacha, Martinez, and Garcia as well. The potential for those five is out of the planet. Joe Kelly is intriguing, but I think he is near his peak value, but that doesn't mean I want to trade him. I think he is great in the clubhouse and would be a great fit in the bullpen.

What to do with the others..... 

Lynn: I am going to disagree with you all that Lance Lynn does not have that much trade value. I think people in St. Louis value him a little lower than those in other MLB cities. If you look at his numbers and take out the emotion, he has had a couple of solid seasons. I am not saying that Lynn alone would net Profar or even Starlin Castro, but he could be a very valuable trade chip. How many other teams would want a perennial 15 game winner?

Rosenthal: Don't let Mozeliak fool you, Rosenthal will end up the 8th inning guy on one condition, if Jason Motte is healthy. I know that Mo said he will begin spring as the closer, but what else should he say? Motte is not guaranteed to be healthy by then, but i don't think Jason loses his closing spot due to injury. Wally Pipp may disagree with me.

Maness: As much as I want Maness to start, the role he played this year was best for the team, plus there isn't a starting spot for him in St. Louis. He is one that could be a very solid starter somewhere else, but i am fine with him as the DP man.

Lyons and Gast: Both begin the season in Memphis with opportunities to fill in at the MLB level.

Daniel Shoptaw - C70 At The Bat

I'd agree pretty much entirely with what John wrote, but for his comments on Rosenthal. In my mind, Rosie will be the closer, because by time you can be comfortable with Motte and his recovery, Rosenthal will already be entrenched.  Given the myriad of issues surrounding a hard-throwing reliever coming off surgery, including command issues, I can't imagine that Motte would be anything more than an eighth-inning guy.  Should Rosenthal stumble and Motte look good, they might flip, but I'd be shocked if Rosenthal doesn't get the first save chance of the year.

That's a bit off topic, but being that I can't disagree with a rotation of Wainwright, Wacha, Miller, Garcia and Martinez, what else am I going to say?

Dan Buffa - Dose of Buffa

Being late to the party, I will basically break things down as best as I can without being redundant.   

Barring further injury, my starting rotation out of the listed candidates has to Wainwright, Wacha, Garcia, Miller and Martinez unless Lance Lynn finds a way to be not be traded.  

Lynn is premium trade material.  He has a fine resume that includes over 30 wins in two seasons and good bullpen work.   He is young and hungry and may need a change of scenery to lower his pouting potential.  

Jaime is making 7 million this year so he needs to be in the rotation and he is a lefty who can be great when he is on.  Let's hope his feelings are in check.

Joe Kelly is Mr. Stretch.   He can start, relieve, and close and will find himself in that long arm bullpen spot to begin the season as insurance in case someone gets hurt.  Few can do what he does effectively.   Be solid out of the bullpen and win a lot of starts.  His mindset is key and helps him adjust.  I am surprised teams don't target him in a trade because of his versatility.  

Lyons and Gast are Memphis starters until injuries happen.   They performed well in 2013 but won't climb over guys like Martinez and Kelly for starts, at least not again.  These guys are also trade depth because they proved they can come up to big leagues and instantly win games.  Look for them to be add on's to big deals Mozelaik keeps up his sleeve.

Trevor Rosenthal is a setup-closer with this team for a long time.   He has the makeup, ability and finish to go into the ninth and let it rip.  We saw it for good when he saved 3 games in the final week of the season and basically made the Pirates, Dodgers and Red Sox look stupid for a month.   He has a propane heater and a decent changeup and if he was going to try his hand at starting again, he would have to redefine that third pitch.   I get why he wants to start but at this point it's futile.  Jason Motte will be back but won't be ready to even compete for the closer role until July.   Motte had the surgery in May of 2013 which means he may not touch a baseball diamond during a real game until late April/early May.  He will find his control and slowly develop back into that stopper we knew from 2011 and 2012.  He will set up until the Cards really deem it necessary to switch him and Rosenthal.  If Trevor is throwing gas and closing everything, it won't happen unless Motte is electric.  I do think Motte gets back to the closer role sometime, but too late for Rosenthal to switch back to starting.  Motte makes 6 million this year but needs to get healthy.   Rosenthal may say he would like to start but watching him close in October I see a man empowered and having a lot of fun.  Let's not believe he is wanting to truly move just yet ladies and gents.  

There I go too. Wow.  Just like Shoptaw.  HA!  Must be a Daniel thing.  

Waino, Wacha, Garcia, Miller and Martinez for me in early April.  

Chris Mallonee - Bird On The Bat 82

If we are answering "who we would want" instead of "who do we think it will be", then I will go with Wainwright, Wacha, Garcia, Miller, Lynn as the Opening Day Starters.

Lynn had a nice turn-around in September and deserves a spot in the opening 2014 rotation in my opinion.

I would keep Kelly, Maness, Siegrist, and Rosenthal in the big-league bullpen as they were such vital pieces in 2013, and Kelly moves into that long-relief role to keep innings load off Wacha and a security net as Garcia gets back up to health. He is also the first inserted into the rotation when the inevitable injury occurs.

Gast, Lyons, and Martinez could start in the Memphis rotation. I don't think that would be a waste of Martinez as he is still so very young and needs to harness his power stuff and learn to go deeper into games. IF Gast is healthy near the start of the season, the Cardinals have three pretty good options for when a starter gets injured, and if 2014 follows the pattern of other years all of these guys will be called on at some point.

Matt Whitener, Cheap Seats Please 

Wainwright, Miller and Wacha are the locks, so I won't waste time discussing them and why.

Maness, Gast, Lyons and Rosenthal aren't in the convo, for various reasons.

I also don't want to delve too deep into what hasn't happened yet, such as trades and situations like that. Basically, what it comes down to is Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia and Carlos Martinez in a four-corners match, albeit one that is not that difficult to sort out.

Martinez has the best arm of the group (and maybe the entire team). With the said, I'd like to see him in a year like Rosenthal, at the end of the pen in some capacity. Motte's status is uncertain and both Axford and Mujica are gone. Bottomline, the back end of the bullpen is questionable, and bringing Martinez along there would be a perfect way for him to gain some Big League experience and expand his repertoire.

Garcia is purely a starter, and a much needed left-handed one at that, so he's in there too from the moment he's ready. All indications say that's spring training as of now, so that brings the rotation to a four-man group.

For the final spot, I opt with Lance Lynn. He's not always the popular choice, and surely isn't the most consistent of the group, however, there are a lot of things that work in his favor. He's still young, is steadily racking up experienced innings and still has a great skills package that can develop. He would be as good of a fourth/fifth starter that any team in the NL would have on their side.

So, if the Cardinals can break camp (for the first time since 2010) with a completely healthy rotation, I'd like to see a Wainwright, Miller, Garcia, Wacha, Lynn (in that order) mix take to the mound.

Nick Waeltz - Pitchers Hit Eighth

Who I would want: Wainwright, Wacha, Miller, Garcia, Martinez

Who I think it will be: Wainwright, Wacha, Garcia, Martinez, Kelly

<Strauss'd> intrigue... </Strauss'd>

Josh Gilliam, Pitchers Hit Eighth
I've given this way more thought than I should, and the trio at the back-end keeps changing by the hour. Most of us know it really doesn't matter who starts the season in the rotation, however, the changing of the guard could be 2014.

I'm sticking with Wainwright and Garcia to anchor the veteran portion of the starting five and then throwing darts after Wacha. The job Kelly did down the stretch while still adjusting to various roles gives him the nod as possibly the best #5 starter in the National League. That leaves a toss-up for the 3-4 spot between Miller and Lynn, both who could be former Cardinals as Nick pointed out.

My head says Lynn should be traded, but my heart wonders if the Miller/Kelly show may be coming to an end. Maybe a coin flip will solve it, but I hope the only uniform Shelby wears is the BOB for many years to come.

Finally, my thoughts

The Cardinals have an abundance of riches with a stockpile of young arms to choose from for their starting rotation.  The only locks I see for the 2014 rotation are Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.  
Jaime Garcia should grab the 4th slot, but only if he proves to be healthy, which, when dealing with shoulder injuries, particularly labrum tears, is never a sure thing.
Lance Lynn will probably end up getting traded as part of a package for a shortstop, as he is in desperate need of a change in scenery.
That leaves Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez to battle it out for the 5th spot.  Kelly will probably be wondering what he has to do to prove he is a major league starter, especially after going 13-9 with a 3.03 ERA in 31 starts over the last two seasons.  However, just like Shelby Miller did this spring, I see Martinez beating Kelly out for the last spot, leaving Kelly to return to his long relief role.

John Gast and Tyler Lyons will return to Memphis to provide depth and Seth Maness will return to the bullpen.
Trevor Rosenthal will start the season as the Cardinals closer and never look back, even when Jason Motte returns.  After his dominant display at the end of the season and in the postseason, I just don't see him relinquishing the closer role.
Overall, its a good problem to have and one that will take the Cardinals some time to sort out both during the offseason and next spring.

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