A perennially-contending club like the St. Louis Cardinals seems unwilling to sacrifice a season or two in the present to increase the odds of a future payoff. Perhaps they see such a move as unnecessary.
2013 should be no exception. The Cards have made the post-season as a wild card in each of the last two seasons, including going on to claim one world title. They prospered even after the departures of Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa and will be welcoming back most of the same players from 2012 this coming spring.
Yet, 2013 could mark the end of an era for the club. The three most veteran pitchers in their rotation – Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook – will be in their final year of their respective contracts. Only Westbrook has an option for 2014.
Zack Greinke’s new megadeal with the Los Angeles Dodgers – six years, $147 million – should float a number of other current and future free agent boats higher, including that of Wainwright.
The Cardinals have never committed anywhere near that number of years nor that amount of money on a pitcher, but they may soon have to decide whether or not they want to start.
Further, the contending Tampa Bay Rays’ take from their Sunday trade of front-line pitcher James Shields serves as another reminder of the high value of pitching in the current market.
In preparation for a 2014 that may bring major changes to the rotation, do the Cardinals take additional risk in 2013 to prepare? Specifically, do they find a way give additional meaningful major league innings to more than one of their four potential fifth-starter candidates – Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal plus 2012 holdovers Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn?
From the current rotation, Wainwright and Westbrook seem locked in for 2013 with Carpenter and Jaime Garcia set to join them – health permitting. Injuries could create additional opportunity for the youngsters, but it is not assured.
Should the Cardinals sit back and wait or should they create opportunity, even if it might mean more immediate risk?