UCB Roundtable: What to do with the Rotation

It seems like every offseason we have this conversation: too many starters for too few spots in the rotation. It also seems like every year they somehow end up needing most or all of them, proving the old adage that you can’t have too much good pitching.
That said, the starting pitchers currently on the roster are:
Jaime Garcia
Marco Gonzales
John Lackey
Lance Lynn
Tyler Lyons
Carlos Martinez
Shelby Miller
Michael Wacha
Adam Wainwright

Which 5 do you think make the 2015 rotation? In what order? And where do the rest of them end up at least to start the year?

Daniel Shoptaw – C70 at the Bat

Well, Adam Wainwright will be the opening day starter.  I know, I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m pretty confident it is a thick one.

Most likely, Lance Lynn is the next one in line.  That said, Joe Schwarz did point out last night that Lynn’s value might not ever get higher than it is right now.  With this depth, you can perhaps deal him for whatever is needed and know that four of that mix will help cover any shortfalls.  I don’t think they’ll go that way, but it’s an interesting line of speculation.

Wacha’s three, assuming that a winter of rest heals up the stress reaction, at least enough for him to go on Opening Day.  If it doesn’t, there’s going to be a lot of questions about Wacha, questions I don’t want to ask right now.

As attractive as some teams might find his price tag, I’m having trouble thinking that John Mozeliak would deal John Lackey.  One, because he’s cheap and two, because he gives those veteran innings that the team could need, especially if Wacha’s shoulder flares up again.

That leaves a lot of folks for the fifth spot, but it’s difficult to see anyone but Shelby Miller getting it, again assuming he’s not packaged.  Miller flashed brilliance, but wasn’t consistent enough for you to trade him at value, I don’t think.  Teams would be interested, but they’d be interested in getting a deal, not paying market value.

As for the rest, Gonzales and Lyons likely wind up in Memphis, Martinez will wind up in the pen and Garcia will wind up on rehab.  If he’s healthy, they’ll slide him into the rotation somewhere, but they probably won’t make a major move to do it since they can’t trust he’ll be there all year long.

Bill Ivie – I70 Baseball

It is hard to be a fan of a team that always seems to have surplus pitching, isn’t it?

To me, the rotation looks like this:

Adam Wainwright
John Lackey
Lance Lynn
Shelby Miller

From there, it gets interesting, but I see one of two options. Michael Wacha is there if he is healthy. If not, I expect to see Marco Gonzales in the role.

Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal are interesting cases to me on this subject. Both want to start. Neither will in the near future. While they may be successful in their current roles, they are not happy by any means. That could impact the club’s chemistry.

Also, just to throw this out there: we all know that I am not the biggest fan of Lance Lynn. That said, he had a solid year and showed a ton of maturity. In my mind, now is the best time to shop him. His stock is high, he could net a decent return and we have the pitching to replace him if necessary. Don’t be surprised to hear his name come up in rumors soon.

Doug Vollet – Baseball Geek in Galveston

My Opening Day starting 5:

Adam Wainwright
Lance Lynn
Shelby Miller
John Lackey
Marco Gonzales

In the Bullpen:

Michael Wacha: I want to treat him with kid gloves and ease him back into things, so I’ll start him out in the bullpen, eventually working him into the rotation in place of whichever of the trio of Lackey, Miller or Gonzales is having the weakest season.

Carlos Martinez.: Unless we sign somebody like Andrew Miller, I think Carlos slots in as the 8th inning setup man.

Tyler Lyons: Right now I view him as a bullpen arm. Depending on his performance there, maybe he’ll earn a spot start or 3.

Jaime Garcia: I’m not really sure what to do with him. I guess I’ll put him in the ‘pen, but he’s been so fragile, part of me wants to release him and let him earn a spot on another team. Of course, if I did this, he’ll be fully healthy and win 20 games for that team…

Marilyn Green – Red Cleat Diaries

What I want to know is whether there is going to another bogus competition in Spring Training for the 5th starter spot, and if so, who is going to be the guy Carlos Martinez pitches better than and then loses out to?

The first 4 guys in the rotation are easy.  (assuming none of these 4 are traded in the offseason)

1. Waino
2. Lynn
3. Miller
4. Lackey

The number 5 spot depends substantially on health.  The health of Michael Wacha and/or Jaime Garcia.  If both are healthy and pitching effectively, I would go with Wacha.  If it’s Wacha I would move him ahead of Lackey in the order.

I would really like to see Martinez get a rotation spot, but with the guys we have he is going to be low on the list.  I don’t expect Garcia to be a viable long term rotation option, and I think Lyons and Gonzales are bullpen arms for now.  When/if trades or injury take guys off the list, I would put Martinez ahead of both Lyons and Gonzales for the next rotation spot.  While having a lefty in the rotation is nice, I still like Martinez’ stuff better than either of them.

Daniel Solzman – Redbird Rants

Wainwright, Lynn, Miller, and Lackey are all locks.  The 5th spot goes to either Wacha or Gonzales depending on Wacha’s health.

Martinez takes Neshek’s spot and hope there are no issues with control or mechanics.

Lyons can be a long reliver of sorts out of the pen.

As far as Garcia goes, I expect this season will be another bust.

Bob Netherton – On the Outside Corner

Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn are the 1-2 punch that anchor the rotation. Wainwright is pretty obvious, but Lynn has taken the next step and should be a formidable member of the rotation for a long time.  I might have to start a new Kyle Lohse crow thing with Bill since he doesn’t seem to be a believer just yet.

Jaime Garcia is my number 3 starter.  When healthy last year, he was pretty effective.   I see no reason to expect differently this year, except that he will have prolonged good health, which makes this rotation significantly better than it was last year.  He probably made the front office mad by the way he handled his injury, and that might prevent another contract extension, but he should be lights out in 2015 (final year of a contract).

Unless the Cardinals ship out Shelby Miller in a deal for Jason Heyward or Jose Bautista, he should be a very solid number 3 guy pitching in the 4th spot.  I can’t ignore Miller’s performance at the end of the season, though he was pitching against some expanded rosters.  That alone can’t explain a 3 run drop in ERA.  Like Lance Lynn last year, this could be the season where Miller finally puts together all of pieces and gives us 200 solid innings of work. I’m good with that, though I wouldn’t complain too loudly if John Mozeliak decides to do a little high selling on him right now.

My fear is that John Lackey and his club friendly contract and veteran resume will put him high in the rotation over Carlos Martinez.  I see Lackey as a 12-10 guy during the regular season without a lot of long term upside, where Carlos Martinez could put up a lopsided win-loss record.  I would trade Lackey and put Martinez in the rotation, but I just don’t see that happening.

It will be a very unpopular opinion, but Michael Wacha’s injury should make the front office take a long look at his future.  Even though he has been dominating at times, I want to see that happen over a 200 inning season.  Perhaps the easiest way to do that is to spend a year in Memphis, throwing a consistent 7 innings per start.   He was never really given the chance to do that and it could have been a factor in his early breakdown.

Marco Gonzales becomes the lefty ace of the staff in Memphis, developing another breaking pitch to go with his fastball and changeup.  He does not have enough right now to go through a batting order three times.   He also has the upside of a starter, so a full year at AAA working on secondary pitches is the goal here.

Tim Cooney also returns to Memphis, something of the lady in waiting.   He is more complete than Gonzales at the moment and should be a realistic plan B should Garcia break down.

I still remain very high on Tyler Lyons, and consider him one of the best kept secrets in the Cardinals system.   For 2015, I would have him as the Ferrari in the garage, err long reliever.  He can give Mike Matheny some spot starts if needed, and they will be at some point.  He adds another quality lefty to the bullpen, one that can retire lefties as well as righties.  Perhaps with some success, Mike Matheny can return Randy Choate to the role in which he has been most effective – the veteran LOOGY.

Dan Buffa – Cardinals Nerve Center

It’s hard to follow up Bob’s brilliant response but I’ll echo a few of his statements.


Those are the guys for a variety of reasons. Michael Wacha is someone I am worried about because of the recurring element of his stress reaction in his throwing shoulder. I would start him out in the bullpen or possibly in Memphis to make sure he has all his strength back. Why not? He is young and too important to run out there with so many viable options.

Garcia can’t pitch out the pen and when healthy he is a very good. He’s a potentially dominating lefthander who pitched 194 innings in a season and a guy who is angling for a big contract. He won’t be in Memphis because he is a 7 million dollar arm and if healthy he has to be utilized right.

Like him or not(I do), Lackey is in there unless you can ship him in a deal. His contract is team friendly so maybe it could happen. I like his abilities but he is clearly heading down the other side of the hill.

Lance Lynn is someone I would lock up. Sure, you can trade him and get high value but why do that and lose a potential #2 anchor who is going to keep getting better and better. He traveled a long way in 2014. He went from back end of the rotation worthy to potential ace in a season.

Miller is there unless you trade him. He also showed a lot in the last month of the season and in the playoffs(to a certain extent), and he is still a young arm. It’s obvious but I would trade Miller before Lynn. Unless he is traded, Miller starts.

Carlos Martinez has tons of potential but is still young and will end up setting Trevor Rosenthal up. Marco Gonzales can join Wacha in Memphis or go the Wainwright route and work his way through the pen. Tim Cooney isn’t far behind. Tyler Lyons is a valuable weapon, a utility harness if you will for the team when a starter is needed right away.

Unless something drastic happens, that’s my rotation and settings starting in 2015.

Daniel Shoptaw – C70 at the Bat

From what I understand (and I freely admit I could well be wrong), this stress reaction isn’t something that is caused by overuse more than by mechanics.  In fact, this article tends to suggest the problem comes from overthrowing, not the number of pitches, but what he puts on them.  Which, if that’s the case, might argue against a bullpen role for Wacha, since he’d be more likely to overthrow knowing that he wouldn’t have to be out there long.

I also don’t know that a trip to Memphis helps him out.  Again, if it’s mechanical, it’s going to be as likely to get him at AAA as it is the bigs.  Maybe if he has to do a large overhaul of his mechanics some ribs and blues could help him out, but I’m just as inclined to let him throw the innings in the bigs if it’s a minor tweak.  We know he can get big league hitters out and I’m not sure he gains a lot pitching in Memphis.

That’s my two cents, though.  I understand why some would feel differently, but my feeling is if he’s healthy enough to pitch, he should be doing it in St. Louis.

Cole Claybourn – High Sock Sunday

My rotation seems to be in line with what John Mozeliak suggested it would be, which is Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, John Lackey and Shelby Miller, with Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales as long relievers and guys who would be waiting in the wings if someone is hurt.

I don’t see how you can trust Jaime Garcia at this point. He’s appeared in just 16 games the last two seasons and has been dealing with nagging injuries throughout. When he’s right, his stuff is good but he can’t seem to stay healthy. The Cardinals ought to seek out a way to move him this offseason.

Mark Tomasik – RetroSimba

Starting rotation: Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, John Lackey. I think Lackey is the most vulnerable to breakdown or ineffectiveness. I can see Tim Cooney emerging from the minors as a fifth starter at some point.

Tyler Lyons could surprise as an effective long reliever or No. 2 left-handed short reliever. Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales are needed for the bullpen. Jaime Garcia gets dealt to the Astros or Marlins near the end of spring training.

My Personal Thoughts…

There are definitely a few locks for the rotation. Namely Wainwright, Lackey, and Lynn. It’s the other two spots where it begins to get a little messy.

Unless Jaime Garcia gets dealt or they just don’t think he’s going to do much and send him to the minors to start the year and call it a rehab, then I don’t see how he’s out of the rotation. If he starts the year on the 25 man roster, he’ll take one of the rotation spots. I wouldn’t mind seeing him go elsewhere, but I’m going to assume that at this point, he’s not.

The last spot really comes down to Wacha and Miller because both of those guys have been starters for St. Louis before. I think Lyons will start out in the Memphis rotation. I’d like Gonzales to join him there, but I think that Matheny and Mo are going to want him in the bullpen, joining fellow could-be starter, Carlos Martinez.

I think Wacha has a higher upside, and while I like Miller, I think if it came down to the two, Wacha would start and Miller would be the long man in the bullpen. I hope that the Cardinals can move on from Garcia and give both of them a spot in the rotation. I also think that shopping Lynn might be a good idea, too. As others have pointed out, Lynn – like Jay – might be at their highest value, and each guy also is in an area of the team where there is a surplus.

Hope you enjoyed this discussion. If you have any thoughts, you can add them in the comments section below.



  1. Pingback: UCB October Project: Fall Roundtable — United Cardinal Bloggers
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