When all is said and done, the 2015 edition of the Cardinals will be deemed a success no matter how far they play into October or even November. People will talk about how good the rookies have been and that the future on offense is red hot. There will also be those in St. Louis who look at whether or not Jason Heyward is worth whatever amount of money gets thrown his way.
And while all those conversations are perfectly well-founded, they won’t tell the whole story about how the NL Central was won. Two starting pitchers key to success under the Arch are front and center for the Chicago series and honestly, they both deserve to be back in 2016. Jaime Garcia takes the stage this afternoon as one of the ultimate feel-good stories in recent memory. Along with John Lackey, the Cards do not make it to 100 victories without him and have the opportunity to take a commanding lead over the Cubs in the NLDS.
Life in baseball hardly seems fair, however, so for one of the aces this run will be their last hurrah donning the Birds on the Bat. Garcia was the complete unknown coming out of Spring Training, but he again looks like the guy St. Louis needs at the top of the rotation. There also was a strong chance that his two option years were a mere formality because there was no way a competing team could afford the risk. Now the two extra seasons have become a bargain, quite a turnaround for both sides. But is that enough to ensure that Garcia takes the mound next Spring with the STL on his cap?
On the other side of the coin, Lackey became the forgotten man in a rotation that featured as many as four other prime time options from the right side. That quirky contract garnered more attention than the man himself, and it only added to the mystique surrounding one of the best big game pitchers around. Lackey knows how to win and because of that, his services will be in great demand once the postseason is over. As an impending free agent, the Texan who has played all over the map will not be (pardon the pun) lacking for options. The question now becomes how can St. Louis possibly let him go?
It is my completely biased opinion that of the two, both should stick around awhile longer so here is what must happen. The law firm of Wainwright, Garcia & Lackey gets key billing atop the rotation no matter what it takes to convince Lackey to hang his hat for a few more years. Based on the competition of the market, this won’t take more than a two or three year deal at a moderate rate. Garcia has that pair of options that are almost a laughable decision now for the Cardinal front office to make. There is almost no such thing as too much starting pitching, but a decision will need to be made in this scenario.
Impending starts in this postseason notwithstanding, Wacha won’t be leaving the rotation anytime soon. He is next in line to receive an extension and has there ever been a better 4th starter? That leaves one of two stalwarts also responsible for the historic run without their chosen role. Unfortunately, this call basically comes down to the future, and that fight will never be in Lynn’s favor. Martinez will only be a clean bill of health away from securing a place in the rotation, and that leaves a new destination waiting for Lance.
I type this with more sadness than initially felt given a fondness for the way Lynn goes about his craft. He does have a touch of Lackey in him, not afraid to show his emotion on the mound. The problem then, of course, becomes whether or not you try to flip the still cost-effective Lynn (and Adams but that is another story) to the American League after you keep Lackey from sauntering up the I-55. Because no matter what, nobody wants to see the old buddies reunited wearing any shade of blue. Time to strap back in for round two of the emotional tilt-a-world, hope everyone took their motion sickness meds!