You know, we thought that when the 2015 season was over, that’d be the end of it. The end of injuries and setbacks. After all, the Cards had more than their share during the year, right? Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Jordan Walden, Carlos Martinez, plenty of folks going down and plenty of situations that were made more complex. However, now that the offseason was here we could relax for a bit. What could possibly happen?
Apparently quite a bit. And in rapid succession.
Whammy 1: Cardinal uber-prospect Alex Reyes was suspended on Monday for 50 games due to a repeated violation of the drug policy. It was soon reported that Reyes was suspended for using marijuana, which then set off its own debate. There were many people that said it was stupid that baseball was suspending folks like this, pointing out that if Reyes had been on the 40-man he wouldn’t have even been tested given the collective bargaining agreement. While I don’t want to wade into that pool, I think StlCardsCards on Twitter summed it up pretty well:
If there’s a rule against milk, and breaking it TWICE gets 50 games, you’d be an idiot to do it. The substance doesn’t matter. #stlcards
— CardsCards (@StlCardsCards) November 9, 2015
Reyes knew the rules. He also knew that he’d been caught before, so it’s not like he could claim that youthful idea of “they’ll never get me”. Even knowing that, even knowing that he jeopardized the timing of a jump to the big leagues, he went ahead and indulged himself. Given how much trouble the Cardinal organization has had in the past with alcohol, it seems that whatever message they preach about discipline and focus isn’t necessarily getting through to some of these guys. Which, you could argue, is pretty representative of any person under 25, but it’s still somewhat disturbing.
If you look at this in strictly baseball terms, the silver lining is that 10 of those 50 games will be served this year, as somehow the Arizona Fall League counts toward the suspension. Reyes was out there until late last week, when he was removed over an undisclosed issue, which of course is now disclosed. That means he’ll be back on the active roster in May of next season, which may mean he can still get a September callup. Of course, without this, he might have gotten a look mid-season or, as we’ll discuss next, even earlier. It’s tough to see this just as the excitement level was really starting to build for Reyes.
Whammy 2: The team announced yesterday that Lance Lynn had Tommy John surgery yesterday, putting him out for the entire 2016 season. Though given typical Cardinal healing times, perhaps we should take that with a small grain of salt. We know Wainwright got almost to pitching level by the 2011 playoffs after having TJ in February of that year. No, I’m not really serious, but it will be interesting to monitor how Lynn’s rehab (and the coverage thereof) will compare to Wainwright’s dogged ideal of returning ahead of schedule.
John Mozeliak said that Lynn had been hurting since June. Interestingly, June might have been his best month and no game stands out in those four starts as a potential “ah ha” moment. Honestly, when you look at July through September, Lynn made 17 starts with a 3.30 ERA, so it would seem the pain wasn’t keeping him from being that effective. His K/BB ratio was just under 2.00, though, a far cry from what it was April through June. Let’s look at that real quick.
It would seem whatever pain Lynn was feeling, it was command more than anything that it affected. We all got frustrated with Lynn in the second half, mainly because he seemed to be walking more folks. That led to short games, as he averaged just shy of 5.1 innings per start from July on. He went seven innings three times in July but then never reached that mark again, even though he threw over 100 pitches three times and approached it three others.
When things like this come up and you hear that a pitcher was hurting for a long period of time, you wonder why the decision was made to keep him out there. Given that Lynn was still being able to compete (the club was 9-8 in the 17 starts after June, which wasn’t that far off the 8-6 they were before that), it’s not surprising that they left him in the rotation. You do wonder, though, that if Wainwright had been healthy what they would have done. With a deeper rotation, would they have had the luxury of taking Lynn out and really getting him checked out, putting him on the DL for a few weeks, things like that? Maybe. Lynn’s got that bulldog reputation, though, and I imagine it would have taken something extremely serious to get him out of the rotation.
I’m not saying there’s blame here. There could be, but there’s a reasonable path as well. Pitchers probably do hurt most of the season and the blowups Lynn had didn’t come regularly enough to think that there was something perhaps more seriously wrong. Now, do we know Lynn told them exactly what he was feeling? No, and given the clubhouse mentality you can’t rule out that Mike Matheny and Mozeliak didn’t know the extent of things until Lynn got down to Jupiter for some off-season work. However, my guess is that Lynn thought he could work through it and the team, seeing the overall results were acceptable, was fine to let him.
That said, I do think the club should have questioned putting him on the postseason roster in that condition. Obviously, they didn’t trust him, as we saw by his usage and the fact they rushed John Lackey back. Given that he was hurting, why even put him out there? Use Tyler Lyons as the fourth man and maybe take Steve Cishek for the pen. There were a number of options that would have made the postseason roster configuration more optimal. It’s harder to justify the team’s choices there.
So what happens now? If the season started today the Patron Pitcher well might be the fifth starter, though a strong spring from Marco Gonzales could make things interesting. However, given Mozeliak’s public statements, it seems more likely they’ll go out and get some sort of free agent, given how many of them are out there. I’m a David Price fan and I think there’s a way for the club to sign both him and Jason Heyward, but I also know that being in the realm of possibility is not the same thing as being likely. Mo’s going to have to look at his overall plan to improve the team, both offensively and from the pitching side of things, and see how all his pieces fit together. It could be sign Heyward, sign a FA pitcher, trade for a first baseman and there you have it. It does seem that Mo might have to do more work this offseason than he’s had to do in almost any since he because GM, though.
Besides Price, you have top names like Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto, but neither of them are coming to St. Louis. (There would be a sizable backlash if the Cards were linked with Cueto, I believe.) You have short-term options like hometown boy Mark Buehrle, who hasn’t decided if he was going to retire or not but likely could be persuaded to pitch for the team he’s always said he wanted to play for. You have guys like Jordan Zimmermann, who will turn 30 next year and has had some outstanding campaigns in Washington. There are a lot of different options and it’s going to be so fascinating to see which way Mo goes. If nothing else, it’s going to make the free agent portion of the offseason more interesting to us fans than it has been in quite some time.
Whammy 3: While it doesn’t affect the current squad, it’s still very much a blow to the Cardinal family. Hall of Famer Lou Brock, given some diabetic complications from surgery, had his left leg amputated below the knee yesterday. It seems wrong that the man that was so known for those legs, for the speed that he had and the base stealing ability that ran him into Cooperstown, should have to lose one of those famous limbs. I assume Brock will be fitted for a prosthetic and from all reports will meet this challenge head on, but it’s still never good to have that notification of mortality. Our best wishes to Lou during this time and everyone hopes to see him up and around as soon as possible. If he makes it to Winter Warmup the reception for him could heat the whole place.
You have to hope that all the bad news for the Cardinals is out of the way and there are better things ahead. Three’s all that we can handle right now, right?
By the way, if you haven’t yet, the voting for the Cardinal Blogger Awards is open until November 20. You can vote for on-field things such as best Cardinal player, best Cardinal pitcher, game of the year, stuff like that as well as some blog awards. If you want to vote for this blog or any of my podcasts, I’d be grateful even as I wondered about your taste! Even if you’d rather vote for some other blogs or podcasters, which is completely reasonable, head over there and let your voice be heard. It’ll take you like 2 minutes, so go vote!