Cardinals Forced to Play Rotation Roulette

For a few weeks now, the goal has been trying to decide when to start the postseason previews for Memphis, Springfield, and the rest of the squads gearing up for September. At the same time, however, the Cardinals have been doing their best to keep the drama and suspense alive and well just about every day since the calendar flipped to August.

And I don’t know about you, but this week just give us a good comedy instead of a cliffhanger.

San Diego and Tampa Bay should be just the cure St. Louis needs for the dog days but wouldn’t you know nothing has gone to plan this season. Beginning tonight the rotation has Luke Weaver, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha in nearly permanent marker before the real fun begins. With the bullpen already running on fumes, another move is expected today just to get to the weekend when nobody knows what to think.

Memphis and Springfield both have possible answers to the Mike Leake riddle, but every option comes with post-credit questions and a laundry list of contingencies. Instead of waving the white flag, everyone knows the front office will continue to battle but at just what cost? It would make more sense at this point to trade for an established major league starter (even a rental) just to keep the minor league rotations intact.

Since it is a safe bet that at least a pair of moves will be made by Saturday, let’s break it down a few different ways. Check out these stats in case you were wondering why the easy answer has suddenly become a huge question mark.

Short-term

Unless an injury allows Mike Mayers a return trip (unlikely he would get the call), John Gant appears to be the latest Memphis recall winner for multiple reasons. Fully stretched out now, Gant can cover any innings limit and also happens to be on the 40-man roster.

In theory Sean Gilmartin or Rowan Wick also could be in play or both may simply be DFA candidates depending on how the needs are met the next 24 hours. Josh Lucas threw two more innings last night and his cup of coffee now empty, he would figure first in any demotion plan barring news on Trevor Rosenthal.

2018

One of the many things that has always fascinated me about the game of baseball doesn’t even occur while games are being played. Teams have a very small window after the season to determine who gets protected before the Rule 5 draft in December. One of the game’s best reporters has a must-read piece here, but the Cards have some decisions to make now. Two rotation options included in Goold’s story are on my list of potential call-ups that need a hard look simply because other teams won’t pass up the chance to grab either one this winter.

Austin Gomber and Matt Pearce have more positives than negatives but they both can help St. Louis in different ways and since they were drafted out of college in 2014, the pair needs 40-man protection this offseason. Gomber has been on fire as of late and surely would be in Memphis if not for anchoring a Springfield staff primed to go deep into the postseason. The southpaw also has plenty of innings left in the tank, currently sitting at 130 for the season after hurling 160 a year ago.

Pearce will be the most under-the-radar option but also has the best major league quality given he doesn’t walk batters. In 37 innings at Memphis, the RHP has given up the same number of home runs as he has issued free passes (7). Across the three highest levels of the minors last year, Pearce gave up only 26 walks in 160 frames, something every bullpen could use. He was promoted to AAA following the Marco Gonzales trade but could be the next one in line wondering his next stop if the Cards run out of 40-man spots.

Long-term

This is where things get tricky not only for the rest of this season but also why the DFA question has to be brought up with any other move. With the 40-man roster again full and no apparent move to the 60-day DL happening yet, an option such as Jack Flaherty remains a long shot in my opinion. While Gomber and Pearce face some bit of uncertainty for the next campaign, only a trade takes Flaherty out of the St. Louis system. He was selected out of high school in the same 2014 draft and doesn’t need 40-man protection this winter.

Two completely different schools of thought will determine what actually happens, though, since the Cardinals promoted Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong earlier this season looking for a spark. They were both position players who could impact the roster daily but neither needed to be added until after next year. That isn’t the main reason to take things slow with Flaherty even though many are hoping to see him start under the arch as soon as Saturday.

He has already reached a career-high for innings thrown and hasn’t worked out of the bullpen, something that may give the advantage to Dakota Hudson in case a limit has been ordered for either important piece of the future. It is extremely easy to say just call him up and go start-by-start but all that does is put yet another hole in the rotation at Memphis, which has been breaking long-time marks all year.

With this many moving pieces, the only thing anyone knows for sure has to be make sure your seat belt is fastened and tray table is stowed in the upright position. The Memphis merry-go-round has just begun the matinee portion of the show with the encore a must-see event!

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