St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright suffered an Achilles tear last Saturday night against the Milwaukee Brewers, ending his season.
The injury occurred after the pitcher stumbled out of the batter’s box on a pop up while at bat in the top of the fifth inning. Wainwright was immediately removed from the game and an MRI on Monday confirmed the injury.
No surgery has been scheduled yet. Considered a potential World Series contender, myself included, the injury significantly damages their chances.
Wainwright has been a workhorse for the red birds, pitching 200 or more innings every year in the last six seasons, except 2011 when he missed the season because of Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals ace has won 20 games twice in the last four years, including last season when he went 20-9 with a 2.35 ERA.
Although he has never won a Cy Young, Wainwright has finished within the top three of voting four times, finishing second twice in 2013 and 2010. He finished third last season. Without their ace, and a mediocre offense so far this season, the Cardinals could be in trouble facing stiff competition from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and Cincinnati Reds.
Even with the injury to Wainwright, I still believe the Cardinals make the playoffs.
So where do the Cardinals go from here? The last time Wainwright was lost for a season was 2011, when the Cardinals won their last World Series title. But that team is not this one.
Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa helmed the 2011 team in his last season before retirement; Albert Pujols manned first base at a perennial MVP level; Pujols left for the Anaheim Angels that offseason and the rotation was lead by veteran starter Chris Carpenter who retired after the 2012 season.
This year the rotation will now be lead by veteran right-hander John Lackey, who has been mediocre since being traded to St. Louis at the 2014 trade deadline, and fellow righty, 23-year-old Michael Wacha in his first full season in the big leagues. The offense is lead by veteran catcher Yadier Molina, and veteran outfielder Matt Holliday. Both players are carry-overs from the last World Series team.
There are a few options that the Cardinals have. They could stay put and hope things break in their favor. They could go after a big name pitcher to anchor the rotation. Or they might trade for a pitcher of lesser ilk.
Since the injury, Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels has been named as a possible target for the Cardinals. So far this year Hamels is 1-2 on a terrible Phillies team with a 3.19 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. With a full no-trade clause (Hamels has the right to refuse any trade) and close to $100 million still left on his contract, acquiring Hamels will be costly.
But it would be worth it from St. Louis’ perspective. In seven career starts at Busch Stadium, Hamels has a 2-2 record with a 2.61 ERA, 1.04 WHIP in 41 1/3 innings and averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings in St. Louis. There are questions whether they have prospects enticing enough to acquire him from the Phillies but the need and match is there.
While he hasn’t been linked to the Cardinals, New York Mets pitcher Dillon Gee has been on the trade block for a while, dating back to the beginning of the 2014 offseason. Gee has pitched well enough in his first four starts, especially in his last two. So far Gee is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. In his career five starts against the Cardinals, Gee has a 3.52 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. Not exactly ace material but the move would be far less costly for St. Louis than it would be to acquire Hamels or someone similar.
Because of Wainwright’s injury while at the plate there has been increased calls to add the DH to the NL. Most notably Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer said he would not be opposed to the change. San Francisco Giants star lefty starter Madison Bumgarner responded by criticizing Scherzer saying Scherzer knew that he signed up for batting when he signed his mega-deal with the Nationals.
Regardless of the DH controversy, the Cardinals should make the choice to pursue Hamels to fill the void left by Wainwright. Not only would it fill a hole in the rotation but would also create a stellar 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation for St. Louis once Wainwright returns.