Who Will Replace Adam Wainwright?

Just yesterday, the Cardinals were holding open tryouts for the imaginary “sixth starter.” Well, those tryouts just bumped up in significance with the news that Adam Wainwright may be lost for the season. Over the past four seasons, Wainwright’s 17.5 WAR ranks 11th among all starters – and far outpaces Chris Carpenter’s 9.9 – making this a terrifying blow to the Cardinals staff. If the Cardinals have any good fortune, it’s that they’ve discovered this early in spring training, and have more than a month to find an alternative solution. While there certainly are options among the still unemployed, Tony La Russa has already declared that the solution will come from someone already at camp in Jupiter.

Candidates for the job include Kyle McClellan, P.J. Walters, Adam Ottavino, Brian Tallet, Lance Lynn and Ian Snell (of course, if the Cards wanted to get wild, they could promote Shelby Miller, but he seems ticketed for High-A Palm Beach). McClellan could be an interesting choice. While he has been a reliever throughout his Major League career, he did start in the minors, and was already slated to be stretched out this spring. Certainly, he has a starter’s arsenal. Last season, he threw four pitches – fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup – at least five percent of the time, and his fastball, curveball and change were all at least 3.5 runs above average. In fact, last season, among relievers with at least 60 innings pitched McClellan’s wCB mark of 5.9 ranked fourth in the Majors, ahead of both Heath Bell and Neftali Feliz. Whether or not he could handle a starter’s workload all season remains to be seen, but if his Marcel-projected 3.96 FIP held up as a starter that would be terrific for the Cards.

Ottavino and Walters each received three starts for St. Louis last season. Walters’ starts hit the extremes. In his first, he threw five shutout innings in San Diego. Five days later, he was tattooed by the Reds, for seven runs in four innings. Then, in the season’s final week, he mixed in a seven-inning whitewashing of the Pirates. He was particularly effective in this outing, as he needed only 80 pitches to make it through the seventh. But while he does have some good strikeout potential, one drawback to Walters is that he doesn’t ring up the ground balls the way a Cardinals pitcher will need to with Lance Berkman patrolling the outfield.

While Walters had briefly seen time in 2009, last year’s starts represented Ottavino’s Major League debut. While Ottavino’s overall line looks pretty abhorrent, he actually didn’t fare as poorly as a starter – nine of the 21 runs he allowed in his brief stint in the Majors came as a reliever. Ottavino, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, had also made some real progress at Triple-A as well, as he had increased his strikeout rate while more than halving his walk rate from 2009. A small sample to be sure, as he only threw 47.2 innings in Memphis, but combine the progress and his pedigree as a former first-round pick, and he could have a legit shot. Marcel doesn’t peg either Walters or Ottavino as being all that dissimilar – a 4.59 ERA and 4.33 FIP for Walters, compared to 4.89 and 4.31 for Ottavino.

When he was drafted, Tallet was a starter. Then he was a reliever. Then, in 2009, the Blue Jays turned him back into a starter, only to turn him back into a reliever after five early starts where he allowed 19 runs (17 earned) in 27.1 innings pitched, good for a 5.60 ERA. Of course, the 6.84 ERA he piled up as a reliever the rest of the season doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Lynn has been a top-10 Cardinals prospect on the FanGraphs charts each of the past two winters, but the fact that he’s moving in the wrong direction on that list also doesn’t inspire confidence. Lynn was the best Cardinals prospect heading into last year, but slid back to seventh-best heading into this spring. While four of the six ahead of Lynn were drafted in 2010, Lynn’s Triple-A performance leaves little reason to dispute the slide. His 4.43 FIP in his full-season Triple-A debut was nearly a full run worse than his performance at Double-A in ’09, and as another guy who doesn’t light up the radar guns, his time as a fifth starter would likely be just as messy as Tallet’s.

Then there’s Snell. When Snell was designated for assignment by the Mariners last June, R.J. Anderson wrote of him:

He doesn’t throw strikes; he doesn’t miss bats; he doesn’t deceive anyone, and he has an ever-slimming hope of ever reaching 90% of his former self.

Still, if there’s one thing we like in this country, it’s a comeback, and few are better at procuring those comebacks in the baseball world than Dave Duncan. And Snell is seemingly a perfect Duncan-ite since one of his main problems, declining ground-ball rate – from 1.23 in ’07, to 1.02 in ’08, to 0.96 in ’09 and 0.79 in limited duty last year – dovetails so nicely with Duncan’s strengths. However, since Snell has struck out only seven more batters than he’s walked the past two seasons, let’s call him a long shot.

If I was the agent for Kevin Millwood or Jeremy Bonderman, I’d be burning up John Mozeliak’s phone line, but looking at their projections, it’s likely the only advantage they’d have over McClellan, Ottavino or Walters is the comfort in knowing that they could eat up 200 innings, and Bonderman might not even have that. That the best bet is a guy who has started only one game in the past four years, and who hasn’t started 20 games in a season since 2004, is a bit sobering (insert callous La Russa joke here), but that is the Cardinals reality. If McClellan is unable to successfully transition back into a starter’s role, the Cards may have to go outside the organization, with a trade providing a better solution than what’s left on the wire. But whether the solution is internal or external, St. Louis is faced with the very likely possibility of a five win drop-off from Wainwright to his replacement, and that might be conservative. And since the Cards were merely middle of the pack in terms of team pitching WAR last season with Wainwright, middle of the pack may a lofty goal to set without him.



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Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com. He has written for The Boston Globe, ESPN MLB Insider and ESPN the Magazine, among others. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.


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Mike H
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Mike H
5 years 6 months ago

Trade Pujols!

kardo
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kardo
5 years 6 months ago

Blanton for Pujols!

Dash
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Dash
5 years 6 months ago

I think the Phillies would have to throw in Howard, too ;)

Not David
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Not David
5 years 6 months ago

As well as throw in about $75 million in cash.

JohnOrpheus
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JohnOrpheus
5 years 6 months ago

According to baseball prospectus, Lynn changed his approach at the end of the season, and now does indeed light up the radar guns with mid-90s heat. In my opinion, he is the best option by far, including available free agents, for the Cards.

neuter_your_dogma
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neuter_your_dogma
5 years 6 months ago

Padilla?

phoenix2042
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phoenix2042
5 years 6 months ago

yes sure, another pitcher who is out with an injury. then padilla and wainwright can warm the bench together with their arms in slings.

BirdsOnTheBat
Member
BirdsOnTheBat
5 years 6 months ago

Blanton for 2 Pujols game used bats maybe.

don
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don
5 years 6 months ago

But Blanton has just as many World Series home runs as Pujols!

astrostl
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astrostl
5 years 6 months ago

“one drawback to Walters is that he doesn’t ring up the ground balls the way a Cardinals pitcher will need to with Lance Berkman patrolling the outfield.”

Our double-play combo is Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker :-| I’ll take my fly ball chances with 2/3+ of the OF being patrolled by Holliday and Rasmus.

Kampfer
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Kampfer
5 years 6 months ago

just sign random washout and let dave duncan cast magic upon him

Jason B
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Jason B
5 years 6 months ago

You know, like Suppan last year… =/

JR
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JR
5 years 6 months ago

Fausto Carmona + Dave Duncan = 114% GB

jj
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jj
5 years 6 months ago

Don’t forget about Miguel Batista.

Major League Success
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Major League Success
5 years 6 months ago

I did…

Hank
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Hank
5 years 6 months ago

I think they should attempt to buy low on Joba…. if anyone can make this guy into a starter, it would be Duncan.

Not sure what they would give back, but it probably wouldn’t take much.

Or going way out there: Pujols for Tex, Banuelos, Joba and another prospect? (Sure they probably don’t want Tex’s contract, but it’s only 5 years after this year vs probably needing 8-10 to close on Pujols)

Even if they can’t make Joba work as a starter, they get a relief arm who posted a similar FIP to Daniel Bard last year, a top starting prospect, less of a long term commit at 1st, and probably save enough money to at least exercise Carp’s option next year, if not extend him.

Ken Bland
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5 years 6 months ago

Of paramount concern to the Cardinals is whether Chris Carpenter’s H2 decline, or off half might be a better description is an age thing, or just off times.

This also paints a complex picture of what the Cards do at the trade deadline if they are sellers. Carp is due 15 mil next year. Trading him signals a real give up as both aces would be gone for the year. Yet, a decimated farm system clearly needs to be rebuilt. Not to mention funds potentially being freed up for a would be last ditch effort to reup the first baseman.

On top of all that, Wainright’s deal is such that if he’s on the DL at the end of 2011, his 12 and 13 options don’t vest. There’s more money for the first baseman, who, if he judges the organization by it’s content, as opposed to it’s fine winning tradition has to really wonder if another ring might not be more likely in the cards elsewhere.

A fine mess. A fine way to welcome back Cardinal baseball to KMOX for the first time in 5 years.

I never did answer the question of who replaces Wainright. I’m still wondering who should replace Theriot and Schumaker to give them a championship calibre doubleplay combination. Not to mention a bonafide leadoff hitter.

Kris
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Kris
5 years 6 months ago

What about a trade for Kenshi Kawakami or another one of the Braves starters? The Braves have plenty of depth and have been trying to get rid of Kawakami since last year. He is clearly no Wainright, but he is a useful starter and could come relatively cheap.

highrent
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highrent
5 years 6 months ago

I think you are underestimating Lance Lynn while he had a rocky road he recovered rapidly and a lot of his toruble come from a bad stretch of 45 days or so due to a huge streak of homers and sudden lack of control. he straightened out a lot becoming a lot like the pitcher he was in AA. He got bombed in the same homer happy ballpark on 2 separate occasions. He’s not the best but He’s still got a good chance to be a 5th starter.

Andy Beard
Member
5 years 6 months ago

Lance Lynn may still need some seasoning at triple-A, but he did excite the organization by striking out 16 in the last start of the season… which just so happened to be in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

kschuckman
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kschuckman
5 years 6 months ago

What about Bryan Augenstein? I know he’s been terrible in the majors but he does project as a decent option in many of the projection systems…

cpebbles
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cpebbles
5 years 6 months ago

The whole “Kyle McClellan can start” thing has been going on since he arrived in St. Louis, and everyone conveniently forgets that, while he did start in the minor leagues, he was terrible at it.

Anthony
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Anthony
5 years 6 months ago

I think the only answer to compete this year is to go outside the organization. Maybe pray to God or god and offer Yu Darvish like 1 year 20M.

More realistically, I’d sign both Bonderm and Millwood and hope Duncan can work his magic on at least one. Not really thinking we can compete I’d trade Carpenter, Holliday, and Berkman mid season (or sooner if it looks like Carp and Berks stock will drop). I’d guess you could get a pretty good package from Holliday, maybe 2 B+ to A level prospects close to the majors, maybe Jesus Montero for Carpenter if the Yanks get despirate, then some solid guys and maybe one with a lot of upside from an AL team looking for a DH for Berk.

So then 2012 you sign Pujols, Waino, and Rasmus to extensions and go after the best free agent SP. Call up all those close to the majors studs you traded for. By 2013 you’re a legit title contender with Miller and maybe the other prospects getting better.

Or you go balls out, trade Rasmus, Pujols, Holliday, Berk, Westbrook, Carpenter, and anyone else anybody will take for as many A, B, and C with upside guys as you can and hope the turnaround is fast.

Living in Missouri all I hear is “don’t worry, they’re the Cardinals, they’ll find away”. I think that mystique Cards fans think the team has stemmed from Walt Jockety. Personally I think Mozeliak is a poor GM. The Reds under Jockety have a good farm system, a talented young core, and are deep in pitching and on offense. The Cards have a problem now and it’s a worse problem than it would otherwise be due to not having ANY depth anywhere (don’t act like ESPN and say they have a top 5 rotation, even with Waino that’s not true) and have no farm system either. When you’re top heavy and 1 guy gets injured, you’re screwed.

Fat Spiderman
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Fat Spiderman
5 years 6 months ago

What?

merizobeach
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merizobeach
5 years 6 months ago

Well, if sheer durability is your concern, and you’ve got twenty million (times three years) still ready to spend, might one interest you in a fine vintage Zito?

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
5 years 6 months ago

Simply put no one can replace AW50. But someone will have to occupy his spot in the rotation.

Too many reclaimation projects for Dunc is wishful thinking IMO.

I’m content to see who emerges in ST, rather than spend on a player for whom the Duncan Magic is required, unless that pitcher already shows GB tendencies (Carmona,etc).

This is about the worst news Cardinal fans could get, aside from the already worse-r news re: Pujols.

It’s time for Lohse and Westbrook to produce. That might be more wishful thinking.

I agree with the other poster that I don’t think John M is that good of a GM.

It’s time to make sacrifices to the pitching gods that Wain is only out for 2-3 months. If he’s gone for the season, then that brings up a lot of rough questions, for which there aren’t any really good answers.

JIM
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JIM
5 years 6 months ago

IAN SNELL WILL BE SUCCESSOR

david
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david
5 years 6 months ago

cardinals fans should be grateful that they have these problems: we have to re-sign the best hitter in the game, and who will replace a top-5 sp in the nl? you could be the pirates who had these problems in 1992 and still haven’t found answers for them.

JeremyR
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JeremyR
5 years 6 months ago

Except, I think both have the same number of World Series wins in the last 20 years – 1.

That’s really the mystery. How can the Cardinals have the best player in baseball and some of the best pitchers, and yet be so terrible so as to miss the playoffs in the last 4 out of 5 years?

(And the answer is best they also have some of the worst players. Like Skip or Pedro Feliz)

Tony LaRussa
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Tony LaRussa
5 years 6 months ago

look morons we’ll have Batista or Snell try and hopefully one of them get 15 wins. With dunc that could happen. It sucks to lose Adam but life goes on. We’re not the types to sit around and worry about what we don’t have. We have alot of options to choose from and we’ll still be competitive.

Omar Minaya
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Omar Minaya
5 years 6 months ago

JM is a terrible GM.

Todd Worrell
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Todd Worrell
5 years 6 months ago

If you need a closer for Ryan Franklin let me know. Go BIRDS!

Oil Can Boyd
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Oil Can Boyd
5 years 6 months ago

I’ll pitch for the minimum. Still got plenty left in the CAN.

cpebbles
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cpebbles
5 years 6 months ago

So terrible memes are going to ruin this site the way they did Primer? Take this crap back to Fark or whatever internet hellhole you picked it up at.

JeremyR
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JeremyR
5 years 6 months ago

Lance Lynn is really their best hope. But he won’t get a chance, barring some sort of ST miracle.

cpebbles
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cpebbles
5 years 6 months ago

just my opinion though and im a homo so nobody cares.

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