As expected, we learned today that Chris Carpenter will miss the entire 2012 season thanks to the mystery injury that has kept him out of action since spring training. As it turns out, Carpenter will be facing a surgery to actually remove a ribso that one day he will again be able to pitch. Should Carpenter return in 2013, which he seems adamant that he will do, he will do so as a 38-year-old missing like half the body parts that are supposed to be in place for the average human being. In a way, this news is actually better than I suspected would be the case. Paranoia had forced me to believe that Carpenter was either dead or the secret hostage of Tony La Russa in some sort of ploy to convince the Cardinal front office that winning was not possible without the manager behind the shades.
There’s really no telling what kind of pitcher the Cardinals will be paying eight figures to a year from now. Carpenter is certainly no spring chicken, and he’s dealt with more than a lifetime of physical maladies throughout the course of his very solid Major League career. The Cardinals really can’t pretend that Carpenter is guaranteed to come back as the pitcher he was in 2011, let alone the even better one that preceded him. If we had any doubts as to whether or not the team would look to add a starter before the July 31 trade deadline, this news surely erases them. Mozeliak just has to come up with another rotation member now, doesn’t he? Carpenter’s out for the year, Jaime Garcia still has a little ways to go, and Lance Lynn was only supposed to be filling in. Also, Jake Westbrook plays baseball and is on this roster.
Spencer has already examined what avenues the Cardinals may take to shore up their pitching, and I think he’s right that the team will not and should not mortgage their now-supple farm system for a pitcher who could wind up being nothing more than a half-season rental. With Carpenter’s future so much up in the air, it makes even more sense now to go out and get someone who could be around for a little while should they be willing to give up any players of real value. I’m strangely most intrigued by Wandy Rodriguez, as he seems like a low-risk choice who could fill out the rotation for a couple of seasons and help in the playoff push this year.
Looking past the 2012 season, the Cardinals are going to need another reliable option even if Carpenter does return. Sure, names like Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez could offer help down the road, but neither is likely to make a difference next season. Miller has suffered plenty of setbacks in his promotion to Triple-A Memphis and Martinez is 12-years-old. Other minor league names like Trevor Rosenthal and current emergency rotation member Joe Kelly could stick around in the back of the rotation, but you don’t exactly want a rotation chock full of question marks. With Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook likely departing via free agency, Mozeliak may have no choice but to open up the team’s pocketbook (an item which no one at all uses anymore) and make a run at a free agent starter of his own. The team will never be able to put a serious offer in for Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels, but maybe a guy like Shaun Marcum would be a feasible option and a good fit.
It’s a little sad to see how quickly such a promising rotation of starting pitchers has turned to dust. A trio of AdamWainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Jaime Garcia has dissolved into only a diminished version of Wainwright. Lance Lynn was supposed to be a power bullpen arm but is now locked into starting for the entire season, though that move has actually paid dividends so far. Joe Kelly has to step into the rotation and hope he’s ready. Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook have to be depended on as much more than innings eaters. Patching the rotation for 2012 may be an easy enough task if Motown finds the right trading partner, but what about setting the team up for success on the mound going forward? That task may prove a bit more difficult unless the injury bug and Lady Luck quit being such insufferable assholes.