St. Louis Cardinals have lost their ace, Adam Wainwright, for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
Does this injury torpedo the season for St. Louis? Of course not. You may recall the Cardinals won the World Series in 2011, despite Wainwright missing the entire season after having Tommy John surgery. If there's an organization that can adjust and sustain a loss like this, it is St. Louis.
Wainwright's absence gives hope to both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cubs, both of whom are off to good starts in the NL Central. But, I still think the Cardinals are the team to beat in that division even without their ace. St. Louis still has two reliable rotation veterans in Lance Lynn and John Lackey. Two of their young arms, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez, are off to good starts this season, and they have options to fill that fifth spot.
Marco Gonzales is probably the best bet to get a call-up - eventually - but he's on the Triple-A disabled list with shoulder tightness right now. Jaime Garcia has major league experience and is another option, although he also has had some shoulder problems. You may see a guy like Tyler Lyons in the Cardinals rotation in the short run. I wouldn't bet against St. Louis piecing it together and remaining atop the division.
That said, if the Cardinals are going to get to the World Series and win it this year, I think they will need to go outside their organization and get some help. Wacha has never thrown 150 innings in a season, let alone 200. Martinez has never thrown more than 108 innings in a season, and he worked as a reliever for the Cardinals both last year and the year before. Both pitchers are just 23 years old, and it's just plain unrealistic, if not silly, to expect them to throw 220 to 240 innings this year -- regular season and, presumably, playoffs combined.
The asking price for Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels may be high, but the Cardinals may need to consider paying it -- not only to stabilize their rotation for this year, but for the future as well. This is Wainwright's second major injury, and he'll be 34 years old by the next time he takes the mound for the Cardinals. It might be time for St. Louis to acquire another veteran for the top of their rotation, while these younger guys such as Wacha, Martinez and Gonzales develop.
Aside from Hamels, there doesn't figure to be a premier starter on the midseason trade market, so don't be surprised if the Cardinals shop the middle tier for a starting pitcher, as well. Would Kyle Lohse be an option? He was formerly with the Cardinals, he's in the last year of his deal in Milwaukee, and the Brewers are off to such a bad start (4-16) that they might already be out of the race.
Wainwright has averaged 226 innings per year over his last five healthy seasons. Even though you expect a smart organization like the Cardinals to find a way to fill that void, that doesn't mean it will be easy.
Hamilton back to the Rangers
Josh Hamilton is less than halfway through a five-year, $125 million contract, but that didn't stop the Anaheim Angels from trading him to the Texas Rangers on Monday for nothing more than a player to be named later and cash considerations.
Hamilton, 33, was with Texas from 2008 to 2012. He was an All-Star in each of those five seasons and won the MVP award in 2010. However, he did not play well in two injury-plagued seasons with the Angels, and an offseason alcohol and drug relapse was apparently the final straw for the ownership group in Anaheim.
The Angels are eating most of the $80.2 million still owed to Hamilton, who is slated to make $23 million this year and $30 million in each of the final two years of the deal. Reports indicate Texas will be on the hook for only about $7 million of that.
Given Hamilton's .741 OPS over the last two years and personal problems, it's pretty clear the Angels simply wanted him gone. We'll see if Hamilton can regain his stroke in Texas, where he had a .912 OPS during his previous stint.