If the worse-case scenario comes to pass, the Cardinals are about to lose the right-hander who finished third in the NL Cy Young balloting in 2009 and second last year for the entire 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery. Adam Wainwright has won 39 games the last two years. In 2010, he went 20-11 for a team that went 86-76 as a whole.
So what would the Cardinals do without Wainwright?
The obvious answer is to sign Kevin Millwood. Sure, Millwood is coming off a season in which he went 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA. However, that was in the AL East and Camden Yards. Of the 30 homers he gave up in 190 2/3 innings, 20 came in the Orioles’ home park. He’d fare a lot better in that regard in Busch Stadium. Plus, he’d be working with Dave Duncan, who always seems to get more out of old arms than anyone would expect. And going by Millwood’s solid 132/65 K/BB ratio last season, the 36-year-old still has some bullets left.
Possible internal replacements include Kyle McClellan, Brian Tallet, Ian Snell and prospect Lance Lynn. Ideally, though, the Cards would keep McClellan and Tallet in the bullpen and let Lynn, who went 13-10 with a 4.77 ERA for Memphis last year, head back to Triple-A for a couple of months.
Regardless of who takes steps in, there’s really no replacing Wainwright. Chris Carpenter may still qualify as an ace, but both he and Jaime Garcia are injury risks. A rotation led by those two and sinkerballer Jake Westbrook should be a clear step down from the 2010 group.
Which is a problem. The Cards had the NL’s best or second best position player last year, the league’s second best pitcher and they got fine seasons from their two other stars in Matt Holliday and Carpenter, yet they finished a mere 10 games over .500 while playing in baseball’s weakest division. Their offseason additions don’t add up to much, at least not after factoring in what they lost defensively, so without Wainwright, this may be nothing more than a .500 club in 2011.
And that’s certainly is not going to make keeping Albert Pujols any easier.