Cardinals future dims without Adam Wainwright

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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.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.