Jake Westbrook completely fell out of the Cardinals’ plans by getting hurt and pitching terribly, and not surprisingly the team declined his $9.5 million option. He’ll get a $1 million buyout instead, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Westbrook made $9.75 million this season while throwing 117 innings with a 4.63 ERA and was yanked from the rotation in August. He spent a total of three-and-a-half seasons in St. Louis after coming over in a mid-2010 deal from Cleveland, logging 1,191 innings with a 4.29 ERA.
If healthy Westbrook should have no trouble finding work as a mid-rotation starter, but he hasn’t had a better-than-average ERA in a full season since 2007 and at 36 years old has talked about possibly retiring.
It’s going to be a somber plane ride back to St. Louis for the Cardinals following Wednesday night’s World Series ouster at Fenway Park, but these birds will be playing on big stages for years and years to come.
There may not be a team in baseball that is better-poised for an extended run of future success.
Adam Wainwright is an established ace and under contract through 2018. Michael Wacha has all the tools to join Wainwright in that elite category, and Shelby Miller would have been a National League Rookie of the Year shoe-in if not for Marlins young stud Jose Fernandez. Carlos Martinez could join Wainwright, Wacha and Miller in the St. Louis starting rotation in 2014 and Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia are just a few of the organization’s other starting pitching options. Trevor Rosenthal — the club’s current fireballing young closer — has said publicly that he wants an opportunity to be a starter.
And that’s just the rotation. Kevin Siegrist, a 24-year-old lefty, is a rising star in the Cardinals’ bullpen. Seth Maness, a 25-year-old righty, posted a 2.32 ERA over his first 62 major league innings this season. John Axford, who found new life after arriving in St. Louis via a waiver trade, is eligible for salary arbitration. Jason Motte should be recovered from his Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery around early May.
Matt Holliday is locked in through at least 2016, Yadier Molina is locked in through at least 2017 and Allen Craig signed a big extension this past spring that can keep him in St. Louis through 2018. Matt Carpenter emerged as an MVP candidate this summer and top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras is ready to step in for Carlos Beltran, who is all but certain to accept a multi-year contract elsewhere in free agency. Exciting second base prospect Kolten Wong has the look of a future major league regular and could claim a starting job as early as 2014 if the Cardinals move Carpenter to third base and part ways with the arbitration-eligible David Freese. Don’t forget imposing slugger Matt Adams, who flashed game-changing power this year.
The Cardinals are stacked with good, young talent and have more than $30 million in player salaries coming off the books this winter between Beltran, Rafael Furcal, Chris Carpenter and Jake Westbrook.
The only real hole is at shortstop — and maybe center field — and the Cardinals will have the budget to make a major upgrade there. The most-storied franchise in the National League will write many more chapters.
One of the few things still undetermined at the start of play Sunday has now been … determined.
Despite a lineup that was without Matt Holliday and an oddly-timed substitution of Tony Cruz for Yadier Molina just before first pitch, the Cardinals rolled to a 4-0 victory over the Cubs in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Jake Westbrook threw a scoreless first inning and Joe Kelly went five-plus. Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso, Shane Robinson and Cruz all contributed RBI.
The Cardinals have secured the top seed in the National League with a final regular-season record of 97-75 and will open their five-game NLDS on Thursday against the winner of the National League Wild Card Game — Reds or Pirates — which is set for Tuesday night at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.
The Dodgers (92-69) will play the Braves (96-66) in the other five-game NLDS.