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The future of the Cardinals rotation is very bright after Carlos Martinez extension

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Carlos’ extension comes after the arrival of two promising rookies and before a tidal wave of pitching prospects hits St. Louis.

So bright in fact, that you might have to wear shades.
So bright in fact, that you might have to wear shades.

Hi VEB! As you’re likely aware, the Cardinals announced an extension for their best pitcher player today, and as a result the Cardinals will now keep Carlos wearing the Birds of the Bat for at least two extra years, maybe four with the options. That is awesome and just what I hoped for when I wrote about extending Carlos a month ago today. The $51M/5 year deal with $35M extra contained in the two option years is eerily close to what I wanted to see the Cardinals and Carlos agree on:

With all this in mind, here’s what I think the Cards should offer Carlos: $55M over the next five years, plus two options at $15M a piece. When considering his projected cost in arbitration, plus the projected value of his first two free agent years, this is 68.5% of his worth calculated here. The team also gets two option years that could come at quite the discount depending on how Martinez ages.

Sometimes, I look like I know what I’m talking about here. Other times, not so much. Anyway, now that Carlos is under control for the long haul, the rotation picture has of course improved. The interesting thing is that it didn’t exactly look like a weakness before. Prior to this news, the Cardinals were set to lose Lance Lynn after this season, Adam Wainwright in the season after that, and Carlos and Michael Wacha in the season after that. Things have only been getting worse for Wacha and Waino anyway, and Lynn is too close to free agency at this point to expect any discount on a prospective deal.

At this point, the Cardinals have four MLB pitchers under control for 2020, which would have been the first year of Carlos’ free agent contract. Here’s those four along with some stats from 2016:

*Whoops! K/9 and BB/9 are shown here, not K% and BB%, -Ben

This represents the last guaranteed year of Mike Leake’s deal. If Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver’s service time isn’t stopped from here on out, it’ll represent their first of three arbitration years, where Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha currently stand. The interesting thing is that there is a tidal wave of pitchers to compete for that fifth spot (or more) making it’s way to St. Louis. The Red Baron just finished unveiling his most recent Cardinals Top Prospect list, and while it’s more balanced than usual, the Cardinals’ organizational strength continues to be young pitching. A rather large glut of it will pitch at the High-A and Double-A levels this year. Here they are, along with what level they pitched at in 2016, where they project to start the 2017 season, The Red Baron’s prospect ranking, and their stats from the last level they played at in 2016:

TINSTAAPP is of course a thing, but whichever of these pitchers that end up making the show will be there by 2020 at the latest. This isn’t even a completely exhaustive list, as I didn’t list recent high college draft picks Zac Gallen and Connor Jones. Including those two and the current Major League options, the Cardinals currently have 13 internal options for the 2020 rotation. The large majority should even be ready for the 2019 rotation.

Some may say this is a great reason for why the team shouldn’t have signed Mike Leake to such a large deal. I disagree. Leake should provide consistent, boring production for years while the Cardinals go through their options. The average pitcher has about a 40% chance of D.L. trip in any one year, and the younger guys are sure to have their growing pains.

I’ve mentioned before that Michael Wacha should move to the bullpen to make room for Alex Reyes. With all the pitching prospects likely hitting St. Louis in the next two to three years, I’m all the more confident that this is the right path. Putting Marco Gonzales there seems to be a good idea as well. If thing go really well, Luke Weaver maybe ends up there too. The multitude of rotation options could be great news for the bullpen, as pitchers not quite good enough to make the rotation could instead become bullpen aces. They could also become trade chips, though right now I prefer the Cardinals to use their cash to bring in Major League players rather than prospects.

Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver both got great results in their first taste of MLB action. They’re under control for a long, long time. At the same time, the Cardinals would be considered unlucky not to at least get a couple good pitchers out of the ridiculous wave of pitching coming up the pipeline. Carlos Martinez may have been the last piece needed. Don’t expect the Cardinals to spend much on free agent pitchers the next few years. At least, they could do so opportunistically in next year’s strong pitching class, but there’s definitely no need to do so. Things can unexpectedly change often in baseball, particularly with pitchers. Still, expect the Cardinals rotation to be strong for much of the next six years or so.