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Could The Cardinals Reunite With An Old Friend In 2024?

Baltimore Orioles v San Diego Padres Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

The 2023 season has been a nightmare for everybody in Cardinal nation. There are no reasons to even believe that the team will finish strong. However, there is one thing the Cardinals are going to have to do when this season from hell comes to an end.

Add three starting pitchers.

The bullpen is an issue too, but in my opinion, the rotation should come first, and that brings us to this story. The free agent market will be rich in starting pitchers. More than likely, the Cardinals are going to have to dive into the trade market as well, but there will be options aplenty.

And so, with all that in mind, we’ll take a look at a potential free agent this coming winter in Padres right-hander Michael Wacha.

Wacha requires no introduction. All of Cardinal nation got a chance to see the potential of the right-hander when he burst onto the scene in 2013 and helped guide the Cardinals to the World Series. He even was the NLCS MVP, beating Clayton Kershaw in Games 2 and 6.

Injuries somewhat soured his time in St. Louis, and by 2019 he had essentially fallen off of a cliff, posting a 4.76 ERA in his final year with the Cardinals. After a few trying seasons, he joined the Red Sox and had a strong season, winning 11 games and posting a 3.32 ERA.

Over the winter, he signed a four-year deal with the Padres, which includes several opt-out clauses, one he could potentially exercise this offseason. We will debate whether or not bringing back Wacha is a good idea for the Cardinals by looking at both sides of the issue.

Why signing Wacha could be an option

Obviously, he has to opt out of his deal with the Padres for this to happen. But we’ve witnessed a Wacha renaissance over the past several years. He even beat the Cardinals last year on June 17 when the team was in Boston.

This year, he has been a revelation for the Padres, and he looks much more like his 2013 self. The former Cardinal is 9-2 with a 2.68 ERA in his 16 starts. When healthy, he has been about as dominant as you can be.

The Cardinals also need strikeout stuff in their rotation. He is averaging 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings this year in San Diego and has a career average of 7.9 strikeouts.

Wacha also is averaging just 2.6 walks per nine innings, and he wouldn’t be too expensive for the Cardinals. He obviously wouldn’t come cheap, but he could be a solid No. 2 or 3 option for the team that may come at a more reasonable price tag.

The risks involved

While Wacha is looking much better nowadays, there is still a concern that may scare the Cardinals, and other teams for that matter away. He still is struggling with his shoulder injuries.

He missed a good chunk of last season with the Red Sox when his shoulder issues resurfaced, and it was yet another stress reaction, something that has plagued him since 2014. The issue has also resurfaced this year as well.

In addition, the Cardinals don’t have a good track record when it comes to signing free agent pitchers, see Steven Matz, Brett Cecil, Andrew Miller, and Mike Leake. If he gets hurt again, it could cost the Cardinals dearly.


If the Cardinals do indeed target Wacha, assuming he returns to free agency, he shouldn’t be the only one they look at. They’ll need to dive into the top tier and look at guys like Aaron Nola and Blake Snell. However, fans would love having him back, especially if he continues to pitch like this.

But the Cardinals will need to be careful, as his injury history precedes him.