ST. LOUIS — Whoever said a team never can have too much pitching was not thinking about the Cardinals in 2014.
While many clubs have trouble putting together one solid rotation, the Cardinals feature enough depth to field two five-man rotations, and the second one would not be an embarrassment.
Think about it: Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn.
And the second unit: Jaime Garcia, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Tyler Lyons and Kevin Siegrist or Seth Maness or even John Gast.
Obviously, the second five would subtract from the bullpen, but even so, the Cardinals are planning to give some of their young relievers — namely Martinez and possibly Maness and Siegrist — an opportunity to start in spring training.
Because they need only five starters, the competition will be keen for the open spots. Or open spot, really, if you look a little closer.
To begin with, Wainwright and Wacha are in.
So is Miller, even though he was mysteriously passed over in the postseason. At a season wrap-up presser earlier this week, manager Mike Matheny made it clear that Miller has done nothing to diminish his standing on the club.
“He’s a top-of-the-rotation-style pitcher,” Matheny said.
General manager John Mozeliak agreed, saying that Miller could get to 200 innings next year. He finished with 173 1/3 this year, plus one in the NL Division Series.
Garcia also owns an advantage for a spot as long as he is recovered from last May’s shoulder surgery. He should be, too. Garcia was throwing all of his pitches in live batting practice sessions to Allen Craig in October, and both Craig and Matheny said his stuff looked sharp.
Garcia would give the Cardinals a lefty starter and, more importantly, he will be making $7.75 million next season. The Cardinals would not make a decision based solely on salary, but you can be sure Garcia’s contract rates him the tiebreaker over other candidates. The Cardinals can get more from him as a starter than out of the bullpen. Let’s not forget that the 27-year-old pitched quite well early last season, too. Before his shoulder gave out, he was 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA after his seven starts.
Now they’re down to one opening with as many as six candidates: Lynn, Kelly, Martinez, Lyons, Siegrist and Maness. Though Siegrist and Maness were told to spend their offseasons preparing as starters, look for them to be sent to the bullpen fairly early in spring training. As with Rosenthal, who already was told he will enter 2014 as the closer, they each had too much success as a reliever to fool with.
That leaves Lynn, Kelly and Martinez vying for the other spot. Lynn would figure to enter with the edge because he has been a starter for the past two seasons. Martinez, only 22, might benefit from another season in the bullpen and Kelly, fairly or not, could be squeezed because of his versatility.
While the Cardinals very well could begin 2014 with a rotation of Wainwright, Wacha, Miller, Garcia and Lynn, the offseason has just begun. Much can, and likely will, happen in the 3½ months before pitchers and catchers report.
The Cardinals could move some of their pitching to upgrade their offense, most likely at shortstop. They won’t deal their top three or Martinez, and because Garcia is coming off an injury, he isn’t really tradeable.
That makes Lynn, Kelly and/or Lyons the most likely candidates to be moved. Though Mozeliak said he would rather not have to trade to improve the club, not much help looks available on the free-agent market. One exec called it the weakest class he can remember.
Look at starting pitching. Bartolo Colon is as good as any on the market and he’s 40 years old. There’s also Ervin Santana, Bronson Arroyo, Matt Garza, Dan Haren, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson.
You might think Lynn struggled at times but, combined with his reasonable salary, he would make a better value than most, if not all, of the above free agents. The big right-hander could be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter on a lot of teams.
On the Cardinals, however, he no longer might crack the top five.
That might not mean the Cardinals have too much pitching, but they’re surely putting that old saying to the test.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.