Adam Wainwright has been the backbone of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation since he became a full-time starter in 2007. 146 wins over his career has earned him the respect of players and fans alike, but as he steps on the mound Thursday for the Cardinals home opener the fan base has been split on whether this is the right decision.
Jack Flaherty has been a top prospect in the Cardinals system for the last few seasons. Reaching as high as #38 on MLB.com’s prospect rankings. The former first round pick carried his spring training momentum into the regular season striking out 9 over 5 innings against the vaunted Milwaukee Brewers lineup. Flaherty had the misfortune of being the odd man out of the rotation with the return of Wainwright. The question for Flaherty is, What happens next?
Flaherty will continue to make starts in Memphis. While he has nothing more to prove in the minors sending Flaherty down was the only choice to the Cardinals. Wainwright may one day be an option for the bullpen but as of now you have to see if he still has anything left in the tank. If he does have the ability to get outs it can be a huge asset to a playoff run with his veteran presence on the mound. No one will debate that Flaherty was great in Milwaukee, but has not yet earned the confidence to say that he is the answer in the rotation. 2017’s 6+ ERA may be a thing of the past but it still lingers in the mind of Cardinals management.
The reason the move has caused such a backlash from Cardinals Nation is really due to Cardinals management giving mixed signals to its fanbase. During the offseason John Mozeliak made it clear that the Cardinals were set with their young arms. They planned to move forward with the young arms rather than spend money on a veteran like Jason Vargas or bringing back long time Cardinal Lance Lynn. After making such a bold statement in the offseason they seem to contradict themselves by sending down the young arm before you are sure your veteran is ready to go.
The St. Louis fan base lives for their Cardinals. They are allowed to question the decisions by management. But when you look at this situation, this was the only move that made sense. Adam Wainwright is not going to the bullpen, Jack Flaherty makes no sense moving to the bullpen. By sending Flaherty down now it also allows him to continue his regular rotation spot. Flaherty has to stay positive – especially with the injury histories of Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright – the uncertainty of Luke Weaver and Miles Mikolas there will be a spot for the young hurler to make an impact in the 2018 season.
Jack Flaherty is going to be a good, possibly great starting pitcher on the major league level but he has to be patient and mature during this process. Go talk to Carson Kelly about how to handle this situation. Don’t ask Pham.