Wednesday’s big story in baseball was the serious elbow injury of Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. Wainwright has been one of the elite National League pitchers for the last few seasons, and it’s always sad to see such a terrific player’s season (and likely more) wiped out thanks to Tommy John surgery. Living down in Cubs/Cards territory in Central Illinois during the school year, I obviously was surrounded by conversation as to its ramifications. The Carpenter injury just adds further intrigue to an already-interesting NL Central Division. The Cardinals, already in the national spotlight following the Albert Pujols negotation saga, have gone from joint favorites to being on the outside looking in. Keith Olbermann’s gone so far as to surmise that this injury could have near-unprecedented effects on the future of the Cardinals. How will the Cardinals cope with Wainwright’s loss in the short-term, though? Maybe they could find a proven pitcher, a reliable guy with occasionally great results, a great clubhouse reputation and strong connections to the St. Louis area. Even better, how about a guy with an expiring contract? Hey, how about Mark Buehrle?
Sox fans have been subject to the “Buehrle to the Cards” rumor for years now. Buehrle, favorite son of St. Charles, MO, has been unabashed in his Cardinals fandom throughout his career. He was received warmly by the crowd at Busch Stadium for the 2009 All-Star Game, and described the perfect inning he pitched in that game as a dream come true. He also has historically been very coy about his baseball plans once this contract ends, hinting on multiple occasions that he may walk away from the game altogether. He’s changed his tune of late, but not without dropping hints as to what other clubs he would consider playing for. It’s pretty clear that while he’d have no qualms ended his career as a White Sox, he’d like to play for his hometown Cardinals someday. So doesn’t it seem like a perfect fit for St. Louis now?
We’ve been hearing similar trade stories in recent weeks, usually centered around John Danks or Gavin Floyd and the Yankees, who are strapped for starters. Writers across the country seem to be under the impression that the Sox have a surplus of starting pitching.
Stop the insanity. This is far from the truth.
Sox fans are already biting their nails in anxious anticipation of how Jake Peavy will recover for the 2011 season. Without a healthy Peavy, the White Sox do not have a fifth starter, following Chris Sale’s official assignment to the bullpen. If the Sox are already counting on at least a handful of starts between a plethora of AAAA guys with no real big league experience, how could they possibly afford to deal another starter on top of it? Sure, say that Buehrle is dealed. Sale moves into the rotation…but then you’re greatly weakening your bullpen.
This might be a different conversation if the Sox weren’t unabashedly “all in” for 2011. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has authorized a record payroll for the team, and all aspects of team management have indicated that this is the year to make a full-on run for the division and beyond. How can a team which is “all in” afford to trade one of the most reliable starting pitchers in baseball, especially considering the dilemma which already faces them in the rotation?
I’m sure I’m being unnecessarily preemptive. The story by Scott Merkin which prompted the MLB Trade Rumors update made itself clear in that there are no discussions going on between clubs on Buehrle or any other pitcher. But it’s becoming clear that this conversation will present itself, during the upcoming weeks and probably the entire season ahead of us.
I’m just stepping forward right now to say that unless the Sox are 15 games back in June, it simply isn’t going to happen.