Baseball

Redbird Droppings: Edman, Carlson, 2024 Rotation Depth

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This time on Redbird Droppings: Tommy Edman’s injury, Dylan Carlson’s redemption, and a look at the current rotation depth.

Redbird Droppings

With almost a week left of spring training, we look at Tommy Edman’s IL stint, the impact this has on Dylan Carlson, and why a little more pitching depth might not be a bad thing for the team.

Edman to start season on IL

Flash back to July 7, 2023: Tommy Edman goes on the IL for more than 3 weeks with a wrist injury; the Cardinals sit at 36-52, 12.5 games back of the first place Reds. When Edman returned on August 1st, the team was at 47-61 and picked up a game on Cincinnati; that was also the same day that Brendan Donovan went on the IL with elbow pain. Edman would continue to struggle with wrist pain while Donovan would have surgery to fix his issue.

The Cardinals announced this week that Edman will start the season on the IL because of the wrist; he had surgery in October for the issue and has had a set back to returning to the field. Edman has been in camp and able to field, but he’s not been ready to face live hitting in games. His return time is unknown right now.

With the Cardinals sitting 15 games under .500 when Edman returned last season, why didn’t they consider having the surgery right then? Did Edman want to play through it? Did the Cardinal medical staff not believe it to be a series issue, even though it bother him for the rest of the season?

Had the Cardinals done this, Edman would be at full strength right now. I really put blame on the Cardinals; their medical staff has messed up in the past and are never really honest with the public about what is going on with injuries.

Carlson reaps the benefit

With Edman out, Dylan Carlson will reap the benefit of the playing time in center. While his spring didn’t start out strong, he’s turned it on recently to cement his position as starter.

On March 10, he was slashing .150/.190/.200/.390 with a double and 3 RBIs. In the last 8 games, he hit .346/.393/.769/1.162 with 2 doubles, 3 homers, and 10 RBIs; it’s raised his slash line to .261/.306/.522/.828. He does have 9 strikeouts in that time, which has brought his K/AB from 25% to 30%; he’ll need his strikeouts to go down to be effective.

Another sign of optimism is his health; Carlson has battled wrist injuries in 2022 with ankle and oblique injuries costing him time in 2023. The wrist injury is the more important of the 2, as injured wrists are known to sap power and take a while to recover from.

One improvement he could possibly make would be only batting from the right side. He’s only exclusively hit from the right side in the majors against left handed pitching; it’s curious to see how he’d hit against right handed pitching. As a lefty, he’s hit .221 with 24 homers in 1103 plate appearances; as a righty, he’s hit .306 with 10 homers in 378 plate appearances. There is little different in K% (23% LH vs 21% RH). Take this all with a grain of salt; we don’t have opposite handed splits and the difference in sample size is pretty big.

Either way, let’s hope he can continue this hot streak into the season.

His hot start also allows the Cardinals to be patient with Victor Scott II; the centerfielder has been the talk of camp, but he’s not on the 40-man yet and hasn’t played above Double A. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for him to get a little time at Memphis; the worst thing for his development would be to start the year in the Majors and struggle out of the gate.

Rotation Depth

The Cardinals rotation was a question mark coming into spring training after faltering in 2023, even with the additions of Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson; it’s even more of a question mark with a week of spring left.

Gray is out for opening day; Miles Mikolas will take that spot and he’s been one of the bright spots this spring. Mikolas is sporting a 2.25 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP in 16 innings; his K/9 is a little low (6.8), but that’s not really out of the ordinary.

The other 3 spots have been a dumpster fire; Lynn is the best of the bunch with his 5.79 ERA/1.50 WHIP. Gibson and Steven Matz, who I thought would be better but has only pitched in 3 games, are both sitting with ERAs north of 10; Matz is at 10.50 while Gibson’s is 10.80. Lynn at least has only allowed 1 homer this spring, after a season where he got taken out of the park often; Gibson has allowed 4 homers while Matz is at 1. Lynn has also struck out 9.6 hitters per 9 innings, while Matz has a 12.0 K/9; Gibson has the worst of starters, striking out 6.3 per 9.

The young depth pieces are a mixed bag. Zack Thompson has been a bright spot, posting a 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and 9.0 K/9. Unfortunately, Matthew Liberatore has struggled to a 6.32 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, making a return to the bullpen almost a certainty.

What the Cardinals needs right now is a reliable starter…someone like Jordan Montgomery. We’ve seen both Blake Snell and Michael Lorenzen sign recently for below their market value; Snell signed a short term deal with opt outs. The Cardinals could make a solid, short-term offer to Montgomery.

Snell got 2 years, $62M; it breaks down to $15.0M in 2024 with a $17.0M signing bonus and $30M for 2025; he also got an opt out after 2024, so it could be a 1 years, $32M deal if he feels his market will improve next year. If the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is worth $32M, Monty probably sits in the $20-25M range. Offer 3 years, $75M like they did for Sonny Gray, just add an opt out after each season.

If the Cardinals were to do that, they’d commit to the pledge they made early in the off-season that they’d raise payroll. Cot’s Baseball Contracts had the Cardinals 2023 opening day payroll at just over $176M; Sportrac had their 2023 payroll at over $187M. While Cot’s doesn’t have 2024 numbers yet, Sportrac shows the payroll at just over $175M. Adding another $25M or so would push them over $200M, which, to me, is an increase in payroll.

It won’t happen though. Neither will Trevor Bauer, so why bother asking (although I’m more inclined to now after seeing the struggles this spring).

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