Yadier Molina has been floated as a potential fallback option for the Philadelphia Phillies at catcher if J.T. Realmuto doesn’t return, but another St. Louis Cardinals icon could be an even better fit.
Adam Wainwright has spent all 15 seasons of his major league career with the St. Louis Cardinals to this point, and like Molina, is a free agent. Though the most likely outcome still probably remains that the three-time All-Star returns to St. Louis, Dave Dombrowski, Sam Fuld and the Phillies would be wise to check in on his market, if they haven’t already.
Last week, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported that the Phillies had interest in veteran righty José Ureña prior to his decision to sign a one-year/$3.25 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. The interest in a starter on a major league deal is noteworthy, nonetheless.
Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler formed one of the sport’s best one-two punches in 2020. The Phillies have also sounded extremely confident in Zach Eflin this winter, after the 26-year-old posted a 3.97 ERA and 3.39 FIP in 59 innings in 2020. However, even if we operate under the assumption that the top three arms in the rotation are nearly sure things, the Phillies will have next-to-no certainty in their starting rotation entering the 2021 season.
As much excitement as there may be about Spencer Howard in the long run, he’s had arm injuries in consecutive seasons and only threw 24 1/3 innings in 2020. Even if the 2021 season isn’t 162 games long, the Phillies will need to manage his workload.
Vince Velasquez was tendered a contract for 2021 and will certainly make some starts for Joe Girardi this upcoming season, but he’s struggled to consistently be effective in five seasons with the Phillies. To expect different in 2021, well, it wouldn’t be wise.
At a minimum, the Phillies could stand to add another reliable starting pitcher. And even at age 39, Wainwright still is that. Over the past two seasons, he’s gone 19-13 with a 3.91 ERA and 4.29 FIP across 41 starts. No longer is Wainwright the frontline arm that he once was, but if you’re asking him to be a back-end-of-the-rotation starter, he’s still a strong option.
At the outset of the offseason, Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors projected that Wainwright would sign a one-year/$6 million contract. Whether that would fit into the self-imposed budget that the Phillies are operating under is unknown, but there’s little doubt that the team has a need for another starting pitcher, and the interest in Ureña suggests that they are aware.
If Wainwright commands more money than the Phillies are comfortable with and/or ends up re-signing with the Cardinals, there are a slew of other veteran options available in free agency. Former Phillies Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ are still free agents. Jon Lester, Rick Porcello and Chris Archer are among the other free-agent options that the Phillies could consider.
Based on what we’ve seen over the last two seasons, though, Wainwright would be the safest bet to bring stability to the back-end of the Phillies rotation in 2021.
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