Timing is everything in sports.
For the St. Louis Cardinals, finding a starting pitcher this summer may be the key to their chances turning around. John Mozeliak has already made it known the team will keep an eye out for rotation help, but didn't allude to what level of starter and when.
Now, I know what you are thinking. What about the offense that mustered three runs or less in 14 of 27 games in May? I am less worried about them than you are. With Paul Goldschmidt becoming more like himself and Matt Carpenter slowly coming out of his early-season funk, the lineup will produce more runs eventually.
And if you were going to find a bat, where are they playing and who is leaving the lineup? While you muster the answer to that riddle, let's talk about pitching and whether or not the Cardinals need what's immediately available.
Fact: Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel no longer require draft pick compensation if they sign a contract, which means they will be signed by the end of the week.
One of the top starting pitchers on the market and the top closer on the market never moved off the block due to contract demands, health-related issues, or just a pessimistic view of their worth and the owners' reluctance to bend to their will. That should clear up this week, so let's look at each.
Keuchel is an intriguing case. He made 34 starts last year for Houston, owns four Gold Gloves, a lifetime ERA of 3.66, and put up an average WAR of 3.0 per season in his six full years of service. He's a southpaw, which should entice the cool kids that require a rotation to own a lefty. With Michael Wacha ailing and Alex Reyes needing some polish at Memphis, the Cardinals could bring Keuchel in. He's 31 years old, wouldn't require more than a three-year deal, and could help the Cardinals theoretically.
The problem is he hasn't pitched in a legit game since October when he started a game in the ALCS versus Boston. I wanted the guy in February when the rotation was a gigantic question mark. Now, four months later, it seems like a bad bet to bring a guy in cold. I'd much rather wait it out, see where Reyes is at in the next couple of weeks, and let the trade deadline inch closer. See if the San Francisco Giants are serious about trading Madison Bumgarner. He's a better pitcher than Keuchel, is striking out batters at a high rate again, and has actually thrown a pitch this season.
Taking a gamble on Keuchel in the third month of the season may be treacherous.
Unfortunately, the same thing applies for Kimbrel, who also hasn't thrown this spring for a team. He may be the best closer in the game, but with Jordan Hicks sitting 11-12 in saves, perhaps you resist the urge to throw 3-4 years and $36-40 million his way. A cold starter is one thing; a reliever with no action since October is even scarier. How do you bet on that? The Cardinals ran into a buzzsaw last year with Greg Holland, who signed on Opening Day and never looked right in Cardinal Red.
I was mixed on the Kimbrel train on March 31, but at the moment, I'm nowhere near it. Roll with Hicks, John Gant, Carlos Martinez, and John Brebbia while Memphis artillery rolls into form for midseason projections.
In sports, timing is everything. When you throw the hat in the ring and know when to hold onto it is everything for a front office. For the Cardinals, it may be wise to roll with some youth and replacements until more warm talent is available.
After all, they just got eight innings from Adam Wainwright to help sweep the Chicago Cubs, capping off a weekend where the starters held the rivals to three earned runs in 20 innings of work.
When I look at Keuchel and Kimbrel, I see K's, but not the good kind. I see potential problems. Oh, how times have changed.
Maybe ... just maybe ... the Cardinals can afford to wait on a Bum.