ST. LOUIS (BASEBALLStL) - I admit I was a little bit surprised when the Cardinals decided to option pitcher Michael Wacha to AAA-Memphis instead of either Tyler Lyons or Keith Butler. But looking at how the Cardinals operate, well, I suppose I shouldn't be.
This is not an organization that forces the issue and risks the future for the present. If they believe in their heart of hearts that sacrificing a little bit right now will make them better in the long run then that is exactly what they're going to do.
Michael Wacha gives the Cards a better chance to win than Lyons does. That's just a fact. When Lyons was brought up to the majors and put into the rotation no one said a word about how hyped his debut would be. The opposite is true for Wacha. Expectations were practically through the roof. But despite the fact Wacha has a brighter future and might give the team a better chance to win some games in June, July, and August, they decided it was best for his long term future to go back to AAA and develop.
See, in Memphis, he can more easily work on his command of the strike zone. He can more easily focus on improving his curveball. He can more easily have his innings managed. And he can do all of this without the pressure of winning in the big leagues. If that's going to make him a better pitcher in September or in 2014, even at the expense of winning a couple games these next few months, then so be it.
Wacha may have been terrific in his debut against the Royals (seven innings, one run allowed), but he showed his youth in the next start versus Arizona (four and two-thirds innings, ten hits, six runs allowed). Then, his latest start in New York began horribly (two runs in the first inning while needing 37 pitches) before salvaging the outing by going five more frames without allowing a run.
The talent was obvious. Hitters took some very awkward swings against his dynamic change up when everything was right. The problem was he wasn't always right. He was fighting to find his location on multiple occasions. He couldn't get his breaking ball over for a strike. And hitters were able to predict what he was going to do from there. That's not a recipe for success and development. Not in the big leagues.
Now, would Wacha have gotten better and better and better if allowed the chance to stay here in St. Louis? Absolutely. He's got more talent than almost anyone on the team. But GM John Mozeliak decided it's best for him to develop without the pressure of being in the big leagues. He undoubtedly believes it's better for his future to be in Memphis for a little while longer.
I'm not sure how long Tyler Lyons will remain in this rotation. No one can count on Chris Carpenter's return. He's more of a bonus than anything. Can you plan on making a trade at the deadline next month? It's possible, sure, but this is not an organization that forces the issue in the trade market. Maybe Lyons holds the fort for a couple months while Wacha develops in AAA and then Wacha comes back later in the year? Who knows?
But the Cards show once again they're not interested in sacrificing even a little bit of the future just to win a couple games in the present. Especially when the team is 20 games over .500 and has the best record in Major League baseball.