(BaseballSTL) It's no secret that the St. Louis Cardinals have the top farm system in baseball. Everywhere you look, an impact prospect sits waiting for a chance. And, frankly, on any other team they'd have gotten that chance long ago.
But not here. Oscar Taveras has to sit behind Carlos Beltran. Shelby Miller must wait for an opening as well. Same goes for Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha.
So it's not a stretch to suggest the Cards could somewhat withstand the loss of ace Adam Wainwright from a pitching perspective. His career 3.15 ERA and .247 opponents batting average could be (key word: could) duplicated by one of these young arms the Redbirds have in the system.
Why, then, is GM John Mozeliak so intent on trying to sign Wainwright to an inflated market deal that could approach more than $20 million a season for four or five years? The whole point of drafting and developing these prospects is to have cost effective talent in lieu of high priced veterans.
And it's abundantly clear they've got more cost effective talent than they know what to do with.
One word. Leadership.
When Tony La Russa retired and the Cardinals were in full out search mode for another manager, Mozeliak said it quite clearly. This is a leadership position.
Being a clubhouse presence is crucial in this sport. Think about it. From the beginning of February all the way through September - and possibly October - the same 25 guys more or less are together more than they're with their real families. That's a lot of time to either get along or not get along.
You can't have bad apples. That'll make it a really long eight or nine months, something that could affect you on the field.
This is why leadership is important. It guides a family (yes, a family) through the rigors of a full 162-game season plus spring training plus, possibly, the playoffs. It makes things easier. It makes things lighter. It makes things less stressful.
It just makes things more fun.
I haven't even touched on the fact that leaders also help bring along the young, talented - yet inexperienced - prospects. Leaders show the 19-year old kid with all the potential in the world how to be a professional. Without that guidance, heck, that teenager may never figure it out.
This is the value of Adam Wainwright. He gets it. He's embraced the role of clubhouse leader - especially among the pitchers. He's taken it upon himself to make these prospects better players and better people.
So while, yes, it wouldn't be the end of the world to lose Adam Wainwright the pitcher with the likes of Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Seth Maness under control for years and years, it could be the end of the world to lose Adam Wainwright the leader.
Which is why Bill DeWitt's wallet is going to feel a little bit lighter sooner rather than later.