With Spring Training on the horizon, the St Louis Cardinals got some bad news when they announced during a press conference today that starting pitcher Chris Carpenter was still feeling pain in his right shoulder following surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome this past July. The Cardinals have shut Carpenter down from throwing, and believe that it's very unlikely that he'll pitch in 2013 or beyond.
Carpenter made just three starts at the end of the season last year, throwing 17 innings with a 3.71 ERA. Carpenter also made three starts in the playoffs last fall, throwing 13 2/3 innings with a 2.63 ERA. Carpenter missed nearly all of the 2007 and 2008 seasons following Tommy John surgery, and earlier in his career, missed half of the 2002 season following after shoulder surgery and all of 2003 following a torn labrum.
Looking at this from the perspective of the Cardinals, this isn't good news, especially with Jaime Garcia's shoulder still hurting and his status for Opening Day up in the air. During the press conference, GM John Mozeliak said that the team is satisfied with their internal options, ruling out a potential return for free agent Kyle Lohse. The Cardinals rotation currently features Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook, and Lance Lynn aside from the injured Carpenter and Garcia.
St Louis has several younger pitchers that blossomed late last season that could step into the rotation to fill gaps, including Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, and Shelby Miller. Rosenthal is currently plugged into the team's bullpen depth chart after a dominant 19 games to finish last season, and keeping him in that role while giving more responsibilities in the rotation to Kelly (who made 16 starts in the majors for the Cardinals last year) and Miller might be the more prudent course of action.
I'm not sure that losing Carpenter sinks the Cardinals' season, but it doesn't help matters at all. They didn't have him for nearly all of 2012, and still went to the NLCS. However, losing Carpenter along with Lohse and potentially Garcia for a good chunk of time is a much different scenario than just not having Carpenter. I'm sure there will be a lot of talk about bringing Lohse back, and that might be an option for the Cardinals if Garcia is going to be missing significant time. The Cardinals won't have to worry about losing a draft pick by signing Lohse (since he was a Cardinal in 2012), and he might end up signing for less money than he was initially seeking due to the familiarity he has with the organization. At the same time, if Carpenter ends up retiring, he'll lose all of his salary, enabling the Cardinals to have some extra money to play with. I'd assume insurance would cover most of the $12.5 million that Carpenter will be making this year anyway, but if he retires and his contract is simply wiped from the books, they'd have even more to offer Lohse and bolster their rotation for 2013 if going with the younger pitchers isn't something Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny are enthused about.