The St. Louis rotation took another hit on Monday when the team placed lefty Steven Matz went on the Injured List with a strained lat muscle. The setback came after Matz had made a terrific return to the rotation after a demotion to the bullpen.

Matz had a 1.86 earned-run average in seven starts, the fourth–best ERA among MLB starting pitchers that had worked at least 38 innings since the beginning of July. He had emerged as STL’s most impressive starter, stepping forward in advance of the trades that sent starters Jordan Montgomery to Texas and Jack Flaherty to Baltimore.

The unfortunate timing of the Matz injury left the Cardinals with a de facto rotation of Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson, Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson.

As of now Wainwright has the worst ERA (8.87) in franchise history by a St. Louis starting pitcher that supplied at least 15 starts and 66 innings in a season. Wainwright has a 14.82 in his last seven starts. In two August starts he’s been flogged for 15 earned runs in four innings for an engorged 33.75 ERA.

If president of baseball operations John Mozeliak is being truthful, Wainwright’s spot in the rotation could be on the line when he faces the Mets on Thursday at Busch Stadium.

“It’s tough because we all have great respect for Adam and what he means to the franchise, but we also have to give ourselves a chance to win every time we send someone out there,” Mozeliak told reporters before Monday’s 7-5 win over Oakland. “The last couple of starts have been troubling, difficult … we’re giving him the trust that you might not normally give another player. He’s earned that right. But at some point, even someone like him runs out of that.”

Mozeliak said something similar about Wainwright a few weeks ago, so I’m not sure if I can take his comments seriously.

If Mozeliak and manager Oli Marmol are really trying to convince us that winning is the priority – even when Waino is on the mound – they haven’t backed that up with action.

They’ve stayed with Wainwright even though the Cardinals are 2-9 in his last 11 starts. In games handled by other starters over that time, the Cards are 27-24. Since Wainwright posted his last win back on June 17, the Redbirds are 1-6 in his last seven starts – and 24-17 (.585) in games started by other pitchers.

So you’ll have to pardon me for being skeptical here. If this was truly about winning, Mozeliak and Marmol would have scratched Wainwright from the rotation by now. The warm, pro-Waino sentiment aside, they’ve had legitimate reasons to do so but can’t detach their personal feelings.

By suspending professional obligations, Mo-Marmol have enabled Wainwright all season. It would be comical to see Mozeliak and Marmol take a “tough” stand this late in the season and cite the desire to win as their motivation — with the Cardinals dragging at 12 games out of first in the NL Central. It’s too late, fellas.

Wainwright has only one quality start this season. He has the worst average Game Score (32.6) among 118 MLB pitchers that have made at least 15 starts in ‘23.

In case you’re wondering, the average game score is 50 in the system devised by Bill James. Since the start of the 2021, there have been 421 instances of a big-league pitcher making 15 starts or more in a season. Wainwright’s average game score of 32.6 in 2023 is at the bottom of the 421 list.

For the most part, Mozeliak and Marmol have turned their backs on an obvious and increasingly worse problem. They’ve looked the other way and given in to their warm, pro-Waino sentiment and the pitcher’s esteemed place in franchise history. And that’s fine if this is all about honoring Wainwright’s Cardinal career by giving him the baseball-hero treatment.

And again, I don’t have a problem with Wainwright remaining in the rotation. But Mozeliak and Marmol shouldn’t try to tell us that winning is the priority — and they make decisions accordingly. It’s nonsense.

For entertainment value, at least there’s added drama to Wainwright’s next start, and he’s skipping his usual between-starts bullpen session to be fresh for Thursday’s assignment.


What I really want to talk about are the plans for the 2024 rotation. Mozeliak said it again Monday: the Cardinals need three starting pitchers. The last time he offered this assessment, he mentioned that the Cardinals would have to get it done by making a trade (or trades) and signing at least one free-agent starter. This time, he left that part out. But that could have been an oversight, and Mozeliak wasn’t pressed for specifics.

“Realistically, we know we have to add three starters this offseason,” Mozeliak said Monday. “We know we have to add depth. We went into the season thinking we would have that covered. It didn’t work out that way and I think having a repeat of that would not be in the best interest of the franchise so I think our approach is going to be very aggressive on the pitching side and we’ll see where it takes us.”

If Mozeliak is serious about this, then the Cardinals could go into 2024 with a much better rotation. That said, Mozeliak leaves some wiggle room for himself and Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.

If the goal is to come up with three pitchers to fill a five-man rotation, then what’s to stop the Cardinals from getting most of the work done by largely staying within the organization?

Couldn’t you see them going with three starters that already are here — Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz and Matthew Liberatore – and adding another starter via trade or free agency?

Right now, here’s what we’re looking at:

Veterans under contract for at least two more seasons: Mikolas and Matz.

Mikolas, who was charged with four earned runs in 6 and ⅓ innings on Monday, is having an inconsistent season. He has a 4.73 ERA in 14 starts since the end of May. He’s made 26 starts this season; per Game Score 13 have been above average in quality and 13 were below average.

Mikolas currently has his lowest strikeout rate (16.4%) and has allowed his highest hard-hit rate (40.4%) as a Cardinal. Since the start of 2022, a healthy Mikolas ranks 15th in WAR (5.5) among 23 starting pitchers that have delivered 300-plus innings. And he’s 18th among the 23 with a 3.87 fielding independent ERA over the last two seasons. Mikolas turns 35 in eight days and is under contract through 2025. This is not a No. 1 or a No. 2 starter, folks.

Matz: He’s under contract for two more seasons after this one … but can he be counted on? Since breaking into the majors in 2015, Matz has missed 375 in-season days because of injuries, and that count will rise as he idles on the IL – likely for the remainder of the season. Not including the Covid-ruptured 2020 season, Matz has averaged only 19.6 starts in eight seasons. He’s averaged 13.5 starts in his first two seasons as a Cardinal.

Among MLB starters that have pitched a minimum 850 innings since the start of 2015, Matz ranks 60th of 67 with 10.1 WAR.  Among the 60 MLB starters that have made at least 160 starts since 2015, Matz is 54th in quality starts (64) and 53rd in quality-start percentage (39%.) His availability is an ongoing question, and except for a few hot streaks here and there, his performance runs along the lines of a No. 4 or starter — or, on a very good rotation, a No. 5 starter.

Auditioning starters: Dakota Hudson, Matthew Liberatore. And we can put Zack Thompson in this group as soon as he officially moves into Matz’s vacated slot.

Hudson, who starts against Oakland on Tuesday, is doing better this season but his underlying numbers are troublesome as indicated by his expected 4.87 fielding independent ERA over the last two seasons. And his strikeout rate over the last two years is a meager 13.6 percent. I’m not trying to be mean here, but if Hudson gets a spot in the 2024 rotation then it’s a sign that Mozeliak came up short in his offseason reshaping of the rotation.

Liberatore had a dynamic start at Tampa last week and we saw a scoreless, two-hit, eight-inning showcase of what he can be. But that was just one brilliant start by the 23-year-old lefty, and it won’t matter if he fails to build on it. Should Liberatore take full advantage of his rotation opportunity for the rest of the season, he’ll be a strong (and likely) candidate for the 2024 rotation. But if Libby can’t quiet right-handed batters – his most vulnerable area – I don’t see how Mozeliak could deem him capable of serving as a full-time starting pitcher in the majors. This is an important time in Liberatore’s career.

Young, developing pitchers in the system: I don’t want to go nuts here and list 20 names. So let’s just limit the list to Tink Hence, Gordon Graceffo, Tekoah Roby, Sem Robberse and Michael McGreevy. Hence probably needs time at Triple A Memphis in 2024 and so I wouldn’t expect him to compete for a major-league rotation spot in ‘24 spring training. Roby, acquired at the deadline from Texas, appears to have legit talent. If his shoulder holds up, he could be in the mix for 2024. He’s listed as STL’s No. 5 overall prospect in the updated rankings by MLB Pipeline. Robberse, who came over from Toronto at the trade deadline, is the No. 8 on the Cardinals’ prospect list according to MLB Pipeline. McGreevy has made 18 starts at Triple A Memphis this season and has a 4.38 ERA and a poor 16.3 percent strikeout rate. Frankly, there isn’t much excitement with him.

Trades: Name your pick. The list seemingly starts with Dylan Cease (White Sox) and Logan Gilbert (Seattle). At least a percentage of Cardinals fans are obsessed with Tyler Glasnow (Tampa Bay), and that confuses me. Here’s why: Glasnow has missed 505 in-season days during his career because of injuries. He had Tommy John elbow surgery and problems with his shoulder and forearm. In a big–league career that began in 2016, Glasnow has never pitched more than 112 and ⅔ innings in a season. And he’s never started more than 14 games in a season. Obviously, other starting pitchers will become available for trades after the season … but to speculate on their identities would require me writing approximately 20,000 words … and my columns are overly long on a normal day.

Free agents: it’s difficult to assemble a firm list because of all of the opt-out candidates.

Courtesy of the fine people at, here’s the complete list of potential free-agent starters including the opt-out guys. As you will undoubtedly note, some of these names are unrealistic from a St. Louis viewpoint. Anyway, it’s a lengthy list. You can skim if you want to …

Shohei Ohtani
Clayton Kershaw
Aaron Nola
Blake Snell
Julio Urías
Lucas Giolito
Sonny Gray
Jordan Montgomery
Jack Flaherty
Rich Hill
Hyun Jin Ryu
Luis Severino
Zack Greinke
Carlos Carrasco
Noah Syndergaard
Kenta Maeda
Frankie Montas
Alex Wood
Tyler Mahle
Jake Odorizzi

Eduardo Rodriguez (opt-out)
Marcus Stroman (opt-out)
Lance Lynn (club option)
Charlie Morton (club option)
Alex Cobb (club option)
Kyle Hendricks (club option)
Seth Lugo (player option)
Corey Kluber (club option)
Johnny Cueto (club option)
Mike Clevinger (mutual option)
Germán Márquez (club option)
Wade Miley (mutual option)
Michael Wacha (club and player options)
Andrew Heaney (opt-out)
Sean Manaea (opt-out)
Ross Stripling (opt-out)

I’ve written and said this before and I’ll do it again: if Mozeliak doesn’t come up with a couple of starting pitchers who are better than anyone that the Cardinals already have at the major-league level, then it will be a waste of time and another broken pledge to the fans.  And I think we all share skepticism of DeWitt’s willingness to spend the massive amount of money required to emerge victorious in an intense and exorbitant battle to sign one of the top free-agent starters.

As I sit here today, I could see a 2024 rotation that has Mikolas, Matz and Liberatore. For another rotation spot, I could see Mozeliak hedging to go with another younger starter. (Perhaps one of the prospects, but not Hudson, who will soon be 29.) I’m not sure. There’s no reason to be entirely sure about any of this.


Will the Cardinals go outside the organization to secure two or three starting pitchers?

Will they be aggressive or go for another half-measure step and settle for less costly options via trade or free agency?

Will the Cardinals pursue a starting pitcher in Japan or South Korea?

With the Cardinals having three lefties in house in Matz, Liberatore and Thompson, will they prioritize landing a prominent right-handed starter via trade or free agency?

Does Mozeliak have the necessary boldness to make a big trade that would cause him significant discomfort because of the players he’d have to give up?

Will DeWitt balk at the idea of giving $200 million or so to a coveted free agent starter or surprise us by spending what the market dictates?

Bottom line: do you trust Mozeliak and DeWitt to jump in and do this right?

Thanks for reading …


Bernie hosts a weekday sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at or the 590 app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

The “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and B. Miklasz is available at, the 590 the fan app or your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible, Baseball Prospectus or Bill James Online.


Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.