The Cardinals’ off-season has been lackluster in comparison to teams like the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, and Chicago White Sox. With fans chomping at the bit for breaking news surrounding a shiny new pitcher or third baseman, the hot stove feels as if it has never been turned on for the birds.

So what does this mean for Carlos Martínez? The man who caused quite a stir during the 2019 postseason — his comments and actions toward Ronald Acuña Jr. left a sour taste in the mouths of fans, including some St. Louis faithfuls.

Despite what some fans might not want to hear Martínez, 28, is vital to the 2020 roster— whether he returns as a starter, as a bullpen piece or is traded for a shiny new toy.

It was first reported by The Athletic’s Mark Saxon that the team asked Martínez to head to Jupiter, FL., for an early off-season evaluation and workout. He’ll return within the month for series of face-to-face evaluations. If things go accordingly and in the FO’s favor, this likely means he will rejoin Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas, and Adam Wainwright in the starting rotation.

It should also be known Martínez had an injection of platelet-rich plasma administered to his right shoulder shortly after the season ended in October. The team said that was the extent of the procedure — but this was not the first round of right shoulder issues for the RHP.

In fact, Martínez reported to camp last season with weakness in the muscles around his right shoulder. After running tests, the team’s medical staff decided it wouldn’t be in his best interest to go into the 2019 season as a starter. He wouldn’t make his first appearance until May 18, 2019.

Off and on, since July 2018, Martínez has only pitched a total of 66 regular-season innings. Which isn’t ideal but neither were the circumstances that catapulted him into the closer role in June 2019 when Jordan Hicks fell victim to Tommy John surgery due to a torn right elbow ligament.

The club has options to bring Martínez back in 2022 for $17 million and 2023 for $18 million.

In the regular 2019 season, Martínez held an ERA of 3.17, 53 SO, 24 SV, and a 1.18 WHIP in 48 games and 48.1 IP. His postseason statistics weren’t as glamorous — an ERA of 14.73 in 3.2 IP. Yes, that was typed out correctly.

If Martínez were to stay in the closer role while Hicks (who has a slower healing process due to Type I diabetes) recovers — the likes of Daniel Ponce de Leon, Austin Gomber, Jake Woodford, and Ryan Helsley could go after the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation.

The option of trading Martínez reeks of low profit due to his declining amount of innings pitched in recent years. His progress during this off-season will shape what happens next in the Cardinals’ organization — here’s hoping it goes as planned.

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