Wacha, 27, just hasn’t turned the corner this year after turning in good results during an injury-shortened 2018 campaign. Through nine starts in the present season, he carries a 5.59 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 5.6 BB/9 over 46 2/3 frames.
It’s certainly hard to ignore the downturn in Wacha’s overall showing. He’s working with less velocity than ever before (93.0 mph average fastball). His swinging-strike (8.1%) and soft contact (11.9%) rates are sitting at career-low levels. Wacha has been out of the zone on nearly three of every five pitches, much lower than his career average, and has already allowed as many homers (9) this year as he did in nearly twice as many innings in 2018.
The timing isn’t great for Wacha. He’s earning $6.35MM this season in his final run through arbitration. Unless he can engineer a stunning turnaround over the final two-thirds of the season, Wacha’s prospective free agent opportunities will be more of the bounceback than the multi-year variety.
It isn’t yet known how the Cards will fill the open rotation slot, but there are options at Triple-A. Austin Gomber has been throwing quite well and could make for a sensible choice, though he needs to clear a few health hurdles first. Alex Reyes has been tough to square up but is also giving out too many walks; he’ll surely be called back to the majors at some point, but may spend a bit more time working out the kinks at the highest level of the minors.