Hudson initially went to the injured list with a forearm strain, and while the Cardinals were not overly concerned from the start, further testing heightened the possibility of surgery. Given the traditional timetable for recovery from Tommy John, Hudson figures to miss all of 2021 and possibly a portion of 2022 as well. The timing is particularly unfortunate for the 26-year-old hurler, who will now target a return as early in 2022 as possible.
Hudson has established himself as a significant part of the Cardinals rotation over the past two seasons. He finished 5th in rookie of the year voting in 2019 after going 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA/4.93 FIP across 174 2/3 innings. Wandering command held him back at times (4.4 BB/9). but he’d made strides in that regard this season (3.5 BB/9). Hudson was the game 4 starter in each of the NLDS and NLCS last season, struggling in both outings. To be fair, the defense didn’t do him any favors in either outing, as he allowed 3 unearned runs each time out.
The 6’5″ right-hander made 8 starts this season, going 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA/4.50 FIP, worth 0.6 rWAR. If the Cardinals are able to secure their spot in the postseason, they still present as a scary match-up for the 3-game set in the first round. Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright will rival any top two in the National League, full stop. Beyond those two stalwarts, lefties Austin Gomber and Kwang Hyun Kim would be options for a potential game 3. Carlos Martinez has struggled after fighting COVID-19 early in the season, and it’s looking less and less likely that he’ll be able to contribute much this season.
If the Cardinals can beat the Brewers on Sunday, they’ll be in the playoffs as the #5 seed. If they lose, however, they could be in for a long week. With only 58 games played, they would potentially have to fly to Detroit to play a doubleheader to solidify their playoff seeding. They would have to lose on Sunday, get swept in the doubleheader on Monday, and see the Giants win their Sunday game in order to finish out of the postseason entirely.
Beyond this season, the loss of Hudson might hurt even more, especially if Adam Wainwright does not return for another season. Martinez, Miles Mikolas, and John Gant will all be returning from injury-shortened 2020 seasons with a chance to make the 2021 rotation behind Flaherty and Kim. If Wainwright wants to continue playing, another season in St. Louis would certainly benefit both parties.