Jordan Walden’s Career with St. Louis Cardinals Nears Unceremonious End

Mar 18, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Jordan Walden (53) delivers a pitch against the Detroit Tigers during the game at Roger Dean Stadium. The Tigers defeated the Cardinals 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Jordan Walden (53) delivers a pitch against the Detroit Tigers during the game at Roger Dean Stadium. The Tigers defeated the Cardinals 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports /

After failing to show up for his rehab assignment, it appears that Jordan Walden has pitched in a Cardinal uniform for the final time.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Derrick Goold had some disheartening (even if expected) Cardinals news on Monday, reporting that righthanded reliever Jordan Walden had been shut down after failing to report for a rehab assignment at High-A Palm Beach. Seeing as Palm Beach’s season ended on Monday, Walden is going to have a difficult time finding a spot to rehab from this point forward, and though he’ll still see a doctor, the odds of him pitching this year are now virtually zero.

While the only person who can truly tell us what Walden’s been going through over the past two years is Walden himself, it sure has been an odd run. At least from the reports that the team has released, there’s no evidence that Walden has ever had a true “setback”; instead, it just seems that he’s never really gotten up to speed. A quick timeline of Walden’s recovery:

  • May 3, 2015: Walden was placed on the disabled list with an injury that was initially diagnosed as “right bicep inflammation” and thought to be short-term.

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  • May 6, 2015: Walden sought a second opinion on his injury and was diagnosed with a right shoulder strain, which officially knocked him at least out until the All-Star break.
  • July 23, 2015: Walden began a minor-league rehab assignment, hoping to take the final steps in making his way back from his injury.
  • August 2015: Walden was pulled back from his rehab assignment, with the Cardinals saying that he needed to “regain strength” before returning. As’s Jenifer Langosch wrote at the time, “General manager John Mozeliak said that the Cardinals ‘need to slow him down,’ but did not characterize this latest change to Walden’s program as a setback, even though Walden had initially been projected to return in late July.” Despite Walden’s apparent uneasiness about returning, he didn’t allow a run over four rehab appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A.
  • September 2015: Walden was officially shut down for the season, and he decided to opt for aggressive rehab on his shoulder rather than surgery. It’s difficult to fault him for that decision, but this may have been the decision that most heavily contributed to his lost 2016 season.
  • January 2016: Walden was said to have full clearance for spring training. While most Cardinals fans and media members were understandably skeptical about his status for the 2016 season, this news provided optimism that the Cardinals could have three former All-Star closers–Walden, Jonathan Broxton, and Trevor Rosenthal–plus the most accomplished closer in the history of baseball in the far east, Seung-hwan Oh.
  • March 2016: After throwing eight scoreless innings during the spring schedule, Walden didn’t feel durable enough to pitch back-to-back days, and he was shut down right before the end of spring training with a strained lat muscle. In what may have been the biggest sign of all that there wasn’t a realistic expectation from either side of Walden returning, the reliever was allowed to rehab at his home in Dallas rather than working out at a team facility.
  • August 2015: Walden showed up in St. Louis to visit with the Cardinals’ medical staff and work out with the team, expressing optimism that he could return before the end of the season. Plans were put in motion for him to go out on a rehab assignment, though Mozeliak remarked at the time that “it would be a stroke of luck if he actually does [pitch this year.]”
  • September 2015: Walden was sent on a rehab assignment to Palm Beach but failed to report. After Palm Beach’s season ended on Monday, Walden was shut down.

The Cardinals have paid Walden $6.35 million over the past two seasons, and he’s made just 12 appearances during that span, all of which came during April of 2015. Thus, he’s earned $529,166.67 per appearance with the Redbirds, or $614,518.11 per inning. When you factor in the $250,000 that the Cardinals will have to pay him to go away in 2017, rather than paying the $5.25 million that they’d owe him if they picked up his option, those number increase to $541,666.67 and $629,034.29, respectively. For reference, Matt Bowman is making $507,000 this season, while guys like Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver will only make a pro-rated portion of that salary.

Next: Cardinals to Promote Three Players as Triple-A Season Ends

In the end, $6.5 million dollars isn’t going to kill the Cardinals. But it hurts that it was spent on a guy that contributed as little–and at times, seemed to treat his recovery so negligently–as Walden did.