Adios Carlos: Tsunami Waves Goodbye
The St. Louis Cardinals declined Carlos Martinez’s $17M club option for the upcoming 2022 season, making “C-mart” a free agent for the first time in his career.
This marks the end of an up and down career in a Cardinals uniform, as Martinez was once a Top 100 prospect in all of baseball, and had highs & lows in his nine seasons wearing the Birds on a Bat.
The 30-year old Tsunami, was basically in a make it or break it season last year. He started the year in the rotation and pitched to a 4-9 record, and a 6.23 ERA with 57 K’s & 36 walks in 82 innings. Just when Carlos would start to settle down, he would have an abysmal outing or two leaving management and fans alike, scratching their head on why he had seemingly lost his way.
Looking back on the early years, as mentioned, Carlos was a pitcher with a bright future. In 2010, Cardinals signed Martinez as an international free agent with a $1.5M signing bonus. He was dealing with visa issues and started pitching in the Dominican Summer League (DSL). There, he dominated in 12 starts, leading the league in ERA, BAA, K/9 and was tied for first in WHIP.
That performance helped Carlos skip some of the lower levels, placing him with the Quad Cities River Bandits for the start of the 2011 season. He split time between the Bandits and the Palm Beach Cardinals, also appearing in the 2011 All-Star Future Game.
In 2012, Martinez spent the year between Palm Beach and Springfield, spending some of the season on the DL. He managed to post a 4-3 record with a 2.90 ERA and 58 K’s.
Carlos’ visa issues arose again, which forced him to miss much of 2013’s Spring Training. Once cleared, he was a bit behind schedule and was reassigned to the Springfield Cardinals. After just a few starts, the big league club came calling, and on May 3, he made his MLB debut before being sent down to Memphis on May 27th.
They recalled him again in August where he got his first career start, and made some appearances out of the pen. In the 2013 regular season he posted a 5.08 ERA and was on the playoff roster heading into the NLDS vs the Pittsburgh Pirates. He made 3 appearances in that series, 4 the next vs the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS where he was lights out only allowing one hit, one walk, zero runs and striking out four in 4 2/3 innings.
Despite losing to the Red Sox in the World Series, Martinez managed to pitch in 5 of the 6 games. Overall in the 12 playoff games he struck out 11 in 12 2/3 innings holding opponents to a .167 avg.
In 2014, Carlos spot-started for the Cardinals and between the starts and bullpen accumulated a 2-4 record with a 4.03 ERA. The Cardinals went on to playoffs and after the NLCS, tragedy struck when St. Louis prospect and close friend of Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras died in a car accident.
Tsunami changed his uniform number to 18, in honor of his late friend Taveras and his death weighed on Carlos all off-season. You could tell with his emotions and body language that it’s something he carried with him a lot during the 2015 season, where he had earned a spot in the Cardinals rotation.
Martinez had a great first season in the rotation, earning an All-Star bid, and finishing with a 14-7 record, a 3.01 ERA, and 184 strikeouts. His 9.2 K/9 was the highest single season avg. in franchise history.
Carlos had an impressive 2016 campaign starting 31 games, and compiling a 16-9 record, a 3.04 ERA and while his K/9 dipped to 8, he did strikeout 174 batters in 195 innings pitched.
Martinez did have to leave the team at the end of April due to resolving a civil suit filed against him which suspected to be domestic violence.
The Cardinals front office decided prior to the 2017 season, to offer Martinez a 5-year contract extension worth $51M. That same season, Carlos was named to his second All-Star game as well as finishing 12-11, with a 3.64 ERA. At the time of his All-Star selection his ERA was 2.88 and was seventh best in the National League.
2018 saw Carlos as the Opening Day starter for the third straight season. He battled through various injuries including a right lat strain and right oblique strain that forced him to the disabled list both times. Martinez finished the season in the bullpen, and finished 8-6 with 3.11 ERA. He had 18 starts in his 33 games and also recorded 5 saves.
Martinez started 2019 on the injured list with a strained rotator cuff. He was thrusted into to bullpen upon his return, ultimately taking over the closer role. He seemed to thrive in that role, albeit at times causing us anxiety like several Cardinal closers before and after. Carlos earned 24 saves in 27 opportunities with a 3.17 ERA and striking out 53.
2020 was quite a forgettable year, as the season was shorted due to Covid-19. Martinez only had 5 starts where his ERA hit 9.90 with a lackluster 0-3 record.
Carlos did play in both the Dominican Baseball League after the 2020 season and also pitched for the Dominican Republic in the 2021 Caribbean Series.
Hoping to bounce back in his final season under contract, Martinez exited a June 2nd game vs the Los Angeles Dodgers where he gave up 10 runs in the first inning . A month later he was placed on the team’s 60-day IL with a torn thumb ligament. Weeks later he had surgery to repair it which ended his season and Cardinals career.
The Cardinals had two team options on Martinez ($17M for 2022, $18M for 2023) but elected to pay him $500,000 as part of the buyout.
Carlos currently ranks #1 in franchise history for K/9 at 8.628 with Lance Lynn second, Michael Wacha fourth and Adam Wainwright fifth. He also is 10th in franchise history for strikeouts with 927. Hall of Famer Bob Gibson holds that record with 3,117 while Adam Wainwright currently sits at 2,004 in second.
Overall, Carlos Martinez gave the St. Louis 9 seasons of highs and lows. Unfortunately the frustrations surrounding the latter part of his tenure seem to overshadow the once bright light he shined as a promising prospect and young flamethrower. Despite the lows, we can appreciate his contributions to the team over the years, and wish him the best.
He will likely find a home once the MLB lockout ends, and free agency resumes, and might do so at a reasonable rate if he finds the right suitor. In the meantime, Adios Carlos. Thanks for the memories.