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Here’s the latest from around the NL Central…
- With Jay Bruce possibly needing knee surgery and facing a 3-4 week absence, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (all Twitter links) looked at the Reds‘ options for replacing the slugger on the roster. They could recall Donald Lutz, who owns a 1.172 OPS in 82 Double-A plate appearances this season, but with Lutz currently suffering from the flu, Fay thinks the Reds could pursue a trade if Lutz doesn’t recover soon. Fay thinks Cincinnati will try to bring back Roger Bernadina, who is currently in DFA limbo after being designated for assignment on Saturday; if Bernadina isn’t claimed by another team, the Reds can outright him to the minors and immediately recall him.
- Rinku Singh‘s journey from teenage javelin thrower to Indian reality show winner to Pirates farmhand will be chronicled in the upcoming film Million Dollar Arm, and Singh tells FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (who has a cameo in the movie) that he hopes his story can help inspire children in his home country. Singh missed last season due to injury and is sitting out the 2014 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery but had he stayed healthy, Rosenthal notes, the southpaw would probably be in Double-A by now. Singh posted a 3.00 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 3.61 K/BB rate in 72 relief innings at high-A ball in 2012.
- The trade of Scott Rolen to the Blue Jays in January 2008 is the one move John Mozeliak really regrets, the Cardinals GM tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (subscription required). A rift between Rolen and then-manager Tony La Russa drove the deal rather than baseball-specific reasons, Mozeliak admits. Troy Glaus, who St. Louis received in the deal, had a strong 2008 season but quickly declined, while Rolen delivered 11.3 fWAR between 2008-10.
The Cardinals have announced that they have extended senior vice president and general manager John Mozeliak for two years, through the 2018 season. Last February, the Cardinals had signed Mozeliak to a three-year extension covering the 2014 through 2016 seasons.
Since Mozeliak's hiring following the 2007 season, the Cardinals have won one World Series (2011), appeared in another (2013), and made the playoffs four times, including in the last three seasons. They've had at least 86 wins in every season since hiring Mozeliak. Their farm system and player development program are highly regarded, and they've bolstered their current team with a number of products of Mozeliak's drafts — the Cardinals' 2009 draft, which included Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Matt Carpenter, Trevor Rosenthal and Matt Adams, is one of the best in recent history.
Other teams have attempted to emulate the Cardinals' success both at the big-league level and in player development. Most notably, after the 2011 season, the Astros hired Cardinals vice president of scouting and player development Jeff Luhnow to be their GM, citing the farm system he and the Cardinals had built as a key reason why.
Mozeliak's key moves this offseason included signing shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a four-year contract, extending Carpenter for six years, and trading David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Earlier today, MLBTR posted a batch of notes from the National League West. Now, let's take a look at the other teams playing in the Senior Circuit:
- David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted his skepticism of the Braves' reported interest in Raul Ibanez citing his age (41) and lack of available at-bats (if Atlanta's corner outfielders are healthy).
- The Nationals now appear to be targeting a backup catcher and left-handed bullpen help, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets, suggesting Eric O'Flaherty as an option to meet the latter need. The connection with O'Flaherty corroborates a recent report from the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore.
- O'Flaherty is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and may not be available until May, but it won't scare off the Nationals, tweets Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com.
- While the Nationals are making a strong run at O'Flaherty, the Phillies and Dodgers have also shown interest, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak provided his explanation of the rash of signings and trades prior to the start of the Winter Meetings to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold. "For us, it was limited opportunities," Mozeliak said. "Everything we looked at, everything we wanted to do, everything we found attractive was limited, and we knew that we had to move quickly to attend to those needs or perhaps miss on (the preferred targets) and have to reassess."
- The market for Roy Halladay has yet to develop, tweets Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
- Brian McCann, who grew up a Braves fan, tells MLB.com's Mark Bowman that he relished his time in Atlanta. "I got to be teammates with Chipper Jones, Tim Hudson, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz," McCann said. "I don't know if it gets much better than that, being from Atlanta."
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
With one-fourth of the season in the books, let's have a look around some injury situations and how they might impact the developing trade market.
- The Cardinals and Yankees provide an interesting case study as we enter the second quarter of the season. Both have excellent records and lead their division. Both have sizeable payrolls as well as large portions of those payrolls sitting idle on the DL. Both have had to insert players onto their active roster that they did not anticipate. But, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch well explains, the source of those substitute bodies has been drastically different. While the Yankees spent well over $20MM to bring in players like Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells — all of whom are 34 or older — the Cards reached into their minor league system. Remarkably, St. Louis has plugged all of its holes with players making league minimum, including young pitchers John Gast, Shelby Miller, and Seth Maness.
- The Goold piece also includes some valuable insight from GM John Mozeliak. According to Mozeliak, amongst the team's Double-A and Triple-A rosters, "there is almost at any one position, if we needed help at the big leagues, someone we could call on from there." He acknowledges that such cheap, youthful depth cannot always be achieved, and says the team is prepared to pursue other markets as necessary. "I don't want us to go down the path where we feel like we've created this functional model and don't utilize a really robust pro scouting model that makes sure we understand the trade market and understand the free agent market. We can't be scared of those." Yet, by looking internally first, the team has managed to retain salary flexibility to add outside impact down the line. "This organization's way now of staying healthy is not being tied to those outside markets to fill needs," says Mozeliak. "Having some young players step up like they are now gives us additional flexibility when we're going to need it."
- The Cards' internal depth will once again be put to use with starter Jaime Garcia now staring at a strong possibility of season-ending shoulder surgery, writes Goold. Even with fellow starter Jake Westbrook also stuck on the DL, the team has multiple options among its current relief corps and Triple-A rotation that make a look outside the organization unlikely. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Garcia's replacement(s) can match his strong start to the year. He had thrown 55 1/3 innings of 3.58 ERA baseball to open the season. Veteran starter Chris Carpenter is increasingly shaping up as a viable mid-season option for the club. But any setback in his surprising recovery, or hiccups among the team's young hurlers, could lead St. Louis to consider eventually utilizing some of its salary reserves and young minor league depth in a trade.
- The Braves are another National League contender dealing with injured arms. As Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com's Matt Snyder writes, Eric O'Flaherty appears likely to join fellow setup man Jonny Venters as a season-ending Tommy John patient. While the team seems likely to utilize internal options to fill in for the present, the loss of its two late-inning lefties leaves the team with just one southpaw in the pen, Luis Avilan. Ultimately, then, Atlanta could be forced to explore the trade market to re-establish its depth as the season wears on.
- Teams shopping for starters at the trade deadline appear likely to find a limited supply of attractive arms, says ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). Two Cubs pitchers headline the developing market, with Scott Feldman shaping up as the surprise top option at the moment. (Matt Garza, of course, will begin his potential audition on Tuesday.) In addition to several other well-documented trade candidates in Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins and the Astros' Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, Olney pegs the Padres' Jason Marquis and Edinson Volquez as likely available. Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon of the Athletics and Cliff Lee of the Phillies could also be dealt, writes Olney, with the A's having other internal options and the Phils still weighing how to proceed with their excellent (but expensive) 35-year-old co-ace.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Atlanta Braves | Bartolo Colon | Bud Norris | Chicago Cubs | Cliff Lee | Edinson Volquez | Eric O'Flaherty | Houston Astros | Jaime Garcia | Jason Marquis | John Mozeliak | Lucas Harrell | Matt Garza | Miami Marlins | New York Yankees | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Ricky Nolasco | San Diego Padres | Scott Feldman | St. Louis Cardinals
Justin Verlander says he won't engage in contract talks with the Tigers during the regular season, reports CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. "Once this last start comes around, I want to concentrate on the start of the season,'' Verlander says. There are no signs from the Tigers that an extension is imminent. Verlander isn't slated to become a free agent until after 2014, but Heyman suggests that Verlander might be less inclined to sign a long-term deal with one year to go before free agency. Here are more notes from the two Central divisions.
- If the Twins were to allow manager Ron Gardenhire to leave, he'd be "unemployed for about 10 minutes," Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues. Gardenhire is in the last year of his contract, and the Twins lost 96 games last season and 99 in 2011.
- GM John Mozeliak and the Cardinals are "primed for long-term success," Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says. The Cards can both strive to win in the present and count on winning in the future, thanks to a strong core and future payroll flexibility.
- The Cubs could be on the lookout for a spare infielder, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports. Manager Dale Sveum likes the recently-released Chone Figgins, saying Figgins "is one who would be interesting because he switch hits and plays the outfield." But don't count on the Cubs acquiring him, since Sveum would rather have a lefty hitter with power.
8:21am: Mozeliak obtains a three-year deal through 2016, Goold reports (on Twitter). The Cardinals also formally exercised Matheny's 2014 option.
Matheny signed a two-year contract before the 2012 season. That deal included a 2014 club option which will be exercised today. The Cardinals reached the postseason in 2012, Matheny's rookie season. The club won 88 regular season games and advanced to the NLCS as a Wild Card team before losing to the Giants. The 42-year-old Matheny played at the MLB level for 13 seasons, winning four Gold Gloves as a member of the Cardinals, Brewers, Giants and Blue Jays.
Mozeliak had been working under a three-year contract covering the 2011-13 seasons. Since he became the team's GM following the 2007 season, the Cardinals have reached the playoffs three times and won at least 86 games every year. That run includes the 2011 World Series title and last year's NLCS appearance. ESPN.com's Keith Law recently ranked the Cardinals' farm system first in MLB.
Hall of Fame and Cardinal icon Stan Musial passed away yesterday at the age of 92. Today, tributes are pouring in ranging from fans outside the Stan the Man statue at Busch Stadium (St. Louis Post-Dispatch video) to the White House (h/t MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch). Daniel Solzman of Redbirdrants.com even suggests the Cardinals name the playing field at Busch Stadium in honor of Musial. The Cardinals are holding their 17th annual fanfest this weekend and, while the Musial official memorabilia booth was closed today in tribute to the St. Louis legend, players still made their appearances and made some news.
- Chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr. says the club is prepared to increase payroll in the coming years, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Goold adds the 2013 payroll is around $115MM.
- Adam Wainwright, who is entering the final year of his contract, admitted the Cardinals approached him about a contract extension during the final month of this past regular season, Goold reports. Wainwright said he wanted to focus on the playoff stretch and "it wasn’t going to hurt my case to just wait it out and see where some of these guys signed."
- On the upcoming Wainwright extension talks, Goold, within the same piece, quoted GM John Mozeliak as saying, "It’s going to be long. It’s going to be expensive."
- Wainwright has become a mentor to pitching prospect Shelby Miller, Goold writes in a separate article. Miller, who will compete for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, says he doesn't know what he was thinking last offseason when he "was trying to be a beach bod" with his workout regimen. Miller's performance suffered and the club questioned the right-hander's conditioning. Enter Wainwright who exchanged texts with Miller throughout the season and challenged him to reach training camp at a weight that would help his strength and durability.
- While Miller has gained enough pounds to reach his playing weight, Jake Westbrook's outlook on the offseason is to copy last year's regimen in hopes of slimming down, writes Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. "It worked out so well last year that I thought I would just do it again," Westbrook said.
- The injury reports on Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Rafael Furcal are positive, according to Langosch.
- Mozeliak says second base is Daniel Descalso's "job to lose," but he is open-minded about Matt Carpenter making a push for playing time there, writes Langosch.
- Mike Matheny told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he only became the Cardinals' manager because of losses he sustained in a failed real estate venture. A Missouri judge recently ruled Matheny and his wife owe more than $4MM from that deal plus interest and court costs. Matheny will earn $750K in the final guaranteed year of his contract.
Daniel Seco contributed to this post.
For the most part, the Cardinals are well-positioned for the 2013 season. They’ll consider upgrades in the middle infield and hope their injured players recover quickly. Other than that, their biggest offseason need might be left-handed relief. GM John Mozeliak addressed his team’s offseason plans at the GM Meetings today in a conversation with MLBTR. Here are some highlights:
- The Cardinals like internal middle infield options such as Rafael Furcal, Pete Kozma and even prospect Kolten Wong. Mozeliak said he’s “very hesitant” to seek a long-term answer in the middle infield at this point. “We feel like we do have some depth there, but clearly if Furcal were injured we might have to look at it a little differently,” the GM said. The shortstop dealt with an elbow injury late this past season.
- Kozma’s late-season performance “definitely saved him” his roster spot, according to Mozeliak. The Cardinals like the shortstop’s energy and enthusiasm.
- Mozeliak said the Cardinals would offer free agent relievers multiyear deals under the right circumstances. “It really comes down to seeing if we can find the right fit for the role we’re looking for,” he said, acknowledging that the Cardinals are interested in adding a left-handed reliever.
Barry Larkin and the late Ron Santo were inducted today into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the Class of 2012. The ceremony in Cooperstown was marked by the moving acceptance speech given by Santo's widow, Vicki, and the singing of the National Anthem by Larkin's daughter, Cymber. Larkin spent his entire career with his hometown Reds while Santo spent his entire 15-year career in Chicago, 14 of those with the Cubs. In other news concerning teams from the NL Central:
- The Cubs' Matt Garza told reporters, including the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan, that he feels better after being forced from Saturday's game with triceps cramping. "I don't think it's a bone contusion or a bruise or anything," Garza said. "I think it's just a cramp that's stiff, just a stiff muscle. I have better movement today than I did yesterday, so that's positive. I can move it today, so that's a huge plus." Several teams have Garza on their radar as the trade deadline approaches.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told reporters, including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that there is no urgency to add a starting pitcher with the increased production from the rotation and the encouraging health of Jaime Garcia. "It clearly takes a little pressure off as far as feeling like we have to do something," said Mozeliak. "We feel very confident that (Garcia) is going to be back by mid-August. If you were to go after another starter, who are you really bouncing out? That's why the urgency isn't quite there for rotation help as it was three or four weeks ago."
- After being swept by the first-place Reds this weekend, the Brewers may be inclined to become sellers at the trade deadline, opines Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (via Twitter). Zack Greinke is the Brewers' most discussed trade candidate.
- The Brewers have reached an agreement with 16-year-old Venezuelan right-hander Yosmer Leal for $370K, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez. The bonus would be one of the largest ever given by the Brewers to a Latin American player. Leal still must pass a physical and a MLB age investigation. The investigation is standard procedure for all Latin American signees.
The Cardinals edged the Braves out for the National League Wild Card and are now preparing for their Division Series matchup against the Phillies. Here are some Cardinals-related links, as we await tomorrow's Kyle Lohse-Roy Halladay contest…
- Lance Berkman told Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he doesn't question his durability the way others do. The switch-hitting slugger adds that he feels great about his resurgent season and recent $12MM contract extension.
- Everyone wants to know how the Cardinals completed a seemingly impossible comeback and GM John Mozeliak tells Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch that the team succeeded because the starters pitched deeper into games and the bullpen became "more credible and more functional."
- Cardinals players told Strauss that they were impressed by the July trade that brought Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, and Corey Patterson to St. Louis. Here's a complete recap of Mozeliak's in-season trades.