Shelby Miller Rumors

Central Links: Castellanos, Cardinals, Miller, Crowe

Between baseball's two Central divisions, at least six teams figure to be buyers, and more could emerge depending on how the coming weeks play out. The White Sox, Tigers, Indians, Reds, Pirates, and Cardinals could all add pieces prior to July 31, and here are some links pertaining to those clubs…

  • The Tigers are telling teams that top prospect Nick Castellanos is unavailable in any trade "at least right now," according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter).
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports echoes that sentiment, tweeting that he'd be "very surprised" if the Tigers move Castellanos for a rental (Twitter link).
  • The Cardinals were one of the teams in on Ben Sheets prior to his signing with the Braves, tweets Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who adds that the Cards continue to look for upgrades to their rotation.
  • Cardinals top prospect Shelby Miller has struggled in 2012, but B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest quotes GM John Mozeliak as saying, "Clearly we're still very high on him" (Twitter link).
  • The Indians announced that Trevor Crowe has been released from Triple-A Columbus (on Twitter). The former No. 14 overall pick is now 28 years old and has managed just a .736 OPS in parts of five Triple-A seasons. He batted .245/.295/.329 in three Major League stints.

Cardinals Continue To Seek Pitching

The Cardinals continue looking for starting pitching depth and the team will consider adding a left-handed reliever, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. GM John Mozeliak has suggested a major acquisition is less likely than a modest upgrade, Strauss writes. 

Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels probably won’t be traded to St. Louis this year. The Cardinals are unwilling to trade from their MLB roster, but they may be willing to discuss trades for top pitching prospect Shelby Miller for the first time, according to Strauss. Miller, who entered the season as the 8th-best prospect in the game, according to Baseball America, has struggled in 17 starts at Triple-A, posting a 6.17 ERA.

Though second base is a potential area of need for the Cardinals, Strauss suggests the team is likely to focus on making moves to improve the pitching staff. I recently previewed the trade market for starting pitchers and second basemen.


NL Central Notes: Madson, Wood, Miller

The Reds signed Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman for $30.25MM on this date in 2010. The 23-year-old has a 3.27 ERA with 12.8 K/9 and 6.5 BB/9 through 63 1/3 innings in parts of two seasons with Cincinnati. He figures to join lefties Bill Bray and Sean Marshall in the Reds' revamped bullpen this year…



Cardinals Notes: Trade Deadline, Miller, Draft Signings

After suffering a three-game sweep in Milwaukee, the Cardinals sit a half-game behind both the Brew Crew in the NL Central and the Braves in the NL wild card race.  Some notes from the Gateway City…

  • St. Louis has enough payroll space to make a move before the trade deadline, but maybe just enough for one move, writes MLB.com's Matthew Leach as part of a reader mailbag.  He doesn't think the Cards would be able to acquire the likes of Jose Reyes, since "they have some prospects to trade, but not a truckload….My read is that they would upgrade another position with that 'one bullet,' such as the bullpen, rather than acquiring a shortstop," Leach says.
  • Star prospects Zack Cox, Carlos Martinez (former known as Carlos Matias) and Shelby Miller are "considered untouchable" by the Cards in any trade talks this summer, reports Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  Strauss says he's heard a few names within the organization who are somewhat unexpectedly available in the right deal.
  • The Cardinals have announced the signings of 27 picks from the 2011 amateur draft (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Twitter).  Kansas State outfielder Nick Martini, a seventh-round selection, was the highest-drafted of the signed picks.  Colby Rasmus' younger brother Casey, a 36th-round pick, also signed.

The Cardinals’ 2011 Rotation

With a 4-13 record over their last 17 games, an eight-game deficit to make up in the NL Central, and a weekend series against an in-form Cincinnati club, the Cardinals could be looking ahead to next year by as soon as Monday.  Let's get a head start on the process by examining what the St. Louis starting rotation may look like by Opening Day 2011.

Leading the way for the Cards are Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia.  Carpenter is signed through 2011 and St. Louis has a club option worth $15MM in 2012 that they're certain to exercise if Carpenter remains as healthy and effective as he has been over the last two seasons.  It's possible the Cards could explore an extension with Carpenter this winter, if they're not already too busy trying to extend Albert Pujols.

Wainwright seems well on his way to a top-five finish (at least) in the NL Cy Young voting, which will trigger a clause in his contract that guarantees the 2012 and 2013 club options St. Louis currently holds on the right-hander.  Wainwright is set to earn $21MM over those two seasons, plus an extra $1MM should he actually win the Cy either this season or in 2011.  The Cards were a virtual lock to pick up those team options anyway given how well Wainwright has pitched in his career.

If Wainwright is a bargain, then Garcia is a steal.  The 24-year-old southpaw has a 2.33 ERA and a 2.03 K/BB in 25 starts this season and he carries a 20 1/3 scoreless inning streak into tonight's start against the Reds.  Garcia doesn't reach arbitration until after the 2011 season, so he will remain a very affordable option for St. Louis unless the club tries to cover his arb years with a long-term deal.  It's still just Garcia's first full major league year, so if the Redbirds do approach him with a long-term contract, it will be a step down from the Romero/Lester/Gallardo deals.

When Kyle Lohse signed a four-year, $41MM extension with St. Louis in September 2008, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes prophetically asked, "What are the odds this deal looks solid even halfway through?"  Now that we're about halfway through the deal, it's indeed looking like a miss for the Cards.  Lohse has battled forearm and groin injuries over the last two seasons and has a 5.55 ERA in 35 games (34 of them starts) over that stretch.  Lohse will be pencilled into a spot in the 2011 rotation, since it would be hard for the Cardinals to eat the remaining $23.75MM owed to the right-hander and even harder to trade him.  (Plus, Lohse has a no-trade clause.)

With four spots accounted for, the fifth rotation job is wide-open.  The Cards' strategy over the last few winters has been to sign veterans (Rich Hill, Brad Penny, Matt Clement, Lohse in March 2008) to one-year or minor league contracts to see if pitching coach Dave Duncan can get them back into top form, so the team could pursue that option again.  St. Louis might have gotten a head start on this strategy with the acquisition of Jake Westbrook at the trade deadline.  Westbrook has pitched well (4.03 ERA, 5.67 K/BB ratio) in his first six National League starts, so he will come at a higher price than those other past winter signings should the Cardinals want to bring him back.

Another midseason pick-up, Jeff Suppan, hasn't performed as well and would only be brought back as roster depth.  Penny could be another low-cost veteran option from the current roster.  After signing a one-year, $7.5MM deal with the Cards last December, Penny had a solid first nine starts but hasn't pitched since May due to a back injury.  The lingering nature of what was originally thought to be a minor back injury will definitely scare some teams away from the 32-year-old, so the Cardinals (who have been monitoring Penny's status all year) could bring the right-hander back if they're satisifed that he's healthy.

P.J. Walters, Blake Hawksworth and Adam Ottavino have started games for St. Louis this season, though all would need superb spring training performances to get into the running for the fifth starter's job.   Baseball America projected Walters as a future middle reliever in the preseason, Hawksworth has pitched mostly out of the bullpen for St. Louis and Ottavino may be a question mark for the spring since he needs labrum surgery.

Shelby Miller, the top prospect in the St. Louis system, has only increased his stock in his first full season of pro ball.  Miller, the 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft, has a 3.62 ERA and a 12.1 K/9 rate in 24 starts for Single-A Quad Cities.  Baseball America had Miller rated as the 50th-best prospect in baseball in the preseason, and their midseason prospect report again slotted him in the #26-50 range.  Miller doesn't even turn 20 until October 10, so the Cards will probably hold off his major league debut until 2012.

Other farm system options include southpaw Evan MacLane and right-handers Lance Lynn and Brandon Dickson, all of whom have had solid seasons in the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League.  All could factor in as spot starters or candidates for the No. 5 position.  Keep an eye on right-hander Scott Gorgen, a fourth-round pick from the 2008 draft who has a 2.99 ERA in his 49-game minor league career thus far, including a 1.31 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) at Double-A this season.


Odds & Ends: Lee, Miller, Branyan, Phillies

There may be a lot of NBA and NHL rumors and signings floating around today, but the MLB hot stove will only get hotter as we approach the trade deadline.  Here are some items from around the majors…


Mystery Team After Cliff Lee

A mystery team is pursuing Cliff Lee, tweets Ed Price of AOL FanHouse.  According to Price, the Cardinals "may be it."  Price believes that top prospect Shelby Miller is a possible chip.

Six years of Miller would be an impressive return for two-plus months of Lee, but the Cardinals would have to be intrigued by the possibility of having three aces in the rotation.  Drafted out of high school, Miller is a few years away from the Majors but is said to have number one starter stuff.  Since the Cardinals signed the first-round pick on August 17th of last year, he could only be traded as a player to be named later (named after a year has passed from the time of his signing).


Miller Agrees To $2.9MM Deal With Cards

MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo hears that Shelby Miller has agreed to sign with the Cardinals for $2.9MM. They selected him 19th overall in the June draft. Jim Callis of Baseball America reports that Miller receives the biggest bonus of any first rounder to sign so far this year. It's the second-biggest bonus in Cardinals history.


Law On Miller, Purke, Jays

ESPN.com's Keith Law wrote last night that the Cardinals seem to be on their way to signing top pick Shelby Miller, who could receive top-ten money. Signing the righty would be "a huge coup" for the Cards, Law says. Here are the rest of his rumors:

  • The Rangers and Matt Purke are still over $1MM apart so the club isn't optimistic about signing the first rounder.
  • The Blue Jays have a good shot at signing third rounder Jake Marisnick, a high schooler who had first round potential heading into the spring.
  • The Jays aren't likely to sign Canadian lefty Jake Eliopoulos. 

Draft Updates: Miller, Yankees, Jays

More updates on the final day to sign draft picks…

  • Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that top Cardinals pick Shelby Miller is in St. Louis for a physical. GM John Mozeliak says talks are "moving in a positive direction" and one official says the sides could end up agreeing on a deal worth about $3.25MM.
  • MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo hears that the Cards are making progress with Miller, but doubts they'll hand out $3.25MM.
  • Mayo reports that first rounders Tyler Matzek (Rockies) and Matt Purke (Rangers) all have substantial gaps to overcome if they're going to sign today.
  • Zack Wheeler and the Giants are now less than $1MM apart, Mayo reports
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America reports that the Yankees signed righty Caleb Cotham for $675k, which is more than four times the recommended limit for a fifth rounder.  
  • Callis reports that the Blue Jays signed 18th rounder Daniel Webb for $450k, triple the recommended ceiling for late round picks.