St. Louis Cardinals Rumors

St. Louis Cardinals trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Quick Hits: Montero, Astros, Pierzynski

Jesus Montero was at the center of a bizarre situation on Thursday night, as MILB.com’s Tyler Maun reports.  While on a rehab assignment at Seattle’s short-season class A affiliate, Montero reportedly had to be restrained from going after a Mariners crosschecker with a bat after the scout reportedly sent an ice cream sandwich to the dugout.  Butch Baccala, the crosschecker in question, tells Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times that the incident is “not what is being portrayed,” though he didn’t want to comment further until speaking with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.

  • There is discord between Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports, and things may have gotten bad enough that “it’s difficult to imagine the Astros starting the 2015 season with the same management team.”  Porter feels he doesn’t have enough input in the team’s plans and Luhnow too often second-guesses his in-game decisions, plus there were some hard feelings over Mark Appel‘s bullpen session at Minute Maid Park last month.
  • Yadier Molina‘s return shouldn’t end A.J. Pierzynski‘s stint with the Cardinals, FOX Sports Midwest’s Stan McNeal writes.  Molina will need to be eased into his usual workload behind the plate, and with rosters expanding, the Cards will have room for three catchers (Tony Cruz being the third).  Pierzynski has also been a fit in the Cardinals’ clubhouse following the drama that marked his exit from Boston.
  • The Braves were the other finalist for right-hander Brandon Poulson, Baseball America’s Bob Padecky reports.  Poulson ended up signing a $250K bonus with the Twins, capping off a fairly incredible route to pro baseball for the 6’7″ fireballer.
  • Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred figures to differ from Bud Selig in several areas, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark outlines some of the areas that Manfred will focus on when he officially takes over the job.

Quick Hits: Colon, Angels, Cardinals, Stanton, Cashner

The Mets have not yet tried sending Bartolo Colon through revocable waivers, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. One reason this is significant is because Colon would represent one possible upgrade for an Angels team that just lost Garrett Richards to what appears to be a significant knee injury. It’s unclear whether Colon would be claimed by another team before getting to the Angels. He’s pitched fairly well this year, despite his age, and he’s set to make a reasonable salary of $11MM in 2015. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • At least so far, the David Freese / Peter Bourjos trade has worked out fairly well for the Angels, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes. Freese got off to a slow start but has hit well since June, while Fernando Salas has been steady out of the Angels’ bullpen. Meanwhile, Bourjos hasn’t hit well in a part-time role with the Cardinals (although he continues to provide defensive value), and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk has spent most of the season at Triple-A.
  • Calls for the Marlins to trade Giancarlo Stanton may have been premature, writes Rosenthal. Next season, Stanton will still only be 25 and under control through 2016, and the Marlins will have a healthy Jose Fernandez. They might also get more help from young hitters Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, so they could contend in 2015. While they likely won’t be able to sign Stanton long term before he becomes eligible for free agency following the 2016 season, they might be able to simply wait to trade him, perhaps for established players rather than prospects.
  • Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner will make his first start since June 18 on Saturday in Arizona, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. On his way back from a shoulder injury, Cashner pitched five innings in a rehab start for Triple-A El Paso Monday. Cashner has emerged as one of the top starters in the National League in the past two seasons, and he had a 2.76 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 76 1/3 innings this year before he got hurt.

Minor Moves: Hill, O’Sullivan, Sale, Daley, Gimenez, Thomas

Here are today’s minor moves …

  • The Tigers inked right-hander Shawn Hill to a minor league deal today, as James Wagner of the Toledo Blade reports on Twitter. Hill, 33, has seen mostly scattered MLB action since taking 28 starts for the Nationals over the 2007-08 seasons. He has a 4.87 ERA through 105 1/3 innings (4.7 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9) in the upper minors this year with the White Sox and Blue Jays organizations.
  • The Phillies have outrighted Sean O’Sullivan to Triple-A, according to the International League transactions page. The righty accepted a previous outright assignment earlier this year, but will once again have the right to elect free agency instead.
  • Rays prospect Josh Sale has been hit with a 50-game suspension for recreational drug use, MLB announced today. This is hardly the first brush with trouble for the 23-year-old former first-round pick, who came into the 2013 season rated Tampa’s 24th-best prospect by Baseball America. After a previous drug-related suspension, Sale missed all of last year when the team banned him for inappropriate conduct. He had slashed .238/.313/.344 over 361 plate appearances on the year at the High-A level.
  • After reporting earlier today that Matt Daley has accepted an outright assignment from the Yankees, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets that Daley has actually been optioned by the club. The righty still occupies a 40-man spot.
  • Catcher Chris Gimenez has accepted an outright assignment from the Rangers rather than electing free agency, tweets John Blake, the club’s executive VP of communications. The 31-year-old was designated for assignment five days ago, and apparently has not found a better opportunity with another organization.
  • The Phillies have released outfielder Clete Thomas, Cotillo tweets. The 30-year-old has seen 794 MLB plate appearances in parts of four seasons, but had not been elevated by Philadelphia this season. Over 226 minor league plate appearances, he carries a .247/.345/.335 slash.

Earlier Updates

Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has posted his weekly look at minor league transactions from around the league from the past seven days. We’ll highlight a couple of the (relatively) notable names that were missed in the past week:

  • Eddy reports that the Cardinals have released southpaw Pedro Feliciano from his minor league deal. The 37-year-old, once an excellent setup man with the Mets, pitched to a 5.57 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 21 frames with Triple-A Memphis this season.
  • The Reds have released left-hander Scott Maine, Eddy reports. The former Cub was inked to a minor league deal in June after pitching well for the independent Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish, but he posted a 6.10 ERA in 10 1/3 innings with the Reds organization.
  • The Athletics have released first baseman/third baseman B.A. Vollmuth, tweets Eddy. Vollmuth, a third-rounder as recently as 2011, batted just .207/.278/.341 this season at Class A Beloit. The 24-year-old has yet to move above the Class-A Advanced level and a has a .702 OPS in his pro career.


Central Notes: Johnson, Bullpen Issues, Suzuki

The closest pennant races are in MLB’s two Central divisions. Here’s the latest from both the NL and AL Central:

  • The Brewers sense they were the runner-up for the services of right-hander Jim Johnson, who signed a minor league deal with the Tigers on Tuesday, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy.
  • Despite the lack of offense from their first base platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, the Brewers were wise not to re-sign first baseman Corey Hart this past winter, opines Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Hart, who missed six weeks with a strained left hamstring earlier this season and is on the disabled list for second time with a bruised right knee, has posted a meager slash of .203/.278/.314 with five home runs in 230 plate appearances.
  • Also within Haudricourt’s article, he details the injury and performance issues which have hobbled the Brewers‘ bullpen. Haudricourt notes the Brewers could still acquire a reliever this month, but there is no guarantee they will have a chance to claim one based on their waiver position.
  • The Cardinals could also be facing an issue with their bullpen, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick GooldIn two of the past three years, Goold notes, the Cardinals have reached the World Series in the same season they had to change closers in the final month with fatigue being a contributing factor both times and it could happen again considering the recent usage of Trevor Rosenthal. Manager Mike Matheny acknowledges he has “ridden him hard,” but pointed to Rosenthal’s save success when asked about overuse. Goold reports Scott Boras, Rosenthal’s agent, has spoken to the club and his client about the workload.
  • Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki did not request a no-trade clause when he negotiated his recent contract extension, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer PressWe didn’t think it was necessary,” Suzuki told Berardino.

Quick Hits: Hardy, Braves, Cardinals, Phillies

Here’s the latest from around the game …

  • Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is not currently engaged in extension talks with Baltimore and could make sense to a lot of clubs on the free agent market, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (audio link). But he would still fit back with the O’s, with club executive vice president Dan Duquette telling Rosenthal that the team puts a high value on keeping Manny Machado‘s glove at third, seemingly indicating that it may not look to move him back to his natural short. Though Hardy has not repeated his home run tallied from recent seasons, he is still a just-below-average offensive contributor with outstanding defense, and both major methods of calculating wins above replacement see him as having already contributed 2.5 WAR this year.
  • The Braves were close to pulling off a major deadline deal that would have sent center fielder B.J. Upton and a starter (which could have been either Mike Minor or Ervin Santana) to an unidentified club and for an unidentified return. The nature of the hypothetical return has not been revealed, but Rosenthal says that Atlanta ultimately felt it was not receiving sufficient value in return. Ultimately, the conception of the move was intended more to shake up the roster and clubhouse (in addition, no doubt, to shedding Upton’s future obligations), and Rosenthal says that a deal of that type could be revisited in the offseason.
  • The Cardinals should find a way to upgrade the bench in the coming weeks, opines Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. While Peter Bourjos has been an asset even as he sees less action than Jon Jay, Miklasz looks at the numbers on the rest of the non-regulars and sees plenty of room for improvement.
  • The Phillies have found themselves in a seemingly intractable situation in part due to GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s willingness to bend and then break the organization’s own rules on limiting pitching contracts, writes Mitch Goldich of Baseball Prospectus. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and Cole Hamels were all viewed to some extent as exceptions to the team’s internal guidelines. And while all have had their moments of success, the aggregate commitment (and already-clear lack of back-end value from at least the first three) has played a significant (albeit not exclusive) role in the team’s current predicament.

Minor Moves: Angel Castro, Bruce Billings

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Athletics have acquired righty Angel Castro from the Cardinals in exchange for cash considerations, St. Louis announced. Castro, a 31-year-old righty, has never seen MLB action. He owns a 4.01 ERA through 94 1/3 frames on the year at Triple-A, spending time both as a starter and reliever, and has posted 6.0 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9.
  • Right-hander Bruce Billings, who was released by the Yankees last week, has inked a minor league pact with the Dodgers, reports MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo (on Twitter). Billings, 28, allowed four runs in four innings for the Yanks this season and has struggled in the minors as well, posting a 5.06 ERA with a 54-to-27 K/BB ratio in 80 innings (15 starts) for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Billings’ career marks of a 4.37 ERA and 7.8 K/9 rate at the Triple-A level are noticeably better.

NL Notes: Hamels, Bastardo, Alderson, Neshek

Cole Hamels of the Phillies has been claimed on revocable waivers by an unknown team, and David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com notes that the Cubs might have interest. If in fact Chicago was the team that claimed him, trading for Hamels would be a huge splash for a Cubs team that’s spent the past few years mostly avoiding acquiring big-ticket players. The Cubs do, however, appear to be interested in an ace to complement their collection of young hitters — they were connected to Masahiro Tanaka last offseason. Hamels is signed through 2018 with a club/vesting option for 2019, with $96MM guaranteed after this season. His limited no-trade protection would allow him to block a deal to the Cubs, but Kaplan notes that Hamels reportedly had interest in pitching for the Cubs in the past. (UPDATE: ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that the Cubs are on the list of teams to which Hamels can be traded without his approval.) ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider-only) noted earlier this week that claiming Hamels would make sense for the Cubs. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • Lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo was one of many Phillies veterans not traded at the deadline last week, but now he thinks a trade might help him, Ryan Lawrence of Philadelphia Daily News writes. “I think it could be good for me to stay here, but I think it could be better going somewhere else,” says Bastardo. “We have two young lefties here, and they can do a really good job. A third lefty in the bullpen . . . I think for my career – for my career – I should be somewhere else.” Lefties Jake Diekman and Mario Hollands have both pitched reasonably well out of the Phillies’ bullpen this year. The Phillies placed Bastardo and a number of other players on revocable waivers earlier this week. Here are more notes from the National League.
  • GM Sandy Alderson likely isn’t planning on leaving the Mets anytime soon, David Lennon of Newsday writes. “The goal is to have a winning team, and a playoff-qualifying team,” says Alderson. Alderson’s four-year contract ends this year, but he has an option for 2015.
  • Reliever Pat Neshek is a free agent this offseason, but he would prefer to stay with the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I like it here,” says Neshek. “I like how I’m being used. That’s a big part of it. … I feel like I pitch really well at Busch Stadium. I think that would be good for my career, right?” Neshek arrived in St. Louis last offseason on a minor league contract and has made a huge impression, backing up his tiny 0.78 ERA in 46 1/3 innings with 9.5 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9.

AL East Notes: Victorino, Price, Lester, Yanks, Johnson

The Red Sox announced tonight that outfielder Shane Victorino underwent a season-ending lumbar disectomy surgery. The 33-year-old appeared in just 30 games for the BoSox this season, slashing .268/.303/.382 with two homers and two steals. Clearly, the second year of his three-year, $39MM contract with the Red Sox didn’t pan out as well as the first — which was arguably the finest season of his entire career. Though his contract was widely panned at the time of the signing, Victorino silenced critics by batting .294/.351/.451 with 15 homers, 21 steals and elite outfield defense — all of which combined to total more than 5.5 wins above replacement.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • David Lennon of Newsday tweets that the Red Sox and Rays both received permission from their owners to trade their left-handed aces to any team in baseball, with one exception: the Yankees.
  • The injury to David Phelps should push the Yankees back into the starting pitching market, writes Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues. As he notes, the case can be made that the Yankees’ five best starting options — Phelps, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda — are all on the disabled list at this time.
  • Allowing Matt Thornton to be claimed by the Nationals saved the Yankees about $1MM in 2014 salary and $3.5MM in 2015 salary, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Yankees could redirect some of those savings to add some pieces this month. New York is working on some potential additions already, says Rosenthal. GM Brian Cashman is “open to anything that makes [the Yankees] better,” he tells MLB.com’s Jake Kring-Schreifels.
  • The Orioles had interest in adding former closer Jim Johnson on a minor league deal, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, but they felt they didn’t have room to add him to the big league squad until rosters expand in September. Manager Buck Showalter tells Kubatko that he expressed that point to Johnson in multiple phone conversations
  • Former Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski tells Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com that while he assumes that many people will expect him to be bitter toward Boston, he has no hard feelings toward the organization or his former teammates (even those who have spoken against him since his departure). Pierzynski said he didn’t ask for a reason when he was DFAed, although he wasn’t exactly expecting the move. He also offers high praise for his brief time with the Cardinals and briefly discusses the difficulty of a catcher transitioning pitching staffs midseason.

AL East Notes: Red Sox, Price, Prado, Smyly, Johnson

Joe Kelly first found out that John Lackey was traded to the Cardinals on Twitter and, 15 minutes later, learned he was part of the package heading to the Red Sox in return, writes Rob Harms of the Boston Globe.  “Hectic,” Kelly said of the deadline’s personal impact on him. “It’s something that happens in baseball, and, like I said, it could happen to anyone. When I got the news I was definitely shocked and surprised, but I found out it was Boston, and I figured it was one great baseball town to another. So definitely looking forward to it.”  More out of the AL East..

  • Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman says that if he waited until the winter to deal David Price, the return would have been somewhere between “a good bit less to dramatically less,” writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  While some see their haul for the ace pitcher as light, Topkin says that in reality, they were pleased to get as much as they did.
  • There’s no reason for Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to stop wheeling and dealing now, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Red Sox already have shipped out 11 of the 25 players who were on their World Series roster only nine months ago, but Lauber is dreaming big and thinking of names like Giancarlo Stanton and Chris Sale.
  • Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal breaks down the questions the Red Sox still need to answer in the aftermath of their recent roster maneuvers.
  • The Yankees are helping Martin Prado through his “strange” transition to a new team and new position, writes Brendan Kuty of the Star-Ledger.  Prado hadn’t taken a single practice fly ball in right field this season even though that’s his new spot. The veteran mostly played third base and left field while with the Braves and Diamondbacks.
  • While he knows that he has “very big” shoes to fill, Drew Smyly is excited to be a member of the Rays, Topkin writes.
  • Jim Johnson is now free to sign with any club after his release by the A’s Friday. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes the Orioles maintain a high level of interest in signing their former closer to a minor league deal, but are not the only team pursuing the right-hander.
  • Johnson will throw a side session for the Orioles tomorrow in Sarasota in front of rehab pitching coordinator Scott McGregor, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.


July Trade Recap: NL Central

After covering the AL Central, AL East and NL East in our look back at the July trade market, let’s turn the spotlight on the NL Central:

Brewers

Cardinals

Cubs

Pirates

  • None

Reds

Synopsis

With four teams over .500 and only 5.5 games separating first place from fourth place after Friday’s games, it wasn’t hard to imagine that the NL Central would see a lot of action heading into the trade deadline.  While a few major arms came and went from the division, however, the action was a bit muted overall thanks to inactivity from two of those contending teams.

The Pirates didn’t swing a single deal in July despite being connected to many of the major pitching names known to be available.  David Price, Jon Lester, Lackey, Ian Kennedy, A.J. Burnett…all of these upper-tier starters were linked to the Bucs in trade rumors over the summer yet none ended up wearing the black-and-gold.  Pittsburgh likewise came up short in finding a left-handed reliever to help reinforce the bullpen.  While the Pirates had a pretty quiet July, however, it’s too early to say that they won’t still add to their roster — they didn’t make any major moves in July 2013 either yet picked up Marlon Byrd, John Buck and Justin Morneau before the August 31st deadline.  The Pirates’ payroll limitations will keep from them going for any of the more expensive names that might pop up on the waiver wire this month, yet it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add another useful piece or two.

A minor deal involving Jair Jurrjens notwithstanding, the Reds also didn’t do anything in July, and they’re another team that could be more active in August simply because they might not know if they’re contenders yet.  Cincinnati is 55-54 despite major injuries to several key players (i.e. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips) and a brutal 2-10 slide following the All-Star break.  It seemed like the Reds themselves were on the fence about being buyers or sellers given that they checked in on Bonifacio and Alex Rios yet were also listening to offers for Mat Latos and Ryan Ludwick.  Like with Pittsburgh, a lack of available payroll space played a role in Cincinnati’s inaction, so moving Latos or Ludwick could’ve been ways of freeing up salary and (in Latos’ case) trading a big chip to help elsewhere on the Major League roster than than add prospects.

With a rotation that lacks a true ace but is otherwise quite solid from one to five, the Brewers’ rumored interest in the likes of Price and Lackey seemed more like due diligence rather than a genuine desire to make a big splash.  The division leaders were known to be looking for relief help but overall, Milwaukee didn’t have many roster holes that were in drastic need of an upgrade.  In Parra, the Brew Crew adds a very solid fourth outfielder who can play all three OF positions can provide above-average or better defense at any of them, and while he’s slumped at the plate this year, Parra has been a useful hitter in a platoon role.  Khris Davis left Friday’s game with a calf injury, so it’s possible Parra could quickly take on a bigger role.

It’s hard to believe that pitching was the Cardinals’ deadline focus given their seemingly inexhaustible supply of talented minor league arms, yet St. Louis was involved in talks for Price, Lester and Jake Peavy before eventually making the division’s two biggest acquisitions in Lackey and Masterson.  The Cardinal clubhouse might not be pleased about some of the players lost, yet the two veteran arms could provide needed help to a rotation that has been thinned by injuries and ineffectiveness.

In acquiring these pitchers, the Cards didn’t give up anyone who was providing any value to the 2014 squad.  After contributing heavily to last year’s pennant winners, Kelly (0.2 fWAR) and Craig (-0.6 fWAR) became expendable this season, especially on a team with so many young replacements in the minors.  Ramsey would be a top-three prospect on many clubs, yet since the Cardinals have a plethora of young outfield talent, they felt comfortable in sending him to Cleveland for Masterson.

Lackey should provide good value for this season and next, especially given that he’s under contract for only a league minimum salary in 2015.  Masterson is a free agent this winter and has been bothered by a bad knee, a drop in fastball velocity and control issues this season, yet his peripheral numbers indicate that his 5.51 ERA should be around a run and a half lower.  You could think that Masterson, an extreme ground ball pitcher, will improve in St. Louis simply because he’s going from the league’s worst defensive team to its best in terms of defensive runs saved.

The Cubs are the only NL Central team not still in the playoff hunt, and they continued their rebuilding effort in four deals that added even more young talent to an already-impressive farm system.  One trade involved adding an established big leaguer in Doubront, as perhaps a reunion with Theo Epstein will help get his career back on track after a tough season in Boston.

The other three trades saw the Cubs move veterans who had little value to a non-contender.  Russell drew a lot of attention from several teams and the Cubs packaged the southpaw and Bonifacio for switch-hitting catcher Caratini, the Braves’ second round pick in 2013.  Defensive specialist Barney was moved in a lower-level deal (he had already been designated for assignment by the Cubs) for a lottery ticket in Martinez, a 20-year-old with a live arm in Class A.

After over a year of rumors, the Cubs finally pulled the trigger on trading Samardzija, sending both the Shark and Jason Hammel to Oakland for a major prospect package.  Addison Russell gives the Cubs yet another young blue-chip middle infielder, and his acquisition has already generated rumors that the Cubs’ next step could be trading Starlin Castro for another established big league talent to upgrade the outfield or rotation in the offseason.  While Russell was the headliner of that trade, McKinney is also ranked ninth amongst Cubs prospects according to MLB.com’s midseason rankings, and Straily was considered a top-85 prospect by Baseball Prospectus before the 2013 season.

There were some whispers that the Cubs could use their prospect depth to make a deal for Price, yet that would’ve been a puzzling move for a team that isn’t planning to win now.  For where the Cubs are in their rebuilding process, it’s hard to see their July moves as anything less than a big win for the Cubs front office, turning four short-term veterans in Hammel, Bonifacio (both under contract only through 2014), Samardzija and Russell (through 2015) into four promising young players who combine for over two decades’ worth of controllable years.  Some more moves could be coming in August, as outfielders Justin Ruggiano, Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney would all likely not have much trouble passing through waivers.