St. Louis Cardinals Rumors

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

Cardinals, Pirates Making Strongest Bids For Lester

Jon Lester has been scratched from his scheduled start tonight — a clear indicator that the Red Sox are looking to deal their ace. It briefly looked like the Orioles were close to a deal, but while those talks are serious, the deal isn’t close yet. Here’s the latest…

  • The Cardinals and Pirates are making the strongest bids for Lester at the moment, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report (Twitter link). The Dodgers also remain involved.

Earlier Updates

  • In a full article, Heyman writes that the A’s are the mystery team that has stepped into the Lester bidding. Nothing is close between the two sides at the moment, however.
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that a mystery team is becoming more involved.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports that the Athletics are in on Lester.
  • Via WEEI’s Alex Speier (on Twitter), manager John Farrell expects Lester to be in uniform with the Red Sox today.
  • The Cardinals‘ acquisition of Justin Masterson doesn’t necessarily take them out of the running for Lester, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The Cards could still acquire Lester, though it may cost them Shelby Miller, Morosi adds in a second tweet.
  • The Marlins aren’t entirely out of the Lester sweepstakes, an AL executive familiar with the negotiations tells Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel. However, the Marlins won’t part with top prospect Andrew Heaney in a Lester deal (or a deal for any rental player).
  • The Cardinals and Dodgers are the two teams that are most aggressively competing for Lester’s services, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They’re also the most aggressive clubs on David Price, though it’s far from a given that the Rays will move their own left-handed ace. Heyman hears similar things to yesterday’s reports regarding the Brewers and Orioles and says neither is in the mix at this point.
  • An NL GM told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he thinks the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Mariners are the primary suitors for Lester heading into Wednesday (Twitter link).

Quick Hits: Dodgers, Sox, Phils, Yanks, Indians, Cards

Let’s catch up on some recent news and rumors as the trade deadline nears …

  • The Dodgers have not declined to consider dealing top prospects Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias except in cases of pure rentals, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Things remain “very fluid,” says Shaikin.
  • There has been no contact recently between the Red Sox and Phillies regarding either Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee, reports Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald (via Twitter). Philadelphia is said to have had at least some discussions in the past with Boston regarding starting pitching.
  • The Yankees still have “more work to do” in shaping the roster before the trade deadline, GM Brian Cashman tells MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Of course, New York seems to have a broad shopping list that could include additions to the rotation and several spots in the lineup card.
  • Indians GM Chris Antonetti says that dealing away Justin Masterson does not mean that the club is giving up on 2014, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets“We’re looking to add big league players if we can do it,” said Antonetti. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes on Twitter, the acquisition of James Ramsey provides the club with minor league depth that could facilitate another deal if the club is indeed interested in reshuffling its roster rather than selling, per se.
  • The Cardinals were never close to dealing away top prospect Oscar Taveras, GM John Mozeliak tells Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Indeed, Mozeliak says that speculation of a deal involving Taveras was actually amusing to him. St. Louis is still open to another deal after adding Masterson, says MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch (Twitter link), but Mozeliak left her with the impression that another move was not terribly likely.

Stark’s Latest: Price, Lee, Lackey, O’s, Yanks, Payroll Limits

Here’s the latest from ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark:

  • The Rays are still holding onto David Price unless and until an offer forces a move. “I’d say they’re kind of where they were all winter,” said a competing executive. “Yeah, they’d trade him. But you’ve got to make it so they can’t say no.”
  • Though both sides explored the possibility, the Cardinals and Phillies did not match up on a potential Cliff Lee deal. With Philly seeking a “major prospect” in return, the Cards ultimately turned elsewhere and added Justin Masterson. While St. Louis seemed the best fit for a pre-deadline deal with Lee, Philadelphia still is looking to see if the lefty can be moved before August.
  • The Red Sox are encountering some skepticism from trade partners that John Lackey will play for the league minimum rate next year, as provided by his contract. Of course, that provision makes up a huge portion of Lackey’s trade value, as he would not only contribute down the stretch in 2014 but looks like a very solid rotation piece at a replacement-level price for 2015.
  • The Orioles seem to be focusing more on adding a reliever at this point than a starter, says Stark. Baltimore has been liked to Neal Cotts of the Rangers and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks, neither of whom is a pure LOOGY.
  • In search of bullpen help, the Yankees have inquired into Joaquin Benoit of the Padres, James Russell of the Cubs, and Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies. The club has also checked on outfielders Marlon Byrd of the Phillies and Dayan Viciedo of the White Sox.
  • The Blue JaysBraves, and Royals are telling teams they cannot add significant payroll in a trade, though Kansas City could take on a starter who would slot in place of James Shields next year.


Cardinals Acquire Justin Masterson

The Cardinals have bolstered their starting rotation depth by acquiring Justin Masterson from the Indians in exchange for top outfield prospect James Ramsey. Both teams have officially announced the deal. Right-hander Michael Wacha has been moved to the 60-day DL to make room on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians

Masterson, 29, is currently on the disabled list (he’s set to be activated this weekend) and in the midst of a down season as he heads into free agency. He’s earning $9.7625MM this season, of which roughly $3.3MM remains.

Masterson looked the part of a top-of-the-rotation starter in 2013, posting a 3.45 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 58.5 percent ground-ball rate in 193 innings. He’s battled a knee issue for most of this season, which could very likely have contributed to his 5.51 ERA and bloated walk rate (5.1 BB/9).

Masterson’s fastball velocity has declined significantly this season, falling from an average of 91.6 mph in 2013 to 89.1 in 2014. However, Masterson’s now former pitching coach Mickey Callaway said earlier in the month that he felt Masterson’s knee injury had altered his mechanics, which could explain the dip in velocity as well as the increase in walks.

The Cardinals have been on the lookout for rotation help for weeks now, having also been connected to Jake Peavy as well as aces David Price and Jon Lester. Masterson comes with upside, to be sure; FIP, xFIP and SIERA all feel his skill-set should have resulted in an ERA in the low 4.00s this season, and he’s had a good deal of past success. However, his injury and ineffective results will leave some Cardinals fans wondering if he’s truly an upgrade over internal options.

That remains to be seen, but the Cardinals felt that Masterson could bolster their starting  pitching in light of Michael Wacha‘s injury and the struggles of Shelby Miller. While Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn are reliable arms atop the rotation, Joe Kelly has been injured for most of the season, and Carlos Martinez would shatter last season’s innings total were he to remain in the rotation over the final two months (to say nothing of the postseason).

As for the Indians, they’ll receive Ramsey, a 2012 first-round pick that ranked seventh among Cardinals prospects on Baseball America’s midseason list and ranked sixth according to Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. The 24-year-old is hitting .300/.389/.527 with 13 homers in 281 Double-A plate appearances this season. Callis and Mayo note that Ramsey has the speed to play center field (though he’s not a huge threat on the bases) and the arm to play right field if a change is needed. He draws a fair amount of walks and has shown more power than some anticipated coming out of college, the MLB.com duo adds.

Peter Gammons first reported that Masterson was headed to St. Louis (on Twitter), and Joel Sherman of the New York Post was the first to report Ramsey’s involvement in the trade (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Phillies Make Hamels Available; Dodgers Interested

WEDNESDAY: The Phillies have requested multiple top prospects from the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but officials who have expressed interest get the impression that Philadelphia isn’t serious about trading its ace.

MONDAY, 3:50pm: In today’s Rumblings & Grumblings column, ESPN’s Jayson Stark touched on Hamels’ availability (highlights from the rest of the piece can be seen here, though it’s worth reading in its entirety).

Officials from other teams tell Stark that the Phillies are asking for each team’s top three or four prospects in any Hamels deal, but they’re only willing to eat about $10MM of the remaining $90MM+ on Hamels’ contract. Stark quotes one unnamed executive, who told him, “Ruben wants his doors blown off in order to trade him. And you don’t get your doors blown off if this kind of money is attached. It doesn’t work that way.”

Meanwhile, Morosi hears that the Dodgers and Cardinals are the two most likely clubs to acquire Hamels (Twitter link).

3:03pm: Though we’ve been hearing for weeks that the Phillies won’t move ace Cole Hamels, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports hears that the team has now made the lefty available, and the Dodgers are interested (Twitter link). However, the asking price on Hamels is still said to be very high, per Morosi.

Recently, it was reported that Hamels could block trades to 20 teams. The nine teams to which Hamels cannot block a trade are the Dodgers, Angels, Cardinals, Nationals, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Padres, so he wouldn’t have any say should the Dodgers put together a strong enough offer.

Hamels, 30, is enjoying yet another strong season atop Philadelphia’s rotation, having pitched to a 2.72 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 47.5 percent ground-ball rate in 122 1/3 innings. He’s earning $22.5MM in 2014 and is guaranteed $90MM from 2015-18, with a $20MM club option for the 2019 season that can vest at $24MM with 400 innings from 2017-18 or 200 innings in 2018. He has about $7.87MM remaining on this year’s salary, meaning that he’s guaranteed another $97.87MM and could earn as much as $121.87MM before hitting free agency.

The Dodgers appear to be looking to make a big splash on the pitching front, as they’ve been oft-linked to David Price and have recently been heavily connected to Red Sox ace Jon Lester. Los Angeles has reportedly been loath to part with both Corey Seager and Joc Pederson in trades, but it’s worth wondering if they’d part with both hitters in order to acquire someone with so much team control remaining. Left-hander Julio Urias has seen his stock skyrocket in 2014 as well, while other pitching prospects such as Zach Lee, Chris Anderson and Tom Windle have delivered relatively disappointing results this year.

The Dodgers’ interest in Hamels isn’t entirely surprising, as the team could lose Zack Greinke to an opt-out clause following the 2015 season. Hamels would give them a dominant arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw in the event that Greinke signs elsewhere.


Latest On Cardinals’ Pitching Search

The Cardinals have been strongly linked to starting pitching, and the club is making its final assessments in advance of the trade deadline, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It appears that St. Louis is aiming for a fairly impactful arm to slot into its rotation.

In addition to Cole Hamels, the club is at least doing background work on Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett of the Phillies. (As Strauss’s colleague Derrick Goold recently reported, Philadelphia is watching the Cards’ Triple-A club.) Likewise, the Cards are performing diligence on Jon Lester of the Red Sox, Ian Kennedy of the Padres, Justin Masterson of the Indians, and David Price of the Rays — among others — according to Strauss. That does not necessarily mean that the club intends to make offers on any or all of these pitchers, of course, but at least seems to indicate the direction of GM John Mozeliak’s thinking.

Though the team’s offense has lagged at times, it seems likely at this point that the Cardinals will count on its in-house options to increase their output to put runs on the board. But with Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia out of action, and varying degrees of uncertainty surrounding Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez, a rotation addition seems quite likely.


Jon Lester Scratched From Tomorrow’s Start

Yesterday, reports indicated that the Orioles and Mariners have both inquired on Red Sox ace Jon Lester, but the Sox are likely to take any decision down to the wire. Earlier this morning, we noted that Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com heard there was less than a 50 percent chance Lester is dealt based on current talks, but offers are expected to increase in the coming days.

We’ll keep track of the rest of Tuesday’s Lester-related rumors in this post…

  • A source with direct knowledge of the situation says that there are six clubs still in on Lester, per Edes (via Twitter): the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Athletics.
  • At present, the Red Sox have not received a trade proposal that the club is satisfied with, tweets Abraham. Multiple reports have indicated that no trade was in place when Lester was scratched from his start. At the moment, the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Pirates are all in the mix for Lester, tweets Rosenthal.
  • The Brewers are “not on” Lester, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Lester has been scratched from his start tomorrow, manager John Farrell tells reporters, including Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com (via Twitter). A rival GM tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter link) that it appears a deal will be in place tonight or tomorrow morning.
  • The division-rival Jays and Orioles seem out of the running for Lester at this point, per Bradford (Twitter links). A team source rejected the suggestion that the Dodgers would offer top prospect Joc Pederson for Lester, Saxon reports.
  • If the Pirates make a deal for Lester, it will have to occur before his start tomorrow so he can take his next turn for Pittsburgh, reports MLB.com’s Tom Singer. The Bucs are not willing to part with prospects Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, or Austin Meadows in a deal. But the team would consider dealing Alen Hanson or JaCoby Jones, and Singer says that outfielder Jose Tabata is a “wild card” in discussions, which could potentially expand to include Mike Carp or one of several Boston relievers.

Earlier Updates

  • The Red Sox were never given a “figure … on what it would have taken to sign” Lester, a source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). But while Lester and his representatives never formally made an offer to the Red Sox, both sides exchanged numbers and understood their respective parameters, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports.
  • The Red Sox have enhanced leverage regarding Lester because he could tip the balance in the NL Central, if not also the rest of the National League, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Sherman discusses the possibility of the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, and Brewers making the move for a rotation upgrade. Boston is “at least considering” attempting to deal and later re-sign its staff ace, Sherman adds.
  • Sox manager John Farrell says that the club still has Lester penciled in to start, but is prepared to use Brandon Workman in his place if Lester is dealt, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets.
  • The Dodgers are not close to any major deals at the moment and adding Lester “appears … unlikely,” tweets Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Nevertheless, Los Angeles appears on top of the list of likeliest suitors for the Boston lefty, as handicapped by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • The Pirates are emerging as a dark-horse to acquire Lester, report Jeff Passan and Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. (John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times was first to link the Bucs with a possible move on Lester; subscription link.) One possible centerpiece of such a deal would be well-regarded prospect Josh Bell, the Yahoo writers add. A deal with the Pirates would not necessarily involve Bell, however, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com tweets.
  • The Red Sox are actively taking offers and preparing to deal Lester, a National League GM tells Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Abraham says it is difficult to see Lester taking his start tomorrow for Boston.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports (via Twitter) that the Blue Jays, Mariners, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Orioles and Marlins are all currently in on Lester. The Marlins are certainly a new addition to the mix, although that would line up with Buster Olney’s report from earlier today pegging them as a potential surprise candidate for some starting pitchers. Miami has a number of high-end prospects, and Lester’s remaining $4.48MM in salary might not be too overwhelming.
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News hears the same as Olney did earlier this morning (Twitter link): There’s “little doubt” in the industry that Boston will move its ace. Rival clubs are expecting a trade.
  • Lester’s agent, Seth Levinson of ACES, denied a previous report that his client’s asking price in extension talks motivated the Red Sox to trade him, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. Unsurprisingly, Levinson shed no further light on any extension talks with Lester: “The discussions we had with the Red Sox were confidential and will remain that way,” Levinson said to Edes in an email.
  • Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com adds some new teams to the Lester mix, as he reports that the Athletics, Blue Jays and Braves have all called to inquire on the BoSox ace. Of those teams, Toronto is being the most aggressive in its pursuit, a source tells McAdam. The Sox are willing to move him to the division-rival Jays or Orioles, according to McAdam’s source. Boston is still seeking multiple prospects in return, specifically one elite prospect — McAdam uses Oscar Taveras, Joc Pederson and Corey Seager as examples — and at least one more lesser prospect. Interestingly, McAdam notes that the Red Sox will not consider trading Lester to the Yankees.
  • The Brewers have spoken to the Sox about Lester, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Milwaukee was said to have asked the Rays about David Price as well, but Price might not be dealt now, and Lester would cost less to acquire. Heyman notes that Milwaukee has top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson to offer as a centerpiece and has a deeper farm system than it has in prior years. Nelson ranked 38th on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s Top 50 prospects, and MLB.com ranked him 53rd on their midseason Top 100.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.


Quick Hits: Cards, Fish, Willingham, Sox, Kemp, Lindstrom

It’s been a busy afternoon, but no deals have gone down; let’s round up some worthwhile recent news and rumors as the market heats up:

  • The Cardinals are in need of a starter for Saturday, and manager Mike Matheny says that it could go to an arm that is not currently in the organization, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Philadelphia has sent a scout to watch the Cardinals’ top minor league affiliate, Goold adds. As he indicates, it is easy to see the Cards showing interest in the Phillies‘ Cole Hamels given his high-end talent and extended team control. On the other hand, a recent report suggests that the Phils have yet to go very far down the line in discussing Hamels, and the club is said to be looking for an overwhelming return to part with the lefty.
  • For the Marlins, the desire to add a top-end starter does not mean that the team will part with any core MLB players, including outfielder Christian Yelich, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Additionally, Miami remains more interested in adding an arm that it can control past this season. The club therefore might be more inclined to pursue John Lackey than Jon Lester from the Red Sox, and would have “heavy interest” if David Price of the Rays were to be made available. Frisaro says the club is working hard to make one or two deals by the trade deadline.
  • The Mariners are currently discussing outfielder Josh Willingham with the Twins, sources tell Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The sides were connected a few weeks back by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and Seattle has long been said to be seeking a right-handed bat for the outfield. Also still in the mix on Willingham are the Yankees, among other teams including Seattle, reports Heyman.
  • Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp interests the Red Sox whether or not he would be involved in a hypothetical deal for Lester, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (Twitter links). Boston has scouted him on and off over the last month, says Edes, and would consider adding him over the offseason if nothing comes to pass this summer.
  • The Rangers are working to deal outfielder Alex Rios, a source with a team interested in a bat tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). Rios, who was off to a hot start, struggled mightily in June and but has improved to a .304/.317/.405 line for the month of July.
  • White Sox reliever Matt Lindstrom is nearing a rehab stint, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin reports on Twitter. The 34-year-old owns a 3.32 ERA through 19 innings, and could be a possible August trade chip if he can return healthy. He is playing on a $4MM salary this year before hitting the open market.

Minor Moves: Joe Saunders, George Kottaras, Matt Guerrier

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • Lefty Joe Saunders has been released, the Royals announced on Twitter. Saunders opted out of his minor league deal, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter link). The 33-year-old lefty will presumably now look for his fourth organization of the year.
  • The Cardinals have released catcher George Kottaras after designating him for assignment to create room for the addition of A.J. Pierzynski, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com (via Twitter). Kottaras, 31, saw just six plate appearances for the Cardinals but owns a .269/.375/.615 slash on the year through just 33 plate appearances.
  • Twins reliever Matt Guerrier has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, but will elect free agency rather than accepting the assignment, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Guerrier could hold appeal to contenders as a depth piece, particularly on a minor league deal. The veteran righty has produced a solid 3.86 ERA in 28 innings, but has struck out just 3.9 batters per nine.

Nightengale’s Latest: Hamels, Phillies, Dodgers, Lester, Price

Here’s the latest from Bob Nightengale of USA Today, who provides several interesting trade market updates:

  • The Dodgers recently inquired about Phillies starter Cole Hamels, and were asked for a return that included all of Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias. Los Angeles indicated it had no interest in a deal with that framework, but Philadelphia has not move yet from that asking price. The Phils are telling clubs that it wants three top-tier youngsters and another mid-level prospect in return for Hamels.
  • Nightengale suggests that the Phillies might, however, consider a lesser return in a deal that would include a mix of Hamels along with several of the club’s less-attractive long-term commitments. Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon would figure to be involved in such a scenario, Nightengale notes, which might free the Phillies to be a big player in next year’s free agent market.
  • Team sources indicated that the club has not yet had discussions of that kind of trade, however, and Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer opines (Twitter links) that the team will not accept a more modest return on Hamels simply to move other contracts. The team wants three or four top prospects and would not pay any of Hamels’ future obligations, he adds.
  • As for the Dodgers, a deal involving Matt Kemp seems inevitable, given the disagreement between club and player on his role. But it remains to be seen whether he is deal this summer or over the offseason. (It is worth noting, of course, that Kemp would be a hypothetical August trade piece given his huge contract.)
  • The Red Sox are asking for two high-end prospects in return for Lester, executives who are involved in talks tell Nightengale. A hypothetical return for him would not rise to the level of what the Rays could get for their top lefty, David Price, the sources say. Price not only has an additional year of control, but would come with a much more promising window for extension talks and could at least allow a new team to recoup some value through a qualifying offer.
  • The Rays face a tough decision on Price: they would face serious internal repercussions for moving him at this point, but are tantalized by the possibilities of a return. Nightengales suggests that Tampa has reason to believe it could pry Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, and a 2015 first-round compensation pick from the Cardinals in a swap involving Price.