- The Cardinals signed first baseman Efren Navarro, 30, to a minor-league deal. He was hitting just .243/.316/.362 on the year at Triple-A before being released by the Mariners. Navarro has not produced in limited exposure in the majors, but does own a lifetime .308/.371/.438 batting line in 2,672 lifetime plate appearances at the highest level of the minors.
- ESPN’s Mark Saxon reports that the Cardinals have “no interest” in trading for a short-term bat (links to Twitter). St. Louis is only interested in acquiring a hitter unless it would be a long-term acquisition. While some may connect the dots and suggest that Carlos Gonzalez fits that bill, to an extent, Saxon adds that top Cardinals officials aren’t as high on Gonzalez as many seem to think they are. Some reports earlier this summer connected the Cards to the Rockies slugger, but Saxon’s report certainly downplays that as a possibility.
The Cardinals announced this afternoon that they’ve placed third baseman Jhonny Peralta back on the 15-day disabled list with a strained ligament in his left thumb. In corresponding moves, the team has recalled outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker. Additionally, right-hander Miguel Socolovich has been recalled from Triple-A, and catcher Michael McKenry has been designated for assignment.
[Related: Updated St. Louis Cardinals Depth Chart]
Word of Peralta’s injury is obviously a concern for the Cards, as surgery to repair a ligament in Peralta’s left thumb cost him the first two-plus months of the 2016 season. In his absence, Aledmys Diaz solidified himself as the everyday shortstop in St. Louis, prompting Peralta to shift to the hot corner and Matt Carpenter to displace the struggling Kolten Wong from the everyday role at second base. While Peralta initially hit well upon activation from the DL, he’s struggled considerably in his past 22 games, hitting just .185/.212/.383. While that’s a highly arbitrary endpoint, he’s hardly the first player to struggle in a return from hand surgery. The Cardinals’ press release did not give an indication as to when Peralta might be able to return to the lineup.
McKenry appeared in just three games with the Cards, collecting two plate appearances (one strikeout, one sacrifice bunt). He’s a veteran of six prior Major League seasons and has compiled a career .238/.318/.406 batting line with 29 homers in 953 plate appearances between the Rockies, Pirates and his ever-so-brief stay with the Cards. He becomes the second veteran backstop to find himself displaced from St. Louis this year, as the Cards also had to designate Eric Fryer for assignment recently in order to pave way for the return of fellow backstop Brayan Pena.
Hazelbaker, of course, began the season as one of the hottest hitters in baseball and drew quite a bit of fanfare from the media for his Herculean April (.317/.357/.683). However, as is often the case with early-season success stories, regression set in, and Hazelbaker ultimately was optioned to Triple-A after slashing .180/.206/.279 from May 1 through June 15. Socolovich, 29, returns to St. Louis for a second stint after spending much of the 2015 campaign in their bullpen and working to a pristine 1.82 ERA with a 27-to-10 K/BB ratio in 29 2/3 innings of work.
- The Cardinals will no longer give high-leverage innings to deposed closer Trevor Rosenthal, ESPN.com’s Mark Saxon reports (Twitter link). St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny says he’ll lean on Jonathan Broxton in the seventh inning for the time being. The Cards have long been said to be seeking pen reinforcements, with Rosenthal’s continued struggles heightening the need.
Former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa has been sentenced to 46 months in prison for his role in the illegal breach of the Astros’ proprietary computer network, reports David Barron of the Houston Chronicle. Via the Associated Press and KSDK News, Correa has also been ordered to pay $279K in restitution. Correa had plead guilty to five counts of unauthorized access to a private computer, each of which carried a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets that now that Correa’s sentence has been decided upon, Major League Baseball plans to issue a punishment to the Cardinals organization for the illegal activities. It’s unclear whether that punishment has been decided upon or remains to be determined, however previous indications have been that the league could look to penalize the Cardinals by stripping the team of future draft picks. As has been the case with his rulings regarding the domestic violence policy, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has held off in issuing a punishment until the legal proceedings of the party in question have been completed due to the fact that findings from the criminal investigation could influence his own decision on a punishment.
The New York Times reported last summer that the Cardinals were the subject of a federal investigation in connection with multiple illegal breaches of the Astros’ proprietary computer network, Ground Control. Correa was ultimately fired by the Cardinals in July and was later charged. At the time of his plea, Correa claimed that his to access Ground Control was due to concern that former Cardinals scouting director Jeff Luhnow had taken proprietary information with him upon being hired by the Astros as general manager. Per Barron, the court denied a request that would’ve allowed Correa to subpoena documents from the Astros, who refuted the claim that they had any proprietary information of the Cardinals.
Reports back in January indicated that Correa was able to access the Astros’ rankings of players in the 2013 draft and explore their trade notes on the morning of the July 2013 non-waiver trade deadline. In the year between the illegal access of Ground Control and the initial reports of the federal investigation, a significant portion of the Astros’ trade notes were leaked to the public, bringing a great deal of scrutiny onto Luhnow and the organization.
- Given Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal’s ongoing struggles, manager Mike Matheny isn’t ruling out sending the right-hander to Triple-A. “You never know how guys are going to respond,” Matheny told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’ve got keep trying to figure out whatever it is we have to do to get him right. I don’t think you take anything off the table.” Rosenthal would join Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk as the third Redbird to unexpectedly receive a demotion this year, though the latter two responded well to theirs and are now back in the majors. A late-game ace with the Cardinals from 2012-15, Rosenthal has posted some ugly numbers – namely a 5.64 ERA, 7.12 BB/9 and 15.8 percent home run rate – leading the team to remove him from the closer role earlier this summer. Rosenthal also picked up his fourth blown save of 2016 on Friday, when he retired only one of four seventh-inning batters and allowed an earned run.
- In light of Rosenthal’s troubles, the Cardinals will search for bullpen aid before the Aug. 1 trade deadline, writes Hummel. General manager John Mozeliak doesn’t seem particularly worried, though, saying, “That’s not necessarily a thing (where) we have to do that.” The Cardinals rank 10th in the majors in bullpen ERA (3.66) and 11th in K-BB percentage (14.8). Help from within could come from star right-handed prospect Alex Reyes, Mozeliak stated, though the executive added that Reyes is likelier to receive a promotion as a starter. For now, Mozeliak is content with Reyes, 21, continuing to develop at the Triple-A level in Memphis, where he has accumulated 41 1/3 innings this year. The flame-throwing Reyes is Baseball America’s second-ranked prospect.
- Cardinals All-Star infielder Matt Carpenter hopes to make a four-week recovery from the oblique strain that sent him to the disabled list July 7, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Carpenter has a “significant” tear along his right side, he said Monday, and the 30-year-old had a similar injury in 2012 that kept him out four weeks. Prior to going on the shelf, Carpenter slashed a tremendous .298/.420/.568 with 14 homers and nearly as many walks (58) as strikeouts (61) in 351 PAs.
This week’s installment of Knocking Down the Door features a top prospect whose older brother is already in the Majors, two players selected in the top 10 picks of the 2015 draft, and a pair of starters that could add some flames to the back of the bullpen with their organization’s big league club.
Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (Triple-A Colorado Springs)
Arcia cemented his spot as the Brewers’ shortstop of the near future when he posted an .800 OPS with 25 stolen bases while playing most of the 2015 season as a 20 year-old in Double-A Biloxi. Now he’s on the verge of claiming that starting job before he reaches his 22nd birthday on August 4.
While Jonathan Villar’s breakout season (.806 OPS, 31 steals) has played a part in pushing back Arcia’s estimated time of arrival in Milwaukee—it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if he was called up in early May—the recent trade of Aaron Hill opens up third base for Villar while Arcia is putting the finishing touches on his Minor League career with eight hits in his last 20 at-bats, including three doubles, a triple, a homer and seven runs batted in.
Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
The Red Sox have already patched up their bullpen by trading for Brad Ziegler, and they’re almost certain to acquire a starting pitcher before the non-waiver trade deadline on August 1 to shore up their shaky rotation. Their offense, meanwhile, is already the best in baseball and they could be even better once the Andrew Benintendi era begins.
I’m not certain that the 22-year-old Benintendi will be the first first-rounder (No. 7 overall) from the 2015 Draft to get the call to the big leagues—see Alex Bregman—but he shouldn’t be far behind. Coincidentally, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski recently hinted that Benintendi is close and might not need a stop in Triple-A.
Since a promotion to Double-A in mid-May, the left-handed-hitting center fielder has an .844 OPS in 47 games, including a .310 batting average since a 2-for-19 start. He’ll man left field once he arrives in Boston with Brock Holt moving back into his valuable role as a super-utility man.
Alex Bregman, INF, Houston Astros (Triple-A Fresno)
If you watched the Futures Game on Sunday, you know that I’m not the only person that thinks Alex Bregman should be in the Majors by now, including Bregman, who declared, “I’m ready,” when asked on MLB Network what he wanted the world to know about him.
The 22-year-old continues to tear the cover off of the ball in Triple-A and obviously didn’t have any problems with the elite talent on the mound yesterday, as he was a home run shy of the cycle after just three at-bats. Opening a spot in the Houston’s lineup is really as simple as moving Luis Valbuena to first base and allowing A.J. Reed and Evan Gattis to platoon in the designated hitter spot—Gattis has an .802 OPS versus left-handed pitching and a .641 OPS versus right-handers.
Reynaldo Lopez, SP/RP, Washington Nationals (Triple-A Syracuse)/Alex Reyes, SP/RP, St. Louis Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
I’ve lumped Lopez and Reyes together since the theme here is very similar. They’re two of the best pitching prospects in the Minor Leagues, both with limited experience in the upper minors—Lopez has 14 Double-A starts and two Triple-A starts; Reyes has made eight Double-A starts and nine Triple-A starts—and still a lot of room to develop as starting pitchers. But most will agree that they could dominate in the Major Leagues right now in one-to-two inning relief stints.
At 22 and 21 years of age, respectively, Lopez and Reyes could find themselves in the thick of the 2016 playoff race and pitching in plenty of meaningful games. Both can hit 100 mph on the radar gun as starters—I wouldn’t be surprised to see 102 mph in games where they’re only needed for a few batters. And, most importantly, their respective organizations could each use some help in the bullpen.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a weekly feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.
- Since 2010, the versatility-driven Cardinals have had no fewer than 20 players advance at a position more challenging or of a different discipline than the one they arrived playing, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch details. Among the group is Double-A backstop Carson Kelly, a 2012 second-round pick who shifted from third base to catcher in 2014 and will partake in Sunday’s Futures Game. “When you look at the modern game, there does seem to be a real value in having a roster with some flexibility,” general manager John Mozeliak told Goold. “Having multi-position players is a benefit.”
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak acknowledged that the idea of promoting Baseball America’s second-ranked prospect, Triple-A right-hander Alex Reyes, as a bullpen option is an enticing one. “So when you think about that type of tool set and putting it in the bullpen it’s certainly exciting,” Mozeliak told Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You’d be hard pressed to find that type of talent in the trade market and let alone (it would be a) zero acquisition cost.” On the other hand, the flame-throwing 21-year-old hasn’t totaled more than 116 1/3 frames in a season since joining the Cardinals organization in 2013, and they want him to accrue innings so he can help their rotation in 2017. “If all he ended up with is 75 innings what can we expect from him as a starter next year?” Mozeliak said. Reyes, who served a 50-game marijuana suspension to begin the season, has racked up 41 1/3 innings this year.