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St. Louis Cardinals Rumors
Lance Lynn and the Cardinals have both said they’re open to discussing a contract extension for the righty this winter, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Lynn will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason, and he’s built a strong case for himself by posting a 2.74 ERA in 2014 and averaging 194 IP, 8.7 K/9 and a 2.64 K/BB rate over his first three full seasons in the St. Louis rotation. As Goold notes, Lynn could be the latest in a series of core Cardinals players who the club has extended before hitting their arb years or free agency.
Here’s some more from the 19-time National League champs…
- Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt tells Goold that the organization plans to increase payroll and is “forecasting fairly significant increases in the next three to five years.” The spending increase was planned to coincide with several younger players (Lynn, Shelby Miller, Matt Adams, etc.) reaching arbitration eligibility within that same time span. Additional money could also be spent to bring new talent into the team via trades or free agency, as DeWitt said “we would have the capacity for an additional core player or players depending on their quality, their compensation, and our need.” The Cardinals’ payroll has ranged from roughly $109MM to $116MM over the last four seasons, and Goold speculates that number could jump to around $130MM in the next few years.
- GM John Mozeliak made it clear that the team is very happy with Mike Matheny, and Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch considers it “ludicrous” for critics to suggest a change at manager despite some questionable tactical decisions from Matheny during the NLCS.
- Mozeliak also said that Oscar Taveras isn’t going to be traded, and that the star prospect’s underwhelming first season “is not the end of the world. If anything, it’s a blessing in disguise” since now Taveras knows what is needed to perform at the Major League level. On the other hand, Miklasz writes that Matheny “isn’t a fan” of Taveras and wonders if the Cardinals might be tempted to explore trades for the outfielder this winter.
- Also from Miklasz, he feels relief depth, upgrades at the backup catcher and backup middle infielder spots and a right-handed hitting platoon partner for Adams are all logical winter goals for the Cardinals.
A group of former minor leaguers has filed a lawsuit protesting that while they were playing, they received less than minimum wage and did not receive overtime, working for tiny monthly salaries to pursue their dream of making it to the Majors. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star traveled to Clinton, Iowa as part of a long exposé on working conditions in the minor leagues. Class A players, for example, only make about $6,300 for an entire season, earning only per diems for instructional leagues and mandatory spring training. NBA and NHL minor leaguers make many times that amount. The extremely low wages for minor league baseball players might not be a hardship for early-round picks who receive six- or seven-figure bonuses, but they’re especially tough on the many players who sign for only a few thousand dollars. Here are more notes from around the game.
- A number of Cardinals players were at Busch Stadium Friday to pack their belongings, with some players not knowing whether they’ll return next season, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. 2014 was “up and down,” says Peter Bourjos, who made $1.2MM this season and is eligible for arbitration for the second time this winter. “Inconsistent playing time, inconsistent results — that’s how it goes sometimes. If there’s an opportunity out there, I’d like to play every day.” One player who sounds like he’ll certainly be returning is John Lackey, who says he has “every intention” of playing next season even though the Cardinals have an option on him for the league minimum salary. Also, impending free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski says he’d like to continue playing. It’s unlikely that the Cardinals will re-sign him, however, with Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz at the catcher position.
- Two years after their last playoff game, the Yankees‘ roster is dramatically different, Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog writes. Of the 19 players Yankees who appeared in Game 4 of the 2012 ALCS, just four — Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia — are under contract for 2015.
Though there’s been speculation that Royals GM Dayton Moore could be a possibility to take over the GM slot in Atlanta following Frank Wren’s dismissal, Royals owner David Glass told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that Moore is “absolutely” staying with the Royals. Moore’s contract runs through 2016, but as Heyman and others have noted, it’d seem odd to leave town after getting the Royals to their first World Series in 29 years. Glass had nothing but praise for Moore: “He’s done a great job. He’s as good as it gets as far as a general manager.”
More news from baseball’s Central divisions…
- MLB.com’s Jim Callis breaks down how the Royals constructed their World Series roster, noting that the club has 14 homegrown players (draft or international signing), nine acquired via waivers or trade and only two signed via free agency (Omar Infante and Jason Vargas). One could make the case that Jeremy Guthrie also belongs in the free agent category, as he technically hit the open market for a couple of weeks between the end of the 2012 season and re-signing in Kansas City. However, the most intriguing part of Callis’ piece, for MLBTR readers, may be a comment from Moore on the importance of Jake Odorizzi‘s role in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade: “…he also kept Yordano Ventura out of that deal at that time.”
- MLive.com’s Chris Iott makes five predictions about the upcoming Tigers offseason in his latest piece, prognosticating that Detroit will not make a serious run at re-signing Max Scherzer, nor will it spend lavishly on its bullpen, perhaps adding one mid-range option at best. As he notes, the combined $17MM owed to Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria is already more than the $15.4MM the club spent on last year’s entire Opening Day bullpen. Iott does, however, foresee a re-signing of Victor Martinez. For his last two predictions, he expects an internal competition for the fifth starter slot and that one (or both) or Andy Dirks and Don Kelly will be non-tendered, based on recent comments from GM Dave Dombrowski. Bottom line: he expects Detroit to spend on retaining Martinez and acquiring a center fielder rather than on the bullpen or rotation.
- The Cardinals aren’t likely to re-sign any of their five free agents, writes MLB.com’s Jen Langosch. That means that Justin Masterson, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Ellis and perhaps most notably, lifetime Cardinal Jason Motte and the resurgent Pat Neshek are ticketed for new jerseys. Neshek is probably the most intriguing of the bunch, as the 34-year-old signed a minor league deal last offseason but earned an All-Star nod en route to a final ERA of 1.87 in 67 1/3 innings with 9.1 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9.
The Cardinals’ thrilling 5-4 win over the Giants last night tied the NLCS at a game apiece and also made some postseason history. As ESPN’s Jayson Stark notes, the Cards became the first team to ever hit home runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of a playoff game. That final homer, of course, was Kolten Wong‘s walkoff solo shot. Here’s some more from St. Louis…
- Oscar Taveras delivered that seventh-inning homer for the Cards last night, though a few issues have made the top prospect no longer “untouchable” in the organization’s eyes, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Taveras hit .239/.278/.312 over 248 PA in this rookie season and didn’t see much action down the stretch in September or in the playoffs thus far — he has only five PH at-bats during the postseason. Perhaps of greater concern, Taveras put on 20 pounds last offseason and “his work habits have drawn attention from some veterans,” though Strauss notes that the 22-year-old “is not considered a toxic clubhouse presence.” In my opinion, even if he’s not totally “untouchable,” St. Louis would undoubtedly want a massive return if they considered dealing Taveras and it’s a very long shot that the team would so quickly give up on such an elite prospect.
- Strauss figures the Cardinals are likely to trade an outfielder this offseason, with Matt Holliday locked into the left field spot and Taveras, Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos, Randal Grichuk and prospect Stephen Piscotty all in the mix for the other two outfield spots.
- The Cardinals’ decision to let Albert Pujols leave as a free agent “could go down as one of the wisest in baseball history,” Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. Rather than spend $250MM on Pujols as the Angels did, the Cards instead spread that money around and have reached the NLCS in all three seasons since Pujols’ departure. “When we knew we had to look at the next chapter of this organization, it was really about understanding how we could redeploy those resources,” GM John Mozeliak said. “You never know if you’re going to be able to sustain that high a level, but certainly to get close to that level, or back to it, was something we were able to achieve, first with the signing of Carlos Beltran and then [Jhonny] Peralta.”
- Cardinals bench coach Mike Aldrete is “a very likely possibility” to become the Athletics‘ new bench coach, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links). Aldrete has a very good relationship with A’s manager Bob Melvin and a move to Oakland would allow Aldrete to live closer to his home in Monterey. The A’s have a vacancy at bench coach since Chip Hale has been hired as the Diamondbacks’ new manager.
- It is generally considered a mistake to fix a roster problem by trading from the Major League roster, yet the Cardinals’ young depth has allowed them to twice make such moves, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Cards dealt Colby Rasmus for bullpen help in 2011 and ended up winning the World Series, while this past July saw Allen Craig and Joe Kelly traded to the Red Sox for John Lackey. “I understand the risk profile in doing what we did,” Mozeliak said. “But in both situations….I felt we had to do something different — I felt we had to pull from the club to improve.”
Over at The Hardball Times, Jon Roegele breaks down some interesting data on Tommy John surgeries. The number of UCL replacements was a big story this year, of course. Roegele’s research suggests that, while the overall rate of return for pitchers who have undergone the procedure has not improved much since it was invented, the recovery time has been shortened significantly.
Here’s the latest from out west:
- Referring to a report that Mariners ownership had killed a deal that would have brought in free agent Nelson Cruz, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that Seattle’s ownership had in fact determined before the offseason that it would not sign any players linked to PED use. The details of the situation remain hazy, but Heyman indicates that Cruz’s Biogenesis-related suspension was the root of the decision.
- The Rangers are looking for a manager in the mold of Terry Francona and Clint Hurdle, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Indeed, every one of the five external candidates under consideration have links to one of those two skippers, as does candidate and interim manager Tim Bogar. Texas is expected to whittle its search down to three finalists in the coming week, says Grant.
- Giants starter Jake Peavy thought at one point that he would be traded to the team he is now facing in the NLCS, the Cardinals, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The veteran righty could still end up in St. Louis next year, as Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports. Peavy speaks very highly of the club and city, and could make some sense for the Cards if the team decides another established arm is needed for 2015.
Kevin Towers considered another front office job with the Diamondbacks after being fired as the team’s general manager, but Towers told AZCentral.com’s Zach Buchanan that he chose to leave rather than possibly make things awkward for new GM Dave Stewart and his staff. “It didn’t feel right, and I didn’t want to be that elephant in the room when they’re making roster decisions or maybe letting people go,” Towers said. “‘I know K.T. likes him…’ I didn’t want them to have to worry about that.” Towers said he’s spoken to a few teams and thinks he’ll be in a new job before the year is out, also hinting he likely wouldn’t return to one of his other ex-clubs (the Padres, Yankees and Pirates).
As we enjoy two LCS games today, here’s some news from around baseball…
- With offense dropping around the game and a number of top-tier pitchers available in trades or free agency this offseason and next, this year’s free agent aces may find their markets slightly diminished, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (ESPN Insider subscription required).
- Also from Olney’s piece, he reports that rival officials feel Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will test the free agent market when he is eligible after the 2015 season. Zimmermann’s long-term status in Washington will be one of the biggest questions facing the Nats this winter.
- Alex Rodriguez “is the most expensive mystery in baseball history,” Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Yankees currently have no idea if A-Rod will be able to handle third base on a regular basis, provide first base depth, hit well enough to earn DH at-bats or be healthy enough to play whatsoever. This makes the team’s winter planning rather difficult, as just releasing Rodriguez would mean the Yankees have no way of recovering any of the $61MM remaining on his contract via insurance payments.
- First baseman Dan Johnson is looking to add to his skillset by learning the knuckleball, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith writes. “Why not have something else in the bag? Give yourself every chance,” Johnson said. “I’m not 24 anymore. I want to help out as much as possible and still be relevant in this game.” Johnson, best known for his dramatic Game 162 homer for the Rays in 2011, recently elected to become a free agent after the Blue Jays outrighted him off their 40-man roster.
- MLB.com’s Corey Brock profiles Dan Kantrovitz, a St. Louis native who rose from a teenage internship (mostly handling Mark McGwire’s fan mail) with the Cardinals to becoming the club’s scouting director.
- The Astros are next up for Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel in his rankings of each team’s top prospects and their overall farm system depth.
Cubs hitting coach Bill Mueller has resigned after one year on the job, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reported yesterday (via Twitter). Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets that the Cubs have confirmed Mueller’s decision and added that he resigned after learning that assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley was reassigned by the team. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford speculates (Twitter link) that the Red Sox might have interest in adding Mueller to their coaching staff. For those who would have some fun and speculate, Rogers also tweets that Manny Ramirez is not a candidate to become the club’s new hitting coach, as he’s yet to even officially retire as a player.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that too much focus is being placed on what the Reds should do with their quartet of starters that are free agents following the 2015 season, and not enough is being placed on the fact that the team should try to extend breakout stars Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco. While the future of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon is indeed a big part of the Reds’ offseason, Fay notes that the team can position itself for sustained success by controlling the salaries of Frazier and Mesoraco and keeping them in place beyond their arbitration seasons.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington tells Karen Price of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he expects his entire coaching staff back in 2015, unless one of them unexpectedly departs. Price notes how much the offense improved under first-year hitting coach Jeff Branson and first-year assistant hitting coach Jeff Livesey. She also points out that pitching coach Ray Searage and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas also played a key role, helping to facilitate the turnarounds of Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley.
- The Cardinals view the draft as “a mechanism to save money,” scouting director Dan Kantrovitz tells David Laurila of Fangraphs in a fascinating interview. Whether it’s landing a solid starter or a future bench piece, the draft can open flexibility down the line, says Kantrovitz, who explains that savings from drafted players represents “money that our GM can allocate to another area, or a more abundant, cheaper position.” Kantrovitz says that the team is focused on adapting and finding value, rather than “stick[ing] to a rigid strategy that is not data-driven.” Ultimately, the team takes all the information it can acquire, then attempts to combine them and apply discount rates to reach a present value for the amateurs under consideration. There’s plenty more to glean from this interview, and you’ll want to give it a full read.
A number of impressive postseason achievements have occurred on October 6th over the years, yet perhaps the most notable was Babe Ruth slugging three home runs in Game Four of the 1926 World Series. The Bambino’s huge day helped the Yankees to a win and (according to legend) fulfilled his promise that he would homer in honor of a hospitalized young fan on that day.
Could another incredible playoff moment take place tonight? While we wait for today’s NLDS Game 3 action, here are some notes from around the majors…
- The Cubs could be interested in outfielder Jonny Gomes, league sources tell ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers. The Cubs are known to be looking for both veteran leadership in the clubhouse and depth in the outfield, and Gomes could check both boxes as a platoon partner with Chris Coghlan.
- The Cardinals received some criticism when they signed Matt Holliday to a seven-year, $120MM free agent deal in January 2010, yet as MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby writes, both the team and the player are very happy with how everything worked out five years into the contract. Holliday has averaged .295/.383/.496 with 24 homers and 92 runs scored from 2010-14, and while he posted career lows in average (.272) and slugging (.441) this season, it could be argued that the deal has already been worth it for St. Louis.
- The Marlins are looking to add a starting pitcher this winter, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. A new arm plus the return of Jose Fernandez could lead to some rotation shuffling, and Frisaro cites Tom Koehler and Nathan Eovaldi as possible candidates to move to the bullpen. Also in the piece, Frisaro examines some other Miami position changes that could occur depending on how the Marlins’ offseason shopping plans develop.
- On paper, Yoenis Cespedes fits as a long-term power bat for the Red Sox, though Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald notes that Cespedes’ free-swinging, low-OBP style doesn’t fit into the Red Sox organizational philosophy of taking pitches and grinding down opposing pitchers. Silverman thinks Cespedes could potentially better help the Sox as a trade piece, perhaps as part of a major package to pry Giancarlo Stanton away from Miami.
- Hunter Strickland‘s rise from being an unheralded Red Sox draft pick to a flame-throwing postseason reliever for the Giants is chronicled by WEEI.com’s Alex Speier.
- Stephen Drew, Jed Lowrie, Jason Hammel, Rafael Soriano and Alfonso Soriano stand out as potential bargains on the free agent market, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post opines.
In 2013, Justin Masterson turned in a career season for the Indians as he pitched to a 3.45 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9, earning an All-Star Game nod and piquing the attention of baseball people everywhere. No one knew where he would wind up after the 2014 season, but everyone agreed that he was in line for a massive contract. Masterson might not get the same long-term haul he once envisioned thanks to a lackluster 2014, but he still figures to get paid this winter.
Everything came together for Masterson in 2013. His power sinker was clicking, he was striking batters out at a career-high rate, and his 3.33 xFIP indicated that he was just flat out good, not lucky. With an aggressive approach on the mound and a 58.5 percent ground-ball rate, Masterson truly realized his potential with the Tribe.
Of course, the main difference between the 2013 and 2014 versions of Masterson was health. Fortunately, he’s on the mend from his injuries and should be 100% on all fronts by the start of Spring Training. While others in his position – banged up in a contract year – might have chosen to rest up, Masterson mostly pitched through the pain. At 29, Masterson is younger than most of the quality pitchers available on the open market. And, thanks to the midseason trade that sent him to St. Louis, Masterson can’t be hit with the qualifying offer and won’t have draft pick compensation tied to him.
His 2014 numbers – a 5.88 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 – aren’t so hot, but the fact that he managed to make 25 starts and 3 relief appearances despite it all is pretty impressive. The righty logged four straight seasons of at least 180 innings for Cleveland and while his ERA yo-yoed – 4.70 in 2010, 3.21 in 2011, 4.93 in 2012, and 3.45 in 2013 – he was solid on the whole and his 11.7 fWAR in that stretch placed him among the top thirty starters in the game. Masterson also hasn’t had a ground ball percentage lower than 55.1% in the last five years and he’s been around 58% over the last two seasons.
GMs will ask their team doctors to do a thorough check on Masterson before putting pen to paper, but they probably won’t fret about the right-hander resting on his laurels and counting his money. It’s also worth mentioning that the 29-year-old’s xFIP (4.06) and SIERA (4.03) were far kinder to him this year than ERA and his 8.1 K/9 is actually stronger than the average of his previous four seasons. Given time to heal up and iron out the kinks in his delivery, Masterson could get back to his old self rather quickly.
His troublesome right knee, which plagued him for a good chunk of the season, is partially to blame for the down year. That problem seems to be in the rear view mirror but shoulder impingement and a nagging left oblique injury have held him back and adversely altered his mechanics. He’s expected to fully recover from all of those injuries with some rest, but teams will certainly be wary and especially thorough in their examinations. Clubs will want to be sure that they’re more likely to get the 2010-2013 version of Masterson than the 2014 version.
During Masterson’s 2010-2013 run, his fastball had an average velocity of about 92.9 MPH. This season, Masterson threw his heater at a decidedly less warm 90.3 MPH. Faulty mechanics brought on by injury are believed to be culprit for the drop, but teams will still view the decreased velocity as a concern.
Masterson’s struggles landed him in the Cardinals’ bullpen to finish out the regular season and that’s obviously not how St. Louis saw things shaking out when they traded for him at the deadline. The hurler was viewed as a top-of-the-rotation piece just a year ago and he will wind up with relief appearances as the most recent work on his resume. Masterson actually did well in his grand total of 3 and 1/3 innings of bullpen work, but he’s obviously looking to join someone’s starting five next season.
Earlier this year, Justin and his wife Meryl welcomed twins to the world, a boy and a girl, making their three-year-old daughter a big sister. Justin, the son of a pastor, spends much of his downtime aiding in humanitarian causes both here and abroad with Meryl. This offseason, he’ll be heading to Uganda and Kenya on a mission trip to help with water projects and to build orphanages for needy children. The Mastersons founded a non-profit organization (the Fortress Foundation) in 2013 to help extremely impoverished people from all around the world. In Cleveland, they volunteered and donated to Laura’s Home, a local battered women’s shelter. It’s no surprise that the Indians made Justin a repeat nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
In the clubhouse, Masterson is known a supportive teammate and someone who is always willing to help out the younger pitchers. At 29, Masterson is still young, but he also has lots of valuable experience to draw from.
If the medicals check out, a team could very well come away with one of the best pitching bargains of the winter. Back in January, when Masterson was coming off of his career year, Tim Dierkes pegged his extension value around $65-$85MM over a five year stretch. Like any free agent, the 6’6″ hurler has his question marks, but he could be a very solid value after an offseason of rest.
Last last month, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com wondered aloud if Masterson could be a fit for the Cubs. His history with former Red Sox GM and current Cubs president Theo Epstein could lead to a union and, as Mooney notes, coach Chris Bosio has a track record for taking his pitchers to the next level. Speaking of the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote back in August that Boston will have interest in Masterson in the offseason.
Outside of those old friends, teams in bigger parks with pitching needs like the Twins, Angels, Marlins, and Braves might be in the mix for Masterson.
Because Masterson’s four consecutive strong years were followed by a spotty walk year, it’s hard to gauge what kind of contract he’ll net this winter. A one-year deal to reassert himself as a top starter could put him in line for a substantial long-term deal. At the same time, it’s not hard to envision a team coming to the table with a multi-year offer to Masterson’s liking.
If Masterson opts for a one-year deal in order to restore his value and go for a monster contract after the 2015 season, a one-year, $12MM contract could make sense.
Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak tackled a variety of topics in a two-part interview with MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch. Looking back to the last offseason, he said that the team identified Pat Neshek as an option because he offered a different look from the club’s other relievers, and said that the David Freese-for-Peter Bourjos trade would not have been made without the inclusion of prospect Randal Grichuk.
Here’s the latest out of the National League …
- The Mets have, as expected, decided not to bring back hitting coach Lamar Johnson and assistant Luis Natera in those roles, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Johnson stepped in mid-season after his predecessor, Dave Hudgen, was fired. Meanwhile, Triple-A skipper Wally Backman will not be elevated to the big league staff, but will be offered the chance to keep his position.
- As the Braves continue to make their own staff changes, scouting director Tony DeMacio has been re-assigned, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Atlanta is still waiting to hear whether interim GM John Hart will take the job full-time, Nightengale adds.
- If the Pirates are unable to bring back catcher Russell Martin, another impactful transaction that could have PR benefits would be a Neil Walker extension, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. With a $5.75MM arbitration salary to build off of over his next two seasons of eligibility, and coming off of a .271/.342/.467 slash with 23 home runs, he will not be cheap.
- The Padres had a private workout today with Cuban free agent Yasmany Tomas, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. Tomas officially hit the open market yesterday.