St. Louis Cardinals Rumors

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

Rangers Acquire Sam Freeman From Cardinals

The Rangers have announced that they’ve acquired lefty Sam Freeman from the Cardinals for a player to be named later or cash. Freeman, 27, posted a 2.61 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 38 innings with the Cardinals last season while showcasing good velocity from the left side. He was, however, out of options, and the Cardinals had two other bullpen lefties in Kevin Siegrist and Randy Choate. Freeman also struggled with his control this spring, issuing five walks in five innings.

It’s not surprising the Rangers would pursue lefty relief help (although Freeman doesn’t look like an archetypal lefty specialist, having actually performed considerably better against righties than lefties in his career, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News points out). They had released Joe Beimel earlier this week, leaving them with the inexperienced Alex Claudio as their main left-handed relief option. They had also been connected to Marlins lefty Mike Dunn. Freeman has two seasons remaining before he can become eligible for arbitration, and then three more seasons after that before he can become a free agent, so there’s also the possibility (although it’s admittedly probably somewhat unlikely) that he could become a long-term asset for the Rangers if they can find a way to harness his stuff.


NL Central Notes: Bryant, Kang, Reds, Cardinals

Cubs president Theo Epstein said yesterday that he’s never taken a Minor Leaguer and put him on an Opening Day roster with zero prior big league experience, but super-prospect Kris Bryant feels like he could be the exception to that rule, writes ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers“I look at it as ‘Why not me?” Bryant said on Friday. “I think I’m the type of guy that can go out there and do it. I’ve made it a point of mine to come out here and show them that I can.” Bryant, of course, is the talk of Spring Training with nine homers and a ludicrous .406/.472/1.313 batting line in 36 plate appearances. The Cubs, though, can delay his free agency by a full season if they keep him in the Minors for a bit less than two weeks to open the season. While Cubs management and ownership naturally insists that any decision would be baseball-related as opposed to business-related, it seems likely that Bryant would be recalled early in the season once the year of team control is gained.

More from the NL Central…

  • Jung-ho Kang has struggled to a .111 average in Spring Training thus far, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington is still planning on bringing the Korean infielder north with the club to open the season, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We’ve seen some really good things,” Huntington told Biertempfel in regard to Kang.
  • Chris Dominguez, Brennan Boesch, Ivan De Jesus and Irving Falu are all competing for the Reds‘ final bench spots, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, and each has performed well in Spring Training. Manager Bryan Price also noted that the rotation isn’t yet settled. Anthony DeSclafani, Jason Marquis and Raisel Iglesias are all in the mix for the final two spots, and Price explained how his club is looking beyond statistics to determine who will fill those roles. In general, he spoke very highly of DeSclafani, so it seems likely that he’ll be in the rotation to open the year.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak spoke with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (subscription required/recommended) about his tendency to hang onto young pitching and his deviation from that process by trading players such as Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins to land John Lackey and Jason Heyward“Believe it or not, even though in these deals it appears like we’re giving up the control factor, we felt they were fair deals for both sides,” said Mozeliak. “Put it this way: We understand the risk.” Mozeliak went on to discuss the increased importance teams now place on prospects as opposed to the 1990s and early 2000s, noting that cost control has become an increasingly large factor in trades. The Cardinals, Goold writes, have an in-house algorithm and scouting process to assign dollar values to players, which they use in free agency and in trades. Said Chairman Bill Dewitt, Jr.: “Our model is value-based, and what we want to do is get value back for value given. Because there is always opportunity to use resources to acquire talent.”

Quick Hits: Zimmer, Boras, Draft, Dozier

The Rays will honor the late Don Zimmer by announcing that his #66 jersey will be retired in a ceremony on Opening Day.  Zimmer only wore #66 for one season during his 11 years as a senior advisor for the Rays, as he increased his uniform number by one every season to reflect how many years he had spent in baseball.  The beloved long-time coach, manager and player passed away last June.

  • Using Max Scherzer‘s signing with the Nationals as an example, Scott Boras discusses how he markets (though the agent dislikes that term) and presents his major free agent clients in an interview with Bloomberg’s Joshua Green.  Boras and his staff identify which teams are ideal fits for his clients and then specifically tailors each pitch to relate to each team owner during negotiations.  With Scherzer, Boras had four lengthy meetings with Nats owner Ted Lerner highlighting how Scherzer would create more value to the franchise both baseball-wise and from a business perspective.
  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo debate which club has had the best farm system of the last five years.  Callis chose the Nationals since they’ve found more superstar talent, while Mayo picked the Cardinals due to their system’s overall depth.
  • The possibility of an international draft has been a topic of discussion throughout baseball lately, with proponents like commissioner Rob Manfred advocating a “single modality of entry” to allow consistency in the way MLB teams sign amateurs from various parts of the world.  Flipping the idea around, however, Rob Neyer of FOX Sports suggests that MLB could instead ensure consistency by abolishing the amateur draft.  Instead of a draft, MLB could allow teams to spend a predetermined amount on amateur players (be they domestic or international) each year. Neyer favors doing so in such a way that would stop baseball from penalizing winning by having the top teams take lower draft picks.  The idea could also be easily modified so that teams with the worst records would be able to spend more money.  In either case, Neyer believes his system would encourage all teams to hunt for talent both at home and abroad.
  • It’s becoming rare to see pre-arbitration players sign extensions that don’t cover at least one free agent year, yet Brian Dozier‘s new contract with the Twins is such a deal, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards writes in his analysis of the extension.  Edwards thinks more players could possibly pursue “a safe deal” like Dozier’s if they “place an emphasis on getting to free agency.”
  • Orlando Hudson is in the Diamondbacks‘ camp to work with the infield, though he plans to be back on a diamond in more than an instructor role, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports (via Twitter).  Hudson hopes to play winter ball and attempt a Major League comeback for the 2016 season.  The 37-year-old former Gold Glove second baseman last played in the bigs in 2012 and had seemingly hung up his spikes following brief stints in the Mexican and Dominican winter leagues in 2013.


NL Central Links: Bryant, Martinez, Pirates

If the Cubs keep Kris Bryant at Triple-A to begin the season, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal believes the MLBPA should file a grievance as a matter of principle.  It would be a mostly symbolic gesture (“The case law overwhelmingly favors the clubs,” according to one of Rosenthal’s sources) yet it would indicate that the players’ union is serious about addressing this service-time loophole when the new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated next year.  It would also be a big-picture show of strength by the union, as some player agents feel that the MLBPA has a bit too lenient on some recent issues.

Here’s more from around the NL Central…

  • The Braves initially asked for Carlos Martinez when they began discussing the Jason Heyward trade with the Cardinals, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  The Cards refused, just as they’ve steadfastly turned down other trade offers for Martinez in recent years, yet Miklasz wonders why the club is so committed to keeping Martinez but is hesitant to give him a regular rotation job.  Miklasz argues that if the Cardinals have any doubts about Martinez, they might be better served by dealing him now while his stock is still high.
  • Arquimedes Caminero has been impressed scouts this spring, and the Pirates may be forced to put the out-of-options righty on the roster in order to keep him, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.  Keeping Caminero in the bullpen could force John Holdzkom to start the year at Triple-A, as while Holdzkom has pitched well himself in camp, he still has minor league options.
  • Speaking of the Pirates‘ roster crunch, GM Neal Huntington told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that a move could possibly be made to address the Bucs’ several out-of-options players.  “We have some guys who are out of options who may be of interest to other clubs,” Huntington said.  “We may make a small trade … or claim somebody on waivers or lose somebody on waivers. We still have some (roster) decisions to make and are always open to improving our talent level.”
  • The Reds have told veteran southpaw Paul Maholm that he won’t be earning a rotation job, though Maholm isn’t yet considering opting out of his minor league deal with the club, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes.  “We still have some time left in camp,” Maholm said.  “I’m trying to pitch and get ready for the season. Those are decisions we have to make at the date that’s set up. Until then, I’m just going to pitch.”  The Reds would have to pay Maholm $100K to retain his services if he’s not going to make their Major League roster, as per his status as an Article XX(B) player.

Offseason In Review: St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals only made one big move this offseason, but it was a big one indeed, and they’re again in strong position to contend despite an offseason touched by tragedy.

Major League Signings

Trades And Claims

Extensions

  • Lance Lynn, SP: Three years, $22MM (with incentives for playing time that can push the deal to $23.5MM)
  • Jordan Walden, RP: Two years, $6.6MM plus 2017 option
  • Jon Jay, CF: Two years, $10.975MM

Notable Minor League Signings

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

The Cardinals’ offseason began in the worst way imaginable, as outfielder Oscar Taveras, a 22-year-old potential star, passed away along with his girlfriend Edilia Arvelo in a car accident in the Dominican. The tragedy shook not only the Cardinals organization but the entire sport, which lost one of its brighter young talents.

Following Taveras’ death, the Cardinals made one dramatic move to replace him in right field, then had an otherwise quiet offseason. That dramatic move came in mid-November, when they shipped Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins to Atlanta for Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden.

The Cardinals paid heavily, giving up four years of control for Miller and six of Jenkins in order to get one year of Heyward and two of Walden. (The Cardinals added an extra year of control for Walden when they signed him to a two-year deal with an option in December.) The key to the trade, however, might be that the Cardinals know their pitchers better than anyone else does. Miller is only 24 and still has an electric arm, but his strikeout rate per nine innings alarmingly declined from 8.8 in 2013 to 6.3 last year, and his walk rate rose as well. Miller basically has two pitches (he threw his changeup just 2.4% of the time last year), and his curveball declined in velocity last year, becoming much more hittable in the process. Miller improved down the stretch and is clearly a big-league starter going forward, but if the Cardinals felt comfortable selling low on a pitcher who once looked like an emerging ace, they might well have good reasons.

Jenkins, meanwhile, is still 22 and has twice been rated in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list, but his performance record doesn’t yet match his reputation, and he missed chunks of the 2013 and 2014 seasons with a shoulder injury. He did pitch well in the Arizona Fall League after the trade, and like Miller, he has a terrific fastball. But he’s still at least a year from the Majors and represents plenty of risk.

USATSI_8451808_154513410_lowresGetting a prime season of Heyward in the deal was a coup for the Cardinals, much more so if they can extend him before he becomes a free agent after the season. Heyward is still only 25 and is an elite defensive corner outfielder and a reliable on-base threat. And given his off-the-charts tools and athleticism, he probably still has untapped upside, perhaps a lot of it. He already posted 5.1 fWAR last year while hitting a relatively meager .271/.351/.384; if he can return to, say, his 2012 total of 27 home runs, his $7.8MM salary will make him among the best values in the big leagues.

Walden is no mere throw-in. He dramatically improved his ground ball rate last year, although possibly at the expense of his walk rate. Either way, his blazing fastball should help him strike out more than enough batters to be a successful setup man. Walden’s extension, too, was a smart move, though a small one, for the Cardinals. Between his $2.5MM 2015 salary and his $350K signing bonus, the Cards will pay Walden less in 2015 than the $3MM MLBTR projected, and Walden’s $3.5MM 2016 salary is far less than Cardinals would have had to pay through the arbitration process if he had had a good 2015 season. The Cardinals also got the rights to a reasonable $5.2MM option (or a $250K buyout) for 2017.

Beyond that, the Cardinals didn’t have many holes, and thus had few excuses to spend. The Cards added Matt Belisle to their bullpen after he spent six years in the Rockies organization. Belisle is coming off his worst year in Colorado, posting a 4.87 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 2014, but he posted solid peripherals in four straight seasons before that. The Cardinals won’t have to depend on him to pitch high-leverage innings, and if he doesn’t pitch well, he won’t have cost them much.

They also signed corner infielder and strikeout king Mark Reynolds to a cheap one-year deal. Incumbent first baseman Matt Adams has a career .553 OPS against lefties, and allowing Reynolds to smash southpaws while sitting against righties should enable the Cardinals to get the most bang for their buck. Reynolds himself had a .573 OPS against lefties last season, but an .809 OPS against them for his career. And while he’s had a reputation as a marginal talent for several years now (failing to top a .221 batting average in five straight seasons will do that), he’s never been used as a part-timer, exactly — the Brewers gave him 433 plate appearances last year, his lowest total since he was a rookie. Giving him about 250 plate appearances, most of them against lefties, seems like a good way to harness his power, which remains formidable.

Finally, in addition to the aforementioned Walden contract, the Cardinals signed starter Lance Lynn and center fielder Jon Jay to fairly straightforward extensions that buy out arbitration seasons. Lynn’s $22MM deal buys out all three of what would have been his arbitration years. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz guessed that Lynn would have made something like $4.5MM for 2015, so it isn’t hard to see how Lynn might have reached or topped $22MM in three years total. At the same time, Lynn received a hefty chunk of guaranteed money and didn’t delay his free-agency eligibility.

Jay’s deal is even simpler. He had already been through arbitration once, and he and the Cardinals had already exchanged figures for this offseason, with a midpoint of $4.55MM. The extension essentially merely guarantees him a modest raise for 2016 — slightly smaller than the one he would have received had he gone year-to-year, but that’s to be expected given that the Cardinals agreed to pay his salary for both years up front. That point might seem significant to a player who briefly lost his everyday job to Peter Bourjos last year, although perhaps it shouldn’t be. Jay is, at this point, probably slightly undervalued. Particularly in the 2013 season, Jay developed a reputation for being defensively erratic. For his career, though, that’s not the story the numbers tell, and his OBP-heavy offensive game is consistently strong.

Questions Remaining

Not many. The Cardinals remain a strong team from top to bottom, and attempts to find their weaknesses mostly amount to nit-picking. The team’s fifth starter job is currently unsettled, although Marco Gonzales, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia all have upside. (The Cardinals might be leaning toward Garcia despite his long history of arm issues, since they can most easily keep all three pitchers in the organization by sending Gonzales back to the minors and Martinez to a relief role.) The Cards’ bullpen isn’t outstanding behind Trevor Rosenthal, particularly given the loss of Pat Neshek, but the additions of Walden, Belisle and minor-league signee Carlos Villanueva could all help, and hard-throwing rookie Sam Tuivailala could be a wild card. Also, Martinez would help the Cards’ bullpen depth tremendously if he were to lose out on the rotation job.

Beyond that, the questions, such as they are, are broader. The Cardinals’ core is good, but much of it is somewhat old. The Cards will lean on a great catcher (Yadier Molina) who will be 33 in July, a very good shortstop (Jhonny Peralta) who will be 33 in May, a great 33-year-old starting pitcher (Adam Wainwright), and good players in Matt Holliday and John Lackey who are even older. There are certainly scenarios in which several of those players falter at once this season, and the Cardinals are far worse than expected. The Cardinals’ depth behind Molina is one weakness that could become a problem if he gets hurt, as he did last year when he missed several weeks with a thumb injury. A minor deal with the Orioles for catcher Michael Ohlman might not help much, either, at least not right away, since Ohlman hit sparingly even at Double-A last year.

Deal Of Note

Last year, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes examined the sorts of minor-league free agents teams typically sign to big-league deals. Such players are typically around 27 when they sign, and within that context, the Cardinals’ signing of 28-year-old infielder Dean Anna to a big-league deal fits right in. Typically, though, players who receive such deals are former top prospects or hard throwers. Anna, in contrast, is a former 26th-round pick who had to scrap for playing time even in the low minors. He’s also coming off a .207/.325/.308 season at the Triple-A level, making him an even more unlikely candidate for a big-league deal.

What Anna does have is versatility (he can handle shortstop, second and third, making him a legitimate utility infielder) and on-base ability. Anna posted a .410 OBP at Triple-A Tucson in 2013 and has a .380 career minor-league OBP. Aside from a handful of games with the Yankees last season, Anna has no big-league track record, so the Cardinals’ Major-League deal amounts to a relatively cheap gamble that Anna’s minor-league track record can translate to the Majors. They can control him for up to five more years after this one if it does.

At this point, though, it’s not even guaranteed that he’ll make the team, as he’s played sparingly in Spring Training. Another unproven infielder acquired in a relatively low-profile deal, Ty Kelly, has impressed observers. Like Anna, Kelly has a great track record of providing OBP in the high minors, although Kelly doesn’t play shortstop, instead spending most of his time at second and third and in the outfield corners.

In any case, if Anna doesn’t make the squad, he could end up providing good depth at Triple-A. He might prove to be valuable if Peralta gets hurt or second baseman Kolten Wong doesn’t maintain the improvements he made in 2014.

Overview

Despite an aging group of core players, the Cardinals have an enviable blend of veterans, good players in their primes (Heyward, Lynn, Matt Carpenter) and youngsters with upside (particularly Michael Wacha and Martinez, but also Wong, Gonzalez, and outfield prospect Stephen Piscotty, who provides a solid Plan B if Holliday is out for an extended period). That diversification of assets should limit their downside — there’s a lot of talent here, and it’s spread fairly around the diamond and across the spectrum of player ages. They’re a bit too heavily weighted toward veteran talent, although that’s not necessarily surprising for a franchise that’s had seven straight winning seasons (and just lost its highest-upside young player in tragic circumstances). And the fact that most of their long-term contracts aren’t backloaded keeps them flexible.

With that in mind, the Cardinals can watch the season unfold, and use the trade market to address any weaknesses that emerge. They can also plan for the future. Lackey and Heyward are eligible for free agency after this season. While an extension for Lackey doesn’t look likely, signing Heyward, already a very good player who still has youth and upside, could become a priority. If Heyward departs, the Cardinals will likely have the flexibility to make a splash in next offseason’s free-agent market, if they so desire.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Out Of Options Players: NL Central

The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options.  That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so.  I’ve included players on multiyear deals.  This list was compiled through MLBTR’s sources.  Today, we’ll take a look at the NL Central.

Cubs: Drake Britton, Welington Castillo, Felix Doubront, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Jacob Turner, Travis Wood

Wood, Turner, and Tsuyoshi Wada were expected to battle for the Cubs’ fifth starter job this spring.  Turner has been shut down due to a flexor strain and bone bruise on his elbow, however, so the Cubs can defer making a decision on him since he won’t even be throwing again until mid-April.  Wood seemed like a winter trade candidate, but Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald explains that with the Cubs’ depth thinning out, he’s the favorite to become the fifth starter.  That would force Edwin Jackson into the bullpen, unless the Cubs offload him or even eat his remaining $22MM.

Of the Cubs’ seven relievers, righties Rondon, Strop, Ramirez, Jason Motte, and Justin Grimm seem locked in.  According to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago last week, the minor league deal for lefty Phil Coke is a “mere formality,” meaning he’s expected to break camp as the team’s primary southpaw reliever.

That leaves one potential spot for Jackson, out of options lefties Britton and Doubront, and a host of other candidates including Wada if his groin injury proves minor.  Doubront has been hit hard in his two spring outings, while Britton has tallied five scoreless innings.  Injuries may clear up the logjam, but something has to give by the April 5th opener.

There’s also last year’s starting catcher Castillo, pushed aside by winter acquisitions Miguel Montero and David RossMark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune wrote about Castillo’s situation a few days ago, noting that Arismendy Alcantara‘s versatility could allow the Cubs to open the season with three catchers.  That might be posturing on the Cubs’ part, however, since the team would be better-served trading Castillo for a fair return.

Reds: Jason Bourgeois

Bourgeois will miss four to six weeks with a fractured shoulder, so he’ll be starting the season on the DL.

Brewers: Mike Fiers, Hector Gomez, Jeremy Jeffress, Luis Jimenez

Gomez and Jimenez are hoping to earn the team’s two utility infield jobs, wrote Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel earlier this month.  Two days ago, Haudricourt tweeted he’d be stunned if Jimenez doesn’t make the team.  Luis Sardinas is in the mix as well, but he may face an uphill battle since he has options remaining.

Jeffress appears to have a spot locked up in the Brewers’ pen, wrote Haudricourt and Todd Rosiak yesterday.

Pirates: Pedro Florimon, Stolmy Pimentel, Vance Worley, Jeff Locke, Arquimedes Caminero, Radhames Liz, Mark Melancon, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, Pedro Alvarez

Worley and Locke are competing to be the Pirates’ fifth starter, with Worley appearing to hold an edge after Locke was knocked around Tuesday.  The Pirates seem willing to put one of them in the bullpen, but a trade is also possible.

Pimentel, Caminero, and Liz are vying for spots in the Pirates’ bullpen.  Charlie Wilmoth of MLBTR and Bucs Dugout feels it wouldn’t be a surprise for all three to make the team, even if it means optioning superior relievers John Holdzkom and Jared Hughes.  Liz, at least, seems a good bet to get a roster spot after signing a big league deal out of Korea during the offseason.  In an online chat yesterday, Pirates beat writer Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined that Pimentel seems the most likely of the three to get dropped.

As Wilmoth wrote in February, it’s hard to see where Florimon fits on this team.  Perhaps the waiver claim made sense in November, but he seems likely to find his way off the 40-man soon.

Cardinals: Sam Freeman, Pete Kozma

MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch looked at the situations of Freeman and Kozma in January.  Freeman, a 27-year-old lefty reliever, has continued this spring to exhibit the control problems that have plagued his Major League career.  He’s a trade candidate.  Kozma, known for his defense, appears to be playing his way into making the team, wrote Ben Humphrey of Viva El Birdos yesterday.


Central Notes: Melvin, Garcia, Beckham, Twins

Now that the Brewers have settled Ron Roenicke’s contract situation, the focus has now naturally turned to GM Doug Melvin, whose own deal is set to expire after the 2015 season.  Talking with reporters, including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links), Melvin said that he felt Roenicke’s extension was the more important deal to complete first so Roenicke wouldn’t have “lame duck” status hanging over him with the players.  Getting an extension of his own isn’t as important to Melvin at the moment, though he figures he may talk to owner Mark Attanasio about the topic at some point.

Here are some more items from around both the NL and AL Central…

  • Jaime Garcia‘s checkered injury history and high salary ($9.25MM in 2015 plus $500K to buy out his $11.5MM club option for 2016) make him a tough sell as a trade candidate, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes in his breakdown of Garcia’s trade value.  The Cardinals could pay some money to help make a deal happen, though that presumes they want to deal Garcia at all — Miklasz notes that Garcia has pitched well this spring and could be a valuable depth piece for the Cards this season.
  • While the White Sox were looking for a player with Gordon Beckham‘s skillset this winter, GM Rick Hahn tells ESPN Chicago’s Doug Padilla that he initially didn’t consider Beckham “because I didn’t think this was necessarily right fit for Gordon Beckham, individually.”  Hahn felt Beckham might be better suited to getting a fresh start with a club rather than returning to his original team, but after discussing the matter with Beckham and his agent, the infielder assured the GM that he was happy and eager to return to Chicago.  From that same piece, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that the Halos “were competitive” in making Beckham an offer close to the $2MM he received from the Sox.
  • Danny Santana‘s $530K salary for 2015 makes him the highest-paid of the Twins‘ pre-arbitration players, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.  Berardino has the full list of salaries for all 17 Minnesota pre-arb players.

Central Notes: Lackey, Snider, Robinson

Cardinals starter John Lackey remains interested in re-working his contract for this season, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Lackey, of course, is set to make the league minimum salary this season due to an unusual clause in the contract he signed with the Red Sox several years ago. Lackey says he would “love to hear something from the Cardinals. I’d listen to any offers. The ball is in their court.” Last month, however, GM John Mozeliak explained why any new arrangement is unlikely. The Cardinals have no reason to restructure Lackey’s contract without adding a year or more of additional control, and the 36-year-old Lackey will likely want to explore free agency after the season. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • The Pirates appreciate outfielder Travis Snider‘s work with them in the past several seasons, Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. The Bucs faced Snider’s new team, the Orioles, in Spring Training action earlier this week. “The last three months of the season, this guy performed very, very well for us at a time it was critically needed,” says Bucs manager Clint Hurdle. “Just well-liked, well-appreciated.” The Pirates traded Snider this offseason partly to clear space in right field for the younger Gregory Polanco (and also partly because going with Andrew Lambo or someone else on their bench gives them more flexibility than did Snider, who was out of options). “I didn’t take it personally,” says Snider. “I understand the potential of Gregory Polanco.”
  • Outfielder Shane Robinson has an April 2 opt-out clause in his minor-league deal with the Twins, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. He would be paid $550K at the big-league level this season. The longtime Cardinal hit .304/.380/.398 in 216 plate appearances with Triple-A Memphis last season and has had a good track record of getting on base at the Triple-A level in the past several years. He can also play all three outfield positions. Robinson has never really caught on in the big leagues, though, hitting .231/.303/.308 in parts of five seasons.

NL East Notes: Mets, Coke, Braves

Scouts have identified Cardinals left-hander Sam Freeman and Nationals left-hander Xavier Cedeno as logical trade candidates for the Mets, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com writes.  Both relievers are out of options and unlikely to make their clubs’ Opening Day rosters, though Rubin stresses that the Mets’ level of interest in either player is unknown.  The Mets could be on the lookout for a lefty reliever in the wake of Josh Edgin‘s decision to undergo Tommy John surgery.  Here’s more on the Mets and other news out of the NL East..

  • The Mets don’t see Phil Coke as someone who can help them, Marc Carig of Newsday tweets.  That has been their internal evaluation for some time and that has not changed in the wake of Edgin’s injury.  Coke signed a minor league deal with the Cubs earlier this month and apparently chose that opportunity over at least one MLB offer.
  • Veteran Wandy Rodriguez has pitched effectively enough to position himself for one of the two vacant spots in the Braves‘ rotation, but the team will still have to decide whether its worth taking a $2MM gamble on a pitcher who has made just 18 starts over the last two years, Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes.  The left-hander inked a minor league deal with Atlanta after failing a physical with the Phillies.
  • The Mets have four lefty options in camp in Sean Gilmartin, Dario Alvarez, Jack Leathersich and Scott Rice, but none have shined thus far, as Matt Ehalt of The Bergen Record writes.
  • Meanwhile, the Mets will be keeping their fingers crossed when it comes to starter Zack Wheeler as they’re sending his MRI results to team medical director Dr. David Altchek, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets.  The Mets, meanwhile, are still saying they’re not concerned about Wheeler’s long-term situation.

Minor Moves: Escalona, Head, Rowland, Stock

Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports several new minor league transcations (all coming via Twitter). Let’s take a look…

  • The Giants have signed hard-throwing right-hander Edgmer Escalona to a minor league pact, Eddy reports. Though Escalona didn’t appear in the Majors least year, the Orioles thought enough of his arm to give him a Major League deal in the offseason. Escalona, 28, has a career 4.50 ERA in exactly 100 innings in the Majors, but he posted a 5.80 ERA from 2012-13 with Colorado. Though he averages just under 94 mph on his heater, he’s only whiffed 6.4 hitters per nine innings in the Majors.
  • The Athletics released corner infielder Miles Head after a pair of injury-plagued seasons in which he batted just .233/.292/.352 at Double-A. Head was one of the prospects sent to the A’s from the Red Sox in the Josh Reddick-Andrew Bailey swap prior to the 2012 season and has previously ranked among the organization’s 10 best prospects.
  • Right-hander Robby Rowland has signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals, per Eddy. Formerly a third-round pick of the D-Backs (2010), Rowland has yet to pitch at a level higher than Class-A Advanced. He has a lifetime 5.28 ERA in the minors with 5.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. Rowland turned 23 in December.
  • The Astros have signed righty Robert Stock, says Eddy. Stock is a converted catcher who was drafted in the second round by the Cardinals in 2009 when Houston GM Jeff Luhnow was still their scouting director. Stock is clearly still a work in progress on the mound, as he’s walked 6.9 hitters per nine innings at two different Class-A levels.