- Like Napoli, Cardinals first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss is amid a bounce-back year and could be in line for an extension. “Overall, he’s been a great fit on this club and a great teammate. We would certainly like to keep him around,” GM John Mozeliak told David Wilhelm of the Belleville News-Democrat, though Mozeliak added that he doesn’t regard now as the right time to discuss a deal with the impending free agent. Moss, whom the Cardinals acquired from Cleveland last summer, has rendered his $8.25MM salary a bargain by slashing a fantastic .266/.349/.578 with 18 long balls in 269 PAs this season. Notably, the soon-to-be 33-year-old entered Saturday first in the league in ISO (.315) among batters with at least 250 PAs.
- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny offered high praise Saturday for center fielder Randal Grichuk, whom the team has demoted to the minors twice this season. “Overall, he’s not just a big-league talent, he’s a big-league superstar talent because of what he can do — the way he runs, the way he defends, the power, the bat speed. You name it, he’s got it,” Matheny told Mark Saxon of ESPN.com. Grichuk (25 next week) lived up to that assessment in 2015, hitting .276/.329/.548 with 17 HRs in 350 PAs while providing plus base-running and defensive production, but the 24-year-old has taken noticeable steps back this year. However, Grichuk’s increase in walks, decrease in strikeouts and .257 batting average on balls in play (down from an unusually high .365 last year) seem to indicate that he has deserved better than the .216/.280/.414 line he has produced in 293 PAs with the Redbirds this season.
Cuban right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez, who rated No. 3 on MLB.com’s rankings of international prospects, is still weighing multiple options, tweets MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Gutierrez has reportedly bounced around to multiple agencies and had a lengthy stay on the free agent market (he was declared a free agent last July) and may now pitch in Japan or wait until next year’s international signing period to strike a deal. That seems like an awfully lengthy wait for a pitcher who has drawn some pretty solid reviews in the past and as recently as March was said to have re-established himself as a prospect after briefly seeing his stuff take a step backward. Gutierrez is 20 years of age, so he’s subject to international spending limitations for now, although if he does wait until next year to sign, the international free agency process could look markedly different, as it’ll be discussed at length in the upcoming wave of collective bargaining negotiations.
That said, there are also a pair of international signings that merit mention…
- The Padres have signed Cuban righty Ronald Bolanos for a bonus that will be worth a bit more than $2MM, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. Badler notes that Bolanos, 20, played mostly as an outfielder in the 18U leagues in Cuba but converted to the mound in 2014 and has seen a substantial uptick in velocity as he’s filled out, with his heater now ranging from 90 to 96 mph. Badler praises his slider as a potentially above-average pitch and gives a less flattering review of Bolanos curveball, adding that the right-hander won’t pitch for the Padres this season but could open with one of San Diego’s Class-A affiliates in 2017. For those keeping score at home, the Padres’ total international expenditures (including the 100 percent overage tax with which they’re being hit on each of these signings) is now in the range of $65MM (as the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin points out, on Twitter).
- Lost a bit amid last week’s trade deadline chaos was the fact that the Cardinals signed Cuban shortstop/outfielder Randy Arozarena for a bonus of $1.25MM, as Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald first reported (Twitter link). Following the signing, Badler wrote about the 21-year-old’s plus speed and plate discipline, noting that he could eventually develop enough pop for 10 to 15 homers but figures to derive more value from his OBP than his power. He’s advanced enough to jump right into the mix at Class-A Advanced, in Badler’s estimation. Sanchez’s rankings listed Arozarena as the No. 16 prospect on this year’s international market.
A trio of notable players just hit the 15-day DL, so we’ll cover them all right here:
- The Indians announced that they have placed righty Danny Salazar on the 15-day DL while he rests his prized right elbow. Fortunately, an MRI seems only to have revealed inflammation, so the hope is that Salazar won’t miss an extended period of time. And Cleveland has plenty of rotation depth on hand, including Cody Anderson and Mike Clevinger, with the latter getting the nod for the time being. Still even a relatively brief absence will have an impact; Salazar has been nothing short of outstanding, and the AL Central-leading club holding a four-game cushion in the division race.
- After already recently placing infielder Jose Reyes on the shelf, the Mets have now done the same with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. He suffered a strained patellar tendon and is headed for an MRI. The team also added just-signed outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the 15-day ranks. Cabrera’s loss is notable for an organization that was already scrambling to fill in for missing infielders. Matt Reynolds will come up for the meantime to help fill the void, but it seems there’s some real concern that the injury could require a fairly lengthy absence.
- Astros reliever Luke Gregerson is headed to the 15-day with an oblique strain, the team announced. That not only will keep him out of action for a bit, but will clear the way for Ken Giles to take over as the team’s closer with Will Harris struggling of late. Gregerson has been rather excellent this year despite himself losing the 9th-inning job previously, with ERA estimators valuing him even more highly than his 3.09 ERA.
- The Braves have added righty Julio Teheran to the DL as well. He is dealing with a lat strain that isn’t believed to be serious. Atlanta will obviously want to exercise plenty of caution in handling the injury, even if it isn’t particularly worrisome, as Teheran is a key piece of the organization’s rebuilding plans and there’s no need to rush him back.
- Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal has been given platelet-rich plasma injections in his bothersome righty shoulder, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. GM John Mozeliak says that it’s possible Rosenthal Of course, St. Louis will be looking for more than just physical improvement; it’ll also hope that he can fix his skyrocketing walk rate during a rehab stint.
- As expected, Royals righty Luke Hochevar underwent a procedure today to help deal with a diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star tweets. He is expected to be out for six months, which would conceivably mean that he’ll be ready for a full spring camp if the rehab goes according to plan. It seems likely that the Royals will decline their end of a $7MM mutual option on the reliever, which would make him a free agent, though certainly it’s possible to imagine him staying with Kansas City on some kind of creative, two-year deal of the sort that the team has reached in recent years with several injured hurlers.
The Cardinals have placed shortstop Aledmys Diaz on the 15-day disabled list with a hairline fracture in his left thumb that was suffered on Sunday when he was hit by a pitch, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “And it will likely be longer [than 15 days],” general manager John Mozeliak made when announcing the move.
As Goold writes, initial X-rays revealed only a deep bone bruise, but the fracture was revealed upon further testing after the swelling in his hand had reduced. While the Cardinals had the diagnosis prior to Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline, Mozeliak explained to Goold that the didn’t feel pressured to dive into the trade market in search of infield depth due to the fact that Jhonny Peralta will return from the DL tonight and Matt Carpenter will return by Friday. “You’re not going to go out and find that kind of impact player and the fact that we get Jhonny Peralta activated (Tuesday) I think he can slide in right there,” said Mozeliak. “…I think we’re covered. Trying to find a middle infielder that would have had some type of impact on this roster — I think it would be hard to top.”
The Cardinals entered the year expecting to utilize Kolten Wong at second base, Peralta at shortstop and Carpenter at third base. However, a Spring Training thumb injury sidelined Peralta into June, giving Diaz a chance to establish himself in the Majors. His performance was strong enough (and Wong’s struggles were great enough) that upon Peralta’s return to health, he played third base, with Carpenter displacing Wong at second base. Now, with both Carpenter and Peralta both returning from DL stints of their own, Peralta will man shortstop while Carpenter reclaims his original spot at third base, for the time being.
Suffice it to say, the Cardinals have plenty of depth in the infield to cushion the blow of losing Diaz for a fairly sizable portion of the remainder of the season. Nonetheless, it’s a notable loss, as Diaz has been nothing short of sensational at the plate, hitting .312/.376/.518 with 14 home runs in 401 plate appearances. His defense leaves plenty to be desired (16 errors, -8 UZR, -3 DRS), but Diaz’s bat has played a major role in the Cardinals’ 56-49 record, which currently has them just a half game out of the second Wild Card spot in the National League.
Duke, 33, is pitching well in the second season of a three-year, $15MM contract signed with the White Sox prior to the 2015 campaign. He currently leads the American League with 53 relief appearances, though he’s clearly been deployed in a largely specialized role, as he’s totaled just 37 2/3 innings in those 53 contests. Duke has posted a 2.63 ERA with 10.0 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 and a 58.8 percent ground-ball rate. While Duke has been used in left-on-left matchups with great frequency, he’s held right-handed opponents in check this season (albeit with the help of a .238 BABIP). He’ll give the Cardinals some needed bullpen depth and join Tyler Lyons and Kevin Siegrist as a third left-handed option for manager Mike Matheny.
Duke is earning $5MM this season — of which about $1.78MM remains — and is owed $5.5MM for the 2017 season as well. Cardinals fans may recall Duke from his days with the Pirates, but he reinvented himself as a reliever with the Brewers in 2014 and parlayed a brilliant season with Milwaukee into his current contract. Since that 2014 breakout, Duke has a 2.87 ERA with 10.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 57.2 percent ground-ball rate.
Tilson, meanwhile, ranked 10th among Cardinals prospects on Baseball America’s midseason update of the organization’s top prospects and 12th on MLB.com’s version of the Cards’ top 30. BA writes that he has some of the best speed in the organization and strong contact skills but bottom-of-the-scale power. MLB.com agrees, noting that he’s selective at the plate, can bunt for hits and is capable of hitting to all fields but lacks pop. Tilson has the speed and range to play center field, and both reports indicate that he can be at least a fourth outfielder in the Majors, if not an everyday player whose game is geared toward speed, contact and defense.
We’ve already heard about the Mets’ interest in Angels righty Joe Smith, but they aren’t alone in looking at the veteran reliever. The Indians, Mariners, and perhaps also the Cardinals all have some level of interest, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. These teams, of course, have also been tied to a variety of other pen pieces — as have most organizations looking for relief help. Remember to check out MLBTR’s list of the top relief candidates to run down some possibilities.
1:15pm: A straight-up swap of Giolito wouldn’t be enough to get the Yankees to budge on Miller, Heyman tweets.
12:53pm: We’ve long heard about the Nationals’ interest in Yankees ace reliever Andrew Miller, but it has never quite been clear what the team would be willing to do to make that happen. Per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, via Twitter, “sources who have spoken with the [Nationals] believe” they’d do a one-for-one swap of Miller for top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito.
That language certainly still leaves a bit of wiggle room, and it’s not clear that a firm offer has been proposed. There’s no question, though, that the towering righty would represent a tantalizing offer for New York — if he is in fact being placed on the table.
New York is looking for a massive return for its star lefty, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports (Twitter links). The club is said to want three times the total value it achieved in its trade of Aroldis Chapman, who netted one very good prospect in Gleyber Torres along with three other pieces with real value. While Chapman is a pure rental piece, Miller comes with two added years of club control at a reasonable (though not cheap) price tag of $9MM annually. Heyman also notes that it still seems unlikely he’ll change hands, though perhaps New York is open to being blown away by an offer.
Joining the Nats with ongoing interest in Miller are the Cardinals, Indians, Rangers, and Giants, according to Heyman. Certainly, all of those clubs could put together appealing packages, though none has a rotation prospect that quite reaches Giolito’s standing — with the Cards’ Alex Reyes being the closest thing (though, to be clear, we’ve heard no indication to this point that he could be had). Texas also has some premium assets that it could dangle, though they land mostly on the position-player side. And it’s far from clear whether those teams’ best pieces are on offer for Miller.
If Giolito is, in fact, available, it would seem to make the Nats a favorite to acquire Miller. Giolito is widely regarded as one of the game’s truly premier starting pitching prospects, and he has already reached the majors for D.C. Truth be told, he would represent a rather stunning return, even for a reliever of Miller’s undeniable excellence.
The Nats were said not to be willing to give up Giolito, or even some lesser prospects, in a deal for Chapman. But there’s obviously good reason to cough up more assets for the controllable Miller, and the team has a deep stock of appealing young arms. Plus, Washington’s need for a premium late-inning pen piece only continues to grow, with incumbent closer Jonathan Papelbon struggling more than ever.
The rapid decline of Trevor Rosenthal, who has now been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury following his season-long struggles, has the Cardinals in the market for a late-inning arm to add to their relief corps, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
St. Louis has turned to right-hander Seung-hwan Oh, whose modest offseason signing has proven to be one of the savviest investments of the winter, to handle ninth-inning duties in Rosenthal’s stead. Oh has lived up to his “Final Boss” nickname in the Majors, pitching to a brilliant 1.72 ERA with 11.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 41.4 percent ground-ball rate in 52 1/3 innings. Those are dominant numbers out of the rookie relief ace, but the absence of Rosenthal’s typically high-quality innings has stretched the Cardinals a bit thin at the back of the ’pen.
Behind Oh, the Cardinals have relied heavily on Seth Maness, Tyler Lyons, Kevin Siegrist, Jonathan Broxton and Matt Bowman in the bullpen this season. Maness, though, missed more than a month with inflammation in his right elbow and has seen his average fastball velocity dip from 89.5 mph to 87.9 mph this season. Siegrist and Lyons have been outstanding from the left side, though Siegrist recently missed a couple of weeks with a bout of mono. Broxton looks more like a middle reliever than the standout closer he once was, and Bowman doesn’t miss many bats, though he’s been a ground-ball machine and has a 2.98 ERA on the year.
That collection of relief arms has delivered mostly strong results, but Oh is the only truly dominant arm of the bunch, so it’s not a surprise to see the Cardinals tied to relief help. The exact quality of the arm they’re looking for, however, isn’t entirely certain based on Heyman’s report. Heyman writes that either Angels closer Huston Street or Royals closer Wade Davis “could make sense for St. Louis” if traded, though he stops short of saying that the Cardinals have actually inquired on either arm, and there’s obviously a wide gap overall talent and 2016 performance between those two arms. The Cardinals have looked into Halos right-hander Joe Smith, he writes, and have in fact been seeking help for the back of the bullpen for some time now, as their search predates Rosenthal’s placement on the disabled list.
Of course, many Cards fans feel that the best possible upgrade the team could make to its bullpen is already in the organization. Right-hander Alex Reyes has emerged as one of the very top pitching prospects in all of baseball and opened plenty of eyes with his 100+ mph fastball in this year’s Futures Game over the All-Star break. However, Reyes’ recent results haven’t been overly encouraging, as he’s posted a 6.52 ERA in his past 29 innings (six starts) with Triple-A Memphis. He has a 5.07 ERA overall on the season and has averaged 12.9 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 in 55 innings out of the rotation since serving a 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse. Reyes’ overpowering stuff leads some to believe that he could thrive in the Majors right now in a short-relief role despite his rotation struggles in Memphis, but the Cardinals are reportedly being cautious with regards to their prized righty and may not wish to rush him to the Majors. (Reyes was pulled from his most recent start after three innings, prompting some speculation about a call-up, though Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Reyes’ quick hook from the game was “insurance” in the event that Lyons is unable to make a needed spot start for St. Louis on Saturday.)
If the Cardinals do ultimately feel that the trade market presents the best route to an upgrade, they’ll face plenty of competition, as the majority of contending clubs in the league are said to be eyeing upgrades for their relief corps. Within the past two or three days alone, we’ve heard the Giants, Nationals, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Indians, Rangers, Dodgers and Mets all tied to varying degrees of bullpen help, and other clubs figure to be more quietly on the lookout as well.
- The Cardinals seem to be considering how to rebuild fallen closer Trevor Rosenthal, with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch providing an update after the righty was placed on the DL yesterday. Rosenthal told the team of shoulder discomfort, which suggests there may have been at least some injury considerations underlying his struggles. Meanwhile, the organization is weighing whether to utilize Rosenthal as a starter during his rehab stint. Whether that would put him in line to return to that role, or just permit him to work on his approach in a different manner, remains to be seen, but we’ve heard in the past that Rosenthal would like to return to the rotation.
The Cardinals announced that they have placed former closer Trevor Rosenthal on the 15-day DL with what’s being called rotator cuff inflammation. Southpaw Dean Kiekhefer will take his spot on the active roster.
[Related: Updated Cardinals Depth Chart]
It has been an incredibly trying season for Rosenthal, who was previously considered one of the more reliable late-inning arms in baseball. As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes on Twitter, though, the organization had previously suggested there weren’t any health issues underlying his problems.
Regardless of whether this is something of a phantom DL stint or a reflection of a real issue, the down time can’t hurt Rosenthal. The 26-year-old is still racking up plenty of strikeouts with an average fastball of about 97 mph, but has coughed up 7.3 free passes per nine innings over his 33 1/3 frames on the season.
As things stand, the Cards are headed for some surprisingly tough calls on a player who had entered the year with a lifetime 2.66 ERA. Keeping him on the active roster in the midst of such struggles seemed a difficult ask for an organization that is trying to compete for a playoff spot, though there has to be at least some hope of getting him straightened out to contribute down the stretch. But even beyond that, there will ultimately be a point at which the club has to decide whether to tender Rosenthal a contract for 2017. He’ll be due a not-insignificant raise an his already-stout $5.6MM salary, and that’s no sure thing at this point in time.
At this point, the DL placement doesn’t have much of an impact on the team’s deadline plans beyond the fact that it clears an opening for an eventual roster move. St. Louis has long been seeking late-inning relief help, and that remains the case with August 1st fast approaching.