St. Louis Cardinals Rumors

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

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.

Quick Hits: Ferrell, Heyward, Cardinals, Fuld

Forty-seven-year-old prospect Will Ferrell showed his versatility by playing all 10 positions for 10 different clubs during a whirlwind single-day tour of several Arizona Spring Training camps, an event was dedicated to raise funds for the Stand Up To Cancer and Cancer For College charities.  Ferrell’s day included two at-bats (both strikeouts), a helicopter landing in center field, serving as the Cubs’ third base coach and actually recording an out during his 1/3 inning of work on the mound.  Ferrell was in such demand that he even switched teams within games, so it’s probably just a matter of time before the phenom inks a nine-figure contract.

Here’s some slightly more serious news from around the game…

  • Six of seven general managers polled by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman don’t see Jason Heyward landing a contract in the $200MM range next winter, though one of the naysaying GMs was open to the possibility if Heyward had a huge season.  Heyward brings youth (he turns 26 in August) and elite defense into his walk year, though it seems like he’d need a big power season to make $200MM a realistic possibility.  Most of the GMs and assistant GMs Heyman spoke to thought Shin-Soo Choo (seven years/$130MM) or Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years/$153MM) could be good comparables for Heyward’s next deal, though one GM noted that Heyward’s price could be elevated by the general lack of strong position player talent in next year’s free agent market.  MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently placed Heyward second in his 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings, behind only Justin Upton.
  • If Heyward’s price tag does approach $200MM, it will probably mean the Cardinals won’t re-sign him, some of the GMs noted to Heyman.  The Cards seem to have a player contract “limit of around $120 million,” as that was their outlay for Matt Holliday and around what they were willing to pay Jon Lester and Max Scherzer this winter.
  • A’s outfielder Sam Fuld discusses how he deals with the pressure of constantly fighting for spots on Major League rosters in an interview with Nico of the Athletics Nation blog.
  • In his latest piece for Gammons Daily, Peter Gammons cites the Dodgers as the “clear winner” of the 2014-15 offseason, praising Andrew Friedman for adding a great deal of flexibility and depth to the club’s roster while also bringing several good baseball minds into the front office.

Starting Pitching Notes: Scherzer, Price, Cards

Max Scherzer knows exactly what David Price is experiencing as the left-hander enters his last year under contract, and Scherzer told reporters (including James Schmehl of Mlive.com) that facing free agency inevitably adds another element to a pitcher’s season.  “You only get one shot at this, to sign a big deal,” Scherzer said. “He’s going to be in a position to do it, whether he does it now or in the offseason. That’s his choice. But you have to do it right. That’s something you have to be comfortable with.”  Scherzer said that he blocked out the pressure by simply focusing on winning games, advice that Price seems to be following.  “I’ve gone year-to-year for the last four years now, so every year is a contract year,” Price said.  “It doesn’t matter. It’s not what I’m focused on. It’s not what I’m worried about….I just need to go out there, have fun and play baseball.”

Here are more notes from various rotations around the game…

  • The Cardinals have a nice problem with Marco Gonzales, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia all looking good in Spring Training, and Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch doesn’t see any reason why the team shouldn’t keep this rotation surplus in place.  Some could argue that the Cards could trade one of these excess starters, yet Miklasz notes that the club will inevitably need starting depth beyond the five in the rotation.
  • Beyond Cole Hamels, there aren’t many top-flight pitchers available on the trade market for teams looking to fill rotation holes, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece.  Olney cites the Padres as a team who might have enough depth to trade some pitching now, while the Rays could conceivably explore dealing Alex Cobb or Drew Smyly in the coming months if they decide they can’t contend this season.
  • Also from Olney, he wonders (based only on his own speculation) if the Orioles and Dodgers could fit as trade partners in a bad-contract deal of Ubaldo Jimenez for Andre Ethier.  It’s not a bad idea, though the trade probably works better for L.A. than it does for Baltimore since losing Jimenez (even considering his 2014 struggles) would leave the O’s a bit thin on rotation depth.

NL Notes: Thornton, Dodgers, Young, Neshek

Nationals lefty Matt Thornton has exceedingly rare velocity for his age, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes. Now 38, Thornton joins former closer Billy Wagner as the only 35-and-up southpaws to sustain a 95+ mph average fastball over an entire season. Thornton’s method of maintaining his velo is rooted in a somewhat non-traditional workout program and commitment to an early but gradual build-up each offseason. The Nats have benefited thus far from picking up the veteran on a waiver claim last August, thus taking on his $3.5MM salary this year, and he is arguably the club’s top left-handed pen arm heading into 2015.

More from around the National League:

  • The new Dodgers front office is finding its hands tied somewhat in putting together a final roster, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register writes. While the organization likely would prefer to open the year with recent acquisitions Chris Heisey and Enrique Hernandez on the bench, the contracts of Andre Ethier and Alex Guerrero make that difficult. Both Heisey and Hernandez have options, creating some flexibility, and will presumably start out at Triple-A unless the team swings a trade.
  • Eric Young Jr. is the early leader for the Braves center field job out of camp, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Manager Fredi Gonzalez says that the club feels comfortable with Young’s ability to play the position defensively in spite of his limited experience.
  • Reliever Pat Neshek says he was somewhat disappointed, but understanding, of the Cardinals‘ decision not to pursue him after his breakout year with the club, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Neshek ultimately landed with the Astros for two years and $12.5MM. In discussions during last season, GM John Mozeliak told Neshek that he held a “lottery ticket” and that the team would not be able to compete with the offers Neshek would receive on the open market. “In one sense it was kind of disappointing,” said Neshek, “but he knew it. He saw better. He could do something cheaper and try to get better. I see where they’re coming from. It was a good run. It worked out for everybody.”

White Sox, Giants Pursued Heyward; Yankees Also Inquired

11:15am: While the Yankees did indeed ask about Heyward, along with many other teams, the White Sox and Giants were actually the teams that came closest to landing him before St. Louis pulled the trigger, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).

That is not necessarily surprising, in the sense that both clubs were obviously in need of corner outfield help. The former ultimately signed Melky Cabrera and the latter added Nori Aoki. While Chicago ought to be set for the foreseeable future in that position, assuming that Avisail Garcia can fix his hold on one corner, San Francisco could be on the market (though it holds a club option over Aoki).

8:11am: The Yankees engaged the Braves this offseason in trade talks regarding outfielder Jason Heyward, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. Atlanta ultimately dealt Heyward to the Cardinals, of course.

While the report does not indicate how serious the interest was or whether any actual offers were submitted, it does suggest that the Yankees are a plausible suitor when Heyward hits free agency. The team already has Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran under contract for 2016, and prospects like Aaron Judge coming up behind them. But New York had a plan to shift Beltran to a DH role if it acquired Heyward, per Martino, and could certainly chart such a course next season.

The other salient takeaway — the item is otherwise largely of historical interest — is that there is increasing evidence that the Yankees are now targeting a certain type of player (young, defensively valuable) that does not quite align with the club’s offseason acquisitions of yore. Indeed, Martino notes that the team also asked the Braves about Andrelton Simmons, although it is far from clear that Atlanta ever engaged on him. New York ultimately traded instead for another fielding-first infielder in Didi Gregorius.


NL Notes: Turner, Heyward, Holdzkom, Pence

Shortstop Trea Turner, the reported player to be named later in the Wil Myers deal, will be headed to the Nationals organization in June, but for right now, he’s enjoying his time in Padres big-league camp, MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes. “It’s been great. It’s been everything I’ve hoped for and more,” says Turner, who adds that he’s liked working with Padres third base coach Glenn Hoffman. Turner’s situation is unusual, though it sounds like he and the Padres are making the best of it. The team can’t simply trade the 2014 first-rounder now because they’re not allowed to deal him until a year after he signed his first pro contract. At the same time, it’s widely known that he’s in the trade and will be with the Nationals in June. Here’s more from the National League.

  • Free-agent-to-be Jason Heyward doesn’t know what his future holds, but he’s happy to have a new start with the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I spent five years at this level with one organization and I still don’t know if I’ve seen the best of myself,” Heyward says. “I do feel that this is the best thing that could have happened to me as far as playing this game, getting a new start somewhere else. Absolutely.” Heyward adds that money will be part of the equation in his search for a new team, but that it will be secondary. “Who is going to provide that environment on a daily basis that says you have a great opportunity to be great for as long as you can play? That’s the biggest thing for me,” he says.
  • The Pirates signed reliever John Holdzkom out of independent ball last season with the idea that he would be an extra arm for Double-A who might turn out to be something more, Bucs special assistant Jim Benedict tells ESPN 970’s David Todd in an interview Todd transcribed for Bucs Dugout (a website for which I also write, in the interest of full disclosure). Benedict saw Holdzkom pitch last summer at Triple-A Indianapolis. “I remember telling Clint (Hurdle) like a lot of other guys, ‘There’s a guy down there that can help us. He’s downhill, he’s 98 and it cuts. And I know that’s hard to hit, so let’s keep our eyes on this one,‘” Benedict says. “And all of a sudden he’s on the Pirates pitching meaningful games.” Holdzkom, who began the season pitching for independent teams in San Angelo and Amarillo, wound up striking out 14 batters in nine innings down the stretch with the Pirates.
  • Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is out six to eight weeks with a fractured forearm, but assistant GM Bobby Evans says that injury is short-term enough that the Giants will simply replace him internally, MLB Network Radio tweets.