St. Louis Cardinals Rumors

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

NL East Notes: Hamels, Howard, Desmond, Nationals

The Phillies might value Cole Hamels too highly, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. An executive from another team tells Rosenthal that GM Ruben Amaro is looking to make the “perfect” trade and wonders if Amaro feels he has to make exactly the right deal in order to avoid being fired. The Red Sox, Cardinals, Rangers and Padres top the list of teams interested in Hamels, although the Red Sox are not urgently trying to acquire Hamels, trade talks with St. Louis haven’t gone far, and Hamels’ contract could be an issue for Texas and San Diego. Here’s more from the NL East.

  • Amaro says first baseman Ryan Howard is likely to be with the Phillies when Spring Training arrives, Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Amaro has made no secret of the Phillies’ desire to be rid of Howard, whose salary ($60MM through 2016) and poor recent performance have made his contract an albatross.
  • It remains possible that the Mets could acquire shortstop Ian Desmond from the Nationals, Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes. Talks between the two sides have not progressed recently, however. The Mets had reportedly discussed a three-team deal involving Desmond and Ben Zobrist with the Nationals and Rays, although Martino writes that the Mets pushed harder to acquire Zobrist rather than Desmond.
  • Nationals fans have reason to be wary of the team’s trade of Tyler Clippard to the Athletics for Yunel Escobar, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes. Losing Clippard further depletes a Washington bullpen that’s already losing Rafael Soriano and Ross Detwiler, and Escobar is potentially a declining player whose arrival might signal that free-agent-to-be Desmond will soon be playing elsewhere.

Arbitration Filing Numbers

Many players will avoid arbitration today, and dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won’t go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox (per the most recent updates) are known for their “file and trial” policies. For players on those teams this marks the last chance at negotiations before a hearing.

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights — players who filed for $5MM or more. Projections can be found here. Now for the details …

  • The Reds countered the $5.7MM filing of Todd Frazier with a $3.9MM figure, according to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman David Freese filed at $7.6MM and the Angels countered at $5.25MM, WAPT’s Mike Perchick tweets. Halos outfielder Matt Joyce has filed for $5.2MM against a $4.2MM counter, according to Perchick (on Twitter).
  • Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler filed for $10.8MM while the club countered at $8.5MM, Perchick tweeets.
  • Pirates second baseman Neil Walker filed at $9MM while the club landed at $8MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Just-acquired reliever Tyler Clippard has filed for $8.85MM against the Athletics, who countered at $7.775MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay filed at $5MM while the team countered at $4.1MM, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets.
  • Pedro Alvarez has requested a $5.75MM salary for the coming season while the Pirates are at $5.25MM, per a tweet from Perchick.
  • Righty Mat Latos filed at $10.4MM and the Marlins countered with a $9.4MM figure, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman Casey McGehee filed at $5.4MM, with the Giants countering at $4MM, Heyman tweets.
  • The Braves countered Mike Minor‘s $5.6MM filing number with a $5.1MM team figure, Heyman reports on Twitter.
  • Mark Trumbo has filed for $6.9MM against a $5.3MM counter from the Diamondbacks, Heyman tweets. Closer Addison Reed, meanwhile, filed at $5.6MM with the team countering at $4.7MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles went with a $7.5MM price point for righty Bud Norris, who filed at $10.25MM, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). In both relative and absolute terms, there is an even bigger gap between the O’s ($2MM) and breakout slugger Steve Pearce ($5.4MM), who is looking to cash in on a big season in his final year of eligibility. That news also comes via Connolly, on Twitter.
  • Entering his final year of arbitration, infielder Daniel Murphy has filed for $8.6MM while the Mets have submitted a $7.4MM figure, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets.
  • Reds 9th inning man Aroldis Chapman filed for $8.7MM while the team countered at $6.65MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles and outfielder Alejandro De Aza will negotiate between filing figures of $5MM and $5.65MM, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.
  • Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer filed at $6.7MM and the team countered at $4.6MM, Heyman tweets. The club will also have some ground to make up with closer Greg Holland, who filed at $9MM versus a team filing of $6.65MM, per another Heyman tweet.
  • Newly-acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson has filed at $5.75MM, while the Blue Jays countered at $4.3MM, Heyman tweets.

Quick Hits: A’s, Lynn, Soto, Johan

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court Of Appeals upheld a previous ruling rejecting the city of San Jose’s challenge of Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption, Fangraphs’ Nathaniel Grow reports (Twitter link).  As explained by CSNBayArea.com’s Joe Stiglich, the ruling is another obstacle in San Jose’s attempt to bring the Athletics to town, and an eventual courtroom victory in front of the Supreme Court seems unlikely.  The A’s may only be allowed to move if a majority of team owners votes down the Giants’ territorial rights claim on San Jose or if the Giants are financially compensated for giving up the area, Stiglish notes.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • The Cardinals and Lance Lynn discussed a longer-term deal before settling on a three-year extension that buys out Lynn’s three arbitration years, GM John Mozeliak told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jen Langosch).  “Obviously, when you start talking about free-agent years or option years, there’s a cost to that,” Mozeliak said. “It certainly was something that was on the table and discussed. But ultimately the comfort of something getting done, even though it may feel short, it gives us some cost certainty.”
  • Geovany Soto is expected to sign within the next few days, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets.  The Rangers are among the teams still in the hunt for the veteran catcher.
  • The Blue Jays, Brewers, Mariners, Rangers and Rays were among the teams who scouted Johan Santana‘s recent Venezuelan Winter League appearance, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports.  The Yankees, whose interest in Santana was already known, also had a scout present.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Ken Davidoff of the New York Post that his team is “probably not” going to sign Max Scherzer.  “We’ve been in a situation where we’re pretty well set with our starting pitching,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve got five starters that we’re comfortable [with]. I guess you never tell what happens, but we’re not in any type of active pursuit of any other pitching right now.”  Dombrowski has consistently made statements of this type all winter, though there have been whispers that Scherzer could wind up back in Detroit thanks to the relationship between Scott Boras and Mike Ilitch.
  • Right-hander Kameron Loe and outfielder Terrell Joyce have both been issued 50-game suspensions following positive tests for a drug of abuse, the Commissioner’s Office announced.  Both players are currently free agents.  Loe posted a 4.49 ERA over 569 innings in the bigs with five teams from 2004-13, while Joyce (a 12th-round Astros draft pick in 2012) has a career .229/.308/.396 slash line over 704 minor league plate appearances in Houston’s farm system.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Thursday

As we approach tomorrow’s deadline for exchanging filing numbers, the volume of arb deals will increase. All arb agreements can be monitored using MLBTR’s 2015 Arbitration Tracker, but here are today’s smaller agreements, with all projections referring to those of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz:

  • The Indians have avoided arbitration with third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and agreed to a one-year, $2.25MM deal, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  It’s a slight bump over Chisenhall’s projected $2.2MM salary.  Chisenhall hit .280/.343/.427 with 13 homers in 533 PA with the Tribe last season.
  • The Indians and left-hander Marc Rzepczynski have agreed to a one-year, $2.4MM contract to avoid arbitration, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link).  Rzepczynski surpassed his projected salary with the contract, as he was pegged to earn $1.9MM next season.  The southpaw posted a 2.74 ERA, 2.42 K/BB rate and an even 46 strikeouts over 46 innings out of Cleveland’s bullpen last season.
  • The Nationals and catcher Jose Lobaton will avoid arbitration after agreeing to a deal, CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman reports.  Lobaton will earn $1.2MM, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets, which exactly matches his projected 2015 salary.  Lobaton hit .234/.287/.304 over 230 PA in backup duty for the Nats last season.
  • The Athletics and outfielder Craig Gentry agreed to a one-year, $1.6MM deal to avoid arbitration, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets.  Gentry was projected to earn $1.5MM.  After posting a .759 OPS over 556 PA in 2012-13, Gentry took a step back at the plate last season, slashing just .254/.319/.289 over 258 plate appearances but still providing tremendous defense (a +16 UZR/150).
  • The Nationals have avoided arbitration with second baseman Danny Espinosa, agreeing to a one-year, $1.8MM contract, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports.  This deal falls below Espinosa’s projected $2.3MM contract, though Espinosa hit .219/.283/.351 in 364 plate appearances for the Nats last season and managed only a .465 OPS in 167 PA in 2013.
  • The Indians agreed to a one-year, $2.337MM deal with right-hander Carlos Carrasco, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter).  This figure is a significant increase over the $1.4MM contract that was projected for Carrasco in his first arb-eligible year.  The righty enjoyed a breakout 2014 season, posting a 2.55 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 4.83 K/BB rate over 134 innings with the Tribe.  Carrasco pitched mostly out of the bullpen but also delivered several quality starts down the stretch.
  • The Dodgers and outfielder Chris Heisey agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.16MM to avoid arbitration, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  This is slightly less than the $2.2MM Heisey was projected to earn.  Heisey is coming off a .222/.265/.378 slash line over 299 PA with the Reds last season and was dealt to L.A. last month.
  • The Angels inked catcher Drew Butera to a one-year, $987.5K deal to avoid arbitration, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports.  Butera was projected to earn $900K next season.  The catcher posted a .555 OPS in 192 PA with the Dodgers last season and was dealt to the Halos last month.
  • The Nationals agreed to a one-year, $2.25MM contract with Craig Stammen, avoiding arbitration with the right-hander, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter).  This figure slightly tops Stammen’s projected $2.1MM contract.  Stammen posted a 3.84 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and a 4.00 K/BB rate over 72 2/3 innings out of Washington’s bullpen last season.
  • The Cardinals agreed to a one-year, $1.65MM deal with outfielder Peter Bourjos to avoid arbitration, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  Bourjos was projected to earn $1.6MM.  Bourjos displayed his usual top-shelf defense with the Cards last season but only hit .231/.294/.348 over 294 PA.

(more…)


Cardinals Sign Lance Lynn To Three-Year Deal

The Cardinals announced on Thursday that they have reached a three-year, deal with righty Lance Lynn that buys out his remaining three seasons of arbitration eligibility. The contract reportedly guarantees Lynn a total of $22MM. Additionally, the second and third year of the contract contain incentives, based on games started, that can boost the total value to $23.5MM. There are no options on the straight three-year deal, so the Cardinals will be gaining cost certainty, but no additional years of club control.

MLB: NLCS-San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals

MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz recently broke down the arbitration case for Lynn, who projected to earn a $5.5MM payday that would set a record for first-time arb-eligible pitchers. (As Swartz explains, he expected that Lynn would fall shy of that mark, but still earn somewhere in the $4.5MM range.) Instead, like several other quality starters before him, Lynn will take a multi-year guarantee that avoids any new records.

For the club, this contract ensures cost certainty while avoiding the expected annual haggling that would have come from continued quality work from Lynn. If he puts up numbers remotely in line with his prior work — he has averaged over 200 innings of 3.35 ERA pitching over the past two seasons — then his arb earnings would likely have handily outstripped the $22MM guarantee that he takes home.

If, on the other hand, Lynn were to reach his full ceiling, it is not hard to imagine that the Cards will realize rather significant savings. (David Price, after all, is projected to take home nearly $19MM next year alone.) While no additional control appears to have been obtained via the contract, the protection against massive performance-driven salary increases has plenty of value for St. Louis.

A corresponding set of considerations surely drove the deal for Lynn, a client of Excel Sports Management. Though he sacrifices some upside earning opportunity, he preserves the ability to hit free agency in advance of his age-31 season while locking down his first significant payday and safeguarding himself in the event of an injury or an unexpected decline in performance.

Deals of this nature are uncommon, though not entirely unheard of. As MLBTR’s Extension Tracker shows, recent cases of players selling all three of their arb years with no options include Pablo Sandoval ($17.15MM in 2012), Elvis Andrus ($14.4MM in 2012) and Joey Votto ($38MM in 2011). Of course, Andrus and Votto ultimately signed new extensions on top of those pre-existing deals.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported the deal (Twitter links), while Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch added further details.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rangers, Padres, Cardinals, Red Sox Are “Primary Suitors” For Cole Hamels

The Rangers have joined the Padres, Cardinals, and Red Sox as the four primary teams pursuing Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, according to a report from Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Texas has previously been mentioned as having interest, but not much attention has focused on that possible destination.

It is worth noting that Philadelphia is not interested in simply finding the highest bidder. Rather, per the report, the club is holding firm in demanding two premium talents in return and will keep Hamels at least through the summer if it is not satisfied with an offer. Among the possible trade partners, Boston may be “most in the background” at present after its run of pitching acquisitions, Salisbury adds.

Nevertheless, the Phillies do appear to be serious about making a deal. Ruben Amaro Jr. has dedicated significant resources to scouting systems of the clubs he has been in contact with, says Salisbury, who notes that the embattled GM can ill afford a misstep with the organization’s best MLB asset.

Philly is especially interested in adding a young catcher, says Salisbury, who notes that several of the teams most heavily involved on Hamels possess top backstop prospects. The club would likely insist on adding Blake Swihart in a deal with Boston, or Austin Hedges in a deal with San Diego. And, as Salisbury notes, the Rangers also possess a top minor league receiver in Jorge Alfaro along with a nice collection of other heralded young players.


Pitching Notes: Shields, Cards, Ogando, Albers, Baker, Coke, Comebacks

As things stand, the Nationals have the game’s best rotation while the Royals have the top pen, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney opines (Insider links). Of course, the offseason is not yet over. Here are the latest notes on the pitching market:

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart confirmed that the team has active interest in starter James Shields, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Stewart adds that he likes the idea of  Shields serving as a mentor while fronting the team’s rotation. Fellow free agent Max Scherzer, however, is too spendy for Arizona.
  • When the Cardinals pursued lefty Jon Lester, the team indicated it was willing to spend only to the $120MM range, Olney tweets. That could give an idea of what kind of payroll space the club feels willing to occupy, says Olney. St. Louis was recently linked to a trio of top starting pitchers, each of whom would represent quite a different investment.
  • Alexi Ogando apparently produced solid results in his recent workout, with Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweeting that scouts were impressed. The Red Sox and Dodgers are “aggressive” on Ogando, Gammons adds. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had tweeted that Boston was in attendance.
  • Righty Matt Albers is throwing in preparation for a showcase early next month, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). The shoulder issues that shut him down last year did not involve any structural damage, says Morosi.
  • Agent Bobby Witt says that client Scott Baker, another free agent righty, prefers to join a team that will allow him to enter camp as a starter, Morosi reports (Twitter links). Baker has five minor league offers in hand but is hoping to receive a major league contract.
  • Interest in lefty Phil Coke is “amping up,” Chris Iott of MLive.com tweets. Nevertheless, a signing does not appear to be imminent, per the report.
  • The Twins are planning to watch lefty Johan Santana throw today after already seeing him on the mound last week, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. Santana is not the only prominent hurler eyeing a comeback, it seems. Former closer Carlos Marmol threw in the Dominican earlier this winter and is now pitching in Venezuela, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. And one-time relief ace Daniel Bard, whose career derailed with a failed conversion back to the rotation, is also seeking a return, Cafardo reports. The 29-year-old says he is finally healthy and expects to sign a deal this week.

NL Central Links: Walker, Cubs, Cardinals

We’ve already shared one set of NL Central notes earlier today, and here’s even more news out of the division…

  • The possible addition of Jung-ho Kang could be a sign that the Pirates are preparing to eventually part ways with Neil Walker, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes.  The Bucs have discussed an extension with Walker, who will be 31 when his current deal expires after the 2016 season, though seemingly little progress had been made.  Singer notes that shortstop prospect Alen Hanson has been playing second base in Dominican Winter League action, which could simply be a developmental move, or another hint that the Pirates are covering their bases if a Walker extension can’t be worked out.  Of course, this could be a moot point if Pittsburgh doesn’t sign Kang — the team has about two more weeks to work out a contract with the Korean infielder after posting the highest bid for his services.
  • With the Cardinals rumored to be looking for a top-tier starting pitcher, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch speculates that this interest could be fueled by the Cubs‘ aggressive offseason.  “If indeed the Cardinals view the Cubs as a rising power, then that’s another reason to make a big move here to strengthen your roster for the long haul,” Miklasz writes.
  • The Cubs and WGN-TV announced a new broadcasting deal today that will see the local station air 45 Cubs games per year through the 2019 season.  No financial terms of the contract were revealed.  As Robert Channick of the Chicago Tribune notes, the Cubs’ local and cable TV rights are now both set to expire after the 2019 season, so the team could pursue creating its own regional sports network.

NL Central Notes: Kang, Cueto, Garrett, Reds, Cards

Alan Nero, the agent for Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang, is confident that his client will reach a deal with the Pirates, he tells Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Nero described the negotiation process as positive and said that GM Neal Huntington has “tried very hard to basically come to the table with an offer.” Brink notes that Kang could begin the season in a bench role, providing insurance in case Neil Walker‘s back continues to be problematic or in case Jordy Mercer struggles at short. I’d think that given the expected financial commitment, the Pirates will look to get Kang as many at-bats as possible.

More news from the NL Central…

  • There’s been no recent progress in extension talks between the Reds and Johnny Cueto, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Cueto’s agent said last month that his client loves Cincinnati and is open to staying for the right price, but they’ll only talk extension prior to the start of the regular season.
  • Reds prospect Amir Garrett has thrived after giving up basketball this past year, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Cincinnati selected Garrett in the 22nd round of the 2011 draft and allowed him to play college basketball as well, but the left-hander explained to Sheldon why he elected to give his full attention to one sport for the first time in his life. Reds player development director Jeff Graupe tells Sheldon that the shift to focus solely on baseball is a large reason behind Garrett’s 2.86 ERA over his final 14 starts. Now on the 40-man roster, Garrett will be in big league camp for the first time in 2015.
  • In a piece for Baseball America, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans spoke with Reds GM Walt Jocketty about his club’s direction for the future. Jocketty stressed the importance of stockpiling pitching talent — something the club has made an effort to do in recent drafts — as the key to sustained success. The breakthroughs of both Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier have given the Reds even more reason for optimism, Rosecrans writes, but there are still questions in the rotation and with some of the club’s injured stars.
  • Though reports have indicated that the Cardinals are toying with the idea of adding a front-line starter such as Cole Hamels, Max Scherzer or David Price, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeff Gordon feels that the Cards should trust the depth they have and make only a minor addition, if any. (Gordon suggests that flipping Peter Bourjos for a lower-caliber arm could make sense.) Any trade for Price or Hamels would likely have to include one of Stephen Piscotty or Randal Grichuk (among other players, of course), which would leave the Cardinals thin when Jason Heyward hits free agency next winter. Gordon notes that the trade of Shelby Miller in the Heyward deal suggest that GM John Mozeliak and his staff are confident in Michael Wacha‘s ability to rebound from injury, thereby lessening the need for a large addition.

Cardinals Exploring Top-End Starter Acquisition

The Cardinals are exploring several avenues to add a top-end arm to the top of the rotation, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report. The targets include not only free agent Max Scherzer but also trade candidates Cole Hamels of the Phillies and David Price of the Tigers.

Rosenthal and Morosi hasten to add that no deals appear to be close, and note that St. Louis could decide to hold pat with its current slate of starters if the price proves too steep. But the club’s interest reflects some level of concern that the staff will hold up as constituted, per the report.

Scherzer has local roots and could be had for nothing but money, but is expected to command quite a lot of it. The other two hurlers — both southpaws, which the FOX Sports tandem says the Cards would prefer — will obviously require more than cash commitments to acquire.

In the case of Hamels, his no-trade protection would pose no barrier as the Cardinals are not on his no-trade list. But Philadelphia would be looking for a package fronted by a young starter such as Carlos Martinez or Marco Gonzales, while also including a promising young outfielder like Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty. Center fielder Peter Bourjos is also a player that the Phillies have had interest in some time, per Rosenthal and Morosi.

Price, of course, represents an entirely different sort of piece. He is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and is currently under control of a win-now Detroit club. Per the report, St. Louis might pursue Price with the idea of locking him up for the long-term, based in part on the fact that he makes his offseason home in reasonable proximity (Nashville).

The Price-Scherzer dynamic also impacts things from the Tigers’ perspective, of course, and Rosenthal and Morosi say that the team has not approached Price about an extension. GM Dave Dombrowski has not been shy about dealing pitching talent in recent years, and it could be that moving Price off the books for 2015 would pave the way for a return for Scherzer. Of course, that scenario seems fairly speculative at this stage.