St. Louis Cardinals Rumors

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

NL Notes: Mets, Cardinals, Braves

The Mets made one of the best under-the-radar improvements this offseason by upgrading their outfield defense, ESPN's Mike Petriello writes (Insider-only). With Juan Lagares starting in center field for the entire season, and Curtis Granderson and Chris Young on either side of him, the Mets should be much better off defensively than they were with Lucas Duda and others last season. Petriello also lists the Cardinals' defense, in both the infield and the outfield, as one that should be dramatically improved as a result of this offseason's moves. The Cardinals acquired Peter Bourjos for David Freese, improving their outfield while allowing Matt Carpenter to shift back to third. Another new addition, Mark Ellis, figures to help at second base. Here are more notes from the National League.


NL Central Notes: Pirates, Samardzija, Morgan, Cards

The Pirates have earned the No. 1 spot atop the organization talent rankings in the 2014 edition of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook (Baseball America's J.J. Cooper has the details).  The Bucs' strong 2013 draft and their multitude of quality prospects throughout the farm system contributed to the ranking, BA editor John Manuel explained to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  “They have several players we felt would contend to be No. 1 in a lot of different organizations,” Manuel said. “They have several players who fit the profile to be starters on championship-caliber teams. They have more of those than other teams.”

Here's some more from around the NL Central…

  • Jeff Samardzija believes he'd be unlikely to sign an extension with a new team following a trade from the Cubs, the right-hander tells CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney.  “The odds are very slim that I would," Samardzija said.  "For any professional player two years out of free agency, the odds they sign a deal are pretty slim (in that situation)."  Samardzija said his feelings could change if he's actually in that situation, but he tells Mooney that his preference would be to stay with the Cubs.  Click here for an earlier portion of Mooney's pre-Christmas interview with Samardzija.
  • The Reds aren't one of the six-to-eight teams who have shown interest in Nyjer Morgan, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports.  Morgan enjoyed a big 2013 season with the Yokohama Bay Stars and is weighing offers from both MLB and Japanese clubs.
  • The Cardinals seemingly have pitching to spare, but Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out that the club's arms have thrown a lot of extra high-pressure innings over the last few seasons due to the Cardinals' deep playoff runs.  "This is why I have no problem with GM John Mozeliak's obvious desire to hoard pitching. You just never know when you're going to need arms to come to the rescue," Miklasz writes.
  • The Cardinals plan to expand their scouting and development operations within Japan and Cuba over the next year, Mozeliak tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • In other NL Central news from earlier today, the Pirates signed Chris Dickerson to a minor league deal, the Cardinals claimed Rafael Ortega off waivers from the Rangers, Brewers GM Doug Melvin commented on his team's lack of free agent moves, Reds GM Walt Jocketty discussed the difficulties of signing Homer Bailey to an extension.

Cardinals Claim Rafael Ortega

The Cardinals have claimed outfielder Rafael Ortega off waivers from the Rangers, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch (on Twitter). Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish first tweeted that Ortega had been claimed by an unknown team. This is the second time Ortega has been claimed on waivers this offseason, as the Rangers initially claimed him from the Rockies back in late November.

Ortega entered the 2013 campaign ranked 15th among Rockies prospects, according to Baseball America, who called him a true center fielder with a plus, accurate arm and plus speed. BA noted that he needs to be careful not to fall in love with swinging for the fences after a home run, though he does have surprising pop for someone with a 5'11", 160-pound frame.

The 22-year-old Ortega saw his season cut short by injuries in 2013, and he posted just a .228/.315/.297 batting line in 178 plate appearances when healthy. Ortega has three 30-steal campaigns under his belt in the minors and has already received a brief taste of the Majors, totaling six plate appearances with the Rockies in 2012.



NL Notes: Davis, Buck, Cardinals

With Winter Storm Ion pummeling the eastern half of the United States, let's warm ourselves on the Hot Stove with the latest National League news and notes:

  • The Mets expect to begin Spring Training next month with Ike Davis still in the fold, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The Brewers and Pirates have been the clubs most linked to Davis and the Mets are willing to re-engage in trade talks with them or any other team. The Orioles have also shown interest in the 26-year-old first baseman, but they turned down the Mets' request of pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez and are notably not mentioned in Rubin's article. 
  • The Mets are open to adding more depth at catcher, but have no interest in a reunion with John Buck, tweets the New York Post's Mike Puma.
  • International free agency has been key to the Cardinals' having the game's best farm system, according to Derrick Goold of the St.Louis Post-Dispatch. The club's top position and pitching prospects (Oscar Taveras and Carlos Martinez, respectively) were both signed as international free agents, Goold notes.    

Goold On Cardinals: Taveras, Martinez, Mozeliak

In a chat yesterday, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch covered a series of topics with his readers, many of which implicated the hot stove. Here are a few highlights:

  • Top prospect Oscar Taveras will have a shot at winning a roster spot in the spring, Goold writes. He may start out coming off of the bench, as Matt Adams did last year, though service time considerations will certainly weigh in the equation. Meanwhile, Carlos Martinez could still begin the year as a starter in Triple-A or as a key part of the big club's bullpen. To hold him in the minors as starting depth, however, the Cards would need to feel confident in another relief option, Goold explains. If injuries do not intervene, big springs from Taveras and Martinez could force other roster moves to clear way.
  • When it comes time to make those decisions, Cards' GM John Mozeliak will surely utilize the club's value-based approach to comparing players and making personnel decisions. As Goold explains, the team puts a premium not only on years of control, but also the availability of options that allow the club to maintain that control even if a player struggles (or is supplanted) at the big league level. The organization has also ensured depth by holding onto higher-level minor leaguers that appear blocked, rather than flipping them for younger, more speculative talent.
  • Mozeliak could always be wooed by an organization like the Rockies, says Goold, but all indications are that he remains committed to St. Louis. Mozeliak has interest in the game's broader business aspects, and could continue to expand his role in that respect with the Cardinals. If Mozeliak were to climb in the organization and move out of a baseball operations role, he has indicated that he would like to have a succession plan in place. Goold notes that several internal candidates to fill his shoes would be assistant GM Michael Girsch, director of player personnel Matt Slater, and director of amateur scouting Dan Kantrovitz.
  • Putting aside the Cards, Goold opines that the Nationals are the N.L. club that has made the most improvement over the off-season to date. He views Doug Fister as a "big addition" for D.C. 
  • The Cardinals figure to join other MLB clubs in expanding the use of defensive shifts next season, Goold advises.

Quick Hits: Angels, Cardinals, Yankees, O’Flaherty

Playing winter ball in Venezuela can help North American ballplayers make ends meet, and Joshua Goodman of the Associated Press provides a fascinating look into what their lives are like as they deal with the wildly different stadium atmosphere there, not to mention the different political atmosphere. Players often make $10K to $20K a month in Venezuela, far more than most of them do in the US minor leagues or in independent ball. They play for large, raucous crowds, unlike some of those in the minors. "I've never played in the big leagues, but I don't think the environment is nearly as fun" as it is in Venezuela, says Jamie Romak, a 28-year-old minor-league veteran who played in the Cardinals system last year and is now playing for La Guaira. Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • Masahiro Tanaka's free agent contract will have much to say about the way we value prospects, writes Dave Cameron of FanGraphs. The market might value Tanaka at something like $120MM to $150MM, even though he is generally considered to be a lesser talent than Yu Darvish was before his debut, and Darvish ranked behind several prospects (like Matt Moore and Shelby Miller) on some analysts' lists at the time. So if Tanaka is worth $120MM, how much is Taijuan Walker worth? How much, for that matter, is Xander Bogaerts worth? Estimates might end up somewhere north of $100MM, even though those players haven't yet proven themselves in the big leagues. That's why, Cameron argues, the Royals should not have included Wil Myers in the James Shields trade last year.
  • The Angels haven't been known for their farm system in recent years, but MLB.com's Jim Callis writes that their 2009 draft was the best one of the past decade. The Angels had five selections in the first 48 picks, and with the second of those, they landed Mike Trout, currently baseball's best all-around player. They also grabbed Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs (who both went to Arizona in the Dan Haren deal, although Skaggs returned earlier this month as Mark Trumbo went to the desert), outfielder Randal Grichuk (who was part of the David Freese trade) and Garrett Richards.
  • Meanwhile, Callis' colleague at MLB.com, Jonathan Mayo, argues that the Cardinals' 2009 draft was actually the best. That draft produced Matt Carpenter, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams and Joe Kelly.
  • Even if they sign Tanaka, the Yankees might be able to get below the $189MM luxury-tax threshold for 2014 if they trade high-priced players during the season, Joel Sherman of the New York Post points out. Even that would be tricky, however. Alex Rodriguez would still have to miss a hefty chunk of the season due to his suspension (however his appeal turns out), and the Yankees would have to trade a number of expensive players. Sherman suggests that the Yankees may have missed a better opportunity to try something like this — with much of their core injured in 2013, they could have dealt free-agents-to-be like Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes to get under last year's threshold. Such a move would have reduced their tax burden and allowed them to spend even more heavily this offseason. It would have been unlikely if the Yankees had waved the white flag on 2013, however, because they don't typically behave that way.
  • The Braves are still in talks with reliever Eric O'Flaherty, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets. O'Flaherty had Tommy John surgery last May and will likely miss the beginning of the season. He's one of only a handful of lefty relievers remaining on the free agent market, along with Oliver Perez, Mike Gonzalez, Jose Mijares and Rich Hill.

Quick Hits: Tanaka, Eaton, Cardinals, Reds

Mike Hegan, a longtime former player and broadcaster, passed away on Wednesday at age 71.  Hegan posted a .712 OPS in 2452 PA over 12 seasons with the Yankees, Brewers and Athletics from 1964-77, picking up a spot on the 1969 AL All-Star team as a Seattle Pilot (before the franchise moved to Milwaukee) and earning a World Series ring with the A's in 1972.  After retirement, Hegan moved to the broadcast booth and spent 12 seasons as a Brewers TV broadcaster before moving to his hometown of Cleveland in 1989 and spending 23 seasons calling Indians games on both TV and radio.  The MLBTR staff sends our condolences to Hegan's family and friends.

Here's the latest from around the majors…

  • Masahiro Tanaka's posting period opened this morning and the Yankees have already contacted Tanaka's agent Casey Close, Newsday's Marc Carig reports.  Earlier today on MLBTR, we collected more Tanaka-related news, and I opined that Tanaka's market may be larger than expected.
  • The Mariners will also be "a factor" for Tanaka, a baseball official tells Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News.  “They have a following in Japan. They enjoyed what they had when Ichiro (Suzuki) was on the team.  They want the chance for moves like getting [Robinson] Cano to pay off.  And they envision [Felix] Hernandez paired with Tanaka at the top of the rotation," the official said.
  • The White Sox are confident that the torn left UCL that sidelined Adam Eaton for half of the 2013 season is no longer a problem, GM Rick Hahn told CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes.  “The elbow injury wasn't something we felt, and our medical people felt, would be a long‑term issue….We certainly paid attention to what he looked like coming back from that injury, but it was the kind of thing that shouldn't be a lingering issue," Hahn said.  Hayes also talks to Eaton himself about his recovery from the injury.  Chicago acquired Eaton as part of the three-team trade with the D'Backs and Angels that sent Mark Trumbo to Arizona and Tyler Skaggs/Hector Santiago to L.A.
  • The Cardinals' low-profile additions of Peter Bourjos and Mark Ellis could pay big dividends and make the team better in 2014, MLB.com's Lyle Spencer opines.
  • The Reds' window for making a big trade "may be closing," MLB.com's Mark Sheldon writes.  The team should make a few moves in January, however, and could add a free agent bat if a discount price can be found.
  • Former Mariners GM Bill Bavasi contacted SB Nation's Rob Neyer about Bavasi's trade of Shin-Soo Choo to the Indians in 2006.  While Bavasi said he was under pressure from Seattle's upper management to improve the club, he doesn't excuse himself for moves that backfired, saying "the Choo and [Asdrubal] Cabrera trades were a product of my own stupidity and good work by the Indians."
  • Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith lists three potential suitors for 10 of the top remaining free agents.
  • Finally, it was on this day in 1919 that arguably the most important trade in baseball history was agreed upon — Red Sox owner Harry Frazee's deal to sell Babe Ruth to the YankeesCBS Sports' Dayn Perry has some of the history behind the infamous sale, and MLB FanCave tweeted a picture of the actual transfer contract.

Quick Hits: Santana, Karstens, Mulder, Athletics

The signing of Omar Infante and Jason Vargas took up the money the Royals had earmarked to re-sign Ervin Santana, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links), and thus with the club at its payroll limit, there is only a "remote" chance of K.C. bringing Santana back on even a one-year deal at a bargain price.  The Tigers, Diamondbacks and Mariners are a few of the teams that have been linked to Santana this offseason, though we probably won't know the full extent of his market (and the market for other top free agent starters) until Masahiro Tanaka's situation has been settled.

Here's some more from around baseball…

  • Jeff Karstens' agent Damon Lapa tells MLBTR's Zach Links that he expects at least a dozen clubs to be in attendance for Karstens' upcoming showcase.  Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that Karstens will throw in January and Lapa indicated to MLBTR that he'll be auditioning in the "mid-to-late" portion of next month.  Lapa won't say what kind of deal he's seeking for his client but he did say that the 31-year-old is "100% healthy."
  • The Giants checked in on Mark Mulderbut the short version is he’s looking for more than we could provide, including a Major League contract,” GM Brian Sabean told reporters, including CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly.  Mulder is attempting a comeback and threw for three teams last month.
  • Athletics owner Lew Wolff told John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group that the A's ownership group hasn't been approached by any interested buyers and Wolff reiterated that the team isn't for sale.  Wolff also said he didn't have any interest in a new ballpark proposal by the city of Oakland that would see a stadium constructed at the Howard Terminal waterfront site.
  • The Cardinals have finished their major offseason work, GM John Mozeliak told reporters (including MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch).  The team will now look to add minor league depth and are prepared to be "opportunistic" if other ways of improving the roster present themselves, Mozeliak said.
  • Scott Boras will face a challenge in finding a big contract for Kendrys Morales considering the slugger's seemingly limited market, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi writes.
  • The Astros probably aren't done making moves and will look for some bargains in January and February, but GM Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that he would already be satisfied with taking his current roster into Spring Training.  Luhnow also commented on his team's recent acquisitions of Jesus Guzman and Collin McHugh, though he didn't comment on rumors tying Houston to Shin-Soo Choo.
  • "The White Sox have quietly had a terrific offseason," ESPN.com's David Schoenfeld writes, praising GM Rick Hahn for adding the likes of Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson for what Schoenfeld feels were expendable pieces in Addison Reed and Hector Santiago.

Cardinals To Sign Mark Ellis

MONDAY: Ellis' contract guarantees him $5.25MM and contains more than $1MM worth of incentives, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Ellis obtains the same base salary that he had in 2013 and, when combined with the $1MM buyout he received from the Dodgers, has exceeded the amount of money he could have earned had Los Angeles simply exercised the option.

SUNDAY: The Cardinals have a one-year deal in place with free agent second baseman Mark Ellis, with a physical and subsequent announcement expected later this week, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter). Ellis is represented by TWC Sports.

Ellis

Ellis, 36, spent the last two seasons as the Dodgers' primary second baseman, but hit the open market when Los Angeles declined declined a $5.75MM club option for 2014. Last year, he hit .270/.323/.351 in 480 plate appearances. As has come to be expected, Ellis continued to display stellar defense, putting up +7.6 UZR/150 and +12 DRS per The Fielding Bible in 2013. That bumped his value into the range of about one-and-a-half to three wins above replacement, depending on which WAR recipe you prefer. 

Looking at the list of available second baggers, Ellis was probably the best overall option left on the market at this point. While other players offered more attractive age or upside, Ellis has been a consistent contributor for nearly a decade. With Omar Infante and Juan Uribe coming off the board in recent days, Stephen Drew is arguably the only free agent, non-first baseman infielder left on the market who should be counted on as an above-average regular next season.

St. Louis had been expected to add a veteran option that could play up the middle, and Ellis should fit in well in the Cardinals infield mix. 23-year-old prospect Kolten Wong figures to have the inside track to the everyday job at the keystone. But Ellis offers both a veteran alternative and a platoon option to pair with Wong's left-handed bat. Over his 5,500+ MLB plate appearances, Ellis has a .777 OPS against lefties and a .700 OPS against same-handed hurlers. Wong has, unsurprisingly, posted somewhat better numbers against righties in the early stages of his professional career. Ellis could also spell Matt Carpenter at third, notes Rosenthal (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL Central Links: Walker, Alvarez, Cards, Rule 5

Let's round up a few morning updates from around the NL Central….