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St. Louis Cardinals Rumors
While the Cardinals’ compilation of outfield talent is enviable, it nonetheless presents real difficulties to the team’s front office, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes in a piece that is well worth a full read. Indeed, that is precisely how GM John Mozeliak described things. “When you look at depth in baseball, it’s a good problem to have,” he said. “But I think we’re starting to get to the point where it might become a problem. So even though it’s a nice thing to have true depth in your system, at some point you’ve got to be able to play the depth.”
The club’s big league outfielders are off to a somewhat underwhelming start, combining for just a 95 wRC+. A group of four primary options – Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Peter Bourjos, and Jon Jay – is responsible for most of that line. Meanwhile, a trio of well-regarded younger options has gathered at Triple-A, with top prospects Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty joined by offseason trade acquisition Randal Grichuk (whose big numbers in his first Triple-A campaign make the Bourjos and Grichuk for David Freese and Fernando Salas deal look even better for St. Louis.)
While adding one of those names to the MLB outfield mix is surely tempting, Miklasz explains that the scenarios for doing so all come with complications. “You look at how we’re constituted at the major league level,” Mozeliak said, “and it’s difficult trying to find major league at-bats for Taveras, Grichuk, and, not too far down the road, Piscotty.” (Grichuk was actually brought back up today for his second run with the big club, though that move likely relates to the team’s need for a DH for a lengthy run of road match-ups against American League clubs.)
Service time is also an issue that the club will weigh in the balance. As Mozeliak explains, “you’re not going to start somebody’s [service] clock and then have them sit.” All three outfield prospects entered the year without MLB service to their credit, and only Grichuk has begun a tally thus far. It is worth bearing in mind also that all four of the team’s regular big league outfielders are under contract (Holliday, Craig) or control through arbitration (Bourjos, Jay) through at least 2016.
Looking ahead to the summer, more decisive action will likely prove necessary, says Miklasz. The Cards’ GM certainly left the impression that a trade deadline move could be explored, using interesting terms to describe his thinking. “[W]e are going to have to look at what our arbitrage possibilities are with this,” said Mozeliak. “And we will have to explore what that looks like between now and the end of July.” As Miklasz explains, a bold maneuver would not be surprising, though what form it might take — dealing away a prospect, a veteran, or even first baseman Matt Adams (while shifting Craig back to the infield) — is still anybody’s guess.
The Cardinals are currently determining how to find big-league playing time for top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I actually think from a baseball standpoint he could play in the big leagues,” says GM John Mozeliak. “But we’ve got to determine playing time up here with the current roster. Are we at a point where we’re willing to take away at-bats from the current roster and give them to somebody else?” If the Cardinals were to promote Taveras to play regularly, they would have less playing time for some combination of Allen Craig, Matt Adams, Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay. Taveras is currently hitting .319/.369/.527 in 198 plate appearances for Triple-A Memphis. Here are more notes from the National League.
- While the Cardinals don’t have playing time for their Triple-A outfield talent right now, Strauss writes that they simply don’t have as much Triple-A pitching talent as they’ve had in recent years. Of course, that’s mostly because they’ve graduated so many talented pitchers in the past few seasons, including Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, and Seth Maness. If the Cardinals want to add another strong pitching option this season, Strauss argues, they’ll have to do it via a trade.
- There are rumors that the Padres could fire manager Bud Black, but Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune suggests that it might be worth remembering GM Josh Byrnes’ history firing his manager when he was the GM of the Diamondbacks. In 2009, Byrnes fired Bob Melvin and replaced him with A.J. Hinch. Melvin had a terrific third act as manager of the Athletics, and both Byrnes and Hinch were fired a little more than a year later. Like Byrnes, Hinch is now in the Padres’ front office.
- Now that first baseman Ike Davis is hitting, life with the Pirates is different than it was with the Mets, MLB.com’s Tim Healey reports. “Going to get coffee, I don’t get hitting tips,” says Davis. “I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. But I don’t need to think about my stance at 9 in the morning.” Davis is back in New York as the Pirates play at Citi Field this week.
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:
- The Cardinals have agreed to sign lefty Pedro Feliciano to a minor-league deal, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweeted last week that the two sides were close to a deal. Feliciano, 37, served as a LOOGY for the Mets during part of the 2013 season, pitching 25 appearances but only 11 1/3 innings and striking out nine batters while walking six. He has only pitched for the Mets in a big-league career that spans parts of nine seasons.
- The Brewers have purchased the contract of infielder Irving Falu and optioned pitcher Jimmy Nelson to Class AAA Nashville, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. After outrighting Jeff Bianchi to make room for Nelson yesterday, the Brewers wanted another infielder for their bench. Falu, 30, signed with the Brewers in December as a minor-league free agent. He has a career .337/.366/.427 line in 95 career big-league plate appearances, all with the Royals. He was hitting .288/.349/.341 in 156 plate appearances for Nashville.
- The Rays have released right-hander Juan Sandoval, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Sandoval, who is completely blind in his right eye, has appeared in 14 games (1 start) for Triple-A Durham this year pitching to a 3.12 ERA, 5.2 K/9, and 4.8 BB/9 in 26 innings. The 33-year-old has yet to reach the Majors.
- The Blue Jays have acquired catcher Hector Gimenez from the White Sox, according to the International League transactions page. Gimenez has struggled in Triple-A this season slashing .109/.234/.182 in 64 plate appearances for Charlotte. The 31-year-old saw his most extensive MLB action last year appearing in 26 games for the White Sox batting .191/.275/.338 in 80 plate appearances.
- Per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker, a pair of Pirates (Wandy Rodriguez and Phil Irwin) and a pair of Padres (Billy Buckner and Blaine Boyer) remain in DFA limbo.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at the 20 biggest disappointments of the 2014 season so far. Near the top of the list: the Rangers unfortunate rash of injuries. Texas will be without Prince Fielder for the rest of the season and Jurickson Profar‘s status is up in the air as well. In total, the Rangers have had 14 players land on the disabled list, twice as many as any other team. More from Cafardo..
- Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija is being watched more than any pitcher by major league scouts. Among those watching are the Blue Jays, who are more convinced than ever they can win the AL East if they obtain a top starter like Samardzija. Meanwhile, one major league scout tells Cafardo that Toronto is still insistent on not giving up Drew Hutchison.
- There’s some concern about David Price‘s performance this season when it comes to Price, including a 3-mile-per-hour dropoff in velocity in recent outings, but one AL GM doesn’t believe the Rays will have trouble getting what they want in a deal. “Unless there’s a reason to believe he has something wrong with his shoulder, pitchers have ebbs and flows with velocity throughout a season,” said the GM. “Price will be fine.”
- The Pirates designated Wandy Rodriguez for assignment last week and they won’t find a deal for him if the medicals are too bad, but the feeling is that some team will take a chance.
- If new Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa starts hiring people in Arizona, Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque could be brought aboard for a front office role.
The pitching matchup in tonight’s game between the Nationals and Pirates features two former No. 1 overall picks: Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Gerrit Cole (2011). Pitching matchups between No. 1 overall picks are rare, not only because there’s only one No. 1 pick each year, but also because many top picks are position players, and because some top draft picks don’t pan out. Prior to Strasburg, the last No. 1 picks who were pitchers were David Price of the Rays (2007) and Luke Hochevar of the Royals (2006), and Hochevar is now a reliever. The previous two No. 1 overall pitchers (assuming one doesn’t count 2004′s Matt Bush, who converted to pitching and never played in the big leagues) were Bryan Bullington (2002, Pirates) and Matt Anderson (1997, Tigers). Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- In 2011, the Rangers drafted, but did not sign, three players who could be first-round picks in this year’s draft, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan notes. Those are Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher (the Rangers’ sixth-round pick in 2011), Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost (seventh round) and TCU pitcher Brandon Finnegan (45th round). MLB.com currently ranks Finnegan the 11th-best prospect in the draft, with Fisher at No. 22 and Pentecost at No. 24. Fisher and the Rangers could not find common ground on a signing bonus, and the Rangers were worried about Pentecost’s health. As for Finnegan, it’s not uncommon for teams to fail to sign late-round picks, and Sullivan points out that the Rangers did manage to sign C.J. Edwards, who they drafted three rounds later, then sent to Chicago in the Matt Garza deal.
- Cardinals pitcher Keith Butler will have Tommy John surgery, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets. Butler has pitched a total of 22 innings of relief for the Cardinals in 2013 and 2014 combined, with a 6.14 ERA, 7.4 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9. He is only 25, however, and has pitched very well at the Triple-A level.
Corey Kluber of the Indians has pitched like an ace this season, August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs writes. Fagerstrom notes that, since the beginning of 2013, Kluber’s pitching has compared favorably to that of David Price, and while Price appears likely to land a nine-figure contract in the 2015-16 offseason, Kluber remains relatively obscure. In ten starts, Kluber has produced 2.2 fWAR, behind only Felix Hernandez among all pitchers in baseball. Kluber has a 3.43 ERA so far, but with peripheral numbers that are better, with 10.1 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. Kluber’s excellent cut fastball has been the key to his emergence, Fagerstrom writes. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Given their outfield depth, the Cardinals are in good position to make trades, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Miklasz cites a scout who suggests that if the Cardinals do try to make a big move, it will likely be for a third strong starting pitcher to complement Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha.
- The Royals‘ gamble on Sean Manaea in the 2013 draft is paying off, Alan Eskew of Baseball America writes. Manaea fell to the Royals at No. 34 overall as other teams passed on him due to injury concerns. He now has a 5.40 ERA with Class A+ Wilmington, but with 3.7 BB/9 an an outstanding 13.6 K/9. Manaea has been pitching at 92-93 MPH, ranging up to 96 MPH, and the Royals have him working on his secondary pitches and on consistency in his delivery.
Butler, who was claimed off waivers from the Rangers this offseason, batted .360/.481/.547 in 106 plate appearances for Triple-A Memphis this season and owns an impressive .304/.397/.472 batting line in 1669 career plate appearances at the Triple-A level. However, despite strong numbers in the minor leagues, an opportunity with the Major League club wasn’t likely to present itself. St. Louis has Matt Holliday entrenched in left field, with Peter Bourjos, Jon Jay and Allen Craig all splitting time in center field and right field at this point. Additionally, top prospect Oscar Taveras looms in Triple-A, as do outfielders Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty.
The Royals announced today that they have optioned struggling third baseman Mike Moustakas to Triple-A Omaha. The move marks a significant fall for the former top prospect, who has yet to show any sort of consistency at the Major League level. Royals fans were optimistic when “Moose” hit .269/.314/.425 over his final 78 games last season and posted strong numbers in Spring Training, but the 25-year-old hit just .152/.223/.320 in 40 games this season despite being platooned for much of the year. Moustakas has turned in elite defensive numbers throughout his career, but he’ll need to show more at the plate to ever deliver on his lofty prospect status.
Here are some more items pertaining to baseball’s Central divisions…
- The Tigers today optioned left-hander Robbie Ray to Triple-A Toledo and announced that they will purchase the contract of right-hander Corey Knebel prior to tomorrow’s game. Knebel, a right-handed reliever, will become the second player from the 2013 draft to reach the Major Leagues (Cleveland’s Kyle Crockett debuted on May 16). He’s posted a brilliant 0.90 ERA with 12.2 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 50 innings across three levels since being selected 39th overall less than one year ago.
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that playing time for Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras could present itself shortly in the Majors, as the team begins a stretch of seven games in AL parks in early June. However, the Cardinals could also recall Randal Grichuk, who has been on an otherwordly tear since being sent back to Triple-A, having slashed .347/.418/.776 with six homers in 12 games. GM John Mozeliak wouldn’t rule out the possibility of either player being promoted when asked by Goold.
- Grantland’s Jonah Keri spoke with Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, ace Adam Wainwright and former Redbird Kyle Lohse about the intricacies of former pitching coach Dave Duncan’s philosophy and approach to the game. Keri writes that Duncan’s influence still runs through the veins of the Cardinals’ organization, which is a driving force behind the team’s extended success. Wainwright said Duncan was “borderline maniacal” in terms of advance scouting and analytics. Keri notes that Duncan never cared much for pitcher-versus-batter data, as such small samples led to misguided decisions.
- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts will submit a revised proposal for renovations to Wrigley Field, writes MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. If approved, they are prepared to move forward with the plans, which include additional seating in the Budweiser Bleachers, new outfield lights to reduce shadows, four additional LED signs of up to 650 square feet and a 2400 square foot video board in right field. Ricketts says negotiations with rooftop business owners have gone nowhere, so “It has to end. It’s time to move forward.” He hopes they can avoid going to court with the rooftop owners.
Speculation has heightened as to when the Cardinals will call up top prospect Oscar Taveras. He is part of a special trio of Triple-A outfielders, along with Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, a scout tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). That same scout said that Taveras needs a new challenge at this point. “He’s on cruise control,” he said. “Gives away at-bats. Needs to play with more urgency. He’ll get a wake-up call but it will take [the] big leagues to do it.” Of course, whatever his level of motivation and effort, Taveras has played well; he entered the day with a .304/.354/.509 line through 175 plate appearances.
Here are some more stray notes to round out the evening:
- While he remains winless, Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija continues to drive up his stock with an outstanding start to the season. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes that the club should shop him this summer at peak value; as a GM tells Heyman, Chicago will “want top, top guys” in return. Heyman lists the ten clubs that could possibly match up on Samardzija, topped by the three northernmost A.L. East clubs.
- While Heyman puts the Yankees first among possible Samardzija suitors, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post says that fellow Cubs starter Jason Hammel may make more sense for New York. Samardzija may price himself out of the Yanks’ reach in terms of a prospect package, says Davidoff. While Cliff Lee of the Phillies would also be of interest — and, presumably, be more achievable for the Yankees given his hefty contract — he now has significant arm issues for the first time in his career.
- The early-agreement trend on the July 2 international market has not only changed the dynamics of the market itself, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America, but has made it more difficult for prospect watchers to scout players. When players reach terms, they tend to steer clear of showcases and tryouts. As Badler notes, increasingly aggressive signing tactics also “elevate the risk and uncertainty” for teams, because young players can change so much in a short period of time.
- Now a decade in the past, the 2004 amateur draft understandably looks quite different in retrospect. ESPN.com’s Keith Law takes a look back in two Insider pieces (subscription required). There were many misses, of course, headlined by first overall pick Matt Bush. If teams had perfect foresight at the time, says Law, the first three choices would have brought Justin Verlander to the Padres, Dustin Pedroia to the Tigers, and Jered Weaver to the Mets.
Diamondbacks submariner Brad Ziegler is one of the most fascinating, and most effective, relievers in the game, Rany Jazayerli writes for Grantland. Tracking the notable successes of the small number of soft-throwing, under-handed throwers in baseball history, Jazayerli wonders whether there could be some value in looking for more such pitchers. Of course, as he explains, Ziegler is even more unique than most in that he has figured out how to retire opposite-handed hitters. Here’s more from the National League West:
- For all its talent, the Dodgers‘ roster lacks flexibility, writes Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. That, in turn, complicates any possible maneuvers to upgrade the team, which is off to an uninspiring start. But if upgrades are difficult to identify with regard to the team’s key roles, that could be because they may not really be needed. Los Angeles has an enviable rotation that is not likely to be altered substantially, and actually stands at fifth in the bigs in position player fWAR to date. While it is arguable that the team could stand to enjoy stronger performances out of the bullpen and bench, those are the spots most readily upgraded over the summer. The Dodgers can certainly look to do just that if the struggles continue over the summer, and might also consider displacing or supplementing A.J. Ellis behind the plate. (Of course, the more drastic move of shipping out a high-priced outfielder could also be on the table, even if the return is minimal.)
- The unyielding Tony LaRussa is a poor fit for the Diamondbacks, opines Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. As Passan notes, he will become the game’s oldest head of baseball ops in his first time in the role, and will need to maintain a much broader focus than he did in the dugout. Moreover, while prominent owner Ken Kendrick has cited the need for the organization to better utilize analytics, says Passan, LaRussa is driven first and foremost by his gut and vast experience.
- LaRussa talked about his view of sabermetrics today in an appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (via Vince Marotta of ArizonaSports.com). “My opinion is that it’s a valuable tool, but mostly a tool to help you identify talent and then prepare the talent,” said LaRussa. “I think the biggest problem I see is there are teams that have gone way overboard and they are really interfering with the way the managers and coaches conduct strategy during the game by running the analytics and forcing them into it.”
- If and when LaRussa moves to replace Kevin Towers as the team’s general manager, current Cardinals director of player development Gary LaRocque could be a prime candidate, reports Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com (Twitter links). LaRocque has an extensive scouting background, and has overseen the fast-tracked development of many of the Cards’ impressive young players.
- Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins says he does not expect his age-41 season to be his last, tweets Morosi. “If I stay healthy, I’ll play [in 2015],” said Hawkins. The veteran righty has worked to a 4.11 ERA in 15 1/3 innings, though he has struck out only 3.5 batters per nine (against 1.8 BB/9). He is earning $2.25MM this season, and Colorado has an equally-priced option ($250K buyout) for next year.