St. Louis Cardinals Rumors

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

NL Central Links: Hamels, Cards, Cueto, Reds

The Cubs weren’t included on Cole Hamels‘ updated 20-team no-trade list, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter link).  The Cubs are known to be looking for top-of-the-rotation arms this winter, and the remaining four years/$96MM on Hamels’ contract would cost Chicago less than what it would take to sign a top free agent starter like Max Scherzer or Jon Lester.  On the other hand, the Cubs would have to give up multiple top prospects to obtain Hamels from the Phillies, so they could prefer to just keep their young talent and spend extra to sign a free agent ace.  The Red Sox are thus far the only team known to be on Hamels’ no-trade list.

Here’s more from around the NL Central…

  • Right field has sadly become an offseason concern for the Cardinals due to Oscar Taveras‘ untimely death, GM John Mozeliak told MLB.com’s Jen Langsoch.  “I think it certainly leaves that position in question,” Mozeliak said. “Clearly internally, we have [Randal] Grichuk and potentially [Stephen] Piscotty to fill that spot. I would also say that it does now force us to explore other options, whether it’s the free-agent market or the trade market….I’m not saying it’s a must, but I also think we need to be prudent and make sure that we understand what that landscape looks like.”  The Cards will explore both short-term and long-term options in RF, Mozeliak said.  Out of respect for Taveras, Mozeliak waited a week after the outfielder’s passing to begin making calls to agents and general managers, Langosch writes.
  • The Reds “are listening” to offers for their starting pitchers but ace Johnny Cueto seems the least likely to be moved, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  Cincinnati would probably have to be “absolutely overwhelmed” to deal Cueto, Heyman writes, as the team plans to contend in 2015.
  • Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan also hears that Cueto is unlikely to be traded, though rival executives tell Passan (Twitter link) that the Reds are willing to discuss trading Mat Latos and Mike Leake.
  • The Reds are “at [a] fascinating crossroads,” FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes in a series of tweets.  If the Reds deal Cueto, they might as well deal Aroldis Chapman too as part of a rebuild, Rosenthal opines.  Attendance and the fact that they’re hosting the All-Star Game could make 2015 a bit of a “buffer” year for the Reds, though Rosenthal points out that the team might not want to rebuild in a season when they’re hosting the Midsummer Classic.  Back in September, I explored Cincinnati’s trade options with their rotation members in a Trade Candidates piece.
  • Major League Baseball has opened an investigation into whether or not the Cubs tampered with Joe Maddon when he was still under contract with the Rays, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports.  The Rays asked MLB to investigate last week.  “There was no tampering whatsoever,” Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters (including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers).  “I’d rather they investigate so we can clear our name and move on from this quickly. We’re giving our full cooperation and we welcome it.”

Offseason Outlook: St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals made it to the NLCS for the fourth straight year in 2014, but their season was overshadowed by Oscar Taveras‘ tragic death last month.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections by Matt Swartz)

Free Agents

One year after winning the NL Central with a 97-65 record, the Cardinals captured the division yet again, although this time they won 90 games and had to chase the Brewers most of the season. They also ran seven games ahead of their BaseRuns expected record, indicating that they weren’t as strong as they appeared.

Backing into a division championship betrays the kind of weakness many teams would love to have, of course, and the Cardinals’ 97-win season in 2013 was itself unsustainable, partially the result of a .330/.402/.463 line with runners in scoring position. Still, it’s worth looking closely at the Cards’ seven-win drop to see what it might mean going forward.

The 2014 Cardinals scored 160 runs fewer than the 2013 team did. Some offensive decline was inevitable, given the ’13 team’s hitting with scoring position and given that much of their 2013-14 offseason was dedicated to improving their defense — they let Carlos Beltran head to New York, signed veteran infielders Jhonny Peralta and Mark Ellis, traded David Freese for a good defensive outfielder in Peter Bourjos in a four-player deal, moved Matt Carpenter from second to third, and installed Kolten Wong at second. The moves worked, in a sense — the Cardinals’ team defensive efficiency improved from 21st in the Majors in 2013 to seventh in 2014. For all that, though, they actually allowed seven more runs than they did in 2013.

So what went wrong? Offensively, Taveras hit .239/.278/.312 in his first 248 plate appearances in the Majors. Outfielder Allen Craig had an awful half-season before being traded to Boston. Ellis batted a mere .180/.253/.213. And Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina, while strong overall, took significant steps backward. Among the Cardinals’ pitchers, Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn had great seasons, but Shelby Miller often struggled, Michael Wacha only pitched 107 innings, and the team got disappointing work from Nick Greenwood, Kevin Siegrist, Jason Motte and Justin Masterson.

Of course, none of this means it’s likely the Cardinals will struggle next year, only that they had a merely good season, not a dominant one. They can expect more in 2015 out of some of the players who were disappointing or hurt, like Carpenter and Wacha. Others who struggled, like Craig, Ellis and Masterson, have already left the organization.

The Cardinals have finally graduated everyone who’s likely to contribute from their brilliant 2009 draft, so the flow of talent from their farm system might be about to slow down somewhat, but in the meantime, they’ll have plenty of controllable seasons from young or young-ish players like Carpenter, Miller, Wacha, Wong, Matt Adams, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, and they have talented veterans at most of their other key positions.

The Cardinals’ collection of position players therefore needs only minor tweaking. Infielder Daniel Descalso hit .242/.333/.311 in a 2014 season and also didn’t grade well defensively; the Cardinals have said they plan to tender him, although they could consider dealing him instead. If they do, they could make a small move to acquire another bench infielder to pair with Pete Kozma — Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who played at Class A+ and Double-A last season, could need more time in the minors.

The tragic death of Taveras, a potential superstar, hangs over the outfield. Potential right fielder Randal Grichuk is unestablished and center fielders Jon Jay (who had wrist surgery this month and is expected to be ready for spring training) and Bourjos have at times been inconsistent. The Cardinals can, however, combat uncertainty with numbers — in addition to Grichuk, Bourjos, Jay, and left fielder Matt Holliday, they have credible fill-ins in Thomas Pham and top prospect Stephen Piscotty. The Cards already traded Allen Craig, and there was talk could deal another outfielder this offseason. Taveras’ passing might change their thinking on that, however, and someone like Bourjos, slated to be Jay’s backup, might seem less replaceable now.

The rotation is set with Wainwright, Lynn, Miller, Wacha and John Lackey, who has indicated he’ll honor the contract option that will pay him a league-minimum salary in 2015. Wainwright recently had surgery to fix some irritation in his elbow, but he’s expected to be ready in time for spring training. Jaime Garcia, who has a year and two team options left on the four-year deal he signed in 2011, will also try to return from surgery to fix thoracic outlet syndrome (a surgery the Cardinals weren’t thrilled about). It’s unclear when Garcia will return, whether he can stay healthy for any significant period, and what the Cardinals might be getting even if he is, so they’ll likely treat any contribution from him as a bonus. If anything goes wrong with the other five, the Cardinals have solid depth, with 2013 first-rounder Marco Gonzales possibly being the first to get the call. Gonzales could also work in relief.

The bullpen is set to lose Pat Neshek (who pitched 67 1/3 terrific innings after the Cards signed him to a minor league deal in February), the oft-injured Motte, and not much else. The Cardinals aren’t likely to re-sign Neshek or Motte, although they aren’t ruling out possible returns for either one. Rosenthal will likely return to the closer’s role, perhaps with the goal of reducing his high walk totals while remaining hard to hit. Martinez, who spent a chunk of his 2014 season in the Cardinals’ rotation, will be back as well, along with Seth Maness.

Lefty Randy Choate will be in the final season of a three-year deal, although the Cardinals could trade Choate (who they use in a specialist role that doesn’t allow him to get the amount of work he desires) and either use Siegrist as their top lefty or acquire another arm from outside the organization. Lefties batted .091/.205/.147 off Choate last season, but righties hit .357/.458/.481. If the Cardinals do look for a lefty pitcher, someone like Zach Duke or Neal Cotts, who are both usable against right-handed batters, might make sense. (Andrew Miller is also available, although at a significantly higher price.) Righty Sam Tuivailala, a third-round draft pick in 2010, could be the next hard thrower to make an impact in the Cardinals bullpen — he carved up Class A+ and Double-A this season, then threw 97 MPH in a couple September appearances in the big leagues.

Unlike last winter, when the Cardinals had an obvious hole at shortstop (which they filled with Jhonny Peralta, a signing that has gone brilliantly so far), this year the Cards don’t have many clear needs. They could therefore do most of their offseason shopping via small moves made on the trade market. Players like Descalso and Choate have limited value, but the Cardinals might be able to significantly upgrade somewhere by dealing an outfielder. They have expressed interest in finding a righty first baseman to pair with Adams, who posted a .528 OPS against lefties last year. Someone like Eric Campbell of the Mets or Tommy Medica of the Padres might fit the bill, or perhaps a Triple-A slugger like Jesus Aguilar of the Indians.

The Cardinals also could try to extend Lynn this offseason. They’re also planning to significantly increase payroll in the next several seasons, perhaps accounting for increased salaries for players like Lynn, Miller, Adams and Rosenthal, along with already-set increases for Carpenter. Even so, the Cardinals are in a good position going forward, since their deals for Wainwright, Holliday, Molina and Peralta aren’t backloaded. Eventually, the Cardinals might have to grapple with how long they’ll be able to depend on veterans like Wainwright, Molina and Peralta, but with that collection of stars and a large group of good, cheap players from their farm system, they appear set to contend again in 2015.

The Cardinals’ brief offseason has already been touched by tragedy. The sudden deaths of Taveras and his girlfriend Edilia Arvelo were awful not only for the Cardinals, but for Taveras’ home country. It’s impossible to know how the team might respond on the field, and that sort of speculation is outside MLBTR’s purview anyway. It seems early even to acknowledge, as we do here, that the organization will go on, and will pursue an offseason plan based partially upon the reality that it just lost a player in the worst way possible. Some things are bigger than baseball. Here’s wishing the Cardinals the best as they begin what will be a difficult winter.


Rockies Claim Jorge Rondon; Designate Rob Scahill

The Rockies announced today (on Twitter) that they have claimed right-hander Jorge Rondon off waivers from the Cardinals and designated fellow righty Rob Scahill for assignment.

The 26-year-old Rondon made his big league debut in 2014, firing one scoreless inning in his lone appearance. The rest of the season was spent at the Triple-A level for Rondon, where he pitched to a 3.03 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 62 1/3 innings of relief work.

Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball America ranked Rondon as the Cards’ No. 24 prospect and graded his slider as the best in the Cardinals’ minor league system. Per BA’s scouting report from that timeframe, Rondon’s fastball has touched 100 mph, but he struggles with his command at times, particularly when he reaches back to get extra life on the previously mentioned heater. He figures to compete for a bullpen job with Colorado next spring.

Scahill, 27, totaled a 4.80 ERA in 15 innings with the Rockies this season and has pitched to a 4.42 ERA in 57 frames with the Rockies over the past three years. He’s averaged 5.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in the Majors while featuring solid life on his fastball — an average of 94.4 mph.



Nationals Claim Eric Fornataro From Cardinals

The Nationals announced that they’ve claimed 26-year-old right-handed reliever Eric Fornataro off waivers from the Cardinals.

Fornataro, a sixth-round draft pick by the Redbirds in 2008, made his Major League debut this season, allowing five earned runs on 11 hits and a walk with three strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings. His average fastball checked in at a solid 92.8 mph in that time, and he registered a 51.4 percent ground-ball rate in that small sample as well.

The rest of Fornataro’s season was spent at Triple-A Memphis, where in 56 innings he posted a 2.57 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9, though it’s worth noting that at least part of his success was due to a likely unsustainable .254 BABIP.

Baseball America once ranked Fornataro 21st among Cardinals farmhands, writing prior to the 2013 season that his velocity jumped up into the 96-98 mph range and touched 99 on occasion following a move to the bullpen. BA praised his curve more than his splitter, adding that he tends to get grounders in bulk when he’s throwing well.


Free Agent Profile: Pat Neshek

Pat Neshek improbably went from minor league signee to All-Star setup man after signing late with the Cardinals last winter. He’ll now look to parlay the finest season of his career into his first multi-year deal on the free agent market.

Strengths/Pros

Over the past three seasons, Neshek has quietly assembled a nice track record. He’s pitched to a 2.26 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 over a period of 127 1/3 innings in that timeframe. In particular, the side-armer has been a dominant weapon against right-handed hitters, limiting same-handed bats to a paltry .173/.228/.271 batting line.

Pat  Neshek

Neshek’s three-year platform looks solid from a statistical standpoint, but it downplays how great his 2014 campaign truly was. His 67 1/3 innings and 71 appearances ranked eighth and 12th among free agent relievers, respectively, and only Andrew Miller‘s 2.4 fWAR topped Neshek’s mark of 1.8 this season. Assuming the options of Darren O’Day and Huston Street are exercised, no relief pitcher can claim to have topped his 2.4 RA9-WAR, and only Koji Uehara can lay claim to a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Neshek’s mark of 7.56. He was even dominant against left-handed hitters, stifling them to the tune of a .196/.237/.304 line. However you slice it, Neshek was one of the very best relief pitchers in Major League Baseball this season.

A .233 BABIP and 83 percent strand rate also contributed to Neshek’s ERA, but somewhat remarkably, those marks are in line with his career norms. Neshek does appear to able to consistently strand runners and induce weak contact at a better-than-average rate, though it’s fair to question if he can sustain levels this superior to the 2014 league-average reliever rates of .294 and 73.9.

Like nearly all relief pitchers, he won’t come with a qualifying offer attached, so he won’t cost a draft pick. And, while he’s had some injuries in his pro career (most notably Tommy John surgery back in 2008), he’s been healthy in each of the past four seasons. His health in 2014 was apparent, given the fact that he posted his best fastball velocity since his rookie campaign in 2006.

Neshek also stepped into the ninth inning at season’s end and picked up six saves, which might make him a bit more appealing to teams with late-inning needs.

Weaknesses/Cons

Neshek looked to be on the verge of breaking out as an elite setup man with his hometown Twins back in 2007, but the Tommy John surgery and a damaged pulley tendon in his right hand slowed his career considerably and limited him to just 22 1/3 big league innings from 2008-10. It’s been an uphill battle to reestablish himself in the Major Leagues since that time, meaning he doesn’t have a particularly lengthy track record to draw from. In fact, he’s totaled just 281 2/3 innings in the Majors.

Dominant as Neshek was against lefties in 2014, he had the opposite problem in 2013. Lefties batted .315/.367/.566 against Neshek last season, and he had enough trouble getting them out that he was at one point designated for assignment by the A’s despite possessing strong all-around numbers at the time. This season, he dramatically reduced the number of sliders he threw in favor of the fastball, and the result does seem to have been positive.

Neshek’s electric ERA was, in part, sustained thanks to a career-low homer-to-flyball rate of just 4.3 percent. Teams may worry that Neshek, who entered the season with a career 10.4 percent HR/FB ratio, will regress toward his career marks. Those who point to the change in pitch selection as a possible reason for this year’s shift won’t have a leg to stand on, either, as his slider has typically not been susceptible to homers.

Neshek’s resurgent season came at age 33, and he’ll pitch next season at age 34, so he’s older than a number of arms in the second tier of the free agent market. He also struggled down the stretch, allowing nine runs over his final 12 innings, although seven of those did come in just two bad outings.

Personal

Neshek’s unorthodox delivery stems from an injury sustained in high school that prevented him from throwing overhand. He was hit by a pitch on the wrist and described the sensation of throwing overhand following that incident to Ted Berg of USA Today by saying it felt like the ball “was ripping right through my fingertips.” Neshek’s delivery was developed to compensate for that injury but soon turned into a weapon that he used effectively in his college career at Butler.

Neshek is an avid autograph collector and has a love of collecting and trading baseball cards. Neshek started a web site for fans who share his passion. He is a fan of Out Of The Park Baseball — a popular baseball simulation game — and is even a reader of MLBTR (Hi Pat!). Neshek is often described as an outgoing, engaging person who takes a genuine interest in those around him.

Market

The relief market this season is fronted by David Robertson and Andrew Miller, but Neshek will be one of many strong options in the second tier.  He and agent Barry Meister seem likely to target multiple years, and there’s certainly a case to be made. In terms of ERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA, K%, BB% and GB%, Neshek’s three-year platform heading into free agency is comparable, if not superior, to that of Joe Smith, who signed a three-year pact with the Angels last offseason.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Smith’s contract is a reasonable expectation, as Neshek is three-and-a-half years older, has thrown fewer innings than Smith in that time and has struggled more against lefties. The point, however, is that he has rate stats commensurate with well-compensated relievers, and he is coming off an elite walk season.

In spite of the lower innings total relative to his peers, there will be no shortage of clubs that look at Neshek as a relatively affordable piece to strengthen their bullpen. I’d imagine that the Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals, Dodgers, Tigers, Giants, Indians and Nats could all have some interest. Each of those teams either made the postseason or was within striking distance this season. However, Neshek is a player who has “only” banked about $4.5MM in his career, so I can see him going to a rebuilding or non-contending club, should that team offer the most money. The White Sox are known to be in need of bullpen help, as are the Astros, Cubs and Phillies, to name a few.

Expected Contract

Despite his standout 2014, I have a difficult time envisioning a three-year pact on an open market that is flush with relief options. I do, however, think that Neshek can land a two-year pact, possibly with an option, especially if Meister strikes quickly. Relievers are typically best-served to sign early in free agency, and Neshek should strive to do the same.

Last offseason, Edward Mujica inked a two-year, $9.5MM contract with the Red Sox despite a late-season slide that cost him his closer’s gig. While Neshek hasn’t built up Mujica’s track record of innings at the Major League level, he strikes hitters out at a higher rate and is coming off a better platform season. I expect something near Mujica’s contract to be the landing spot, as I’m projecting a two-year, $10MM contract for Neshek.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Coaching Notes: Braves, Jays, Aldrete, Rays

Here’s the latest coaching news from around the majors…

  • In addition to Seitzer, the Braves have announced the hiring of Jose Castro as the assistant hitting coach.  Castro, 56, has worked as a minor league hitting coach or coordinator with the Expos, Marlins, Padres and Mariners from 1990-2010 and served as the Cubs’ quality assurance coach last season.
  • The Braves have hired Kevin Seitzer as their new hitting coach, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports.  The hiring could be officially announced as soon as today.  Seitzer served as the Blue Jays‘ hitting coach in 2014, meaning Toronto now has a vacancy to fill.  Seitzer also previously worked as a hitting coach with the Royals (2009-12) and Diamondbacks (2007).
  • Seitzer and the Blue Jays couldn’t settle on a new contract, which led Seitzer to explore options elsewhere, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports.  The Jays are now looking for a new hitting coach in addition to a new bullpen coach, though the rest of the coaching staff is under contract for 2015.
  • The Athletics have hired Mike Aldrete as their new bench coach, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, with the hiring expected to be announced today.  Aldrete, a Bay Area native, spent the last three seasons as the Cardinals‘ bench coach and four seasons prior to that as St. Louis’ assistant hitting coach.
  • The Rays don’t know who their next manager will be, but they’re planning on keeping their current coaches, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes.  A new manager will usually add some of his own staff, but that won’t be the case with the Rays, who want to ensure continuity regardless of who manages next year.  Topkin points out that could be good news for bench coach Dave Martinez, who could be a candidate for the managerial job.

Oscar Taveras Dies In Car Accident

USATSI_7939671_154513410_lowresCardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras has died in a car accident in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes confirms (via Twitter). Taveras’ girlfriend, 18-year-old Edilia Arvelo, also reportedly passed away. A variety of outlets from the Dominican Republic had reported news of the accident. Taveras was 22 years old. Soldevila notes that the police report indicates that Taveras’ car had veered off the road.

I … will forever remember him as a wonderful young man who was a gifted athlete with an infectious love for life,” said Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, via the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin (also on Twitter).

Oscar was an amazing talent with a bright future who was taken from us well before his time,” added Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., via FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi.

All throughout baseball are in mourning this evening,” said Bud Selig in a statement. “With heavy hearts, tonight we play Game Five of the 2014 World Series in memory of these two young people. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of both individuals, as well as to Oscar’s teammates and the entire Cardinals organization.”

Taveras signed with the Cardinals in 2008 and, within a few years, became one of the top young talents in the game. He had just begun his career in the big leagues, playing in 80 games with the Cardinals this season. Among his career highlights was a dramatic home run in Game 2 of this year’s NLCS against the Giants. Most prospect evaluators considered Taveras to have superstar potential.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Miguel Cabrera, Adam Wainwright Undergo Surgery

Two of the game’s biggest stars, Miguel Cabrera and Adam Wainwright, underwent surgery today, according to reports from MLB.com’s Jason Beck and Will Carroll of Bleacher Report (Twitter link).

Cabrera’s operation isn’t entirely surprising, but doctors also discovered a stress fracture in the navicular bone near the top of his right foot, Beck writes. That injury requires a longer rehab process and required screws to be inserted into Cabrera’s foot, according to Beck.

Cabrera will be re-evaluated in three months’ time, and GM Dave Dombrowski said the former AL MVP will be “pretty much inactive” until that point. Dombrowski wouldn’t comment on whether or not Cabrera would be ready for Spring Training, but it seems possible that he’ll be getting a late start to his 2015 campaign at this point. Dombrowski said the team would provide further updates once Cabrera is re-evaluted in January, but missing an offseason of workouts does bring his status for Opening Day in 2015 into question. Needless to say, the onset of injuries is troubling for both Tigers fans and the team itself, as Cabrera is owed an enormous sum of $240MM through the 2024 season.

Shifting to Wainwright, the team has since confirmed the news, and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provided further details. Wainwright had some cartilage “trimmed” in the back of his elbow in order to avoid irritation in that area, an official tells Goold. The Cardinals have said Wainwright will resume a throwing program in eight weeks, and the surgery is not expected to impact his 2015 season, Goold writes.

Clearly, the eight-week timeframe for Wainwright is less troubling than Cabrera’s outlook, although it doesn’t leave a large amount of room for setbacks. That schedule would allow Wainwright to resume throwing in mid-to-late December. The right-hander is owed $78MM over the remaining four years of his five-year, $97.5MM contract.


Mozeliak On Jay, Taveras, Choate, Arb Eligibles

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny conducted their end-of-season meeting with the media today, and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has several highlights from the talk. Here are some of the main items that are relevant to MLBTR readers, but interested parties should check out the full transcript for additional insight into the team…

  • The Cardinals view Jon Jay as their starting center fielder heading into the 2015 season after the 29-year-old hit .302/.372/.378 in 140 games. Mozeliak revealed that Jay will have his wrist scoped this week to clear out some damage that has been lingering since July.
  • Mozeliak expects Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk to compete for the starting right field job next season and echoed recent comments that he expects Taveras to be with the club in 2015. Taveras has received specific instructions to work on his conditioning and speed this winter.
  • The entire coaching staff has been asked to return for the 2015 season. Bench coach Mike Aldrete is expected to be pursued by at least one other team, Goold reports, but Mozeliak said to this point no team has gone through the protocol of asking to interview Aldrete.
  • The Cards will be on the hunt for power to add to their lineup and possibly a right-handed power bat to add to the bench or pair with Matt Adams at first base. Still, Mozeliak said that he and Matheny see Adams as a potential 600-plate-appearance player.
  • St. Louis will shop Randy Choate this offseason, Goold writes, following comments from Mozeliak on the “specialized” nature of Choate’s current role. Said the GM: “I think we both feel that if we can upgrade there or have an additional arm to choose from, that makes sense. We’re certainly not ruling out [Kevin] Siegrist. I think in Choate’s case, for us, he’s fairly one-dimensional. That makes it difficult for us to use him, particularly during a long season.” Choate is owed $3MM next season and held southpaw hitters to a .093/.205/.147 batting line.
  • Mozeliak expects to offer contracts to all of the team’s arbitration eligible players, including Peter Bourjos and Daniel Descalso. However, Goold writes that the team could gauge interest in both on the trade market. Bourjos strikes me as a particularly appealing candidate, given his elite glove in center field. I speculated that he’d be a good fit for the Twins as a starer in my recent Offseason Outlook, and he could make sense for a number of teams, in my mind. Goold’s colleague, Joe Strauss, tweets that he got a “strong sense” that at least one outfielder would be moved.
  • Both Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales will come to Spring Training as starters, Mozeliak said, but the clearer openings for each are in the bullpen at this time. Elsewhere in the bullpen, Mozeliak noted that the team won’t rule out re-signing Pat Neshek or Jason Motte.

Cardinals Notes: Lynn, DeWitt, Matheny

Lance Lynn and the Cardinals have both said they’re open to discussing a contract extension for the righty this winter, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  Lynn will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason, and he’s built a strong case for himself by posting a 2.74 ERA in 2014 and averaging 194 IP, 8.7 K/9 and a 2.64 K/BB rate over his first three full seasons in the St. Louis rotation.  As Goold notes, Lynn could be the latest in a series of core Cardinals players who the club has extended before hitting their arb years or free agency.

Here’s some more from the 19-time National League champs…

  • Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt tells Goold that the organization plans to increase payroll and is “forecasting fairly significant increases in the next three to five years.”  The spending increase was planned to coincide with several younger players (Lynn, Shelby Miller, Matt Adams, etc.) reaching arbitration eligibility within that same time span.  Additional money could also be spent to bring new talent into the team via trades or free agency, as DeWitt said “we would have the capacity for an additional core player or players depending on their quality, their compensation, and our need.”  The Cardinals’ payroll has ranged from roughly $109MM to $116MM over the last four seasons, and Goold speculates that number could jump to around $130MM in the next few years.
  • GM John Mozeliak made it clear that the team is very happy with Mike Matheny, and Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch considers it “ludicrous” for critics to suggest a change at manager despite some questionable tactical decisions from Matheny during the NLCS.
  • Mozeliak also said that Oscar Taveras isn’t going to be traded, and that the star prospect’s underwhelming first season “is not the end of the world. If anything, it’s a blessing in disguise” since now Taveras knows what is needed to perform at the Major League level.  On the other hand, Miklasz writes that Matheny “isn’t a fan” of Taveras and wonders if the Cardinals might be tempted to explore trades for the outfielder this winter.
  • Also from Miklasz, he feels relief depth, upgrades at the backup catcher and backup middle infielder spots and a right-handed hitting platoon partner for Adams are all logical winter goals for the Cardinals.