St. Louis Cardinals Rumors
FRIDAY: The White Sox, Brewers and Cardinals are three of the teams interested in Jeffress, TSN's Scott MacArthur reports. Conversely, MLBDailyDish.com's Chris Cotillo (Twitter links) hears from a source that that the Cards aren't in the hunt but Jeffress' "decision [is] almost made" about his new club. At least 15 clubs called about Jeffress once he became available, Cotillo notes.
THURSDAY: Blue Jays right-hander Jeremy Jeffress has rejected an outright assignment and elected free agency, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). Additionally, Jeffress is expected to sign with a new club within 24 to 48 hours, according to Passan.
A former Top 100 prospect (per Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus), Jeffress was selected 16th overall by the Brewers back in the 2006 draft. Jeffress has a 4.47 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 52 1/3 career Major League innings. However, he's also walked 38 batters in that time, illustrating the control issues that have followed him throughout his professional career. Jeffress has a 4.10 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 5.3 BB/9 in 454 minor league innings.
Despite his control issues, it's not surprising that a new deal for Jeffress already appears to be close. He's still just 26 years of age, has fanned more than a batter per inning since being drafted, and in his Major League career he's posted a 53.6 percent ground-ball rate and averaged 95.9 mph on his fastball. Jeffress has a tantilizing skill set for teams in need of bullpen help, should he overcome some of his command problems.
The Cardinals have announced that they have extended senior vice president and general manager John Mozeliak for two years, through the 2018 season. Last February, the Cardinals had signed Mozeliak to a three-year extension covering the 2014 through 2016 seasons.
Since Mozeliak's hiring following the 2007 season, the Cardinals have won one World Series (2011), appeared in another (2013), and made the playoffs four times, including in the last three seasons. They've had at least 86 wins in every season since hiring Mozeliak. Their farm system and player development program are highly regarded, and they've bolstered their current team with a number of products of Mozeliak's drafts -- the Cardinals' 2009 draft, which included Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Matt Carpenter, Trevor Rosenthal and Matt Adams, is one of the best in recent history.
Other teams have attempted to emulate the Cardinals' success both at the big-league level and in player development. Most notably, after the 2011 season, the Astros hired Cardinals vice president of scouting and player development Jeff Luhnow to be their GM, citing the farm system he and the Cardinals had built as a key reason why.
Mozeliak's key moves this offseason included signing shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a four-year contract, extending Carpenter for six years, and trading David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
A pair of intra-division matchups are on tap for the weekend as the Cardinals host the Cubs for a three-game series and the Pirates travel to Miller Park for a three-game set against the Brewers. The Reds, meanwhile, will host the Rays in interleague play and face a tough matchup in Tampa ace David Price tonight. Here's some news from around the NL Central...
- Shelby Miller has struggled in his first two starts of 2014, and as Fangraphs' Dave Cameron explains, Miller's problems began at the end of last season, which explains his near-total absence from the Cardinals' playoff run. An injury could be responsible for Miller's issues, "but this version of Shelby Miller isn’t very good, and unless he flips a switch sometime soon, [the Cardinals are] going to have to start looking for alternatives."
- Carlos Gomez's strong 2013 season and his red-hot start to 2014 has made his three-year, $24MM extension from the Brewers "look like a steal," in the words of Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe. Gomez's extension, signed in March 2013, kicked in this season and keeps the center fielder in Milwaukee through the 2016 campaign. As Jaffe notes, it's rare for a player to improve as much as Gomez has after amassing over 1000 PA in the Major Leagues.
- Jason McLeod, the Cubs' VP of scouting and player development, tells CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney that though the Cubs' system is somewhat lacking in blue chip pitching prospects, it doesn't mean the Cubs will specifically focus on adding a young arm with the fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft. “We’ve made no secret that we’ve tried to acquire as much pitching as we can....But if you look at our last two drafts, we’ve taken two position players with our first pick, because we felt Albert [Almora] and Kris [Bryant] were the best players at those picks," McLeod said. "That’s how we’re going to approach this draft as well. We’re not going to draft on need. We’re going to draft the guy that we feel will provide that long-term impact for us.”
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin confirmed to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that his club has tabled its extension talks with shortstop Jean Segura. Said Melvin: "Nothing was going to happen so we decided it didn't make sense to keep talking. We told Jean to just go out and play. We never close anything off but there's nothing going on now." As Haudricourt points out, Andrelton Simmons' seven-year, $58MM deal likely didn't do the Brewers any favors. Segura will $534K in 2014, representing a healthy (when compared to the salaries of many pre-arbitration players) bump over the $500K Major League minimum.
More from baseball's Central divisions...
- Shelby Miller was the landmark pick that demonstrated how the Cardinals would evaluate, draft and develop pitching back in 2009, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Goold describes the Cards' prioritization of athleticism and velocity. Former Cardinals pitcher and current Padres scout Kevin Jarvis tells Goold: "For those of us in the game, what they have done should be analyzed, evaluated and then emulated."
- On the other side of the spectrum, the Kansas City Star's Andy McCullough examines the Royals' difficulty in developing starting pitchers over the years. McCullough spoke with left-hander John Lamb, whose rise and fall as one of the game's top pitching prospects has been well documented in the Kansas City media after he fell victim to Tommy John surgery. He also spoke with several Royals officials, who admitted their difficulty is a combination of bad luck and one particularly woeful decision. One Royals official said the decision to draft Christian Colon over Chris Sale is, to this day, the lone decision that causes him to lose sleep. However, consensus among the Royals' brass at the time was that Sale wouldn't last as a starter (they were far from the only ones to think so).
- White Sox manager Robin Ventura told reporters today, inlcuding Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times, that Matt Lindstrom will open the season as his closer. That's big news for Lindstrom, whose free agent stock next offseason could rise substantially with a successful season in the ninth inning. GM Rick Hahn said he hopes Lindstrom takes the closer's role and runs with it, but the bullpen roles are "not etched in stone" (Twitter links). For those fantasy baseball players out there, remember that you can follow @closernews on Twitter during the season to get daily tips and news updates for chasing saves in your leagues.
John Gibbons of the Blue Jays, Kirk Gibson of the Diamondbacks, and Terry Collins of the Mets are among the managers currently on the hot seat, writes FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Gibbons presided over an extremely disappointing 2013 Jays season, Gibson's Diamondbacks haven't taken a step forward, and Collins might become a victim of unfair expectations. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Good closers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and big-name closers aren't always what they seem to be, Tyler Kepner shows in a long piece for the New York Times. That means overpaying for a closer can be a mistake. "We had a different guy for about six years in a row — Joe Borowski, Todd Jones, Armando Benitez," says Marlins director of baseball operations Dan Noffsinger. "Each one of these guys would have 30-plus saves, be successful and go get a bigger contract elsewhere. We would just move on to the next guy." The Marlins' example shows one reason why the Orioles were willing to trade Jim Johnson this offseason, for example, and the White Sox were willing to deal Addison Reed.
- The selection of Shelby Miller in the first round of the 2009 draft marked a turning point for the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. "By the time we picked Miller, I think our knowledge base in at least how to avoid the high-risk players had evolved to the point where we felt more comfortable fishing in those waters," says Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who ran the Cardinals' draft at the time. "He had the delivery. He had the pitches that we thought could develop. The size. The makeup. We had learned from our mistakes." Goold points out that before Miller, the Cardinals hadn't selected a pitcher in the first 30 picks of the draft since 1991. The Cardinals attacked the problem of which high-school pitchers were the best picks by looking at big-league pitchers and figuring out why they succeeded, and they focused on arm strength and athleticism. Later in that same 2009 draft, the Cardinals also selected Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal.
- Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester isn't concerned about his impending free agency, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. "If I use that for motivation, I’ve got problems," Lester says. "That’s not what motivates me to go out and pitch and get better. Money has never driven me." Lester and the Red Sox recently suspended negotiations on an extension.
- Free agent pitcher Brad Penny has changed agencies from to the Legacy Agency to Millennium Sports, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. In early March, the Royals released Penny from their minor-league deal with him.
After being released by the Indians, reliever David Aardsma has signed with the Cardinals, according to a report from Derick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (links to Twitter). The contract is a minor league deal, meaning he will still need to earn a roster spot.
Aardsma, 32, threw 39 2/3 frames for the Mets last year, posting a 4.31 ERA, after a long layoff due to Tommy John surgery. He notched 8.2 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9, while generating just a 32.8% ground-ball rate. Advanced metrics were all over the map last year for Aardsma -- 5.27 FIP; 4.63 xFIP; 4.01 SIERA. As Steve Adams wrote in discussing Aardsma's release from Cleveland, the righty has not regained his pre-surgery, mid-90s fastball velocity, so it remains to be seen whether he will be able to continue improving back towards his strong form over 2009-10, when he served as the Mariners closer.
Between now and Opening Day, several minor league signees will win jobs with their clubs and earn 40-man roster spots. Here are today's additions:
- The Brewers have announced Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay made their Opening Day roster as a first base platoon. Both signed minor league deals within a three-day span in late-January. Reynolds will earn $2MM plus incentives while Overbay, in his second tour of duty with Milwaukee, will bank $1.5MM plus incentives. Reynolds leads the team in RBI's this spring while Overbay, mired in an 3-for-30 slump (all three hits coming after news of his promotion broke) is valued for his defense. Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the Brewers still have yet to make an official announcement regarding the status of Juan Francisco, who lost out to the veteran duo and cleared out his locker yesterday. The Brewers now have a full 40-man roster, but a spot could be cleared pending the outcome of Francisco's situation.
- With Craig Gentry being placed on the disabled list by the A's, Sam Fuld is expected to make the club as the fourth outfielder, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser. Fuld, whose minor league contract signed in February contained opt-out dates of this week and June 1, will earn $800K plus incentives. The A's will have to clear a 40-man roster spot before adding Fuld.
- The Cardinals have outrighted right-hander Angel Castro off their 40-man roster to create room for fellow right-hander Pat Neshek, tweets Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Neshek will earn $1MM from the deal he signed last month. Castro signed a Major League pact with the Cardinals last December after spending 2013 with the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate posting a 3.48 ERA, 7.0 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9 in 19 starts and six relief appearances. Castro was one of several players mentioned by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes in his examination of the trend in signing six-year minor league free agents, with little to no MLB experience, to Major League contracts.
While there haven't been any extension talks (and won't be) between the Royals and James Shields, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that it's not completely out of the question for Shields to re-sign their ace this coming offseason. However, in order to do so, the team will need to make the postseason, he adds. Royals executives have said that they might take a loss this year due to the team's record payroll, but they also believe that a postseason run could push them into the black, according to Heyman. That type of turnaround could keep them in the bidding to retain Shields, who will hit free agency entering his age-33 season.
Here's more on baseball's Central divisions...
- Close to 25 scouts were on-hand to watch Jeff Samardzija's start against the Mariners yesterday, writes Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. According to Levine, the Blue Jays had three scouts present to watch the Cubs' Opening Day starter, including director of pro scouting and former Cubs GM Ed Lynch.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he is not interested in making a trade for a backup catcher despite the injury to Chris Stewart (Twitter link). That suggests that Tony Sanchez will open the season as Pittsburgh's secondary backstop.
- Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at the Pirates' bullpen surplus, wondering if a trade of Vin Mazzaro or Bryan Morris (neither has minor league options remaining) is on the horizon. Brink writes that right-handers Stolmy Pimentel and Jeanmar Gomez (both also out of options) will open the season in the bullpen, leaving Morris and Mazzaro as logical trade candidates.
- The Twins have named former first-rounder and top prospect Kyle Gibson their fifth starter, reports La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. That means that out-of-options starters Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno and Vance Worley are out of luck. Deduno will start the season in the bullpen, while Worley has already been placed on outright waivers (the expiration of those waivers has come and gone, but there's yet to be a report on his status). It's unclear at this time what Diamond's fate will be.
- Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma is trying not to focus on trade rumors surrounding his name, he tells Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Strauss speculates that with the decision to option Tyler Lyons to Triple-A Memphis, GM John Mozeliak could look to acquire a long reliever via trade.
- Other news from the game's Central divisions today included the Tigers' acquisition of Andrew Romine from the Angels as well as the news that flamethrowing setup man Bruce Rondon will be the latest victim of Tommy John surgery. Also, Indians minor league signee David Aardsma was granted his release.
It's already been a busy day for shortstop news as we've heard that the Diamondbacks are looking to trade Didi Gregorius for pitching, the Cardinals are shopping Pete Kozma, and the Tigers have been asking teams about available shortstops, even scouting such options as Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney. Here are some more shortstop-related rumors...
- The Tigers aren't likely "to make a serious push" for Kozma, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports opines (Twitter link), because they have a similar player in Danny Worth.
- There haven't been any reports linking the Tigers to the Mariners' Nick Franklin, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Franklin is perhaps better suited as a second baseman and may not have the glove to handle short, Heyman suggests.
- One scout suggested that Adeiny Hechavarria might be the sort of defensive specialist that Detroit would want at short. A Marlins source, however, tells Heyman that the Fish have yet to be contacted about Hechavarria.
- Several executives around baseball believe that signing Drew would be the best solution to the Mets' shortstop problem, Heyman reports. A multiyear deal for Drew would give the Mets an answer at short for 2015, when the team could look to contend once Matt Harvey is healthy.
- The Mets would be interested in Drew on a one-year, $9MM contract or possibly a two-year, $20MM deal, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. There haven't been any signs that Scott Boras, Drew's agent, would settle for either price.
- Also from Martino, the view on current Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada from opposing scouts is that he's "a solid player, who appears spooked by the pressures of playing in the New York market, and hearing criticism from his own front office." One scout believes that Tejada “could be OK, but he needs to get out of New York. [He's] a classic change-of-scenery guy.”
- A source not connected to either the Mets or Diamondbacks tells Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link) that the rumor of Gregorius going to New York "has legs" and is a situation to watch.
The Cardinals have made shortstop Pete Kozma available, ESPN New York Adam Rubin reports (Twitter link). Kozma was St. Louis' regular shortstop last season but gave the Cards only replacement-level production (0.0 fWAR and -0.2 rWAR), which led to the signing of Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53MM contract over the winter.
Kozma, who turns 26 in April, hit just .217/.275/.273 with one home run in 448 PA last season and he only produced a .652 OPS in 2752 minor league PA. While Kozma doesn't provide much pop, he is a strong defensive player, with a +9.9 UZR/150 over 1263 career innings at shortstop. Moving Kozma would leave the Cardinals somewhat thin at shortstop behind Peralta; infield utiltyman Daniel Descalso only has a handful of career games at short but he could be the top backup option. The newly-signed Aledmys Diaz is starting at Double-A and is perhaps better suited as a second baseman.
Shortstop has been one of the busiest positions on the rumor mill in recent days, given that the Tigers and Mets have been looking for upgrades, the Diamondbacks shopping Didi Gregorius, Stephen Drew's continued presence on the free agent market and the alleged discord between Jimmy Rollins and the Phillies. In regards to the Mets, Rubin doesn't think New York is interested in Kozma since he isn't a clear upgrade over incumbent shortstop Ruben Tejada.