St. Louis Cardinals Rumors
Jaime Garcia will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery on Friday, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman goes on to write that Dr. James Andrews was amazed that Garcia was able to pitch anywhere near as well as he did, as the left-hander has a "30-40 percent tear" of the labrum in his left shoulder. Garcia is in the second year of a four-year, $27.5MM contract that he signed in June 2011. His deal contains a pair of club options as well. Here's more on the Cardinals and the NL Central...
- While Garcia is done for the year, the Cardinals are hopeful that Chris Carpenter can return in July, according to Scott Miller of CBS Sports. Carpenter, who looked all but certain to retire just two months ago, is up to 80 pitches in his intense bullpen sessions. He's yet to face hitters, writes Miller, but there's an outside chance that he could be in the rotation prior to the All-Star break.
- "Let the debate begin," writes ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers, referring to the split opinion among fans on whether or not the Cubs should sign or trade Matt Garza. It's not immediately clear whether or not the Cubs will try to retain Garza, Rogers adds.
- One NL scout who was watching Garza's start against the Pirates last night texted Danny Knobler of CBS Sports and said, "I'd take him NOW." Knobler notes that the scout was half-kidding, as Garza hasn't proven his durability yet, but the right-hander carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning against the Buccos last night.
The Orioles made headlines last night by announcing the promotion of Kevin Gausman to the Majors. Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft, reached Double-A as a 22-year-old and posted a 3.11 ERA with a 49-to-5 K/BB ratio in 46 1/3 innings there. With that promotion, Gausman becomes the first member of last year's first round to make it to the Majors. Among 2012 first-rounders, only four other players have even reached the Double-A level to this point.
Mike Zunino, selected by the Mariners at No. 3 overall, has reached Triple-A, but the catcher is hitting just .220/.290/.496 through 33 games in Tacoma. Given the Mariners' need for offense, however, he could be a hot streak away. Promoting him would allow the Mariners to use Jesus Montero at DH, but that only adds to a roster crunch of corner OF/1B/DH types in Seattle.
Right-hander Michael Wacha, the No. 19 overall selection by the Cardinals, has also reached Triple-A. He's posted a 2.05 ERA, 5.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 through 52 2/3 innings for the Memphis Redbirds to open the season, and the Cardinals have some injury problems in their rotation with Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook on the shelf. For now, they've gone with John Gast and Tyler Lyons over Wacha.
Marcus Stroman's 50-game suspension for a positive stimulant has finished, and the Blue Jays right-hander made a strong debut at Double-A with five scoreless innings in a start. Many pegged the Duke product to be the quickest first rounder to reach the Majors last year, and Baseball America's Ben Badler wrote Sunday that it "shouldn't take him long" before he's big league ready.
James Ramsey, the Cardinals' other selection (No. 23), is the only other player from the first round to reach Double-A or higher thus far. As an outfielder, he has an uphill battle to reach the Major Leagues given the presence of Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran and top prospect Oscar Taveras within the Cardinals organization. He's a huge long shot, but he's advanced further than most college players from the first round already.
Let's open this up to a poll...
The Cubs claimed reliever Eduardo Sanchez off waivers from the Cardinals, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Cards moved Sanchez off the 40-man roster to create a spot for Tyler Lyons, who will start tomorrow in place of Jaime Garcia. The addition will put the Cubs' 40-man roster count at 39, as Michael Bowden was designated for assignment today to open an active roster spot for Matt Garza. Sanchez will report to Triple-A Iowa for the Cubs.
Sanchez, 24, has a 3.40 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 5.8 BB/9, and 0.60 HR/9 in 45 big league innings spanning 2011-12. Signed out of Venezuela in '05, the hard-throwing righty spent some time closing for the Cardinals as a rookie in '11, but later landed on the DL for a shoulder strain. He bounced up and down last year and has missed time this year with a forearm strain, making nine appearances at Triple-A. Even before his big league debut, Baseball America noted, "durability remains his biggest concern, as his small frame leaves some scouts wondering how his stuff will hold up at the major league level."
Brewers GM Doug Melvin indirectly shed some light on the philosophical differences which led to trading Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays. Lawrie's name came up when Melvin told Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the plan is to keep second base prospect Scooter Gennett in Triple-A for the full season instead of being promoted because of the struggles of Rickie Weeks. "The plan worked for (Prince) Fielder and Corey Hart and all those guys," Melvin said. "Spend your time at each level. That's the part I couldn't get through with Brett Lawrie. He wanted to go past everybody. That model works if you're a freak like Ryan Braun, but he did play at every level. I always say to go out and prove you're too good for the league. If you do that, we'll consider moving you up." Instead Melvin, moved Lawrie out to Toronto. In other news from the the NL Central:
- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told reporters, including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, there is no plan to send Corey Hart, recovering from right knee surgery, on a minor league rehab assignment before June 1. This means Hart, who is eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list on May 30, will not join the Brewers until mid-June, at the earliest.
- The number of years and not money will be the issue for the Reds in trying to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Choo ranks second on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
- If Choo does re-sign with Cincinnati, a payroll casualty could be Bronson Arroyo. In a second tweet, Fay says the Reds' payroll is a big puzzle and there are lots of factors involved in trying to retain both Choo and Arroyo.
- Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opines merit is not behind the Cardinals' decision to replace the injured Jaime Garcia with fellow left-hander Tyler Lyons, but a desire to delay the service clock of their top pitching prospect, Michael Wacha. This is the second time Wacha, owner of an 1.89 ERA in eight Triple-A starts, has been bypassed to fill a rotation opening. Miklasz further believes the Cardinals, owners of the best record in the National League, don't have the best 25 players in their system on the active roster citing top prospect Oscar Taveras toiling away in Triple-A while Shane Robinson and Ty Wigginton are struggling offensively.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak disagrees with Miklasz's assessment. "I’m not worried about the clock," Mozeliak was quoted as saying by the Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold (via Sulia). "The media is making a lot of the clock. Other people who read the media are making more of it. To me it’s like that’s not what is making our decisions. It’s managing our decisions for what’s best for the club and what’s best for the individuals in their own silo of development."
- Chris Carpenter is continuing to make progress in his recovery from nerve trouble in his neck and back soreness and could make a rehab start in early June, Goold reports. "I’m not going to push myself back," Carpenter said (as quoted by Goold on Sulia). "I’m going to make sure that I’m healthy and that I know everything is going to work and that I can go out there and take that grind of the amount of pitches and innings it takes to go the rest of the year." Carpenter threw three simulated innings Saturday, will throw a side session Monday, and throw another four simulated innings Thursday, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch and Chad Thornburg.
With one-fourth of the season in the books, let's have a look around some injury situations and how they might impact the developing trade market.
- The Cardinals and Yankees provide an interesting case study as we enter the second quarter of the season. Both have excellent records and lead their division. Both have sizeable payrolls as well as large portions of those payrolls sitting idle on the DL. Both have had to insert players onto their active roster that they did not anticipate. But, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch well explains, the source of those substitute bodies has been drastically different. While the Yankees spent well over $20MM to bring in players like Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells -- all of whom are 34 or older -- the Cards reached into their minor league system. Remarkably, St. Louis has plugged all of its holes with players making league minimum, including young pitchers John Gast, Shelby Miller, and Seth Maness.
- The Goold piece also includes some valuable insight from GM John Mozeliak. According to Mozeliak, amongst the team's Double-A and Triple-A rosters, "there is almost at any one position, if we needed help at the big leagues, someone we could call on from there." He acknowledges that such cheap, youthful depth cannot always be achieved, and says the team is prepared to pursue other markets as necessary. "I don't want us to go down the path where we feel like we've created this functional model and don't utilize a really robust pro scouting model that makes sure we understand the trade market and understand the free agent market. We can't be scared of those." Yet, by looking internally first, the team has managed to retain salary flexibility to add outside impact down the line. "This organization's way now of staying healthy is not being tied to those outside markets to fill needs," says Mozeliak. "Having some young players step up like they are now gives us additional flexibility when we're going to need it."
- The Cards' internal depth will once again be put to use with starter Jaime Garcia now staring at a strong possibility of season-ending shoulder surgery, writes Goold. Even with fellow starter Jake Westbrook also stuck on the DL, the team has multiple options among its current relief corps and Triple-A rotation that make a look outside the organization unlikely. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Garcia's replacement(s) can match his strong start to the year. He had thrown 55 1/3 innings of 3.58 ERA baseball to open the season. Veteran starter Chris Carpenter is increasingly shaping up as a viable mid-season option for the club. But any setback in his surprising recovery, or hiccups among the team's young hurlers, could lead St. Louis to consider eventually utilizing some of its salary reserves and young minor league depth in a trade.
- The Braves are another National League contender dealing with injured arms. As Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com's Matt Snyder writes, Eric O'Flaherty appears likely to join fellow setup man Jonny Venters as a season-ending Tommy John patient. While the team seems likely to utilize internal options to fill in for the present, the loss of its two late-inning lefties leaves the team with just one southpaw in the pen, Luis Avilan. Ultimately, then, Atlanta could be forced to explore the trade market to re-establish its depth as the season wears on.
- Teams shopping for starters at the trade deadline appear likely to find a limited supply of attractive arms, says ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). Two Cubs pitchers headline the developing market, with Scott Feldman shaping up as the surprise top option at the moment. (Matt Garza, of course, will begin his potential audition on Tuesday.) In addition to several other well-documented trade candidates in Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins and the Astros' Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, Olney pegs the Padres' Jason Marquis and Edinson Volquez as likely available. Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon of the Athletics and Cliff Lee of the Phillies could also be dealt, writes Olney, with the A's having other internal options and the Phils still weighing how to proceed with their excellent (but expensive) 35-year-old co-ace.
Edward Mujica wasn't supposed to be the Cardinals' closer. He wasn't even their backup plan or third in line to the closer's throne. However, with Jason Motte down for the year due to Tommy John surgery and early falters from Mitchell Boggs and Trevor Rosenthal, the ninth inning is precisely where Mujica finds himself. And he's thriving there.
Mujica has been nothing short of brilliant while saving 11 games through a quarter of the season. He's allowed just three runs in 16 innings of work, good for a 1.69 ERA. On top of that, he's given up just eight hits and one walk, and he's punched out 15 hitters along the way. His 43.9 percent ground-ball rate is a tick above the league average for relievers (43.7 percent), as is his 92.1 mph average fastball velocity (league average is 92.0 for relievers).
It may not seem like it, but Mujica, who just turned 29, is already a veteran of four Major League teams (Indians, Padres, Marlins, Cards), and he'll be eligible for free agency following the 2013 season. At 29 years of age, the Octagon client is slated to be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
Assuming he continues pitching well, Mujica will have a strong 2013 season and age on his side, but he's got more than that working for him. The Venezuela native has quietly established himself as a very reliable bullpen arm since breaking out with the Padres in 2009. Over his past 320 2/3 innings, he's posted a 3.34 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and 44.9 percent ground-ball rate. If ERA isn't your cup of tea, that's ok, because FIP (3.67), xFIP (3.36) and SIERA (3.00) are all big fans of Mujica's work.
He's not only been effective, he's been durable -- appearing in at least 59 games and firing at least 65 1/3 innings each year from 2009-12. Mujica has been to the disabled list just once in his career, and it was for a broken pinkie toe last season. He barely missed more than the minumum 15 days.
Free agent relievers aren't getting paid quite like they were when Francisco Cordero and Francisco Rodriguez were landing contracts that paid them $12MM annually, but a succesful reliever with a history of closing out games can still do just fine on the open market. For proof, look no further than Brandon League and Jonathan Broxton. League signed a three-year, $22.5MM contract with the Dodgers last November, and Broxton signed with the Reds for $21MM for that same three-year period.
That type of payday is attainable -- perhaps even surpassable -- for Mujica if he can finish strongly. He's been more consistent than League and generates more strikeouts with better command, and he doesn't have Broxton's injury history. It's also important to consider the weakness of the closer market next offseason. Rafael Betancourt's $4.25MM option should be exercised. Mariano Rivera is retiring. Joel Hanrahan had Tommy John surgery yesterday. Fernando Rodney has struggled terribly early in the year. Ryan Madson hasn't thrown a pitch yet this season. Carlos Marmol is Carlos Marmol. Grant Balfour and Mujica could be the top "proven" closers on the market, and Mujica is nearly seven years younger.
The Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs are among the deep-pocketed teams that could be in the market for a closer next offseason, depending on their current injury situations and faith in internal alteratives. Barring a complete collapse, the three-year, $16.5MM contract that Joaquin Benoit signed with the Tigers seems like the floor for Mujica.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
It could be argued that Anthony Rizzo cost himself some arbitration riches by signing a seven-year, $41MM contract extension with the Cubs, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports sees Rizzo's logic. As Rosenthal explains in his latest Hot Corner video, Rizzo's personal history --- including a past brush with Hodgkin's lymphoma and a demotion to the minors when with the Padres --- could've played a role in his accepting the security of a multiyear deal. Rizzo entered the season with less than a full year of service time, plus Rosenthal notes that Rizzo will still get a crack at free agency. If the Cubs pick up both option years on the deal, Rizzo could hit the market at age 32, young enough to score another nice contract.
Let's check in with some more news from around the NL Central...
- Also from Rosenthal's video, he praises the Cardinals' depth at both the major and minor league levels, giving the team great flexibility in case of injuries or if they want to pursue a trade.
- Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. is an unsung figure in the club's organizational success, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch observes. Miklasz chronicles how DeWitt championed the analytical process of then-vice president Jeff Luhnow (now the Astros' GM) that helped the Cards develop their highly-regarded minor league system.
- Francisco Rodriguez received a few Major League offers from other clubs this winter, the reliever tells MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, but Rodriguez chose to instead sign a minor league deal with the Brewers due to his familiarity with the organization. "There were a few teams out there, but I was waiting for the right opportunity," Rodriguez said. "I had a few options I could have taken to be at the big league level right away, but I wasn't ready physically to make that commitment."
- The Brewers' limited trade options, and a possible Jean Segura contract extension are amongst the topics covered by Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in his reader mailbag.
Baseball is seeing the emergence of numerous quality young shortstops at the same time, writes ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required). Jean Segura, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Brandon Crawford, and Starlin Castro are among the young shortstops already making an impact in the big leagues. All play on National League clubs. One of these players (Castro) has already been locked up long-term, while another (Segura) is an early extension target for his club. It will be interesting to see whether and when the rest of this deep group of middle infielders are approached about extensions. Elsewhere in the National League ...
- The Cardinals, one of baseball's most storied franchises, are perhaps its best-run present organization, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Prioritizing continuity and foregoing excuses, the Cards are respected in the front office, field staff, and active roster. Sherman explains that the Cardinals' success in acquiring and developing players has been accompanied by a consistent philosophy of professionalism. This has allowed the team to weather significant injuries without missing a beat. As former manager Tony LaRussa describes it: "The Cardinals are winning because they have done things right for years to be in a position to be successful. Don't get me wrong, the Cardinals' talent level is really good, but their team chemistry is off the charts."
- Former Phillies' prospect Michael Bourn fully bloomed after leaving the club, but thought he might return as a free agent this past offseason. As MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes, when Bourn's asking price looked too steep, the Phils went after another center fielder in Ben Revere. By the time Bourn's price had dropped, then, the position was filled, and Bourn signed with the Indians. From his perspective, Bourn says: "I think I might have been on their hit list. I don't know how high or what their target was, or if they were worried about what Scott [Boras] was going to do. There are a lot of teams that say they want you to be part of their organization, but you don't know if they really do. ... Yeah, I guess the Phillies were interested a little bit. But that's not how it went down."
- With long-term deals locking up cornerstone infielders Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs could turn their attention to spending on pitching, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Of course, the club intends to fill two rotation spots with Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson for the foreseeable future. While Wittenmyer says that extension talks have not been planned with starter Matt Garza, the soon-to-be free agent says he would be amenable. Garza, of course, has yet to appear this season. Likewise, rotation member Travis Wood says he would love to make his career in Chicago. Though he says "that's out of my hands," Wood has done everything he can this year to lock down a spot going forward. If nothing else, he is setting himself up nicely for his first season of arbitration eligibility. As manager Dale Sveum noted, and Wittenmyer documented, Wood has posted a 3.50 ERA and logged 192 2/3 innings over his last 31 starts (extending into last year).
- The Padres have several players in their minor league system whose contracts contain out clauses that are approaching, Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Pitcher Tim Stauffer can elect free agency on June 1, while fellow righty Sean O'Sullivan's date is June 15. It was previously believed that both pitchers had opt-out dates around June 1. Other players with June 15 opt-out dates are catcher Rene Rivera and outfielder Travis Buck. Each has made a reasonable case in Triple-A that they can contribute. Stauffer has pitched to a 3.16 ERA in 42 2/3 innings. O'Sullivan's ERA is 4.19 across 43 innings, but he has put up 8.2 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. Meanwhile, Rivera has a .375/.430/.477 line in 101 plate appearances, and Buck has hit .275/.321/.480 in 112 appearances.
Cardinals righty Trevor Rosenthal is represented by the Boras Corporation, MLBTR has learned. Rosenthal had previously been with Full Circle Sports Management.
Rosenthal, 22, is currently working out of the Cardinals' bullpen. He will be arbitration eligible after the 2015 season and eligible for free agency after the 2018 campaign. Prior to the season, Rosenthal ranked 58th on Keith Law's top 100 prospect list for ESPN and 39th on Baseball America's list. His floor is as an impact bullpen arm, wrote Law, although he has the tools to start.
As always, you can check MLBTR's agency database for the latest player representation.
Another day, another gem from a Cardinals starter. Adam Wainwright took a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings en route to a complete game, two-hit shutout in St. Louis' 3-0 victory over the Rockies. Wainwright's outing was a day after Shelby Miller's complete game one-hitter against Colorado, in the process tying a Major League record for most consecutive batters retired by one team against another. Between Eric Young's leadoff single on Friday and Todd Helton's fifth-inning walk against Wainwright today, the Rockies sent 40 batters to the plate without success.
Here's some news as we head towards a full slate of Mother's Day baseball...
- The Cardinals' pitching depth was one reason they were comfortable letting Kyle Lohse leave in the offseason, the latest case of the Cards saving money and still contending thanks to their constant supply of young talent, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. “I would say it this way: you don’t want to have a situation where you can’t re-sign your best talent, long term, but there are times when you have to pick and choose where you want to invest it," St. Louis GM John Mozeliak said. "Our model has been, if possible, to have that flexibility within our payroll allocation without going too long and deep.”
- Paul Goldschmidt is hearing unanimous praise from scouts and is being compared to some of the game's elite hitters, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Goldschmidt took a .977 OPS into Saturday's game, and as Piecoro notes, the Diamondbacks' five-year, $32MM extension (with an option on a sixth year) with their first baseman is looking like a major bargain.
- Also from Piecoro, he hears from Justin Upton and Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers that neither side has hard feelings about the big trade that sent Upton to the Braves in January. It has particularly worked out for Upton, who is enjoying an MVP-caliber season for NL East-leading Atlanta.
- Padres backup catcher John Baker could be expendable once Yasmani Grandal returns from his PED suspension. Baker tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he enjoys playing with the Padres but is prepared for whatever happens.
- Matt Eddy of Baseball America recaps the week's minor league transactions.
- Advanced statistics are taken with a grain of salt by many players, including several in the Rangers clubhouse, Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Derek Lowe, for one, believes his unimpressive peripheral stats were part of the reason why it took him until March to find a contract with a team. Texas, unlike several Major League clubs, doesn't have a full-time statistical analysis department in their front office though the club uses sabermetrics as part of their player evaluation process.