St. Louis Cardinals Rumors
It is not often, perhaps, that a team improves after losing its best player. But that is precisely what happened to the Cardinals after watching all-time great first baseman Albert Pujols leave town for Anaheim, writes Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal. GM John Mozeliak says he was "down, depressed, disheartened" upon losing Pujols. Since last season, however, the team has received just as much production as Pujols has given the Angels, and at a much lower cost (now and in the future). Meanwhile, money that might otherwise have gone to Pujols was used to ink highly productive players like Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. Of course, the Cards tried to keep Pujols, though they were not willing to exceed the $200MM barrier to do so. Mozeliak recalls conferring with St. Louis owner Bill Dewitt Jr., who declined the opportunity to bid whatever amount necessary to keep the franchise cornerstone. Says Mozeliak: "In the end, it came down to business discipline versus emotionally driven negotiation." Even before Pujols's injury-addled start to 2013, the Cardinals looked smart for sticking to their position.
Here are a few other notes from around the National League:
- Brian McCann has just begun a season that many believe will be his last in a Braves uniform, but he is focused on the present, writes Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. While the slugging catcher and his surgically-repaired shoulder are being watched closely by potential new employers, McCann claims that he is not thinking about the future. "I think when you get ahead of yourself is when you get in trouble." For now, McCann says, "I'm worried about playing baseball. ... I'm worried about helping this team win. I'm worried about getting my shoulder stronger every day. And I'm in a good place."
- Mets officials appear to be anticipating the call-up of top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler sooner rather than later, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. One official said that Wheeler would arrive in New York by June 1 "at the latest," while another called that date "a little aggressive." Martino says that the team genuinely does not appear to be angling to keep Wheeler from achieving Super Two status, but instead intends to promote him when it feels he is ready.
- Dodgers president Stan Kasten apologized to fans for the team's less-than-inspiring start to the year, but said that the club was planning to stay the course. As Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports, Kasten claims not to be contemplating any immediate, major moves. Kasten did continue to emphasize the Dodgers' seemingly endless, but arguably aimless, payroll flexibility: "We can do whatever we feel makes sense in the long term and short term."
- The Cubs' sabermetric focus has not only trickled down from the front office to the playing field, but according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune has produced some wise decisions. Specifically, the Cubs look smart for declining to pursue Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Sullivan says the team has been better in the short term, at least for the time being, without the expensive stars. More importantly, the club maintained roster flexibility and youth by choosing to go with the promising Anthony Rizzo at first and a veteran platoon in right field.
Here are a few notes from around baseball:
- David Ortiz signed with the Red Sox this offseason before testing the market, even though he was aware that the Rangers were reportedly prepared to make him a two-year offer, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. Ortiz's two-year deal, which will pay him at least $26MM, was inked just before he would have been permitted to negotiate with other clubs. Ortiz says he knew he would return to Boston all along, especially after the team approached him about a new contract while he was injured during the 2012 season. Now, Ortiz says, contracts are not on his mind: "I'm not thinking of any of that. I'm just thinking of raking." Of course, he has been doing just that so far in 2013, posting an absurd .465/.489/.837 line over 47 plate appearances since returning from injury.
- Yesterday, minor league infielder/outfielder Mark Teahen was returned to the Diamondbacks after being sent (Twitter link) to the Reds for cash or a player to be named later. MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reports that both teams were caught off guard when they learned that Teahen's shoulder was ailing. Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers explained: "Two days prior to us trading him he dove for a ball, didn't say anything, didn't show up on any of our medical reports. When he did his physical over there he said he felt something in his shoulder, didn't quite feel right. [He] hadn't said anything to us. [The Reds] basically said there's some concerns because, 'We were expecting to get a healthy player, and if he's not able to go right now, we probably have less interest in doing it.'"
- Last night, the Cardinals turned to prized youngsters Carlos Martinez and Seth Maness to shore up the team's bullpen, as the team continues to try to avoid going outside the organization for help. According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, however, a more established figure could be the key to maintaining a sound relief corps without giving up young talent. Former starter Chris Carpenter -- who said in March that he thought his career was over (Twitter link) -- is now looking to come back as a reliever. GM John Mozeliak says he is "candidly optimistic and excited about him contributing," and that a late June or early July return could be possible.
Cardinals closer Jason Motte will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery on Monday, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louid Post-Dispatch (on Twitter). Edward Mujica has filled in admirably as the team's closer in his absence, but the Cardinals will likely be the subject of many relief rumors as the trade deadline draws near. Here's more out of baseball's Central divisions...
- Earlier today, Goold tweeted a link to a story that he wrote nearly two years ago, chronicling the long, difficult process of signing top prospect Carlos Martinez. Martinez, who was promoted to the Majors this morning, had originally been signed by the Red Sox, but that deal fell through due to questions surrounding his documentation. Martinez, whose mother died before his first birthday, was going by the name given to him by his uncle who raised him -- Carlos Matias. The Cardinals tirelessly searched for school records and his mother's death certificate to prove his identity, at which point he adopted her last name once again.
- Cubs prospect Juan Carlos Paniagua is in a similar predicament to the one Martinez initially faced, writes Baseball America's Ben Badler. The U.S. Consulate is currently requesting school records and identification documents of Paniagua's siblings before issuing him a work visa.
- The Twins still have two weeks to make a decision on right-hander Tim Wood, tweets Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. Wood is on a rehab assignment but appears healthy at this point. However, he only looks "so-so" according to Miller, and Minnesota's bullpen has been a strength early in the season. Because Wood is on the 40-man roster and out of options, he'd have to be exposed to waivers to be sent to Triple-A at the end of his rehab stint.
- We also learned earlier today that the minor trade which would have sent Mark Teahen from the D-backs to the Reds fell through due to an issue with Teahen's phsyical.
Martinez, 21, was a consensus Top 40 prospect among Baseball America (No. 38), MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo (No. 33) and ESPN's Keith Law (No. 39). The Dominican native has totaled just 83 innings at Double-A and has a 2.82 ERA, 7.3 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 17 starts. In total, he has 277 strikeouts in 259 2/3 minor league innings.
Baseball America, Law and Mayo all praise Martinez's fastball, which sits at 94-98 mph and can be dialed up to 100 when he needs it. Martinez's curveball draws more praise than his changeup, though BA notes that the changeup could develop into a third plus pitch for him. Mayo adds that it's a circle change with nice fade, and he doesn't feel it's that far behind Martinez's sharp 12-to-6 curveball.
Martinez is listed at 6'0" and 185 pounds. In addition to eliciting comparisons to Pedro Martinez (no pressure, Carlos), his size has led many to question whether or not he will be durable enough to handle a starter's workload. Martinez already missed a month with shoulder tendinitis last season but was able to bounce back. In his write-up, Law noted: "If the shoulder issue recurs, he may end up a shutdown reliever with two pitches near the top of the 20-80 scale." Upon learning of Martinez's promotion, Baseball America's J.J. Cooper wondered whether or not Martinez would ever start again, given the Cardinals' bounty of talented starters (Twitter link).
The Cardinals have kept Martinez in the minor leagues long enough to delay his free agency by a season, but his call-up falls well short of the June barrier that would prevent him from becoming a Super Two player. If he sticks on the roster from this point forward, Martinez will pick up 150 days of Major League service time and be under team control through the 2019 season.
Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the infamous Lee Elia tirade against the Wrigley Field faithful where he unleased 37 "bleeps" in 187 seconds. Elia would remain as manager of the Cubs for just four more months. John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle chronicles how times have changed for Major League managers. Four reporters were present for Elia's rant and only one had a microphone which captured the event for all posterity. Shea reminds us today there are interview rooms, social media, and live post-game press conferences shown on regional and national sports networks. As a result, Shea says managers have to be more articulate, polite, and thoughtful. Giants manager Bruce Bochy echoes that sentiment, "It's different when you just see pen and paper. When there's a camera there, you have to remind yourself." Elsewhere from the NL Central Division:
- Cubs manager Dale Sveum refuses to name a closer telling reporters, including the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan, "I'm not going to really mess with anything right now in our bullpen. It's about as good as it can be right now." The Cubs are 7-for-13 in save opportunites with three different relievers notching a save including Kevin Gregg, who leads the team with three despite being recalled only two weeks ago.
- Matt Garza, number seven on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Rankings, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session today and is on track to make three or four minor league rehab starts, reports David Furones of MLB.com.
- Speaking of Garza, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald revisited the trade which brought the right-hander to Chicago and notes just one of the eight players invovled in the deal is currently playing in the Majors. Miles sees the trade as a wash, a viewpoint shared by MLBTR's Steve Adams who examined the Garza trade in a Transaction Retrospection last month.
- The Cardinals' imploding bullpen saw its ERA rise to 5.93 after surrendering six runs to the Pirates today. MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch tweets the status quo cannot continue, but the team does not have many in-house options. Langosch also tweeted injured closer Jason Motte played catch for the second consecutive day indicating his arm responded well to yesterday's session.
- For the second straight season, Rickie Weeks is off to a slow start offensively with only seven hits in his last 69 at-bats. Adam McCalvy of MLB.com speculates Weeks will have a long leash because no one in the front office wants to start the service clock of Scooter Gennett, the Brewers' sixth-best prospect according to MLB.com, just yet.
Let's start the last weekend in April with some notes from the National League:
- As expected, offseason acquisition Shaun Marcum has been activated to make his first start for the Mets today, the team announced via Twitter. In a corresponding move, the team optioned 26-year-old lefty Josh Edgin to the minors, where he will try to sort out his poor start to the year. The Mets hope that Marcum, who came to New York on a one-year, $4MM deal, can stabilize the back of the team's rotation. While Matt Harvey has been lights out and Jon Niese has been solid, the remaining Mets starters have combined to allow well over five earned runs per nine innings.
- Even with the mixed results from the team's starting staff, the Mets have gotten off to a fairly promising start. Meanwhile, the Nationals and Phillies have failed to live up to expectations in the early going. While acknowledging it is a long shot, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post looks at what it would take for the Mets to seize any opening should the Nats and Phils continue to underperform. Many variables would have to break right for the Mets, says Davidoff. The club must hold things together and hope that Travis d'Arnaud and Zack Wheeler arrive mid-summer, ready to contribute. (Of course, the d'Arnaud side of this already looks unlikely given his approximately two-month injury timetable.) If that happens, the Mets will face a test of their asserted willingness to take on salary -- and/or even deal young talent -- to make a run at a postseason appearance.
- In the midst of what MLBTR's Mark Polishuk calls a make or break year, Giants starter Tim Lincecum has put together two consecutive quality starts. As Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com writes, last night Lincecum struck out nine Padres over seven innings, allowing just two runs. Lincecum, who currently stands ninth in Tim Dierkes's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, had struggled mightily in his first three outings. While he still ranks among baseball's worst in BB/9 (5.16), Lincecum has raised his strikeout rate to 9.71 K/9.
- The Cardinals are not currently looking outside the organization to supplement their bullpen, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. While the club waits to learn the fate of injured closer Jason Motte, it has been rewarded for handing larger roles to Edward Mujica and Joe Kelly. GM John Mozeliak says that, while he is open to looking at the trade market, "that would not be in the near future."
- Morosi also addressed the subject of Braves outfielder Justin Upton, wondering why exactly the Diamondbacks decided to trade him. While Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick publicly called Upton "an enigma," and manager Kirk Gibson purportedly did not see eye-to-eye with the young slugger, Morosi says there was no single moment that apparently caused a rift. In case you missed it, Upton is off to something of a solid start for his new ballclub.
On Tuesday, Corky Miller played in his first Major League game since 2010 and he didn't have to wait long for another, starting at catcher for the Reds tonight against the Nationals. The veteran backstop was added to the Reds' 40-man roster earlier this week, as noted by Baseball America's Matt Eddy in his roundup of the week's minor league transactions.
Here are the minor moves that took place today, with the latest at the top of the page...
- The Brewers released right-hander Jim Hoey earlier this week, Eddy reports. Milwaukee signed Hoey to a minor league deal in December. Hoey last pitched in the Majors with the Twins in 2011 and he owns a 7.02 ERA in 59 career innings with the Twins and Orioles.
- The Cardinals have purchased the contract of infielder Jermaine Curtis from Triple-A, the team announced. Curtis, a fifth round pick in the 2008 draft, has a .279/.384/.360 slash line over 1861 career PA in the Cardinals' system and he has spent most of his career playing second and third base. Curtis takes the roster spot of Matt Adams, who was placed on the 15-day DL in a corresponding move.
- On Wednesday, the Braves acquired Roman Colon from the Pirates in exchange for cash considerations. SB Nation's Talking Chop blog appears to have been the first to report the move. Colon, 33, has a 5.19 ERA in 187 1/3 career big league innings. In 1080 1/3 minor league innings, he's posted a 3.92 ERA, 6.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Colon, who was originally signed by the Braves in 1995, was assigned to Triple-A Gwinnett and struggled in his first outing with the club.
The Cardinals entered play Monday with the worst bullpen ERA in baseball following the early injury to closer Jason Motte. Here's more regarding the Redbirds...
- Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweeted yesterday that he's hearing rumblings of an April/May trade for the Cardinals that may have some legs. Strauss appeared with Tim McKernan on AM 590 radio this morning to discuss the St. Louis bullpen in greater depth, and added that more details regarding the potential trade could come to life in the coming weeks.
- Strauss' colleague Bernie Miklasz writes that GM John Mozeliak has resolved disastrous bullpen situations before and may be forced to do so again in 2013. In addition to a trade, he lists flipping the roles of Joe Kelly and Mitchell Boggs or moving Lance Lynn to the 'pen and recalling a starter from the minors.
- More from the Post-Dispatch, as Derrick Goold discusses the Jurickson Profar-for-Oscar Taveras swap that many pundits have suggested. Goold writes that neither GM could afford to be the one who ended up losing in that trade. One AL official told Goold, "Then you’re the new [Lou] Brock-for-[Ernie] Broglio guy.” Goold also adds one NL official's opinion that he "wouldn't trade Taveras for two Profars."
The Rangers and Cardinals have not discussed the possibility of trading top shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar for top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. A trade of the two teams' No. 1 prospects would make a great deal of sense in terms of those teams' needs, but it would be tough to pull off. "The Cardinals need a shortstop. The Rangers need an outfielder. The answer is there for both for years to come," one American League official tells Goold. "You just can’t do it. You can’t be the guy who is wrong if one works out and becomes a star as expected and the other doesn’t. Then you’re the new Brock-for-Broglio guy."
Nonetheless, it's a tantalizing trade idea. Deals centered around two highly-touted youngsters happen very rarely, but they're exciting when they do. The Rays' trade of Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie to Minnesota for Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan is one of the few recent examples. In any case, it doesn't sound like the Profar-for-Taveras deal is in the offing. "[T]he reality is we have just gotten to the point we wanted with our farm system — with more elite talent back and set to contribute to the major-league club," says Cardinals GM John Mozeliak. "I’m not in the mood to start breaking it up."
Should this deal happen, though? In Profar, the Cardinals would get a long-term answer at shortstop, where they're currently starting Pete Kozma. Meanwhile, the Rangers would acquire a premium hitting prospect at a position that isn't shortstop, where they have Elvis Andrus signed to a long-term deal.
Profar and Taveras are too valuable for positional need to be the most important variable when considering a trade. After all, an injury easily could clear a spot for either player in his current organization, and positional logjams tend to resolve themselves over time. The Cardinals could deal an outfielder, or lose one to injury. The Rangers could eventually move Ian Kinsler to first. Before trading Profar or Taveras, you would need to be confident the other was the better player. Taveras has had the better hitting numbers, but Profar is younger and plays the tougher defensive position. Scouts love both of them, comparing Profar to Barry Larkin and Taveras to Vladimir Guerrero.
Let's consider the deal from the Rangers' perspective. If you were Rangers GM Jon Daniels, would you trade Profar for Oscar Taveras?
The struggles of Jackie Bradley Jr. serve as a reminder that Spring Training stats are a mere "snapshot in time," writes SB Nation's Rob Neyer. He adds that Spring Training stats "describe the random nature of raw performance statistics as much as they describe fundamental abilities." Here are some links from around the league...
- The excellent play of Endy Chavez is going to force the Mariners to make a roster decision, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. With Michael Saunders coming off the DL next week, the team will have to make a move or carry six outfielders. Jason Bay seems like the most logical candidate as the odd man out, in my personal opinion.
- There was a point this offseason where Brian Grieper, Mike Napoli's agent and friend, thought Napoli's career in baseball was over, writes WEEI.com's Alex Speier. Napoli was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in both hips this offseason but has been healthy through the early portion of the season.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is comfortable with the relievers he has despite the bullpen's struggles thus far, reports Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. As Strauss notes, it's difficult to find help from outside the organization at this point in the season.
- The Marlins were never interested in Francisco Rodriguez, tweets Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel. K-Rod signed a minor league deal with the Brewers yesterday.
- Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times writes that Padres president Tom Garfinkel apologized for the behind-closed-doors comments he made about Zack Greinke which were linked to the public. Garfinkel said flatly that Greinke threw at Carlos Quentin on purpose and also made comments which hinted at Greinke's previous battles with social anxiety disorder.