St. Louis Cardinals Rumors


Cardinals Extend Matt Carpenter

USATSI_7519443The Cardinals have signed Matt Carpenter to a six-year, $52MM extension, locking up their star infielder through his age-33 season. The contract breakdown is as follows: Carpenter will receive a $1.5MM signing bonus, $1MM in 2014, and then salaries of $3.5MM, $6.25MM, $9.75MM, $13.5MM and $14.5MM. In 2020, the Cardinals will have an $18.5MM option on his services, with a $2MM buyout. The Cardinals announced the signing at a 10:00am press conference. Carpenter is represented by SSG Baseball.

Earlier this week, it emerged that Carpenter and the Cardinals were close to an extension that could be worth $50MM-$55MM. Carpenter does not become arbitration-eligible until next offseason and is not eligible for free agency after 2017. Carpenter got a late start on his MLB career, not emerging as a semi-regular player until 2012, when he was 26. That means that, even without an extension, he wouldn't be eligible for free agency until shortly before his 32nd birthday. For the Cardinals, signing Carpenter to an extension now may allow them to control Carpenter for two seasons beyond that, while keeping his arbitration-year salaries manageable. For Carpenter, an extension guarantees him at least one big payday.

Carpenter is coming off a banner season in which he hit .318/.392/.481 and posted 7.0 WAR as the Cardinals' regular second baseman. Carpenter also finished fourth in NL MVP voting, and FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal notes that Carpenter's contract comes in a bit above that of the $51.5MM extension first-place finisher Andrew McCutchen signed prior to the 2012 season, when he too had between two and three years of service time. Carpenter's extension also comes one year to the day after the Cardinals signed Allen Craig for five years and $31MM; Craig also had between two and three years' service at the time of his deal.

Carpenter will shift to third for the coming season as the Cardinals make way for Kolten Wong at second. The Cardinals traded David Freese to the Angels this offseason in a bid to upgrade their defense, clearing a spot at the hot corner for Carpenter.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch originally tweeted that Carpenter and the Cardinals had agreed to a deal. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported that the deal was for $52MM. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was the first to tweet the year-to-year breakdown of the contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



NL Central Notes: Carpenter, Neshek, Phillips, Cubs

With Matt Carpenter and the Cardinals are reportedly closing in on a six-year extension that will be worth $50-55MM, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the long road Carpenter has taken to get to this point. Carpenter had to settle for a $1,000 signing bonus as a fifth-year senior out of Texas Christian University and didn't establish himself as a big league regular until age-27. Goold spoke to manager Mike Matheny and several Cardinals players about Carpenter's perseverance and leadership. Said Matheny: "One of those great stories — a guy who didn’t necessarily have the golden road paved for him. He came in here and worked his butt off."

Here's more on the Cardinals and the NL Central...

  • Matheny also told Goold that Cardinals non-roster invitee Pat Neshek's chances of making the club are largely tied to his ability to retire left-handed hitters. Neshek did just that in his most recent appearance, but lefties have been a problem for the sidearmer over the past two seasons. Matheny doesn't want two specialists in his bullpen, and he already has lefty specialist Randy Choate as a fixture in the relief corps.
  • MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince looks at the turbulent last year for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who has found himself at the center of controversy and trade speculation. Castrovince notes that it was Phillips' brash attitude that got him traded from Cleveland to Cincinnati, and some of that has been on display in recent months. Phillips laughed off the notion that he's declined, citing his RBI total and Gold Glove Award, but did say that the offseason trade rumors hurt him to an extent. "This offseason, I really found out that baseball is a business," he told Castrovince. "...Did it [hurt]? Yeah, it [hurt]. I did as much as I can for this organization when it comes to social media or caravans or Reds Fest. I did it all because I wanted to do it. Not because they asked me to do it; because I wanted to do it."
  • Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Veras have a presence among the Cubs' young Latin American prospects, right-hander Carlos Villanueva tells MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Villanueva says that prospects such as Arismendy Alcantara and Jeudy Valdez idolized Bonifacio as they grew up watching him play in the Dominican Winter Leagues. Bonifacio tells Muskat he tries to laugh and share his energy with everyone to keep the clubhouse positive.



Cardinals Nearing Extension With Matt Carpenter

11:50am: Carpenter's deal will be worth $50-55MM if completed, Rosenthal tweets.

11:40am: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the extension, if completed, would buy out two free agent seasons (Twitter links). The two sides are "very close," says Rosenthal.

11:17am: The Cardinals and Carpenter are closing in on an extension of "significant length," sources tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The deal is believed to buy out all three of his arbitration seasons and at least one free agent season, "and probably more than that," according to Heyman. 

12:06am: The Cardinals are talking with Matt Carpenter about a long-term contract extension, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  Cards GM John Mozeliak confirmed that he had been in contact with Carpenter's agents at SSG, and though the general manager gave no hint as to whether or not a deal was close, Goold said that Carpenter left the club's Spring Training facility in the middle of Wednesday's game, "presumably to have a physical."

2013 was Carpenter's first full season as a Major Leaguer and he delivered in style, hitting .318/.392/.481 with 11 homers and leading the league in runs (126), doubles (55) and hits (199) while producing 7.0 fWAR and 6.6 rWAR.  He did all of this while playing primarily as a second baseman, a position Carpenter had never played as a professional before last year (he'll move back to third base this season).  This spectacular campaign earned Carpenter his first All-Star appearance, an NL Silver Slugger Award and a fourth-place finish in NL MVP voting.

Carpenter was also one of baseball's top bargains, as he did all that while still playing for around the league minimum.  He isn't eligible for arbitration until next winter and the Cards have him under team control through the 2017 season, and an extension would give St. Louis some cost-certainty through those three arb years.  Since Carpenter isn't eligible for free agency until his age-31 season is over, a multiyear pact would give him security now rather than risk missing his chance at a big contract if he's already seen as being on the decline once he hits the open market.  This isn't to say that Carpenter will be at a negotiating disadvantage, of course, as he's still coming off an elite season.



Out Of Options Players: NL Central

The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options.  That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so.  I've included players on multiyear deals.  This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources.  Today, we'll take a look at the NL Central.

Brewers: Juan FranciscoJeff Bianchi

Francisco is competing with Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay for the Brewers' first base job.  It's hard to imagine a scenario where all three make the team, wrote Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week.  Reynolds and Overbay signed minor league deals, but it seems likely at least one of them will make the team.  When Reynolds signed in January, it was said the Brewers told him he'll almost certainly make the team, so Overbay might have to beat out Francisco, who has the advantage of already being on the 40-man roster.

Back in February, Curt Hogg of Disciples of Uecker dissected the Brewers' reserve infielder situation, explaining that while they may need to carry seven infielders, Bianchi still seems needed as the only one capable of backing up Jean Segura at shortstop.

Cardinals: None

CubsGeorge KottarasWesley WrightJustin RuggianoJames McDonaldPedro StropWelington CastilloJeff SamardzijaLuis ValbuenaTravis WoodDonnie MurphyAlberto Cabrera

McDonald is competing with Chris Rusin for the Cubs' fifth starter job, at least until Jake Arrieta's shoulder is deemed ready.  Meanwhile, Cabrera is battling for the final bullpen spot with about a half-dozen others.

PiratesChris StewartJeanmar GomezMark MelanconTravis SniderJose TabataBryan MorrisAndy OliverStolmy PimentelPedro AlvarezVin Mazzaro

The Bucs' seven primary relievers last year were Jason Grilli, Melancon, Justin WilsonTony Watson, Gomez, Mazzaro, and Morris, and indeed, that was their bullpen for the NLDS.  It would be difficult for Oliver to break into that group, but surely the Pirates don't want to lose the hard-throwing Pimentel.  Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects thinks they'll find a place for him.  Some kind of trade makes sense to clear the logjam, barring injury.

RedsAlfredo Simon

Simon is in good standing as a member of the Reds' pen.



NL Central Notes: Cardinals, Rolen, Baez, Cubs

It was on this day in 1887 that Grover Cleveland Alexander was born in Elba, Nebraska.  "Old Pete" spent the first eight years of his career with the Phillies and the last 12 with the Cubs and Cardinals, but Alexander was one of baseball's dominant arms no matter where he pitched, amassing 373 wins (the third-most in history) and a 2.56 ERA over his epic career.  Alexander helped the Cards to their first World Series title in 1926 by recording two complete game victories during the Series and also earned a save for his 2 1/3 hitless innings to close out Game 7.

Here's the latest from the NL Central...

  • The Cardinals didn't trade from their surplus of pitching depth over the offseason, a decision that looks wise to MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince given the uncertainly over Jaime Garcia's shoulder problems.  Several of the Cards' young arms are still new to the majors and the club doesn't want to make moves until they know what they have.
  • Though Scott Rolen hasn't officially retired and is "simply inactive at the moment," he tells MLB.com's Paul Hagen that he is enjoying his time with his family.  The long-time Reds and Cardinals third baseman recently made an appearance at the Phillies' Spring Training camp, and Cincinnati is interested in hiring Rolen as a guest instructor.
  • Javier Baez could be the top prospect most likely to switch positions, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo opines.  The Cubs shortstop is still a work in progress in the field but his bat could be Major League-ready as soon as this season.  Since the Cubs already have Starlin Castro at short, Mayo suggests that Baez could play third and Kris Bryant (another top Chicago youngster) could shift to the outfield.
  • ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers, meanwhile, thinks Baez could possibly end up at second base.  Rogers discusses Baez, Jeff Samardzija trade rumors and several other Cubs topics as part of a reader chat.
  • Speaking of Samardzija, we can't count him amongst our readership as the Cubs right-hander tells CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney that he's avoiding MLB Trade Rumors and Twitter in order to shut out the trade speculation and focus on the upcoming season.  “You concentrate on doing your job," Samardzija said.  "You can make as many excuses for yourself as you want. But when it’s all said and done, that doesn’t fly. Your numbers are your numbers. Your record is your record.”



NL Notes: Non-Roster Impact, Garcia, Hensley, Phillies, Turner

Jonah Keri of Grantland lists out the National League non-roster invitees who could have the greatest impact. In addition to a series of highly-touted prospects with a chance to break out this year, Keri says to keep an eye on Roger Bernadina (Reds), Mark Reynolds (Brewers), Bobby Abreu (Phillies), and Jamey Carroll (Nationals). Here's more from the National League:

  • Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals is set to receive a second opinion on his ailing left shoulder after undergoing an MRI on Monday, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Though declining further comment, GM John Mozeliak said that the preliminary review by the Cards' team doctor showed that "early indications have been encouraging." Nevertheless, any visit to Dr. James Andrews causes alarm bells to go off, and that is particularly so in the case of the 27-year-old Garcia, who missed most of last year due to a labrum tear.
  • Reliever Clay Hensley, 34, is looking to make an improbable comeback with the Nationals after a series of injuries derailed his career, reports MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko. Though he could barely crack 80 mph just half a year ago, a weighted ball program commended to him by former big leaguer Tom House has allowed Hensley to regain the low-90s heat that he carried earlier in his career. Of course, Hensley faces quite another uphill battle in gaining a place in a Nats bullpen that has several arms competing for few openings.
  • Much has been written about the Phillies' controversial involvement with the collegiate career of former draft choice Ben Wetzler, but Tony Blengino of Fangraphs provides an excellent new perspective on the issue. The former scout explains that the role of the scout is to eliminate as many variable as possible, making things as black and white as possible. But uncertainty will never be removed from the equation entirely, and Blengino opines that players should be permitted to utilize an agent/advisor without fear of repercussions.
  • Justin Turner, who was designated for assignment by the Mets this offseason before landing with the Dodgers, talked about the shock of the DFA with Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Turner says he has nothing but fond memories of New York, though he was particularly stunned to hear that the team had concerns with his level of hustle.



Central Notes: Thomas, Twins, Cardinals

White Sox great Frank Thomas will appear as a studio baseball analyst this season for Los Angeles-based Fox Sports 1, The Associated Press reports. While Thomas has done pregame and postgame analysis locally in Chicago for the last three years, he describes the new position as "more a call to the big leagues." The slugger also offered his thoughts on how deciding not to use PEDs may have impacted his career. "I probably lost another two MVPs. I lost probably another 150 home runs or so, if you think about it," Thomas assessed. Here's more late-night central notes:

  • The Twins made Matt Garza a three-year, $42MM offer this offseason and were willing to add a fourth year as a vesting option, a club source tells 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick was the first to report the terms (via Twitter).
  • Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals is scheduled for an examination of his throwing shoulder after experiencing pain this week, The Associated Press reports. GM John Mozeliak confirmed the development means Garcia is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season. The starter went down for surgery in May after doctors discovered a labrum tear in his left shoulder.



Cardinals Among Several Clubs Talking With Aledmys Diaz

THURSDAY, 8:58pm: Add the A's to the list of teams with interest in Diaz, per the latest from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Slusser writes that Oakland had interest in Diaz last year and has maintained that interest, with one official telling her, "We've gathered all the information we can." 
The A's don't plan on holding a tryout for Diaz, as the Cardinals did.

Slusser points out that the need for Oakland may not be as strong as it is for other clubs due to the fact that top prospect Addison Russell is a shortstop by trade, and current big league shortstop Jed Lowrie is one of the team's better hitters. Of course, Lowrie is eligible for free agency at season's end.

1:32pm: The Blue Jays worked out Diaz last week, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, though he notes that there was no indication that the sides were approaching a deal. 

Though they may appear at first glance to be a potential landing spot, the Mets are not in on Diaz, reports MLB.com's Anthony DiComo via Twitter.

12:32pm: Diaz and fellow Cuban Odrisamer Despaigne (a right-handed pitcher) continue to make their way around Florida for various showcases, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. (They had previously appeared in Arizona for teams that hold their springs there.) The pair is expected to appear in front of the Yankees today, says Sanchez.

8:57am: Other teams participating in talks with Diaz include the Giants, Blue Jays, Yankees, Braves, Phillies, and Mariners, Strauss reports in a follow-up piece.

Torres indicated that his client would focus his decision on maximizing dollars and opportunity. "We know he's going to be in the major leagues," said Torres. "It's only a matter of time. His preference is shortstop, but he's played second and third and I'm sure would be comfortable playing whatever position is necessary."

WEDNESDAY: After a private workout in front of top Cardinals brass today, Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz is expected to receive an offer from St. Louis within 24 hours, reports Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Diaz, who is represented by Jaime Torres, has drawn wide interest around the league, but Strauss says that the Cardinals are believed to be among the four clubs that have shown the most interest.

Echoing an earlier report from MLBDailyDish.com's Chris Cotillo (via Twitter) that a signing could come in two or three days, Torres told Strauss that his client is "prepared to move very quickly" in reaching agreement. Diaz is eligible to receive formal offers starting today. Though he is awaiting authorization to play in full-squad spring outings, Diaz has been cleared to play in B games.

The 23-year-old worked out only at short for the Cards, though he has performed on both sides of the bag in front of other clubs. "He's a player we've had interest in for awhile and the next natural step in the process was to put him in front of our people in this setting," said GM John Mozeliak. Of course, the club has already made two significant additions to its infield, signing Jhonny Peralta and Mark Ellis to join a middle-infield mix that already included Kolten Wong and Pete Kozma.



NL Central Notes: Latos, Bailey, Samardzija, Pirates, Neshek

The Reds announced today that right-hander Mat Latos had minor surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He's scheduled to return to his regular throwing program in 10 days (Twitter links). MLB.com's Mark Sheldon writes that Latos injured the knee a couple of days ago when he slipped while playing long-toss. Latos also had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow back in October, Sheldon adds. Though the club does not seem overly concerned, it remains uncertain whether or not Latos will be ready for Opening Day. Here's more from the NL Central...

  • Fellow Reds hurler Homer Bailey says that he is still in extension talks with the club, the Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans reports. Even with an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 20th, Bailey said that the sides "haven't really talked one-year that much, it's been primarily multi-year." It was recently reported that, though talks continued, Bailey and the Reds remain far apart.
  • For another extension candidate, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, the reported gap in negotiations may be generating some friction, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. "The emotional attachment I have to this organization, a lot of times you just give the benefit of the doubt," said Samardzija. But, he added: "The more this process goes along, the more I realize it is a business and that only goes so far."
  • Samardzija painted a picture of a negotiation process in which both parties fully understood the others' position, but are seemingly unwilling to give in. "If there wasn't a gap, we would have signed," said Samardzija. "But both sides are justified. It's not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept. I understand where they're coming from, and they understand where we're coming from. That's really all there is to say."
  • Meanwhile, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says that the team kept some of its off-season powder dry, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports"In the two previous off-seasons, we've spent every dollar available to us," said Epstein, "and this is the first winter where we ended up keeping some in reserve to be used on players [that are] hopefully prime-age, impact-type players down the road. It gives us a bit of a leg up as we look toward next winter or an in-season move that might make the present and the future better." Epstein went on to discuss how those funds could be put to use. "Rather than just spend the money to spend it," said Epstein," if we can book that and have it available to us to sign that international free agent who comes along in the summer or to acquire a player in a trade who carries significant salary but fits for the long term, or to just start out next off-season knowing we can be a little more aggressive on the guys we really want early because the money will be available to us, that made more sense than spending the money now just to spend it." 
  • The Pirates have heard some complaints about their failure to spend significant money this off-season, but the club seems unconcerned, reports MLB.com's Tom Singer. "Payroll does not equal playoff," quipped GM Neal Huntington. Having decided against making any big splashes, the Bucs will look to replicate last year's success by once more getting contributions from homegrown talent. "We are really excited by where we can get to with some of the younger players we'll see in this camp," said Huntington. "The challenge is knowing when they will be ready, because when they get here, they will have to help." Manager Clint Hurdle said that the organization "will always rely heavily on developing our own talent," placing Pittsburgh among half of the league in that respect. "You have to anticipate change and get ready for change," said Hurdle. "We have created a culture of opportunity and manning up."
  • Right-hander Pat Neshek had multiple offers this offseason but chose to sign with the Cardinals because of the chance it presented him to get to a World Series, he told MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Neshek said that he is open to pitching for Triple-A and waiting for a spot to open up: "If I have to go down to Memphis, that's fine. There would be no problems from me. From my past experiences, if you do well, you're going to get an opportunity. It might not be right away."

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.

 



International Notes: Diaz, Despaigne, Dodgers, Caribbean Series

Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz and Cuban right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne held a showcase at the Padres' Spring Training complex today, MLB.com's Corey Brock tweeted earlier. Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reported (via Twitter) that more than 20 teams had scouts on-hand to see the pair. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Padres and Giants were all there to scout Diaz (Twitter links). According to the San Diego Union-Tribune (on Twitter), Diaz could command as much as $20-30MM as a free agent. However, he is ineligible to sign until next week (Feb. 19) at the earliest. Here's more on the international market...

  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets that Diaz could look to choose a club as soon as Friday or Saturday of next week.

Earlier Updates

  • Sanchez adds that Diaz and Despaigne have also schedule four more showcases in Florida, beginning this weekend, in order to allow clubs whose Spring Training facilities are in that state easier scouting access. Despaigne's next showcase will come in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Saturday, according to Sanchez (Twitter links). The Rays' Spring Training complex is in Port Charlotte, for what it's worth.
  • The Dodgers continued their aggressive approach on the international front today, signing 18-year-old Panamanian outfielder Carlos Mosquera, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter).
  • Cuba sent a team to the Caribbean Series in Venezuela for the first time since 1960, writes Baseball America's Ben Badler (subscription required and recommended). As such, Major League scouts flocked to the series in order to get a first-hand look at some of the talent. Badler says that most scouts left underwhelmed, but four players -- outfielder Alfredo Despaigne, second baseman Jose Fernandez, third baseman Yulieski Gourriel and right-hander Norge Ruiz -- each jumped out. Badler provides scouting reports for each, with the write-ups on Ruiz and Despaigne being lengthier than those on Fernandez and Gourriel. Previously, Badler has written that Ruiz, 19, is establishing himself as a rising star.









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