St. Louis Cardinals Rumors
FRIDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Neshek will earn $1MM if he makes the big league club (Twitter link).
THURSDAY: The Cardinals have agreed to a minor league deal with right-handed reliever Pat Neshek, reports Keith Olbermann of ESPN.com (via Twitter) (hat tip to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The 33-year-old gets a Spring Training invitation.
Neshek threw 40 1/3 innings last year for the Athletics, posting a 3.35 ERA. He elected free agency after the season, after accepting an outright assignment earlier in the year. The side-armer has been devastating against righties over his career, facing 555 batters and limiting them to a .181/.257/.315 mark. Opposite-handed hitters, however, have fared much better: in 326 plate appearances, lefties have put up a .237/.328/.432 mark against Neshek.
FEBRUARY 6: At least twelve teams have inquired with the Nationals about Espinosa's availability, reports MLB.com's Bill Ladson. However, the team remains unlikely at present to deal Espinosa, Ladson says.
Though Anthony Rendon has the inside track at the starting gig at second, Espinosa will have a shot at taking his job back. Alternative outcomes include Espinosa making the club as a reserve or starting out in Triple-A on optional assignment. But Espinosa represents important middle infield depth and still has tantalizing upside at age 26, leaving the Nats uninterested in selling low.
DECEMBER 10: The Nats are balking at moving Espinosa despite interest from the Yankees, among other clubs, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
DECEMBER 9, 6:29pm: One Nationals executive told Kilgore that the Nats aren't shopping Espinosa. Beyond that, GM Mike Rizzo plainly stated that he expects Espinosa to be his team's utility infielder in 2014, noting that despite a lack of experience at the hot corner, Espinosa has the tools to play third base. Kilgore writes that Espinosa has a big proponent in Rizzo, and the Nationals are determined not to sell low on the switch-hitter.
4:25pm: The Nationals are shopping Danny Espinosa in trade talks, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). Passan adds that if the Nats are unable to find a deal they like for Espinosa, the infielder could fill the utility role vacated by Steve Lombardozzi.
After a couple solid seasons in Washington, Espinosa saw his production fall off a cliff in 2013 due in part to injuries. In 2011 and 2012, he was an everyday player for the Nats, hitting 38 homers with a .727 OPS in over 1300 plate appearances.
GM Mike Rizzo told reporters today, including Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link), that the Nats will be "open-minded" and won't be afraid to make a trade. However, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post says (via Twitter) that he'd be surprised if the team moves Espinosa, having already rebuffed teams like the Rays and Cardinals, who have tried to buy low.
Joey Votto is well known not only for his massive, ten-year contract, but also for being one of the game's most dedicated and thoughtful hitters. He is also known as a reserved presence, making his lengthy interview with Lance McAlister of Cincinnati's 700 WLW well worth a listen (hat tip to the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay.) Among other things, Votto dismissed the concept of lineup protection, but says that he did see noticeably better pitches when speedster Billy Hamilton got on base in front of him last year. His favorite stat? wRC+. Touching on roster construction and player evaluation, Votto said that he values all aspects of the game, and finds it is telling that both of last year's World Series contestants featured well-rounded rosters of well-rounded players. Here's more from the NL Central:
- After missing all of 2013 due to arm injuries, Pirates prospect Rinku Singh tells MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom that he is working on his arm strength and still plans to reach the Major Leagues. Singh, 25, famously won a pitching reality show in India in 2008 and subsequently signed a minor league deal with the Bucs. The story of Singh (and Dinesh Patel, the reality show runner-up) will be told in the upcoming film Million Dollar Arm.
- The Cardinals lost a number of notable relief arms and could be lacking some depth, Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Gordon lists several minor leaguers who could emerge in Spring Training and be in the bullpen on Opening Day.
- The Cubs are unlikely to participate in a "bidding war" for Korean hurler Suk-min Yoon, reports Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Though Chicago saw Yoon pitch along with multiple other teams, it sounds as if the club's interest is heavily conditioned on price.
- The Brewers are "kicking tires" on several free agent relievers, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). Milwaukee is waiting for the asking prices to come down. Two names that Haudricourt wouldn't be surprised to see added are ex-Brewer Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Marmol, who is a good friend of Aramis Ramirez.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
The Cardinals have avoided arbitration with infielder Daniel Descalso, settling at $1.29MM, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Descalso can earn $10K if he reaches 250 plate appearances, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
Descalso, 27, will earn the midpoint between his submitted $1.65MM figure and the club's $930K mark. The case had featured the second-highest relative gulf in filing figures, and club GM John Mozeliak acknowledged that a hearing was possible. Ultimately, Descalso will earn just over the $1.2MM projection arrived at by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Descalso has been an important part-timer for St. Louis over the last three seasons, logging at least 350 plate appearances in each one and maintaining an OPS in the .650 range. He has seen most of his action at third or second, but has also played 95 games at short (including 55 last season). In 2013, Descalso saw his playing time dip slightly from prior seasons to 123 games and 358 trips to the plate. He ended up with a .238/.290/.366 triple-slash on the year.
For those of you who entered MLBTR's annual free agenct prediction contest, be sure to check out the leaderboard to see where you stand with 39 of the top 50 free agents now under contract. At present, four readers are tied with an eye-pleasing .333 batting average, with eleven others right on their heels with 12 correct picks.
Here are some notes to round out the evening:
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson said that the team is unlikely to sign shortstop Stephen Drew, reports Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Though this is not the first time he has given such an indication, Alderson said he had only had "sporadic" talks with Drew's agent, Scott Boras. Of course, neither did he close the door on Drew. "We haven't ruled it out, but I think doing anything is unlikely," said Alderson. "... I know there's been a lot of speculation about Drew and the Mets, but at this point, that's what it remains -- speculation."
- Alderson likewise said that New York was not enamored with the possibility of giving out a big league deal for a free agent reliever. New York has recently been linked with closer Fernando Rodney and reportedly made a legitimate run at Grant Balfour before he signed with the Rays. "Acquiring someone with some experience would give us some comfort going into Spring Training, but we don't want to preclude some of our younger pitchers from getting a solid opportunity either," Alderson explained. "So if there's somebody there that we like, we'll pursue them. Otherwise, one of the ways we've approached starting pitching, for example, is to bring in a couple of guys on minor league contracts and have them compete with some of our own internal candidates. We may do the same thing with the bullpen."
- As expected, Nolan Ryan has met with Astros owner Jim Crane, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. Today's sit-down reportedly included Ryan's son Reid, who is Houston's president of business operations. Details have yet to emerge as to what was discussed and where things stand, but it would appear that the former Rangers CEO could be headed toward some kind of role with the Astros.
- None of the players on the Cardinals' 40-man roster is out of options, says MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch, leaving the club with ample flexibility in constructing its active roster. In fact, only three players -- Pete Kozma, Sam Freeman, and Shane Robinson -- are down to their last option. (Of course, players with at least five years of service time can refuse an optional assignment.) That should leave the Cards with the means to stash and shuttle players as necessary over the course of the coming season without exposing them to waivers.
Former White Sox first-rounder and top prospect Brian Anderson is making one last comeback attempt, he tells MLB.com's Scott Merkin. After trying his luck as a pitcher, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Anderson is looking to catch on as an outfielder once again and believes he's made adjustments that will allow him to succeed. Making those adjustments didn't always come easily, he tells Merkin: "...I was too stubborn to fully commit to making adjustments. That led to my demise and my inconsistency at the plate. I wanted everything that came with the big leagues without having to prove myself." Anderson is hoping for a Spring Training invite with a chance to win a fourth outfielder gig before hitting his way into more playing time. Here's more out of baseball's Central divisions...
- Steph Rogers of Getting Blanked interviewed Twins top pitching prospect Alex Meyer and covered a number of topics ranging from the best advice he's received to the transition to pro ball to the most beneficial aspects of winter ball. Meyer tells Rogers that he treasures the time he's been able to spend with former Reds left-hander Tom Browning in winter ball. Says Meyer of Browning, who pitched a perfect game in 1988: "If I can continue to pick his brain for the limited time I have left, it would be so beneficial."
- New Cardinals center fielder Peter Bourjos told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he wasn't surprised to be traded by the Angels this offseason. Bourjos told Hummel that one of his goals with the Cards is to steal 40 bases, adding that it will depend on how he swings the bat because he knows drawing walks is not one of his strengths.
- MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tackles a number of trade Indians scenarios in his latest Inbox piece but ultimately concludes that Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson and Lonnie Chisenhall will all be in the organization come Opening Day (though he doesn't believe Chisenhall will start at third base).
- Earlier today, I ran down several NL Central notes, including pieces on Kolten Wong, Mark Reynolds and several Cubs topics.
The Cardinals' Kolten Wong sits atop the list of baseball's 10 best second base prospects compiled by Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com. As Mayo points out, St. Louis' trade of David Freese allows Matt Carpenter to move to third base, opening second for the highly touted University of Hawaii product. Rougned Odor, Mookie Betts, Arismendy Alcantara, Devon Travis, Jonathan Schoop, Taylor Lindsey, Eddie Rosario, Micah Johnson and Wilmer Flores round out the free list, which also includes scouting reports on each prospect. Here's more out of the NL Central...
- Fangraphs' Mike Petriello writes that the Brewers' signing of Mark Reynolds is more beneficial to them than it would be another club due to Milwaukee's historically bad group of first basemen in 2013. If Reynolds can even play at replacement level, he'd provide a four-win improvement, and with Miller Park being among the four best parks in the game for right-handed power, Reynolds could be above replacement level. While it could be a nice move, Petriello continues, Reynolds serving as the offseason's biggest move isn't a defensible outcome. Milwaukee has yet to sign a big league free agent, but they also haven't pulled the trigger on a rebuild, making their offseason puzzling, he concludes.
- Top Cubs prospect Javier Baez will begin the season playing shortstop at Triple-A, but he could also receive some work at second base to accelerate his path to the Majors, writes Carrie Muskat of MLB.com in a wrap-up piece from this week's Cubs Convention. Director of scouting and player development Jason McLeod tells Muskat that the goal is for Baez to play short for as long as he can, but McLeod concedes that the 21-year-old has a lot of work to do on defense.
- Muskat also writes that McLeod and president Theo Epstein have some history with righty Justin Grimm, who was acquired in the July haul for Matt Garza. McLeod drafted Grimm when he and Epstein were with the Red Sox, but Grimm elected to honor his commitment to Georgia. When McLeod and Epstein were scouting one of his college games, Epstein walked down 15 rows to jokingly tell McLeod, "You're fired" after seeing Grimm unload an array of 97 mph fastballs.
- McLeod told Muskat that the team has scouted Masahiro Tanaka "extensively" over the past few years and that the evaluation process is complete. "...we'll find out in the next week," McLeod said regarding the former Rakuten ace.
The Cardinals' Shelby Miller had an excellent rookie campaign with 15 victories (the most by any rookie) and the NL's tenth-best ERA at 3.06. But, the 23-year-old right-hander made only one appearance during the Cardinals' post-season run. During the team's annual Winter Warmup, Miller addressed the issue (as quoted by the Associated Press via ESPN.com). "I was a little upset I didn't pitch but I just put it away. I didn't want to dwell on the past and why I didn't pitch in October. I'm not worried about it anymore. I'm just going to let it be a mystery. A mystery unsolved." Miller added he felt fine physcially: no "better or worse than I did during the season." In other news and notes involving the Cardinals and the National League:
- The Cardinals have not gone to an arbitration hearing since 1999, but GM John Mozeliak admits it is a possibility with Daniel Descalso, reports MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Descalso asked for $1.65MM while the Cardinals countered with $930K. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected a $1.2MM salary for Descalso.
- Also within Langosh's article, Mozeliak does not anticipate any contract extensions during Spring Training this year. The Cardinals have extended Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, and Allen Craig during the last two Spring Trainings.
- Jason Motte, the Cardinals' closer before undergoing Tommy John surgery last May, is heading to the Cardinals' training camp in Florida to continue his throwing program, Langosch tweets.
- The Nationals remain in the market for a backup catcher and that piece will likely come in a trade, according to MLB.com's William Ladson.
- There is a good chance reliever Rafael Betancourt returns to the Rockies, a source tells Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. The source adds Betancourt prefers Colorado because of his relationship with the club, but both sides are "trying to figure out the timing with his rehab" before coming to terms. The 38-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery last year leading the Rockies to decline his 2014 option, but is working on a comeback.
- Fourteen teams were on hand for Todd Coffey's showcase on Friday, tweets Cotillo. The right-handed reliever missed all of last year after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery in 2012. Before being sidelined, the 33-year-old appeared in at least 57 games and pitched at least 51 innings in six of his previous seven seasons.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
New Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta disclosed at a fundraising event on Saturday that he was targeted by several clubs this offseason who were interested in him as a shortstop, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. However, St. Louis offered the opportunity to play for an annual contender, Peralta said at the team's Winter Warm-Up event. Here's more from the NL Central:
- Top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras says he expects to be fully healthy when he reports early for Spring Training next month, MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reports. The outfielder, who underwent an ankle procedure to repair torn ligaments and remove loose cartilage, will be in the mix for an Opening Day roster spot.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times hears from multiple sources that the Cubs are a "long shot" to land Masahiro Tanaka (Twitter link). The Cubs were one of many clubs to have made a formal offer to the Japanese star, according to a Nikkan Sports report.
- Speaking at the Cubs Convention today, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said the team erred in promoting Brett Jackson to the majors in 2012, commenting that the outfielder may have required more minor league seasoning (via MLB.com's Carrie Muskat). Jackson struggled to a .175/.303/.342 line in 142 plate appearances, and returned to the minors in 2013 to hit just .210/.296/.330. Epstein explained that then-manager Dale Sveum wanted to work on developing Jackson's swing.
- Count Cubs manager Rick Renteria among those excited about the team's stable of prospects. Muskat reports that Renteria called Epstein to express his excitement about the Cubs' young players while interviewing for two other manager openings this offseason, leading to his hiring for the Cubs' job.
Tonight in Los Angeles, California, the biggest stars in the game are gathering to help honor baseball's behind-the-scenes heroes. The eleventh annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation dinner will honor Hank Aaron, Bruce Bochy, Jack McKeon and more to help raise money for scouts who have fallen on hard times due to job loss, illness, retirement, or other setbacks. You can read more about the event (and donate) on the PBSF website. To learn more about PBSF founder Dennis Gilbert, a special assistant to White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, check out his recent interview with MLBTR's Zach Links.
- Adam Wainwright tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he has no regrets about the extension that he signed in 2013 with the Cardinals in light of Clayton Kershaw's massive new deal. "I didn’t have to sign it. We worked to get to a number where I felt made it fair for both sides," Wainwright said of his five-year, $97.5MM extension, adding that he sent a congratulatory text to Kershaw.
- Cubs President Theo Epstein defended the Ricketts family's ownership in comments to fans at the Cubs Convention today (via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune). “They know they’re doing the right things to lay the foundation to get this right, to turn this into a franchise they can be proud of for generations and generations,” Epstein said, acknowledging that some have criticized the Cubs' quiet offseason.
Zach Links contributed to this post.