St. Louis Cardinals Rumors
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis offers his thoughts on this year's World Series contenders in a special piece for the Los Angeles Times. In the article, Ellis breaks down the Dodgers' loss to the Cardinals in the NL Championship Series, as well as the approaches of the St. Louis and Boston offenses. More Saturday night National League links:
- Congratulations to the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran, who was presented with the Roberto Clemente Award earlier this evening for his contributions on and off the field. As Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes, the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, the high school that the outfielder established in Puerto Rico, has graduated its first class of students.
- Many of the players that Tony La Russa led to a World Series victory in 2011 as manager of the Cardinals are no longer with the team, but La Russa says that the organizational culture remains unchanged. The team is “set up real well for the next three to four years," he comments in an article by Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. La Russa also offers praise for current Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny and his thoughts on the role of the manager in today's game.
- Sources tell Troy Renck of The Denver Post that the Rockies bid as much as $63MM for Jose Dariel Abreu, who eventually signed with the White Sox for $68MM over six years. Renck says the revelation that the Rockies are willing to go as high as $10MM annually for a player is an "intriguing development" and notes that the club is expected to sift through possibilities in the outfield and at first base. The Rockies also appear to ready to listen to offers for Dexter Fowler, Renck writes.
Many MLBTR readers will enjoy a read of this short piece, in which Luke Epplin of the New Yorker explores the origins of baseball's status as a thinking man's game, prominently featuring legendary hurler Christy Mathewson. In present day news, here are some links from the game's central divisions:
- Though he seems to have quite a positive attitude, deposed Cardinals closer Edward Mujica has been relegated mostly to a cheerleading role in the post-season, writes MLB.com's Chad Thornburg. While Shelby Miller has also seen his role virtually eliminated, it doesn't figure to have any impact on his earning potential. But for Mujica, who MLBTR's Steve Adams predicted to garner a commitment of over $20MM on the upcoming free agent market, the lack of trust shown by the Cards quite possibly could create doubt amongst other franchises, particularly those looking for a closer.
- The success of St. Louis's young arms is well documented, but Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides an interesting look at the development of the team's current late inning relief duo. Both Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez are hard-throwing converted position players who have settled into bullpen roles in their early twenties. And both could still become impact starters.
- With nine players eligible for arbitration, the Tigers could have a lot of negotiating to do. As MLive.com's Chris Iott explains, it may prove difficult to reach agreement on a salary with starter Max Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, given the righty's outstanding season. The most likely Detroit non-tender, according to Iott, is lefty Phil Coke, with utilityman Don Kelly also a candidate.
Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal limited the Red Sox to just four hits and two runs in the Cardinals' 4-2 win in Game Two of the World Series. Their success is the latest example of the Cards' peerless farm system and ability to develop pitching, which is the topic of these news links...
- Wacha lasted until the 19th pick in the 2012 draft, a selection that looks like a steal for the Cards right now. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo talks to some scouts and executives from those first 18 teams about why they passed on Wacha and how he fell so relatively far in the draft.
- Beyond finding draft steals, the Cardinals' ability to turn those low draft picks into star players is what wows executives and scouts around baseball, Peter Gammons writes. MLB.com's Adam McCalvy talks to several past and current members of the St. Louis organization about how they evaluate and develop their talent.
- Cardinals chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. boosted payroll and authorized expensive player acquisitions in his first few years of owning the team in order to revive fan interest and quickly get into contention, MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch writes. In 2003, however, DeWitt refocused the franchise towards emphasizing player development, spending on the draft and international scouting, thus starting the Cardinals' current run of success.
- With as many as 10 potential starting options for the rotation next year, some rival executives wonder if the Cardinals could package some young arms in a deal for Max Scherzer, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler reports. Scherzer, who was born in St. Louis, has been rumored to be a possible trade candidate since the Tigers are unsure if they'll be able to sign him to a long-term extension. As Knobler wonders, however, "why would the Cardinals need to do that?" given that they're already set for pitching, not to mention that Scherzer will be a free agent next winter.
- Some think that if any Cardinal pitcher is traded, Lance Lynn could be "the odd man out," Knobler writes.
His mind is on the World Series right now, but within weeks, Carlos Beltran's focus will shift to the offseason. The 36-year-old will head into free agency for the third time in his career, this time sporting a .296/.339/.491 batting line with 24 homers in his walk season.
Beltran is a dangerous hitter, plain and simple. Over the past eight seasons, he's averaged a 135 OPS+ and 31 homers per 162 games, and he posted a 128 OPS+ in 2013. Among qualified free agent position players, only Robinson Cano, Marlon Byrd and Shin-Soo Choo have a higher wRC+ than Beltran's 132 (and Byrd, of course, is no lock to repeat that feat). Based on those numbers, Beltran was somewhere between 28 and 32 percent better than a league-average hitter this season.
For someone with so much power, Beltran is actually pretty difficult to strike out. He whiffed in just 15 percent of his plate appearances in 2013 -- a mark that was bested by only Nate McLouth and Jacoby Ellsbury among free agent outfielders (assuming, of course, that Coco Crisp's option is exercised).
Interested parties can land Beltran's strong production for a fraction of the price that Choo will command as a free agent or Hunter Pence commanded in his extension. The largest deal Beltran could realistically hope for would likely be for three years, and even that's a stretch, given his age. In that regard, the fact that he turns 37 next April is actually somewhat of a positive.
Beltran has a reputation for being injury prone, but he's played in at least 140 games in 12 of 15 seasons dating back to 2001. He's averaged 146 games over the past three years, quieting those who thought he was finished after playing in just 145 total games from 2009-10. A move to the American League, where he could DH occasionally, would likely keep him in the lineup even more often.
Beltran's camp can also point to his lifetime .337/.449/.724 postseason slash line and 16 homers in just 45 playoff games.
The other side of the coin for Beltran's age is that committing multiple years to a player that's about to turn 37 is a risk, especially one who comes with Beltran's injury history. Players break down in their older age, and it's not as if Beltran is without signs of decline.
After walking in just over 13 percent of his plate appearances from 2008-09, Beltran's walk rate dipped to about 12 percent from 2010-11, then 10.5 percent in 2012 before plummeting to 6.3 percent in 2013. The resulting .339 OBP was his lowest mark since 2005. He also showed an uncharacteristic platoon split in 2013, hitting lefties at just a .252/.281/.448 clip.
Defensively, Beltran has graded out below average for several years now, but 2013 was particularly unsightly. Beltran's -18.7 UZR/150 was fourth-lowest among all qualified position players, and The Fielding Bible's assessment of -6 defensive runs saved, while an improvement, isn't much of an endorsement either.
Beltran is a candidate to receive a $14.1MM qualifying offer from the Cardinals, which could damage his market as well. Teams will like his overall offensive package, but there's enough risk in committing dollars and years to a 37-year-old with declining plate discipline and defensive skills that the loss of a first- or second-round pick may cause some teams to back off.
Carlos and his wife Jessica are prolific community activists. Beltran's passion for education led to the founding of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in his native Puerto Rico. The academy is a high school for the island's top baseball prospects and places an emphasis on teaching them English -- an opportunity Beltran didn't have prior to being drafted. Beltran has been active within the New York and St. Louis communities as well, recently starting a scholarship fund in St. Louis that provides eight underprivileged Hispanic youths with college scholarships. On the field, he's seen as a leader by his teammates and enjoys offering advice on hitting and outfield positioning. Carlos and Jessica have two daughters and make their offseason home in Puerto Rico.
The Cardinals have Oscar Taveras as the heir-apparent in right field, though they could put Taveras in center and attempt to retain Beltran as their right fielder. That move would push Jon Jay out of the picture and make him a trade candidate, as someone would likely still want him around at his projected $4.4MM salary.
While many teams in the National League will still show interest, an AL team would probably be willing to offer Beltran more money knowing that they could stash him at DH on at least a part-time basis. Beltran's already been connected to the Yankees, as there's reportedly mutual interest between the two parties. Beyond that, the Royals' black hole in right field could lead to interest in a reunion. The Rangers and Orioles are two more teams that have question marks at corner outfield spots as well as in their respective designated hitter roles. The Rays could use more offense, but he's likely to be too pricey for their budget. Plus, playing 90 games on artificial turf between Tropicana Field and the road trips to the Rogers Centre probably isn't in the best interest for an aging outfielder with a history of knee issues.
Agent Dan Lozano of the MVP Sports Group could start out seeking three years for Beltran, given his strong offensive numbers. Lozano can pitch to AL teams that some extra time at DH will keep Beltran's bat in the lineup and could boost his homer total back over 30, but three-year deals for players of Beltran's age are few and far between. Raul Ibanez managed to land one from the Phillies, but that proved to be an ill-fated deal by its completion, and Beltran would certainly require more than the $10.5MM annual value that Ibanez received.
Beltran's two-year, $26MM contract with the Cards helped set the bar for aging veterans like Torii Hunter, Chase Utley and David Ortiz. I'd expect that he can sign a similar contract this time around, perhaps with a slight raise given his overall solid production in St. Louis. A two-year, $30MM contract would give Beltran nearly the same guarantee that Ibanez received over his three-year deal while minimizing the risk, in terms of contract length, for the signing team.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The most meaningful lesson to be learned from this postseason is to stop giving mega-contracts to first basemen, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Six first basemen are earning at least $22MM (Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, and Joey Votto). Sherman believes the jury is still out on the deals given to Gonzalez and Votto, but believes the other four are disasters which, given the opportunity to amnesty Fielder, Howard, Pujols, and Teixeira for nothing in return, each team would do so just to be free of the contractual albatross. But, Sherman posits the true test of whether the era of first basemen receiving mega-contracts is over will be two offseasons from now when Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis are scheduled to become free agents.
- Speaking of Pujols, CBSSports.com's Scott Miller details how the Cardinals were able to overcome his loss and the retirement of Tony LaRussa to return to the World Series in just two years.
- Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains the franchise's method as "The Cardinal Way," which he defines as an organizational model of success (scouting, drafting, and developing players and shaping their personalities to fit into a winning environment) and an attitude (trust, subjugating ego, working together, and always pulling in the same direction).
- The Dodgers should model their organizational plan after the Cardinals and have already begun to do so, according to ESPNLos Angeles.com's Mark Saxon. The difference between the two clubs in the NLCS was the Cardinals' power arms, Saxon asserts, and most of them were drafted out of college. He points out 21 of the Dodgers' 40 selections in the last draft were pitchers and 31 of the 40 picks came out of colleges.
- Yasiel Puig is too important to the Dodgers' future to have his mistakes excused because of his enormous talent and enthusiasm, opines Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.
- The Phillies have a satisfying problem with Cody Asche and Maikel Franco, two young and homegrown talents, competing for the third base job, writes the Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb.
Baseball's general managers are expected to address the topic of home plate collisions at their meetings in November, Buster Olney of ESPN reports, and some sources believe a rule change could come quickly. "At this point, I don't know who would argue to keep it, or what their argument would be," a team official speaking with Olney said. Team sources said they expect baseball to adopt a rule that would guarantee the baserunner an avenue to the plate, but disallow him from targeting the catcher -- the same regulation that's in place at all levels of the game below the majors. Here's the latest from the AL and NL central divisions as Detroit and Boston battle for the AL pennant:
- Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer ran through queries from Indians fans in a new column, ruling out Bartolo Colon as an option for the Tribe's rotation.
- Longtime Reds writer Hal McCoy, who continues to keep a blog for the Dayton Daily News, examined where things went wrong between the Reds and Brandon Phillips. The team is reportedly shopping the second baseman, and the Braves may be interested.
- Tyler Kepner of The New York Times attempted to pin down the reasons behind the Cardinals' sustained run of success, noting the front office's knack for player development.
- Rick Renteria has become "the clear-cut favorite" among candidates for the Cubs' manager job, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets, reporting that support for the Padres bench coach is "staggering."
- Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review assessed the Pirates' chances of carrying their 2013 success into next season. While the club's young core and farm system are reasons for optimism, several of 2013's key contributors may be lost to free agency in the coming years, and the team could be hampered by its middling revenue streams, Sawchik writes.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski may look to inject some speed into his club's lineup this offseason, Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press reports.
With the Cardinals advancing to the World Series yet again, SI.com's Tom Verducci writes that it is fair to expect more of the same in the future. Verducci says that the Adam Wainwright-Michael Wacha starting combo has been a younger version of the Diamondbacks' top-of-the-rotation duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling during that club's 2001 World Series run. Some of the Cards' top National League competitors, meanwhile, are already looking for ways to knock them off their perch:
- The Braves could be interested in trading for Reds' second baseman Brandon Phillips if Cinci is amenable to taking on fellow keystoner Dan Uggla in the deal, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta would most likely need to part with a top prospect to make such a deal happen, according to O'Brien. We learned yesterday that the Redlegs were shopping their veteran second bagger.
- Meanwhile, after losing to St. Louis, the Dodgers face some significant questions about 2014, writes MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. The club holds options over manager Don Mattingly, second baseman Mark Ellis, and lefty Chris Capuano. With Juan Uribe and Ricky Nolasco reaching free agency, third base and the back end of the starting rotation are question marks. And the pen and bench could also be reworked, according to Gurnick. Though we've already heard that the skipper will return, the remainder of the openings just noted could be filled in any number of ways.
The Cardinals clinched the 19th NL pennant in franchise history (and fourth in the last 10 seasons) with tonight's 9-0 rout of the Dodgers in Game Six of the NLCS. Carlos Beltran continued his postseason dominance with a 3-for-4 night while NLCS MVP Michael Wacha threw seven shutout innings of two-hit ball to continue his stunning late-season run. Here are some notes from around the league...
- The Cardinals' peerless developmental system has unearthed many late-round draft picks who are currently playing key roles for the NL champions, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes, as former St. Louis scouting director (and current Astros GM) Jeff Luhnow describes how the club found some of those unheralded players. Heyman notes that the Cards' success is a good sign for the Astros, who hope Luhnow can duplicate that farm system in Houston.
- The Cubs are interested in interviewing Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo for their manager position, sources tell Patrick Mooney and Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Lovullo shares some Boston ties with Theo Epstein, as Lovullo managed the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox in 2010. Lovullo has been linked to managerial jobs in the past and was cited as a candidate for the Mariners job earlier today.
- If Braves catcher Brian McCann receives a $100MM contract in free agency, ESPN's Dan Szymborski (Insider subscription required) projects that such a contract will be an albatross for the signing team.
- Doug Fister is the best candidate for a multiyear extension from the Tigers this offseason, Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press opines. Sharp suggests that the Tigers should offer Fister a four-year, $40MM deal but I'd argue that such a contract would be very team-friendly. MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects Fister will earn $6.9MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility this winter, so he could hit the $10MM average annual value threshold through arbitration alone in the 2014-15 offseason. If Fister keeps pitching as he has since coming to Detroit, it will cost much more to buy out two free agent years.
- The Dodgers need to make five moves, ESPN's Jim Bowden writes, in order to improve themselves in 2014 and perhaps take the next step into the World Series.
- Also from Bowden, he lists four of the so-called "immovable" contracts in baseball have at least a somewhat likely possibility of being traded, while also citing five contracts that are indeed virtually impossible to be moved. ESPN Insider subscriptions are required to read these two Bowden pieces.
Carlos Beltran showed interest in the Yankees during his two previous trips through free agency, but there wasn't enough interest in 2005 or 2011 on the club's side. This year, however, the two sides could be a match as sources tell Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that there is mutual interest.
Despite getting a "last-ditch discount proposal", the Yankees passed on Beltran following the 2004 season as they opted to stick with Bernie Williams in center field. After the 2011 season, the Bombers were scared off by Beltran's injury history and already had a more reasonable alternative in Nick Swisher thanks to his club-friendly option.
Multiple sources tell Feinsand the Yanks could be in the market for an outfielder this winter as they look to add some pop to a lineup that finished next-to-last in the American League in homers and Beltran would certainly fit the bill.
While left field and center field are likely spoken for with Alfonso Soriano and Brett Gardner, right field projects to be open with question marks about Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells. Curtis Granderson could change that situation if the Yankees decide to retain a familiar option as opposed to looking outside the organization.
Of course, Beltran could require a team to forfeit a draft pick if the Cardinals extend him the $14.1MM qualifying offer. The veteran hit .296/.339/.491 with 24 home runs this season on his way to his eighth All-Star selection.
As the Cardinals battle to represent the National League Central in the World Series, let's have a look at St. Louis and the two other post-season qualifying members of the division.
- Left-handed reliever Randy Choate had his pick of the Cardinals and the Dodgers over this past off-season, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His manager, Mike Matheny, credits him not only for his performance on the hill but for mentoring the many excellent young arms that have cycled through the team's bullpen this year.
- Starting for the Cards this evening was Adam Wainwright, who has been as important as any player to the team's recent successes. As MLB.com's Steve Gilbert writes, the deal that brought him to St. Louis about a decade ago could not have turned out any better for team or player.
- Walt Jocketty, the GM who pulled the trigger on that trade, is currently at the helm of the rival Reds. Jocketty tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he is unlikely to bring aboard Cuban middle infielder Alexander Guerrero, who the club was rumored to be in on. "We scouted him extensively and had a lot of discussions," said Jocketty. "But I don't believe anything will happen."
- Top Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon has been shut down after suffering a groin injury in his first outing in the Arizona Fall League, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The injury itself doesn't seem to be significant, however, and it seems unlikely to have a significant impact on the club's plans for 2014. With Taillon now unable to add additional innings to his arm, he will have a base of less than 150 to work from next season. Of course, that is about the level that Gerrit Cole had to build off of this year. Taillon also will miss the chance to develop against AFL talent, but he has already advanced to the upper minors and should get more time there to start the season.