Cardinals GM John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny have both heaped praise onto second baseman Kolten Wong this winter, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, further suggesting that the 26-year-old isn’t likely to be traded. Wong’s name surfaced in rumors earlier this winter and has come up in speculation that has been linked to St. Louis’ reported interest in Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, but Mozeliak speaks highly of the former first-round pick. “I don’t make lineups but you have to have the understanding of patience,” said Mozeliak. “He’s such a talented defender and when your team is built around groundball pitching it’s nice to have that behind you.” Mozeliak and Matheny have both called Wong a “Gold Glove-caliber everyday second baseman,” Goold notes. Wong tells Goold that he’s trying his best to put a poor 2016 season behind him and has been working out with former teammate Jon Jay, focusing specifically on speed and explosiveness rather than adding muscle. Wong has $24.25MM remaining on the five-year, $25.5MM extension he inked last March.
More from the NL Central…
- Ivan Nova called the decision to return to the Pirates “an easy choice” at today’s conference call announcing his signing, as Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Nova said that his preference all along was to return to Pittsburgh after enjoying his two-month stint there to close out the season and expressed excitement over the opportunity to return. GM Neal Huntington told the media that Nova has long been a target of the Pirates’ front office. “There are reasons we tried to acquire him in past offseasons, in past trade deadlines,” said Huntington. “…our hope was that this could turn into a prolonged relationship and a situation where he’d want to stay here. For us, thankfully, he did.” Huntington added that he’s still open to improving the rotation if it makes sense “in the big picture as well as the short-term” — the Pirates are rumored to have interest in White Sox ace Jose Quintana — but retaining Nova does give the Bucs some stability. Brink notes that Chad Kuhl appears to have an inside track on the fourth spot behind Nova, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, though there’ll be a sizable competition for the final two rotation spots.
- Speaking of competition, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy breaks down the Brewers’ upcoming closer battle, listing right-handers Corey Knebel, Carlos Torres and Jacob Barnes as internal options to pitch in the ninth inning. As McCalvy notes, the Brewers have seen Jeremy Jeffress, Will Smith and Tyler Thornburg — all traded in the past six months — emerge as late-inning arms that were acquired by means other than lucrative free-agent deals. The Brewers have been in contact with the representatives for seasoned free-agent closers, but there’s no guarantee they’ll sign any of the remaining available options (e.g. Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Greg Holland).
- The Reds are monitoring the market for veteran catchers, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com in his latest Reds Inbox. Devin Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart project to split time behind the dish in Cincinnati next year, but health has been a major factor for Mesoraco, who caught just 18 games from 2015-16 due largely to hip surgery. Rule 5 pick Stuart Turner (out of the Twins organization) is also an option, Sheldon notes, though he’s behind both Mesoraco and Barnhart. Sheldon also notes that he asked newly minted president of baseball ops Dick Williams about the possibility of signing Greg Holland recently, and while Williams sidestepped a specific comment on Holland, he said the team is looking to add relievers on potential value deals. “A lot of times it comes from a guy who has missed time from an injury or had a bad year,” said Williams. Certainly, Holland would fit that bill after missing the 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Sheldon also tackles questions about playing time for Jose Peraza and notes that he considers trades of Anthony DeSclafani and/or Dan Straily unlikely.