The Cardinals will face some changes in the coaching ranks, as third base coach Jose Oquendo has informed the team he will not return in 2019, president of baseball ops John Mozeliak announced to reporters Tuesday (links via Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Mark Saxon of The Athletic). Oquendo, who was offered the opportunity to return, will work with the club in Spring Training but will spend the bulk of the season away from the game with his family.
In Oquendo’s absence, bench coach Ron Warner is moving to third base coach. First base coach Oliver Marmol is taking the reins at bench coach, while hitting coach George Greer will be a minor league hitting coordinator moving forward. That leaves the Cards with a vacancy both at hitting coach and first base coach, and Goold notes that Triple-A manager Stubby Clapp is expected to be offered one of those two positions if he is not hired away from the team. Clapp, who has been quite successful in his current role with the Cardinals’ Memphis affiliate, is also a rumored candidate for the Blue Jays’ managerial post (though he has denied hearing from the Jays to this point).
More out of St. Louis…
- Goold notes that Mozeliak plans to speak with Rick Ankiel about the former left-hander/outfielder’s desire to make a comeback in 2019. Ankiel announced back in August that he was planning on pursuing a return to the Majors as a relief pitcher. He told Yahoo’s Tim Brown that month that he has “nothing to lose” and feels that he’s “in a better place” than he was when his career on the mound was derailed by the yips nearly two decades ago. While Ankiel would be nothing more than a roll of the dice, Mozeliak did express a desire to improve the left-handed pitching in the Cardinals’ relief corps. Zach Britton and Andrew Miller headline this year’s crop of free-agent lefty relievers, though there are ample names beyond that pair (to say nothing of countless options on the trade market).
- Details of Adam Wainwright’s contract to return to the Cardinals won’t become clear for a few weeks, but Mozeliak indicated (via Saxon) the venerable right-hander was “willing to bet on himself,” adding that the risks associated with the contract are low. Obviously, that indicates that the contract will come with a fairly small base salary. It’s already been reported that Wainwright’s contract will have both rotation- and bullpen-based incentives, so the team may not yet even have a determination on what his role will be in 2019. Mozeliak did note that the rotation, which is loaded with depth options, is “probably not going to be our focus of energy.”
- Rather, Saxon notes, supplementing the offense seems to be a greater focus. The preference, Mozeliak implied, would be a left-handed bat, though he added that he “[doesn’t] think it has to be.” The longstanding head of baseball ops for the Cards firmly indicated that the team hasn’t given up on Dexter Fowler being able to bounce back, though he also wouldn’t make any declarative statements about Fowler’s role in 2019. Mozeliak called the positions filled by Yadier Molina (catcher), Paul DeJong (shortstop), Marcell Ozuna (left field) and Harrison Bader (center field) all “pretty certain,” and indicated that Matt Carpenter would be in the lineup as well, most likely at first base. Beyond that, Mozeliak emphasized that he’s been a “big advocate” for Kolten Wong and hopes the defensive stalwart can continue to improve.
- As Goold notes, third base and right field seemed the two most plausible areas for upgrade based on Mozeliak’s comments. That’ll lead to no shortage of speculation tying the Cards to top free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, though when asked about free agents, Mozeliak explained that he has “to be pragmatic and understand what that looks like” from a long-term vantage point.