Some tidbits from the Cardinals as the team holds its Winter Warm-Up fan event this weekend…
- Marcell Ozuna continues to linger as a possibility to rejoin the team, though Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch hears from a source that the Cardinals will “have to up their offer for him to return.” Ozuna recently hinted that the Cards and Rangers were his two top suitors, and reports from earlier this month suggested that the Reds were also still in the mix. That said, there have also been rumblings that the Rangers’ top outfield (and first base) target might be Nicholas Castellanos rather than Ozuna, and it remains to be seen if Cincinnati will further add to its rather crowded outfield after signing Shogo Akiyama. The Cardinals themselves have quite a few outfield options to juggle, of course, and between that depth and potentially the lack of a strong bidding war for Ozuna’s services, the club may not see a reason yet to offer him a larger contract.
- Reports from last week indicated that Rangel Ravelo was receiving interest from a KBO League team, though Cardinals president John Mozeliak told Goold and other media members that a trade was apparently very close to fruition. Trading Ravelo to South Korea would have lessened the outfield surplus, though St. Louis instead addressed that issue by dealing Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to the Rays as part of a swap that involved four players and two draft picks. As Mozeliak put it, “that’s when I took the toothpaste and tried to jam it back in the tube” in terms of walking back the Ravelo trade with the unnamed KBO team. Since Ravelo is still somewhat buried on the Cardinals’ long list of outfield candidates, one wonders if those trade talks could be revisited (assuming the Korean team is still interested) should the Cards make another addition, such as perhaps an Ozuna signing.
- Mozeliak told reporters (including MLB.com’s Anne Rogers) that he is “hopeful” that Matt Wieters will return as the St. Louis backup catcher. As of last week, the Athletics were also known to have interest in Wieters’ services, though Mozeliak said that “I’m hoping we’ll get Wieters done, I really am. Still need to dot i’s and cross the t’s on that.” Wieters hit .214/.268/.435 with 11 home runs over 183 plate appearances for the Cards last season, with positive grades as a pitch-blocker from Baseball Prospectus even while ranking near the bottom of the league in framing. The fact that Mozeliak directly mentioned Wieters perhaps hints at a deal being close, Rogers noted, as the executive rarely names specific targets.
- “It feels great to be a starter again,” Carlos Martinez told reporters (including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Rick Hummel) at the Winter Warm-Up event. Martinez has pitched well as the Cardinals’ closer in each of the last two seasons, and the right-hander said he prefers to start, though he likes both starting and relieving — “Whatever situation they put me in, I’m going to help the team.” Shoulder problems necessitated Martinez’s shift to the bullpen, though he is now eager to get back to the rotation after claiming “100 percent” health following a minor shoulder surgery and a PRP injection in October. The St. Louis rotation already features Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson, and newly-signed Kwang-Hyun Kim, though needless to say, Martinez won’t have any trouble regaining a slot if he returns to his 2015-17 form.
- Alex Reyes is another Cardinals pitcher that sees himself eventually as a starter, though for now, the young righty is just happy to finally be healthy. “Mentally, I think what helped the most is just not being around rehab, rehab, rehab. It’s been three years of strictly rehab for me…I thought it was huge for me to be able to be with my family,” Reyes told Rogers and other reporters. Once considered one of the sport’s top prospects, Reyes has been limited to just seven MLB innings over the last three seasons due to Tommy John surgery, lat muscle surgery, a broken finger on his non-throwing hand, and a pec injury. If Reyes can finally stay on the field, he will likely be pitching out of the Cards’ bullpen as the team gets him re-acclimated to a regular pitching schedule.