- It’s unclear how many “untouchable” players the Orioles have, but second baseman Jonathan Schoop, outfielder Trey Mancini and reliever Mychal Givens are among them, an executive from outside the organization told Kubatko at the Winter Meetings. The lone player of those three who’s not under control for the long haul is Schoop, who has two arbitration-eligible years remaining. The Orioles will attempt to extend him sometime soon, Kubatko suggests. Mancini is controllable for the next half-decade, including two pre-arb campaigns, while Givens is under wraps for four more seasons (he’ll be eligible for arbitration in a year).
- While talking Manny Machado with the Cardinals, the Orioles showed interest in a trio of right-handers – Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks – as well as catcher Carson Kelly, Kubatko relays. In acquiring Weaver and Flaherty, the Orioles would accomplish their goal of getting two major league-ready starters for their top player. Of course, it’s questionable whether the Cardinals would even part with one (let alone both) for a single year of Machado. Weaver held his own across 60 1/3 innings last season for the Cards, who may not be in position to lose another starter with free agent Lance Lynn likely set to depart, while Flaherty ranks as MLB.com’s 48th-best prospect.
- The Orioles are reportedly trying to acquire Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, but Kubatko throws cold water on the possibility. Baltimore is indeed interested in Duffy, but it’s unlikely a deal with Kansas City will come together, in part because the Royals aren’t “aggressively shopping” the soon-to-be 29-year-old, Kubatko hears.
- Although the Orioles are seeking a left-handed hitter, they don’t seem to have interest in free agent Jon Jay, per Kubatko. That differs from previous offseasons when Jay was on the O’s radar, he notes. Conversely, Baltimore could consider Preston Tucker, whom the Astros designated for assignment Friday.
The Cardinals announced a series of roster moves prior to today’s game. Outfielder Randal Grichuk and lefty Zach Duke were both activated from the 10-day and 60-day DL, respectively, while catcher Carson Kelly was recalled from Triple-A. Righty Sam Tuivailala and outfielder Magneuris Sierra were optioned to Triple-A last night to open up two roster spots, and catcher Eric Fryer was designated for assignment today in another corresponding move.
[Related: MLBTR’s Cardinals News & Rumors page on Facebook]
Fryer signed a minor league deal with St. Louis this winter and has hit .155/.277/.197 over 83 PA serving as Yadier Molina’s backup. This is Fryer’s second stint with the Cards, having originally joined the club on another minors deal in the 2015-16 offseason and then spending part of last season with the Pirates after being claimed off waivers.
Kelly, a consensus top-100 prospect in baseball, will replace Fryer in the backup catcher role. Kelly made his big league debut last year, a 14-plate appearance cup of coffee that saw him appear in 10 games for the Cardinals. The 23-year-old Kelly has only added to his lofty prospect status by hitting well in his first full season at Triple-A, batting .283/.375/.459 over 280 PA.
With Molina freshly signed to an extension though the 2020 season and Kelly seemingly ready for an extended look in the big leagues, it is possible that this callup could be Kelly’s audition for teams interested in a trade for the young catcher. He would certainly be a major trade chip for a Cards team that may be looking to land some controllable but established MLB talent for 2018, or even still make a run at the NL Central.
Grichuk returns after a brief stay on the disabled list due to a back strain. He’ll add depth to a Cardinals outfield that is still missing Stephen Piscotty, though Grichuk is still looking for consistency during a disappointing 2017 season that has included a minor league demotion. Grichuk has continued to struggle since returning from the minors, and is batting just .215/.270/.408 in 241 PA.
Remarkably, Duke is back in action after undergoing Tommy John surgery just over nine months ago, far outpacing the procedure’s usual recovery timeline of 12-15 months. Duke has posted strong numbers as a reliever for the Cards, Brewers, White Sox and Reds over the last four seasons, and he’ll join Brett Cecil, Kevin Siegrist and Tyler Lyons as left-handed options out of the St. Louis bullpen. With this much lefty depth on hand, the Cards could potentially shop one of their southpaws to needy teams at the deadline.
The Cardinals are readying to face some potentially tricky decisions with regard to franchise stalwarts Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. While the organization is hoping for both to finish out their careers in St. Louis, a sentiment the players share, such arrangements are sometimes easier said than done. Extension talks are planned at some point this year with Molina, who remains a highly valuable workhorse behind the dish. The guaranteed portion of his contract ends after the season, with a mutual option looming. As Goold explains, it’s hardly a straightforward matter to reach a new deal; the question of how great a commitment the team wants to make will have to account for not only the valuation of an aging catcher, but also the rise of prospect Carson Kelly. As for Wainwright, who tells Goold he’ll only be interested in single-season contracts when his deal is up (after the 2018 season), there’s more time to see how things progress and less pressure given his position.
Here are a few more notes from the NL Central…
- Eric Thames will be the latest data point as teams try to project how star-level performance in the Korea Baseball Organization carries over to Major League Baseball, and Fangraphs’ David Laurila spoke to Brewers GM David Stearns about the factors that went into signing Thames. Stearns explained that improved plate discipline despite a vast increase in the number of breaking balls Thames saw in Korea played into the decision, as did a number of analytics processes and statistical projections. “As more players play in the KBO, or any other foreign league, and then come back to the States, projection systems are going to continue to improve,” said the Milwaukee GM. “Clearly, the translation of KBO stats to (MLB) stats isn’t as straightforward as translating a Triple-A environment to a Major League environment, but it still played a role in our evaluation.”
- MLB.com’s Adam Berry breaks down the value that Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli brings to the team with his ability to frame pitches. While Cervelli’s lack of pop might make his three-year, $31MM deal look questionable to some, Berry points out that per MLB’s Statcast data, Cervelli rated third in the Majors in total strikes “stolen” for his pitchers in 2015 and, in an injury-shortened 2016 campaign, ranked third once again on a per-pitch basis in that same category. The skill is hardly lost on the Pirates’ young pitchers, several of whom lauded Cervelli’s receiving abilities when speaking to Berry. “He makes every pitch look really good, even your bad pitches,” said Jameson Taillon. “”That’s a big confidence-builder.”
The Nationals failed to land Chris Sale today, and instead have reportedly turned their attention to another White Sox starter, Jose Quintana. If they had acquired Sale, though, they likely would have tried to trade lefty Gio Gonzalez, ESPN’s Jayson Stark writes. As Stark suggests, the 31-year-old Gonzalez would make an attractive trade candidate in his own right — he’ll make a reasonable $12MM in 2017, with a club/vesting option for another $12MM in 2018, and he’s eaten over 1,300 innings over the past seven seasons. His 4.57 ERA in 2016 was among his worst, but his underlying numbers (8.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 47.6 GB%) don’t suggest a massive change in ability. Here are more quick notes on potential trades:
- GM Al Avila says the Tigers player who’s been most popular lately among teams hoping to make trades has been lefty reliever Justin Wilson, MLive.com’s Evan Woodberry writes. “The highest level of interest has been on Justin Wilson,” Avila says. Avila has also fielded calls about Shane Greene, but Woodberry writes that the Tigers are less likely to trade Greene, since, unlike Wilson, he’s under team control for the league minimum salary next year.
- The Rangers continue to be among the teams interested in Wilson, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets. Grant reported yesterday that the two teams had had conversations about Wilson.
- The Rangers have also asked the Cubs about Matt Szczur, Grant tweets. The 27-year-old Szczur batted .259/.312/.400 while playing all three outfield positions for the Cubs last season. He might be a better fit on a team like the Rangers that’s currently a bit short on established outfielders, rather than one like the Cubs who have plenty.
- The White Sox are interested in acquiring young catching, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets. If they end up trading Adam Eaton to the Cardinals, one player they might target is 22-year-old backstop Carson Kelly, who batted .292/.352/.381 for Triple-A Memphis in 2016. Kelly currently ranks 11th on MLB.com’s list of the top Cardinals prospects.
The Cardinals have promoted catcher Carson Kelly to the majors, moved reliever Seth Maness to the 60-day disabled list (elbow) and designated shortstop Dean Anna for assignment, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link).
The 22-year-old Kelly joined the Cardinals organization as a second-round pick in 2012. Kelly was a third baseman until the end of the 2013 season, after which the Cardinals shifted him to catcher. From a defensive standpoint, the switch has gone well for Kelly, whom MLBPipeline.com ranks as the Redbirds’ 11th-best prospect and credits for his work behind the plate. Offensively, Kelly hit .287/.338/.403 in 236 Double-A plate appearances this year before advancing to Triple-A Memphis, where he batted .292/.352/.381.
Anna has been with St. Louis since signing a major league deal with the franchise in November 2014, but he has since made only one trip to the plate with the Cardinals. The 29-year-old has spent all of 2016 in Memphis, where he has hit .266/.344/.341 in 383 PAs. Anna owns a better line of .282/.375/.388 line in 1,740 Triple-A plate trips.