- 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.
Though the Reds didn’t ultimately make Shohei Ohtani’s list of seven finalists for his services, the team put together a detailed presentation in hopes of luring the two-way star to Cincinnati. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com wrote an insightful article detailing the Reds’ pursuit of Ohtani; the team shared the contents of its presentation with MLB.com and the Cincinnati Enquirer. Despite the fact that they could only offer him a maximum $300K signing bonus, GM Dick Williams and the entire Reds organization believed they could come up with a pitch attractive enough to sway Ohtani in their direction. “I’d like us to think that we might have a chance. I’ve followed this kid,” Williams said at the the beginning of the process. “I think he’s wired differently. He’s clearly shown he thinks out of the box.” The baseball operations, business, creative services, and marketing departments all worked together to tailor a presentation that included a 120-page book and 12-minute video. One of Cincinnati’s selling points was having Ohtani pitch in a six-man rotation (something he was used to doing in Japan), while playing the outfield and getting at-bats as a pinch-hitter. The Reds pulled out all the stops, including the addition of testimonials from Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and former MVP Joey Votto. Though they ultimately came up short, the release of the presentation’s contents to the media is generous to say the least, and provides a rare and fascinating insight into the player recruiting process.
More items from the National League’s Central Division…
- Although he cautions that the club isn’t necessarily on the cusp of a big announcement, Cardinals GM Michael Girsch says that the club has “some sense of optimism” regarding their pursuit of a big bat (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The Redbirds seem to have a desired hitter in mind, and reportedly feel good about their chances of acquiring him. “We’re not at the goal line, but we’ve made progress,” says Girsch. While Girsch himself didn’t mention any specific names, Goold notes in the article that the Cardinals have been linked to Miami outfielder Marcell Ozuna, while the Marlins have shown interest in St. Louis pitchers Jack Flaherty and Sandy Alcantara.
- A hitter isn’t the only thing the Cardinals are pursuing. Recently, they’ve been linked to Rays closer Alex Colome as a potential means to fill a clear need at the back end of their bullpen. Somewhat intriguingly, Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Colome began following four Cardinals-related accounts on his Instagram on Tuesday night (hat tip to NBC Sports’ Drew Silva). It could be nothing at all; social media activity certainly doesn’t have a strong correlation with transactional news. But while there are no reports of a deal in place, the flurry of follows has piqued curiosity and stirred the rumor mill. At the very least, it gives us another reason to closely monitor an interesting hypothetical.
- Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates are exploring the idea of adding a fourth outfielder through trade or free agency, in order to allow Jordan Luplow to begin the season at the Triple-A level. GM Neal Huntington notes that Luplow “didn’t have a ton of at-bats down there a year ago.” Indeed, Luplow only has 87 career plate appearances at Triple-A, and his .205/.276/.385 major league slash line indicates that his bat could benefit from more development at the minors’ highest level. The 24-year-old Luplow was drafted out of California State University Fresno with the Pittsburgh’s third-round pick; the right-handed outfielder is 24 years old, according to Fangraphs.
The Cardinals’ signing of right-hander Miles Mikolas to a two-year, $15.5MM contract might not have been the splash that many St. Louis fans were hoping to see this week, but it nonetheless is a significant pickup for the club. GM Mike Girsch tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch, that Mikolas will compete for a rotation spot after impressing Cardinals scouts for several years with his transformation in Japan. “Our scouts have watched him as he refined his repertoire, improved his velocity and became one of the most effective pitchers in Japan the last couple seasons,” says Girsch. “While Miles has always had good control back to his days with San Diego and Texas, he has been able to sharpen his pitches and improve his strikeout rate over the past three seasons.” The righty pitched to a 2.18 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9 in 424 2/3 innings for the Yomiuri Giants before making the leap back to MLB. Langosch also quotes Mikolas himself on a number of the adjustments he made and his decision to sign with the Cardinals, whose Spring Training facility is in Mikolas’ hometown of Jupiter, Fla.
Some more Cardinals chatter as the Winter Meetings loom…
- Adding Mikolas is also in many ways preparation for a potential trade, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Goold reports that the Cards have made a “compelling” offer for Giancarlo Stanton and have discussed right-handers Sandy Alcantara and Jack Flaherty in various trade scenarios with the Marlins. (Notably, Goold does not specify whether either Alcantara or Flaherty is in the Cardinals’ final offer.) The Cardinals, he adds, are also willing to take on more of the contract than other teams.
- Even if Stanton doesn’t approve a trade to the Cardinals, however, Goold points out that their negotiations with the Marlins won’t go to waste. Much of the talk that has gone on between the two clubs could serve as a framework for a deal involving Marcell Ozuna or Christian Yelich, if the Marlins are amenable to parting with them. The Cards have also talked to the Rays about closer Alex Colome, as Goold and others have previously reported, and Goold notes that those talks “could shift or expand” to include Evan Longoria. The longtime Rays cornerstone has come up as a speculative trade candidate on several occasions this winter. As Goold notes, Longoria gains 10-and-5 rights early in the 2018 season, so if the Rays do want to move the remaining five years and $86MM on his contract, this offseason is the time to do it before he gains the full no-trade power that comes with those 10-and-5 rights.
- President of baseball operations John Mozeliak joined Chris Hrabe and Mike Claiborne of KMOX Sports Radio in St. Louis to discuss a host of topics, and the transcription of much of the conversation has been posted online by KMOX. Mozeliak didn’t delve into specifics on the Stanton rumors but did discuss the Mikolas signing, his surplus of young outfield options, some of the team’s new coaching hires (Mike Maddux, Willie McGee) and more. Notably, Mozeliak plainly stated that while some reports have pegged Mikolas as a potential fifth starter, the Cardinals “definitely see him with higher expectations than that.” Regarding the many upper-level outfield prospects the Cardinals have in their system, Mozeliak implies that the team will put that supply of talent to use in the near future. “When you envision the next couple of weeks, it’s how do we take that depth and put it towards finding a way to help the club…” Mozeliak states.
The Cardinals will promote right-hander Jack Flaherty from Triple-A Memphis to make his MLB debut by starting Friday’s game against the Giants, per a team announcement. He’s not on the 40-man roster, but this morning’s unexpected trade of Mike Leake to the Mariners opened both a 40-man roster spot as well as a spot in the St. Louis rotation.
Flaherty, 21, was the 34th overall pick in the 2014 draft and ranked as the game’s No. 53 prospect on MLB.com’s midseason top 100 list. Both Baseball America and Fangraphs rated Flaherty comparably, at No. 57, on their own summer rankings of baseball’s top 100 prospects.
Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com note in their free scouting report that Flaherty’s velocity has ticked up to the mid-90s this year, adding that he has three “usable” secondary offerings, with his changeup the best of the bunch as a potential plus pitch down the line. Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen calls him a potential above-average starter, offering a similar take on his improved arsenal in 2017.
The 6’4″, 205-pound Flaherty is a product of Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles — the same program that produced top picks Lucas Giolito and Max Fried. Flaherty opened the 2017 season at Double-A and dominated Texas League opponents to the tune of a 1.42 ERA through 63 1/3 innings before being bumped up to Memphis. His results in the Triple-A International League were similarly impressive, as Flaherty has logged a 2.94 ERA with 9.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 41 percent ground-ball rate through 85 1/3 frames there.
The Cardinals’ clear hope is the Flaherty, Luke Weaver and currently injured but high-ceilinged Alex Reyes can occupy spots in their rotation for years to come. Flaherty is the last of the bunch to arrive in the Majors, and if he’s here to stay, he won’t qualify for arbitration until after the 2020 season. The earliest that Flaherty could become a free agent, given his current trajectory, would be upon completion of the 2023 campaign.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
On the disabled list due to a reported ligament issue in his right elbow, Trevor Rosenthal has consulted with Dr. Neal ElAttrache for a second opinion on the best course of action, tweets Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. The Cardinals are expected to make an official announcement on his status tomorrow after going through the results of both tests, though it’s already been reported that a surgical option is at least a possibility for Rosenthal.
More on the Cards…
- President of baseball operations John Mozeliak tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Cardinals are rethinking their protection process when it comes to the Rule 5 Draft. St. Louis lost right-hander Luis Perdomo and shortstop Allen Cordoba to the Padres in each of the past two Rule 5 Drafts because the Cardinals’ front office assumed that no team would be comfortable carrying a Class-A player for the entire season in the Majors. (Cordoba, for reference, has just three at-bats all month with the Padres.) However, Mozeliak acknowledges that with more teams opting for complete rebuilds, those clubs can afford to prioritize sheer upside over proximity to the Majors. Goold’s column is well worth a full read-through, as he runs down several players that are locks to be added to the 40-man roster this winter and others that the Cards will have to consider with their new-look approach to this process.
- Both Bernie Miklasz of 101 ESPN and Jeff Gordon of the Post-Dispatch have penned columns imploring the Cardinal front office to shake up the team’s pitching staff. Injuries to Rosenthal, Adam Wainwright, Kevin Siegrist and the recent struggles of both Mike Leake and Michael Wacha have left the team’s pitching staff looking depleted and vulnerable. As Miklasz points out, every other National League contender has made at least one addition via trade since the season started, but the Cardinals have stood pat. Gordon notes that the pitching problems are hardly a short-term cause for concern. Lance Lynn is a free agent this winter, and each of Wainwright, Leake and Wacha carries his own brand of uncertainty. Miklasz and Gordon call for quick looks at young arms like Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Sandy Alcantara and others, both as a means of remaining competitive in 2017 and evaluating for the future.
- One of those moves could come in the near future, as Langosch writes. The Cardinals are considering skipping Leake’s slot in the rotation this weekend, per Langosch, and his scheduled start aligns with that of Flaherty in Triple-A. Leake has previously conceded that he’s experiencing some fatigue, and the stats bear that out; Leake logged a 2.24 ERA through his first 10 starts but has an unsightly 5.83 earned run average since June 1. General manager Mike Girsch tells Langosch that “all options are on the table” as the team evaluates its best course of action.