- The Cards will be looking for a middle-of-the-lineup slugger this winter to boost the lineup. “For us, we have a talented team, but when you look at our club, no one stood out as an All-Star, that threat,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. Seven Cards regulars were above-average run-creators in 2017 as per the wRC+ metric, though injuries and a lack of regular playing time impacted that group. Josh Donaldson has been rumored to be one of the Cardinals’ offseason targets, and would certainly fit the bill as a big lineup upgrade if St. Louis is able to pry him away from the Blue Jays.
- With Trevor Rosenthal sidelined by Tommy John surgery, the Cards will look into adding ninth-inning help, even if they’re wary of shopping at the high end of the free agent closer market. “Ideally, you don’t pay retail for closers if you can avoid it, and we’ve been lucky for the last long period of not having to dip into that end of the market. But we don’t have an heir apparent at the moment, so we will have to evaluate what our options are,” GM Michael Girsch said.
- Flexibility seems to be the key word for this Cardinals’ offseason, as with so many multi-positional players on the roster, the club has several options in deciding who could potentially stay or go. (And who could be added, in regards to acquiring that big bat.) Mozeliak said that catcher Yadier Molina is the only position player who has his spot on the field firmly established for 2018. This means that Dexter Fowler could potentially move out of center field, which Mozeliak said will likely be discussed in the coming weeks. 2016 was the only season of Fowler’s career that saw him post positive numbers in the Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150 categories, as he struggled to minus-18 DRS and -9.9 UZR/150 last year over 933 1/3 IP in center field.
- The Cardinals have yet to decide whether or not to issue a qualifying offer to free agent starter Lance Lynn. If Lynn rejected the QO, the Cards would be in line for compensation (an extra draft pick just prior to the third round) if he signed elsewhere. If he accepted, then he’d return to St. Louis on a one-year deal worth in the neighborhood of $18.1MM. After missing all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, Lynn returned to post very solid numbers this season and pitched 186 1/3 innings, which could quiet concerns about his post-surgery durability. Even with such a major recent injury on his record, Lynn is likely to find a good multi-year deal on the open market, so one would think he’d reject a QO.
2:02pm: Both executives are now under contract through 2020, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets.
12:24pm: The Cardinals are set to promote John Mozeliak from general manager to president of baseball operations, while assistant GM Mike Girsch will be promoted to the post of general manager, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Cardinals have called a 2:00pm press conference to announce the move.
Mozeliak will still, of course, oversee the team’s baseball operations decisions and will remain heavily involved in all facets of the department, Goold notes, though he’ll now have a title that is perhaps more commensurate with his considerable experience. Mozeliak has been the general manager of the Cardinals for nearly a decade, and in making this move, the Cardinals will adopt what has become an increasingly popular front office structure throughout the game. Among the teams that utilize the president of baseball ops/GM hierarchy are the Dodgers (Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi), Cubs (Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer), Athletics (Billy Beane/David Forst), Rays (Matt Silverman/Erik Neander) and Indians (Chris Antonetti/Mike Chernoff).
It’s not immediately clear if Mozeliak will receive an extension with the new title, though Goold notes that chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. has recently suggested that extension negotiations and talk of a new title for Mozeliak have been ongoing. His current deal runs through the 2018 season, though it certainly stands to reason that with the elevation in title will come a lengthier deal.
The 2017 season, of course, hasn’t been a strong one for the Cardinals, although the organization has generally prospered under Mozeliak. Since he took the job following the 2007 season, the Cards have made six postseason appearances, including a World Series victory in 2011 and a second World Series appearance two years later in 2013. Mozeliak, of course, also had a role in the Cardinals’ 2006 World Series championship, as he previously spent five years as an assistant GM to Walt Jocketty and has been involved in the organization’s scouting department dating all the way back to 1995.
Girsch, meanwhile, has held his AGM post since 2011 and has been with the organization since serving as an amateur scouting coordinator back in 2006. He’s spent six years directly assisting Mozeliak in nearly all facets of the game, including: contract negotiation, player evaluation, amateur scouting, player development and international operations.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Cardinals designated Jhonny Peralta for assignment today, though that was only one part of a larger shakeup for a team mired in a seven-game losing streak. Some details on the day’s news out of the Gateway City…
- With Kolten Wong coming off the disabled list today, GM John Mozeliak told reporters (including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that he didn’t explore the trade market for Peralta prior to the designation. Of course, the club still has the ten-day DFA period to potentially find a trade partner for the veteran infielder, though with interest likely to be pretty low, a club that fancies Peralta could simply wait until the Cards release him once those ten days are up.
- Midseason coaching changes are pretty rare, though the Cards made multiple adjustments to their coaching staff today. Quality control coach Mike Shildt becomes the new third base coach, replacing Chris Maloney (who will be reassigned elsewhere in the organization). Mark Budaska will replace Bill Mueller as the assistant hitting coach, while Ron Warner will also join the coaching staff in an unspecified role.
- Both the coaching shuffle and the Peralta DFA were a response to the Cardinals’ 0-7 road trip, as Mozeliak made it clear that things needed to change. “You cannot blow the whole thing up, but we had to do something different. … I think the road trip definitely said we had to do something different,” Mozeliak said. “In our case, this was not working. Everybody is frustrated. This is not meeting our expectations….This is a breakdown on many levels. What today represents is people are being held accountable for what we need to do.”
- Shildt “has juice with the GM,” according to Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter links), and Shildt’s promotion could be a sign that manager Mike Matheny is under extra pressure to turn the Cardinals’ season around. Matheny’s job is “secure” under club owner William DeWitt, Miklasz feels, unless the Cards’ struggles begin to impact the team’s profitability.
- Randal Grichuk has been promoted up to Triple-A. The outfielder was demoted all the way down to Class-A Advanced ball last week so that he could work with offensive strategist George Greer on a new hitting approach, rather than a normal demotion to Triple-A so Grichuk could simply get his confidence back. Mozeliak was frank in discussing Grichuk’s long-term status with MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch and other reporters, stating that “at some point we’ll have to get Grichuk the opportunity to do this every day and either sink or swim. Because as we start to look at what 2018 looks like and beyond, we need a real sense of where we are [with him].”
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers a look back at the stunning 2014 trade that the Cardinals pulled off with the Red Sox. While the deadline swap that brought in John Lackey devastated the St. Louis clubhouse at the time — Allen Craig and Joe Kelly went to Boston — it looks quite good for the team in retrospect. Goold explores it from all angles, including those of the players involved, while noting one of the intriguing remaining elements of the deal: Cards outfield prospect Dylan Carlson, who was taken with the comp pick the team added when Lackey turned down a qualifying offer after the 2015 season.
- The Cardinals aren’t exactly hiding their interest in Cuban prospect Luis Robert, though it’s also still not fully clear just how hard the club will push to sign him. As Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, GM John Mozeliak acknowledges that he had a face-to-face meeting with Robert, but also wasn’t willing to telegraph the team’s direction. “It’s hard for me to characterize exactly how I would position ourselves,” he said, “but I definitely felt like our scouts in our international department have done a good job.” It’s still hard to handicap the running for Robert, who is drawing interest from quite a few teams around the league.
- Cardinals righty Michael Wacha says it wasn’t his idea to skip a start, as Goold and Hummel write. Rather, it was a team decision to give the resurgent hurler a break, with the organization hoping to keep him fresh over the long haul. Wacha has shown improved velocity and results after struggling through an injury-marred 2016 season. “[A]nything you can bank now is smart,” Mozeliak explained, suggesting that there may not be another opportunity for an extended rest until the All-Star break.
- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein suggested that the team is open to keeping young outfielder Ian Happ on the MLB roster, as Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports on Twitter. “When you call someone up, you always have plans in pencil,” said Epstein. “Nothing’s ever written in ink. He’s feeling great at the plate.” Indeed, the 22-year-old has launched two home runs in his first three games. If the highly regarded Happ can prove he’s capable of handling major league pitching as it adjusts to him, he could provide a boost to the defending champs.
- Meanwhile, Epstein tamped down any speculation that the Cubs or others might begin eyeing early trades, as Mooney further reports. Clubs around the league know that there’s still plenty of time for developments to change the calculus in any number of ways. For the Cubs, the current approach is the same as always, Epstein says: “We obviously have to prepare and allocate our scouting resources and whatnot. But it doesn’t make any sense to speculate on the nature of the trade market now, because it will look different in July than it does right now.”
The appeals hearing for Jung Ho Kang’s DUI sentence has been set for May 25, Yonhap News’ Jeeho Yoo reports (Twitter link). Kang received an eight-month sentence that was suspended for two years, which theoretically cleared the way for the infielder to return to the Pirates this season, though Kang has yet been unable to receive a visa to return to the United States. Between the May 25 date, any further visa hurdles and some necessary minor league time to get in playing form, it seems like Kang may not appear in a Pirates uniform until the second half of the season (if at all).
Here’s more from around the NL Central…
- The Pirates will use the newly-acquired Johnny Barbato as a multi-inning reliever at Triple-A “and go from there,” MLB.com’s Adam Berry tweets. The Yankees stretched Barbato out as a starter during the spring, so the Bucs seem to have some flexibility in using Barbato as a depth piece for either the rotation or bullpen depending on needs during the season.
- With the Cardinals are off to a National League-worst 4-9 start, GM John Mozeliak told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch) before Monday’s game that all ideas about improving the team are being considered. “In terms of personnel moves or roster changes, I don’t think there’s anything I could go to right now in [Triple-A] Memphis that’s necessarily going to directly change the trajectory of this club,” Mozeliak said. “But I will say that everything is on the table right now, so if we continue down this path, we may have to do something different.” Changes seem to include less playing time for Jhonny Peralta and Matt Adams, while Mozeliak also said the team would consider a position change for Matt Carpenter.
- Reds GM and president of baseball operations Dick Williams took an unusual path to his position, as he explains to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand in a wide-ranging Q&A piece. Williams discusses such topics as not exploring a baseball career until his mid-30’s, his family’s ties to the Reds franchise, Joey Votto’s importance as a franchise leader, and more.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak addressed questions from fans and media during the club’s Winter Warm-Up event this weekend. Here are some of Mozeliak’s hot stove-related comments, courtesy of Derrick Goold, Jeff Gordon and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch…
- After failing to reach agreements with Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha before Friday’s arbitration filing deadline, the Cardinals won’t pursue further negotiation with either right-hander and will instead go to arbitration hearings. Martinez asked for $4.25MM while the Cards countered with a $3.9MM offer, and Wacha filed for $3.2MM with a $2.775MM counter from St. Louis. As Goold notes, this will be the first time the Cardinals have gone to an arbitration hearing with any player in 17 years. Mozeliak explained that the Cards had explored using the “file-and-trial” strategy in the last couple of years before finally taking the stance during this winter’s crop of arb-eligible players.
- Martinez and the Cardinals were discussing a multi-year extension this winter, though obviously no agreement was reached before Friday’s deadline. The hearing “would not put a chill” on the relationship between the two sides, as Goold put it, so talks could very possibly resume during Spring Training once Martinez’s 2017 salary has been decided by the arbiter. For his part, Martinez said (via an interpreter) that he wants to spend the rest of his career with the team.
- St. Louis was rather surprisingly linked to Brian Dozier’s name in trade rumors last month, though later reports downplayed the Cardinals’ interest. Mozeliak said his team’s pursuit of Dozier “was news to me.” As Goold explains, the connection could have been due to the Cards’ discussions with teams in order to properly gauge market values, rather than an actual interest in acquiring Dozier. “If [the Cardinals] knew what a top-tier second baseman was going to command on this pricey trade market then they also could evaluate their own players, and they could evaluate their own offers,” Goold writes.
- Left-hander Marco Gonzales said he is feeling healthy and is hoping to begin the season in the Triple-A rotation. Gonzales, picked 19th overall by the Cardinals in 2013, quickly reached the bigs to toss 34 2/3 innings for the club in 2014, and injuries have since derailed his progress. Shoulder problems limited the southpaw to just one game in 2015, and Gonzales missed all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery.
The Cubs’ celebration of their World Series win took them to the Saturday Night Live stage, as Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler and David Ross made two cameo appearances on last night’s show. The players first appeared in a sketch as (of all things) dancers at a bachelorette party, and the trio returned later in the show to sing “Go Cubs Go” alongside SNL legend and Cubs superfan Bill Murray. Since Fowler officially elected to become a free agent last evening (slightly before SNL went on the air), this may mark the last time we see the outfielder in a Cubs uniform. Here’s the latest from Wrigleyville and elsewhere around the NL Central…
- In a recent interview on ESPN 1000’s Waddle and Silvy Show (hat tip to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune), Miguel Montero admitted that he frustrated by his diminished playing time during the season and wished he had received more input from Joe Maddon about his role on the team. Montero appeared in 86 games and hit .216/.327/.357 over 284 plate appearances, with Ross and Willson Contreras getting an increasingly large share of the catching workload throughout the year and in the postseason. Though Montero is owed $14MM next season, he’ll likely still be limited to backup duties behind Contreras and possibly Kyle Schwarber if the Cubs still consider the slugger an option behind the plate. As Gonzalez notes, Montero’s large salary will make him a tough sell on the trade market unless the Cubs are willing to eat some of the money.
- Exercising Jaime Garcia’s club option gives the Cardinals rotation depth and some possible breathing room to make a trade, GM John Mozeliak tells Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “As we look to the trade market as we get to the GM meetings, we want to be able to not have our hands tied. For example, if we had not picked up the option, and all of a sudden we feel there’s a trade that might make sense for us that’s going to have to include a starter, then we’re left with having to backfill,” Mozeliak said. “Given what Jaime was able to accomplish last year, clearly it didn’t end the way he would’ve liked it to, but he still ate a lot of valuable innings for us. When I think about what’s out there on the free-agent market, I still think it’s an asset to have….And what if we have to move someone else? It would be nice to still have the depth in our rotation.” Hochman figures the Cards will be more active on the trade market than in free agency this winter, and he thinks the team will look at upgrading the defense in the wake of club-wide defensive metrics ranging from middling to below-average.
- Brewers GM David Stearns doesn’t expect as busy an offseason as last winter’s roster overhaul, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. “I think the amount of transactional volume that we had over the past 12 months was probably unprecedented. It would be tough for me to imagine that we would see a similar-type volume,” Stearns said. The GM also spoke of the importance of keeping a flexible 40-man roster, so the club has the opportunity to make additions if they unexpectedly arise.
Here’s the latest from around the NL Central…
- The Reds have dismissed pitching coach Mark Riggins, as per a club announcement. Bullpen coach Mack Jenkins will take over the job, with Triple-A pitching coach Ted Power moving up to replace Jenkins in the pen. Cincinnati is at or near the bottom of every notable pitching category this season, and their pitching as a whole has been worth a cumulative -3.9 fWAR. This was Riggins’ first season as the Reds’ pitching coach after four years as the organization’s minor league pitching coordinator, and he hardly came into a comfortable situation — not only were the rebuilding Reds going with a young rotation, but injuries hit nearly every member of the staff.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak isn’t yet sure what his team will target at the deadline, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes. “I haven’t been knee deep in the reliever market,” Mozeliak said, though that could stand out as the most clear area of need for St. Louis. Langosch notes that the Cards could address their bullpen from within by using Triple-A starters Alex Reyes and Mike Mayers as relievers to break them into the big leagues.
- The bullpen is the only “real problem” facing the Cubs, ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers opines. The rotation and lineup have had some recent issues, though those can be excused by injuries or perhaps simply some expected regression after the Cubs’ blazing-hot start to the season. The relief corps, on the other hand, needs some depth, as “even a casual observer can see that manager Joe Maddon only has faith in a few guys, because only a few guys are worthy of it.” Chicago is known to be scouting for bullpen upgrades, particularly the Yankees’ big relief trio of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
- Will Middlebrooks’ minor league deal with the Brewers included an assignment clause for July 1, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy writes. Milwaukee was required to offer the third baseman to the other 29 teams if Middlebrooks wasn’t on the big league roster by July 1, and given how the Brewers purchased his contract yesterday, McCalvy figures at least one team had interest in Middlebrooks’ services.
There’s “more momentum” growing towards the designated hitter rule being adopted by the National League, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak tells reporters, including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The issue has been more heavily discussed in front offices and ownership levels within “the past year…I’m not suggesting you’re going to see a change but I definitely think the momentum (has changed),” Mozeliak said, noting that he doubts the DH would be implemented by 2017 in concert with the new collective bargaining agreement. ESPN’s Buster Olney also explores the issue in his latest subscription-only column, noting that adding the DH to the NL could increase offense and cut down on pitcher injuries. While there are some pros, however, Olney personally hates the idea of losing the extra layer of strategy and roster management that comes with having a pitcher in the lineup. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- Also from Olney’s column, he gives his take on the Chris Davis and Ian Kennedy signings. He calls the Davis contract a “win-win” for both the slugger and the Orioles, as Davis still found a huge guarantee and the O’s got a much-needed big bat. As for Kennedy, the signing makes sense for several reasons for K.C., including that the Royals moved to add attainable pitching now since next year’s free agent pitching crop is so thin.
- Brandon Moss and Matt Adams both have something to prove after down years in 2015, as Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at how the two Cardinals sluggers are looking to rebound and bring some much-needed pop to the Cards’ lineup. There was some thought that Moss could even be non-tendered given his poor season and big arbitration price tag (he and the Cards avoided arb with a one-year, $8.25MM deal) but Mozeliak tells Hummel that the team feels confident that Moss will be healthier now that he’s more recovered from hip surgery.
- The Blue Jays have eight players who will be free agents after the 2016 season, including such major names as Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Cecil, Drew Storen and R.A. Dickey. Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star opines that the club needs to re-sign at least some of these players (and/or Josh Donaldson) to extensions to demonstrate that ownership is committed to winning and to win back fans disappointed by the Jays’ offseason moves. The extra revenue generated by Toronto’s playoff run hasn’t been reflected by any raise in payroll, leading Griffin to wonder if the divide between ex-GM Alex Anthopoulos and the Rogers Communications ownership group perhaps stemmed from Anthopoulos’ desire to go for it in 2016 while Rogers was “more fixated on the [U.S./Canadian dollar] exchange rate and the bottom line.”
- In a recent appearance on the MLB Network, Baseball America’s Ben Badler (video link available) discusses the Cuban market, including the most recent high-profile signings, some big new talents like Randy Arozarena and Lazaro Armenteros and the current state of Cuban baseball.
- Several young stars are cited by Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper as he proposes five trades that could solve needs for the involved teams and create playing time for some blocked prospects. The two most eye-popping of Cooper’s suggestions are trades that would see the Mets deal Steven Matz and Luis Carpio to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada, and an all-NL Central trade that would see the Pirates send outfielders Austin Meadows and Willy Garcia to the Reds for lefty Cody Reed.
In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal looks at the failed attempt to acquire Chase Utley made by both the Angels and Cubs. Anaheim “blew it” by not adding Utley, opines Rosenthal, as the Halos had more playing time to offer than the Dodgers but didn’t pull the trigger on a deal despite only having acquired “complementary hitters” in July. (That seems harsh, as there’s no guarantee that the current iteration of Utley is anything more than a complementary piece himself.) As for the Cubs, they initially showed interest while Utley was still hurt, but Utley wasn’t comfortable being traded while on a rehab assignment, says Rosenthal, so the Phils waited to put him through waivers. By the time he returned, Howie Kendrick had been hurt in L.A., creating a match with the Dodgers.
Some more highlights from the column…
- As others have noted, the Angels’ GM opening is a tough sell to prospective candidates because Arte Moreno is more involved than the average owner, and Mike Scioscia has more power than the average manager. One rival general manager described the Angels’ GM role to Rosenthal as such: “You take all of the beatings (from Moreno) and you’ve got no power (due to Scioscia).” Jerry Dipoto resigned from his post this summer due to reported clashes with Scioscia.
- The Blue Jays tried to trade for Ben Zobrist, but the Athletics’ asking price was Matt Boyd plus other pieces, Rosenthal hears, which was too steep for GM Alex Anthopoulos. Boyd was ultimately one of three pieces used to acquire David Price from the Tigers.
- Rosenthal reports that the Giants are likely to pursue right-hander Jordan Zimmermann as they look to bulk up their rotation this offseason. However, he notes that the Wisconsin native may prefer to return to the Midwest. Zimmermann ranked eighth on the most recent edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, though he’s had a couple of rough starts since then.
- The Giants may also consider attempting to unload the final year of Angel Pagan’s contract this winter. Pagan is slated to earn $10MM next season in the final season of a four-year, $40MM contract after playing in just 167 games from 2013-14 and struggling at the plate in 102 games to this point in 2015. San Francisco could use Gregor Blanco in center field in the event that they’re able to move Pagan.
- The recent trend of teams promoting an assistant GM to GM and a current GM to president (as the White Sox and Giants have done) could continue this offseason as teams try to prevent their top AGMs from departing for GM vacancies elsewhere, Rosenthal writes. The Rangers could promote Thad Levine to GM (and presumably elevate Jon Daniels), for instance, and the Cardinals could promote Mike Girsch (presumably promoting GM John Mozeliak as well). And, should Mark Shapiro end up with the Blue Jays, the Indians could bump Mike Chernoff to GM and make Chris Antonetti president (Cleveland previously did his by moving Shapiro from GM to president and Antonetti from AGM to GM). Levine, Girsch and Chernoff could all attract interest from other teams this winter.