Cardinals left-hander Jordan Montgomery, a free agent after the season, is open to an extension that’d keep him in St. Louis but suggests to John Denton of MLB.com that he prefers not to negotiate once the regular season has commenced (Twitter thread). It’s a common stance for players to take during spring training, which is typically the most active time of the year on the extension market.
Montgomery, 30, joined the Cardinals last summer in a deadline swap that sent center fielder Harrison Bader to the Yankees. The left-hander was excellent following the trade, working to a sharp 3.11 ERA with an improved 23.9% strikeout rate, a 5.4% walk rate and a 49.7% grounder rate that tops any mark he posted during his time in the Bronx. Montgomery missed nearly the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery but has since returned and reestablished himself as a quality big league hurler. He’s made 62 starts over the past two seasons, recording a 3.65 ERA and identical 3.65 FIP in 335 2/3 innings. The Cardinals seemingly have some extra motivation to keep Montgomery, as Adam Wainwright will retire after the season while Montgomery, Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty are all free agents. Steven Matz is the only established starter that St. Louis controls beyond 2023.
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- The Cardinals have a two-man race to back up newly signed catcher Willson Contreras, with incumbent backup Andrew Knizner and non-roster invitee Tres Barrera jostling for the role. To this point, Knizner has received more playing time during official spring games, but he’s just 4-for-42 and has yet to connect on an extra-base hit. Barrera has just 18 plate appearances, and while he’s gone 2-for-12 in official spring contests, one of those hits was a home run and he’s also drawn six walks (making for an odd .167/.444/.500 slash line). The Cardinals haven’t made a decision yet, but manager Oli Marmol acknowledged to Denton this week that, “In this short period of time, Barrera has clearly outperformed Knizner — I can’t disagree with that.” The Cardinals will factor more than a handful of at-bats from each player into the equation, but Marmol voiced a general desire to be able to get more offense from the backup catcher position. The 28-year-old Barrera has just 162 MLB plate appearances and is a .231/.317/.315 hitter in that time. He’s a .251/.332/.388 hitter in the minors. Knizner has slashed a combined .204/.292/.288 in 553 MLB plate appearances across parts of four seasons with the Cards. Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat suggests that Knizner could be a candidate to be flipped elsewhere if another club in need of a backup reaches out to the Cardinals.
- Left-hander Anthony Misiewicz was optioned to Triple-A Memphis today, the team announced. Following that cut, the Cardinals have Genesis Cabrera, Zack Thompson, Packy Naughton, JoJo Romero and non-roster invitee Andrew Suarez as possible lefties in Marmol’s bullpen. Thompson and Suarez have been outstanding this spring, with neither allowing a run through 9 1/3 innings and eight innings, respectively. Suarez isn’t on the 40-man roster, however, which could work against him early in the season. Cabrera is the most experienced of the bunch in terms of MLB service time and is earning a $950K salary this season, but he does have a minor league option remaining — as do Thompson (two), Naughton (one) and Romero (one). Suarez would also have one minor league option year left, if selected to the roster.
- With Paul DeJong expected to begin the season on the injured list, it’s increasingly likely that veteran utilityman Taylor Motter will win a roster spot with the Cardinals, tweets Jones. As Jones writes at greater length, Motter’s solid spring, defensive versatility and remaining minor league option make him a candidate to win a spot on the Cardinals’ bench. The Cards have given Motter a hefty 55 plate appearances in Grapefruit League play thus far, and he’s responded with a .234/.345/.426 batting line, three homers, three steals and a 13-to-8 K/BB ratio. Top prospect Masyn Winn is still in camp and has turned plenty of heads, but he just turned 21 two days ago and has yet to play a game in Triple-A. The Cards surely want him to log everyday at-bats that probably wouldn’t be present at the big league level with a crowded infield mix.