Even after re-signing Adam Wainwright earlier this offseason, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on the free-agent market for starting pitchers, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains. The team has “had conversations” regarding left-handers Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel, according to Goold, who adds that St. Louis prefers to have right-hander Carlos Martinez return to a starting role after spending all of 2019 as a reliever. If that happens, the Cardinals may have a full complement of starters with Wainwright, Martinez, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson and Miles Mikolas. For now, Martinez is recovering nicely from the right shoulder procedure he underwent in October.
TODAY, 1:58pm: The Cardinals could also have interest in Bumgarner, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand writes.
WEDNESDAY, 7:52pm: The Reds are indeed among the teams with ongoing interest in Bumgarner, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Cincinnati has been aggressive thus far and has also been linked to free-agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna, further backing reports that they’re willing to sign players who rejected a qualifying offer.
5:35pm: USA Today’s Bob Nightengale suggests otherwise regarding the White Sox, writing that they’ve been zeroed in on Wheeler and have yet to even enter into negotiations with Bumgarner’s camp.
2:45pm: Zack Wheeler is off the board on a reported five-year, $118MM agreement with the Phillies, and it sounds like a decision from fellow free agent Madison Bumgarner might not be far behind. Even before word of Wheeler’s agreement broke, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweeted that some within the industry also expect Bumgarner to sign before the Winter Meetings begin next week.
At this point, the Twins and White Sox are among the “heaviest” suitors for the longtime Giants lefty, tweets Andy Martino of SNY, who adds that the Yankees are involved “to some degree.” Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that even after the Braves signed Cole Hamels to a one-year, $18MM deal earlier today, they’re still not completely out of the Bumgarner bidding. And ESPN’s Buster Olney somewhat speculatively links the Reds, who also pursued but missed out on Wheeler, to the Bumgarner market as well (Twitter link). Other clubs are surely involved as well.
It seems unlikely that the bidding for Bumgarner will escalate to the same heights as the Wheeler market, although USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted earlier that the Braves jumped on Hamels in part due to concerns that Bumgarner’s price could approach $100MM.
Regardless of where he lands, there’s little doubt that Bumgarner is among the best arms on the market this winter. He’s not the clear-cut ace that he was earlier in his career when he was busy establishing himself as a postseason legend, but the 30-year-old Bumgarner still posted a 3.90 ERA and a matching FIP through 207 2/3 innings this past season. His average fastball velocity (91.4 mph) and strikeout rate (8.8 K/9, 24.1 percent) are both down a bit from peak levels, but Bumgarner still displayed impeccable command (1.9 BB/9) this past season and topped 30 starts for the first time since his injuring his shoulder in 2017’s dirt-bike debacle.
Bumgarner has made 55 starts across the past two seasons, pitching to a 3.66 ERA (110 ERA+, 3.94 FIP) while averaging 8.3 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine innings pitched. He rejected a qualifying offer from the Giants, meaning he’ll require some draft and possibly international bonus forfeitures (with exact compensation dependent on which team ultimately signs him). At this point, there’s little indication that the incumbent Giants are a serious player for Bumgarner, but they’re in position to recoup a compensatory pick between Competitive Balance Round B and Round 3 of next year’s draft (as they did when Will Smith signed with the Braves).
Leone came to St. Louis in the deal that sent Randal Grichuk to Toronto. At the time, Leone was coming off of a strong 2017 season and seemed likely to play a significant role in the Cards’ pen. The tenure did not go as hoped. Leone has contributed only 64 2/3 innings of 5.15 ERA ball at the MLB level over the past two seasons.
Despite the struggles, there’ll be interest in the 28-year-old Leone. He has produced a strong 14.3% swinging-strike rate in St. Louis and averaged 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings. Leone was also able to produce good results last year in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, working to a 2.84 ERA with 11.9 K/9 against 4.0 BB/9 in 31 2/3 innings.
We’re going to see a whole lot of players added to 40-man rosters in advance of tonight’s deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft. We will use this post to track those contract selections from National League teams that are not otherwise covered on the site.
- The Dodgers announced that they’ve selected the contracts of right-hander Mitchell White, infielder/outfielder Zach McKinstry and outfielder DJ Peters. Both White and Peters are considered to be among the club’s top 15 prospects. McKinstry isn’t generally ranked inside L.A.’s top 30, but the 24-year-old had a big season between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019 while appearing at six defensive positions (shortstop, second base, third base and all three outfield slots).
- The Diamondbacks announced that they’ve selected the contracts of right-handers Taylor Widener and Riley Smith as well as the contracts of infielders Andy Young and Wyatt Mathisen. Widener, 24, was one of the organization’s best pitching prospects coming into the season but was blown up for an eye-popping 8.10 ERA in 100 innings. He’s only a year removed from 137 1/3 innings of 2.75 ERA ball and an 11.5 K/9 mark in Double-A, however. Smith, 24, was sharp in Double-A before struggling in Triple-A — like many pitching prospects throughout the league (and with the D-backs in particular). Young, acquired in the Paul Goldschmidt trade last winter, hit 29 homers while playing three infield positions between Double-A and Triple-A. Mathisen, 26 in December, hit .283/.403/.601 in 345 Triple-A plate appearances.
- The Giants, surprisingly, did not add anyone to their 40-man roster prior to tonight’s deadline.
- The Rockies selected the contracts of infielder Tyler Nevin, left-hander Ben Bowden and right-handers Ashton Goudeau and Antonio Santos (Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post first reported the news on Twitter). Those four moves will fill the team’s 40-man roster. Of the four, Bowden and Nevin draw the most fanfare. Nevin, the No. 38 pick in the 2015 draft and son of former MLB slugger Phil Nevin, posted deceptively solid numbers in an extremely pitcher-friendly Double-A environment in 2019 (.251/.345/.399 — good for a 122 wRC+). Bowden, a second-round pick in ’16, posted gaudy strikeout numbers but struggled in Triple-A after dominating in Double-A in 2019.
- The Padres selected outfielder Jorge Ona’s contract and designated outfielder Nick Martini for assignment, as outlined here.
- The Cardinals announced the additions of Jake Woodford, Elehuris Montero and Alvaro Seijas while designating righty Dominic Leone for assignment (as detailed here at greater length).
- Outfielder Corey Ray and right-hander J.P. Feyereisen will head onto the Brewers 40-man, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (via Twitter). It’s not yet known if the team will make further roster additions, but it would have five additional spots to work with to do so. Ray was the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft but is coming off of a rough season. Feyereisen, who was added in a quiet September swap, will have a chance to challenge for MLB relief opportunities. Milwaukee also added infielder Mark Mathias to the 40-man roster after acquiring him in a trade with the Indians tonight.
- The Cubs announced that they’ve added catcher Miguel Amaya, infielder Zack Short and right-handers Tyson Miller and Manuel Rodriguez to the 40-man roster. Amaya is the most highly regarded of the bunch, ranking second among Chicago farmhands and drawing some top 100 consideration at MLB.com.
- Four additions to the 40-man were announced by the Reds, who have selected the contracts of catcher Tyler Stephenson and right-handers Tony Santillan, Ryan Hendrix and Tejay Antone. All four rank within the club’s top 30 at MLB.com, headlined by Santillan at No. 4 and ranging all the way to Antone at No. 30. Santillan thrived in a brief Double-A debut in 2018 but struggled there in a larger 2019 sample (4.84 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 4.8 BB/9 in 102 1/3 innings). He’s still just 22, though, and is regarded as a potential big league starter. Stephenson is a former first-round pick who hit well in a highly pitcher-friendly Double-A setting (.285/.372/.410; 130 wRC+). Hendrix posted big strikeout numbers as a reliever in 2019, while Antone displayed sharp ground-ball skills as a starter and reached Triple-A for the first time.
- The Pirates added prospects Ke’Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz, Will Craig, Blake Cederlind and Cody Ponce to the 40-man roster while also designating four pitchers for assignment (as explored in greater length here). Lefty Williams Jerez and right-handers Dario Agrazal, Montana DuRapau and Luis Escobar were cut loose.
- Yesterday, the Braves announced the addition of five prospects to their 40-man roster: outfielder Cristian Pache, catcher William Contreras, right-hander Jasseel De La Cruz and lefties Tucker Davidson and Phil Pfeifer. (More about those moves here.)
- The Nationals announced that they have selected the contract of southpaw Ben Braymer. They still have a huge amount of 40-man flexibility to work with. Even after this move, the Nats have nine openings. The organization also surely expects to fill many of those slots with free agents and/or trade acquisitions after losing quite a few significant players to the open market. Braymer is a former 18th rounder out of Auburn who had a nice run last year at Double-A before being hit hard in the batter-friendly International League.
- The Phillies picked up lefty Cristopher Sanchez in a trade with the Rays and added him to the 40-man roster. Philadelphia also selected the contracts of lefties JoJo Romero and Garrett Cleavinger and right-hander Mauricio Llovera. (Details on those moves here.)
- The Mets announced the additions of Andres Gimenez, Thomas Szapucki, Ali Sanchez and Jordan Humphreys to the 40-man roster and designated righty Drew Gagnon for assignment. (More on those moves here).
- The Marlins opened some eyes by eating the remaining $22MM on Wei-Yin Chen’s contract and adding six prospects to the 40-man roster: Sixto Sanchez, Lewin Diaz, Nick Neidert, Jazz Chisholm, Humberto Mejia and Edward Cabrera. (More details here.)
The Cardinals announced Wednesday that they’ve designated right-hander Dominic Leone for assignment. St. Louis also selected the contracts of righty Jake Woodford, infielder Elehuris Montero and right-hander Alvaro Seijas.
Leone’s two seasons with the Cardinals didn’t pan out as the organization hoped when acquiring him from Toronto; in 64 2/3 innings as a Cardinal, he pitched to an ugly 5.15 ERA. Leone did manage to punch out 10 hitters per nine innings pitched, but he struggled with walks (4.2 BB/9), home runs (1.7 HR/9) and, in 2019, stranding baserunners (68.2 percent).
The 28-year-old Leone had been eligible for arbitration and was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to be in line for a $1.6MM salary in 2020. Already a non-tender candidate, he was instead cut loose a couple weeks ahead of the early-December tender deadline. The Cardinals will have a week to trade him, release him or pass him through outright waivers. Anecdotally, both players the Cardinals acquired from the Blue Jays prior to the 2018 season in exchange for Randal Grichuk have been designated for assignment in the past hour, as the Royals just designated Conner Greene minutes ago. (Kansas City claimed him from St. Louis last November.)
Both Montero (No. 4) and Woodford (No. 13) rank inside the Cardinals’ top 30 prospects in the most recent rankings at MLB.com. Montero, 21, struggled through a miserable season in Double-A but is regarded as a strong-armed third baseman with plus raw power. Given the pitcher-friendly nature of Double-A in 2019 and Montero’s young age relative to the competition he faced in that setting, the Cards were undeterred by his struggles.
Woodford, meanwhile, posted passable numbers in a deadly Triple-A setting for pitchers, working to a 4.14 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 and a 36.2 percent grounder rate in 26 starts (151 2/3 innings). He’ll give the Cards some rotation depth for the upcoming season.
The 21-year-old Seijas hasn’t pitched above Class-A Advanced, although as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out (via Twitter), the team’s unexpected loss of righty Luis Perdomo a few seasons ago may have contributed to aggressively protecting Seijas despite the fact that he’s a ways from MLB readiness.
In one of the winter’s most fascinating storylines, the Nationals face the potential loss of two more centerpiece players after bidding adieu to Bryce Harper last winter … and then winning a long-awaited crown. The D.C. organization would like to “get quick resolutions” on both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter), rather than engaging in a protracted courtship. If it’s a fond farewell, in either situation, then the Nats would like to get on with sorting out a replacement plan. The offseason could take any number of different directions for the defending World Series champs.
More from the National League …
- The Cubs like Nicholas Castellanos and he likes the Cubs. So … why not bring him back? Sahadev Sharma breaks down the situation for The Athletic (subscription link), explaining the many barriers to a reunion. In part it’s simply a financial issue, but there is also a legitimate dilemma in the outfield. Kyle Schwarber’s season went much like that of Castellanos, starting meekly and ending quite strong, so why replace the former with the latter? Both are bat-first players that probably shouldn’t be standing on the same outfield grass for too long. That leaves the focus on center field, per Sharma, which is where things get tricky. There are loads of other clubs facing similar situations and relatively few up-the-middle options available — particularly in free agency. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cubs sort things out, but Castellanos seems to be a bit of a mis-fitting puzzle piece — unless, perhaps, other developments intervene and his market doesn’t develop as he hopes.
- It is still tough to gauge whether the Rockies will end up pulling off some major roster moves or simply make a few tweaks. GM Jeff Bridich and owner Dick Monfort have suggested the club will need to improve largely from within, while also expressing optimism that it can do so. But we’ve heard persistent chatter regarding possible trade scenarios involving top Colorado players — much of it speculative, to be fair. Odds are, the Rox will simply be looking for affordable, marginal improvements this winter. Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post provides a transcript of Bridich’s most recent comments. Bolstering the pitching and finding a second catcher are the two goals, though it still seems those will be of modest expense. So what of the idea of trading Jon Gray? Saunders tweets that the Rockies could be open to it … if they can secure a major package involving significant prospects as well as “an established pitcher” to replace Gray. That feels unlikely to come to fruition.
- The Cardinals have traded away a huge volume of outfield talent in recent years and have plenty of internal options at or near the majors. Yet the teams still enters the winter with a possible need in that area, as Mark Saxon of The Athletic writes (subscription link). He reasons that the team needs to add a left-handed-hitting piece and looks at a few theoretical trade possibilities. The trick is that the Cards don’t appear interested in raising payroll and all the veterans cited will not be particularly cheap. Joc Pederson ($8.5MM), David Peralta ($8.8MM), and Jackie Bradley Jr. ($11MM) probably wouldn’t require major prospect hauls to acquire, but could bust the self-imposed St. Louis budget. We actually predicted that this year’s top two left-handed-hitting free agent corner outfielders, Corey Dickerson and Kole Calhoun, would secure less annually than each of those players.
- Various injuries have prevented 25-year-old Cardinals right-hander Alex Reyes from realizing his vast potential, but it appears he’ll enjoy “a normal offseason progression” this winter, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Reyes, once among the game’s elite prospects, had an outstanding debut over 46 innings in 2016. He then missed all of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, threw 27 innings in 2018 (four in the majors) as a result of surgery to repair a tendon in his lat muscle and totaled just 40 1/3 frames this year (three at the MLB level) because of multiple health issues – including a strained pectoral.
The 4pm CT deadline has passed for free agents to accept or reject qualifying offers, and seven of the 10 players issued offers have officially turned them down. An eighth free agent, Will Smith, rejected the Giants’ qualifying offer and left the free agent market even before the deadline passed, signing a three-year, $40MM deal with the Braves. Jake Odorizzi of the Twins and Jose Abreu of the White Sox each accepted their team’s qualifying offers, and will now earn $17.8MM for the 2020 season.
Here are the seven players who rejected their former team’s one-year, $17.8MM qualifying offer….
- Madison Bumgarner (Giants)
- Gerrit Cole (Astros)
- Josh Donaldson (Braves)
- Marcell Ozuna (Cardinals)
- Anthony Rendon (Nationals)
- Stephen Strasburg (Nationals)
- Zack Wheeler (Mets)
There aren’t any surprises in that list, as there wasn’t doubt that Bumgarner, Cole, Donaldson, Rendon, Strasburg, and Wheeler would forego the one-year offer in search of a much richer, multi-year commitment. There was perhaps a bit more uncertainty surrounding Ozuna and Smith, given that Ozuna was coming off a pair of good but unspectacular years in St. Louis and Smith could perhaps have been wary of how the QO would impact his market, given what happened to another closer in Craig Kimbrel last winter.
If anything, the only real surprise occurred on the acceptance side, as Odorizzi was seen as a candidate to receive a multi-year offer before he opted to remain in Minnesota in 2020. Abreu, on the other hand, was widely expected to remain with the White Sox in some fashion, either via the QO or perhaps a multi-year extension. It should be noted that Odorizzi and Abreu are still free to negotiate longer-term deals with their respective teams even after accepting the qualifying offer.
Teams that sign a QO-rejecting free agent will have to give up at least one draft pick and some amount of international bonus pool money as compensation. (Click here for the list of what each individual team would have to forfeit to sign a QO free agent). The Astros, Nationals, Giants, Mets, Cardinals, and Braves are each in the same tier of compensation pool, so if any of their QO free agents signs elsewhere, the six teams will receive a compensatory draft pick between Competitive Balance Round B and the third round of the 2020 draft, or roughly in the range of the 75th to 85th overall pick. Atlanta, for instance, probably didn’t mind giving up their third-highest selection in the 2020 draft to sign Smith since the Braves have another pick coming back to their if Donaldson leaves for another club.
A total of 90 players have been issued qualifying offers since the QO system was introduced during the 2012-13 offseason, and Odorizzi and Abreu become the seventh and eighth players to accept the one-year pact. Odorizzi and Abreu are now ineligible to receive a qualifying offer in any future trips into free agency, so both players won’t be tied to draft/international pool penalties if they hit the open market following the 2020 season.
Nov. 13: Wainwright will receive $1.5MM upon making his 20th and 25th starts, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter). He’ll unlock an additional $2MM for making his 28th start.
Interestingly, the contract also contains incentives based on relief appearances. Wainwright would earn $500K upon making his 35th relief outing and another $500K for every fifth appearance moving forward — up through 60 total appearances. He’ll also receive $500K for finishing 25 and 30 games, plus an additional $600K for 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 games finished.
Nov. 12: 3:05pm: Wainwright’s new contract guarantees him $5MM and includes an additional $5MM in possible incentives, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets.
10:08am: The Cardinals have agreed to re-sign righty Adam Wainwright, per a club announcement. It’s a one-year deal of unknown value for the Aegis Sports Management client.
This is the second consecutive year the veteran hurler has re-upped with the Cards after a brief free agency. But the conversation was rather different this time than it was when Wainwright took an incentive-laden pact nearly one year ago to the day.
Wainwright ended up maxing out his bonuses, turning a $2MM guarantee into $10MM of earnings. The venerable rotation stalwart earned every penny, spinning 171 2/3 frames of 4.19 ERA ball with 8.0 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9.
This was surely the most predictable of this year’s free agent outcomes, with the team stating frankly just days ago that talks were already well underway. Wainwright obviously isn’t capable of dominating as he once did, but the Cardinals would gladly take a repeat of his 2019 effort. And it goes without saying that both sides enjoy a relationship that will enter its 15th MLB campaign.
Originally drafted by the Braves way back in 2000, the now-38-year-old Wainwright landed in St. Louis via trade in the 2003-04 offseason. He hasn’t left the organization since. There were a few lost years — all of 2011, most of 2015 and 2018 — but on balance it has been quite a success.
Wainwright passed two thousand career innings during the 2019 campaign. He has a lifetime 3.39 ERA along with three All-Star appearances and a trio of top-three Cy Young finishes. Wainwright has also topped the century mark in postseason frames and excelled all the more on the biggest stage. He owns a lifetime 2.81 ERA in the playoffs, with 9.8 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9, including three exceptional appearances just weeks ago.
While this move comes as expected, it does make for a key part of the Cardinals offseason. With Wainwright now slotted in along with Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, and Dakota Hudson, the Cards can probably rest easy in the rotation. Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes are high-ceiling possibilities for the fifth starter’s job, with Austin Gomber and Genesis Cabrera among the other possibilities. With limited available space under the team’s preferred payroll levels, it may be that the remaining funds will be allocated to other areas of need.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina is still going strong as he nears the end of his most recent contract extension. His representative informed the organization yesterday that Molina intends to play beyond the 2020 campaign, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
It’s not yet known just how long Molina intends to keep plying his trade; no doubt he’ll wait and see at some point. But it appears he’s convinced enough of continuing past 2020 that the sides will dedicate time next spring to working out a new contract. That’s now on the docket, per Goold.
Molina is earning $20MM annually under his present contract, which covered the 2018-20 seasons. It came as a bit of a surprise when Molina secured such a hefty rate of pay the last time around, though the prior pact came on the heels of a highly productive 2016 campaign. And it was plenty understandable that the St. Louis organization had little interest in allowing the potential future Hall of Famer to speak with other teams.
Molina has certainly not fallen apart at the seams since inking his current deal, but there is evidence that time is catching up. His offensive productivity is waning, as he has been a slightly below-average hitter (.268/.313/.426) over the past three seasons. While he’s still lauded for his exceptional overall work behind the plate and in game preparation, Molina’s framing has been average or below in recent campaigns as well.
None of that is to dispute Molina’s well-earned status as a high-quality backstop and incalculably valuable presence, even into his late thirties. But it is questionable whether the club will want to continue paying such a premium rate into the future, which could set the stage for interesting talks this spring.