There is some uncertainty within the trade market for starting pitching, as contenders could wait until closer to the July 31st deadline to make a move for an arm just in case new trade candidates become available, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Some executives and scouts who spoke to Sherman at the Futures Game cited such names as the Cardinals’ Carlos Martinez, and the Angels’ Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney as potential hurlers that could join the market in the next week or two. We’ve already heard of the Yankees’ potential interest in Skaggs and Heaney, and Martinez’s ability and years of control (potentially through 2023 via club options on his five-year, $51MM contract) would make him the most sought-after pitcher available if the Cards did indeed shop him. Dealing a long-term piece like Martinez, however, would be an awfully bold move for a St. Louis club that would seem to still have designs on competing in 2019, and may not have yet thrown in the towel on getting back into this year’s playoff race. The Cardinals are certainly a team to closely monitor to see if a turn-around is possible under their new manager, or, if they are deadline sellers, just how big a selloff could be in the offing.
The Cardinals’ players are now “on notice” after the team fired manager Mike Matheny on Saturday, Mark Saxon of The Athletic tweets. If the Cardinals (47-46) don’t turn things around during the coming weeks under interim manager Mike Shildt, there may be “sweeping changes” to their roster, per Saxon. St. Louis’ front office, for its part, “has pined for years to be a seller and stock up for the future,” Saxon writes. With the All-Star break on the doorstep and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline soon to follow, the Cardinals won’t have a lot of time to reverse course on the field in the next couple weeks, though they’re only four games out of a wild-card spot.
- Since Matheny’s ouster, former Yankees and Marlins skipper Joe Girardi has come up frequently as a speculative fit for St. Louis. The Cardinals will indeed consider Girardi, who already has a “good rapport” with president John Mozeliak and is thought of highly by the organization, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. It’s unknown whether Girardi will want to get back into managing after a long, successful run in New York, however. Girardi was unwilling to comment on St. Louis’ managerial situation when Joel Sherman of the New York Post contacted him.
SUNDAY: The Cardinals plan to have Shildt finish the season as their manager, Mozeliak told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other reporters Sunday. Meanwhile, they’ve promoted minor league assistants Mark Budaska and George Greer to serve as hitting coaches, per Goold. It doesn’t appear the Cards will name a bench coach to succeed Shildt, but Mozeliak said Greer and third base coach Jose Oquendo could help fill that void (Twitter link via Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com).
SATURDAY: Mike Matheny is out as the Cardinals’ manager, the team announced in a press release today. Hitting coach John Mabry and assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller have also been let go, and bench coach Mike Shildt will serve as interim manager for the time being.
As the Cardinals mentioned in the release on Twitter, Matheny has been at the helm for the Cardinals for the past six-plus seasons, during which time he helped the club get to the playoffs in four consecutive seasons from 2012-2015. That stretch included a National League Championship in 2013. He’ll end his Cardinals tenure with a 591-473 record.
While the team won’t hold an official news conference until tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m., President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak offered some words on the subject.
“These decisions are never easy, but we felt that a change in leadership was necessary as the team prepares to enter into the second half of the season. I would like to thank Mike for his exceptional commitment and devotion to the Cardinals organization, including many fond memories of our years working together.”
Though Matheny figured to be on the hot seat pending the outcome of the 2018 season, it’s certainly a surprise to see him let go here and now. The Cardinals have never had a losing record under his leadership, and though they currently sit just a game above the .500 mark, they’re just four games back of the NL’s second Wild Card spot and at least within striking distance of the NL Central crown.
Then again, the standards for Cardinals fans and personnel alike are higher than those of most ballclubs. If the Redbirds fail to make the playoffs this season, it would mark their third consecutive campaign without a playoff berth; that hasn’t happened in St. Louis since the 1997-1999 seasons. Furthermore, the Cardinals certainly didn’t expect to take a step backwards following key additions like Marcell Ozuna and Bud Norris, along with a wealth of young talent coming up through the farm system.
Matheny’s also been surrounded by at least a bit of controversy of late in regards to player management. After reports surfaced that Norris had been “mercilessly riding” 21-year-old rookie Jordan Hicks (some described it as bullying) in the clubhouse, Matheny received criticism from some in the baseball world for his decision to side with Norris and not address the situation more seriously. Matheny’s most notable response was that Norris was from a “different generation of players.” It’s unclear whether this played even a small role in Matheny’s dismissal, but it does raise further questions about his performance as manager, at the very least.
Matheny’s also received criticism for his bullpen management, poor use of the double-switch, and his failure to motivate players such as Dexter Fowler (whose effort level Mozeliak recently criticized). However, none of this takes into account that this Cardinals team is suddenly much younger and more raw than in years past. It’s also entirely possible that Matheny’s dismissal is simply a shake-up, and that St. Louis will be searching for a candidate whom they believe can get the most out of the club’s young core in a second-half push towards the playoffs.
This post will serve as a way to keep track of today’s minor moves…
- The Cardinals have released minor league reliever Arturo Reyes, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com tweets. Reyes never carried much pedigree as the 1,205 overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft, but he shot up the minor league ranks in his first two years of pro ball, reaching the Triple-A level just over two years after being taken out of Gonzaga University on Washington. He’s dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness since 2015, however, and began the transition to the bullpen last season. His results this year were shockingly poor, as Reyes posted a 6.68 ERA and walked 4.54 batters per nine innings across 33 2/3 relief innings.
- Righty Michael Wacha likely won’t return to the Cardinals for at least another month, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests. Wacha has already missed nearly a month with a left oblique strain, depriving the Cardinals of someone who had thrown 84 1/3 innings of 3.20 ERA ball before going on the DL. Meanwhile, righty Adam Wainwright will also be out into August, Hummel adds. Wainwright, who’s currently on the 60-day DL, has sat out just over two months with elbow problems, making this the second straight injury-shortened year for the former ace.
- With the Cardinals sitting at a mediocre 47-45, 6 1/2 games out in the NL Central, they’re not in position to make any bold rental pickups. Rather, any acquisition(s) would likely have to be capable of helping the Redbirds beyond this season, president John Mozeliak suggested to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com and other reporters Friday. “Ultimately we want to do what’s best for this organization, not just in the sense of a Band-Aid [but] long term,” Mozeliak said. “If we thought there was sort of that one magic bullet to change the trajectory of the season, we might chase that. If not, I think looking at it in a broad sense might make the most sense. The ebb and flow of the season, the ebb and flow of the next few weeks always [dictates] the types of deals you make.”
Yesterday’s news wire included quite a lot of chatter surrounding Orioles infielder Manny Machado, who is the clear top player available on this summer’s trade market. Last we checked, the Brewers and Dodgers were said to be working hard at making a deal with the Yankees also entering the fray.
Here’s the latest:
- The Brewers and Dodgers are indeed still trying to sort out arrangements with the Baltimore front office, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, who provides more details on the talks in a subscription link. Rosenthal suggests that the O’s are targeting Milwaukee hurler Corbin Burnes and Dodgers prospects Gavin Lux and Dustin May, none of whom appear to be available in talks. Notably, per the report, the Brewers “would prefer to build their package” around outfielder Brett Phillips and pitching prospect Luis Ortiz — both highly-ranked young talents in their own rights, perhaps suggesting that the Orioles have had some success in generating quality offers. Of course, every team will have its own preferences on young talent, and prospect rankings are little more than a general guide for outside observers. Broadly, it does not sound as if either the Milwaukee or Los Angeles organizations are close to striking a deal for Machado. It also seemingly remains an open question whether the Orioles are really interested in dealing him before the All-Star Game. That’d surely be the approach taken if the club feels it can best maximize the return right now, though it would also be tough to see Machado lined up in a different uniform down the street in D.C.
- Meanwhile, after Machado himself threw a bit of cold water on the notion of a shift back to third base — which would be the only way he’d really fit in with the Yankees — New York GM Brian Cashman cast further shade on the concept of a move to the Bronx. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports, Cashman suggests he’s focused primarily on boosting his team’s starting pitching. The third base position, he says, is a clear strength for the club. That hardly rules out a move for Machado, of course, though Cashman did make clear that he views it as his “job” to “attack weakness” on the roster. All things considered, it seems this intriguing match is a low-likelihood match, but one that shouldn’t be dismissed entirely.
- Of course, some teams that once figured to represent suitors no longer really seem to be in the mix. That’s the case for the Cubs, Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes. He cites an O’s source that pegs the Diamondbacks as another leading contender to land Machado, along with the two noted above, so it seems Arizona is still involved even if the team hasn’t been linked as strongly in recent days. But the Chicago organization seems understandably pleased with its existing lineup, with pitching representing a greater need. Likewise, the Cardinals don’t appear to be involved on Machado, which Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues is a reflection of the front office’s accurate assessment of the team’s outlook.
The Phillies announced today that they have acquired international bonus pool availability from the Cardinals. In exchange, lefty Elniery Garcia heads to the St. Louis organization.
While the value of the bonus availability isn’t known, it’ll obviously boost the Phils’ international spending capacity for the July 2nd signing period that just began. Having inked two qualified free agents, which cost $500K in international space apiece, the club only had $3,983,500 to work with at the outset.
On the other side of the ledger, it’s no surprise to see the Cards move some dollars. Owing to prior excess spending — no longer permitted under the new signing rules — the Cardinals are not permitted to use more than $300K on any given player in this year’s class.
As for Garcia, he has at times been viewed as a prospect of some note, even getting some organizational top-ten billing entering the 2017 campaign. But he sat out eighty games last year after testing positive for banned PED boldenone.
Since returning, the 23-year-old has not been quite as impressive. He did not thrive in the Arizona Fall League and has struggled this season in a repeat of the Double-A level. Through 42 1/3 innings in 2018, Garcia carries a 6.38 ERA with just 6.2 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9.
Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak did not sugarcoat the challenges facing his team in his latest appearance on the podcast of Dan McLaughlin of FOX Sports Midwest (audio link). The club must find a way to begin winning more consistently, said Mozeliak, though it remains unclear just what can be done to spur such a change.
The sense of frustration surrounding the Cards, who are sitting just above .500 on the year, seemingly extends from the fanbase to the front office. Mozeliak acknowledges that this club “hasn’t been the easiest team to sort of think through, in terms of how to get better, or what to do, or what changes need to be made.”
Mozeliak identified “outfield inconsistencies” and bullpen struggles as the two key concerns. Spurring the needed change won’t be easy. Mozeliak says the club needs to be open-minded and creative in all regards.
Bolstering the relief unit can be accomplished via trade, perhaps. Internal options for deepening the pitching staff are relatively sparse, Mozeliak suggested. He bemoaned the loss of Alex Reyes while noting that Dakota Hudson’s success at Triple-A does not necessarily portend an immediate impact in the majors.
Addressing the outfield concerns is a trickier business. Mozeliak wouldn’t rule out moving Jose Martinez to the outfield, saying that the slugger — who is as unpolished in the field as he has been excellent at the plate — is “putting a lot of stress on everyone” with his play at first base. But that seems like a somewhat dubious option when outfield defense is one of the areas of concern. Presumably, the club will look first at ways to get its existing options to play at the necessary levels.
Mozeliak addressed veteran Dexter Fowler, in particular. The top St. Louis baseball executive offered some rather surprisingly pointed words on the respected and highly-paid Fowler:
“I’ve also heard a lot of people come up to me and question his effort and his energy level. Those are things that I can’t defend. What I can defend is trying to create opportunities for him, but not if it’s at the expense of someone that’s out there hustling and playing hard.”
To an extent, Mozeliak seemingly tried to soften the meaning of his statement in ensuing comments to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He and Fowler have spoken since, says Mozeliak, who hinted that he was not trying to single out Fowler. “I would not make too much of this and really what I was trying to say is: I hear what our fan base is saying,” Mozeliak said.
Ultimately, mid-season trades can only do so much to boost the performance. And the Cards brass will need to take its cues from the existing roster. With less than a month’s worth of games left to go before the trade deadline, Mozeliak says that “everybody just needs to take a hard look in the mirror and decide what they want that next chapter to look like.”
With the new international signing period set to begin tomorrow, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com has compiled some of the most pertinent details for fans interested in following the frenzy to come. As always, an international player is eligible to sign with any MLB team if he is 17, or will turn 17 by the end of the first year of his contract. The Reds, Marlins, Brewers, Twins, Athletics and Rays have the most money to spend during the upcoming year; each can spend $6,025,400 in the market. Eight teams (the Athletics, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres, Reds and White Sox) incurred the maximum penalty from overages during the previous signing period, and as such, those clubs will not be able to sign any individual player for greater than $300K. Sanchez also notes a few players who seem to already have agreements in place with MLB teams, though obviously those deals cannot become official until after midnight.
A few more notes on the international market headed into tomorrow…
- The Twins look likely to land Venezuelan center fielder Misael Urbina, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports. Urbina should earn a bonus north of $1.5MM, but he’s not the only player who appears to have a deal in place with the club. Berardino adds that Dominican shortstop Felix Rosa and Venezuelan outfielder Alexander Pena seem likely to sign with Minnesota for about $200K apiece, pending the outcomes of their physicals. Baseball America ranks Urbina tenth on its international prospects list for the 2018-2019 signing period, noting his compact swing, high energy and intensity, and his above-average arm. Rosa and Pena both rank outside BA’s top 50.
- Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports reports that the Phillies have deals in place with at least four international prospects, most notably Dominican hurler Starlyn Castillo. Castillo checks in at number 16 on Baseball America’s international prospects list, giving special credit to his physically mature frame and ability to touch 97 MPH on the radar gun even before his 16th birthday.
- Without giving anything away in terms of specifics, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that the Cardinals are expected to land an international prospect for a $300K bonus as early as tomorrow. Goold adds that the Redbirds have been connected to Cuban third baseman Malcolm Nunez, Venezuelan hurler Jesus Rojas, and Venezuelan catcher Diego Velasquez.