- At 33-40, the Cardinals are already 12 games out of a wild-card spot in the National League. Consequently, their only realistic avenue to the playoffs is to erase a 5.5-game deficit in the NL Central. They’re going to have to start making up ground by next month’s trade deadline, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak admitted to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. “This team has a chance to do good things, but we have to get it going,” said Mozeliak. “Urgency has to be on the forefront of our thinking. There is no clock in baseball, but time is moving.” Mozeliak revealed that the Cardinals are “open-minded” to buying or selling, but Crasnick argues that taking the latter path could be difficult because they’re not exactly chock-full of trade chips. They already sold one veteran last month, sending first baseman Matt Adams to the Braves for minor league infielder Juan Yepez. While Adams has caught fire since the trade, Mozeliak doesn’t regret shipping him out. “Sometimes a change of scenery for players is what they need,” he noted. “Matt’s killed it, but that’s not to say he didn’t get opportunities a year ago. Sometimes when you make decisions, you know there might be more upside in a player. But unless you can create that availability [for playing time], it’s pretty tough.”
The Cardinals have placed center fielder Dexter Fowler and reliever Kevin Siegrist on the disabled list, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com (on Twitter). In other moves, the team has optioned outfielder Chad Huffman to Triple-A, recalled outfielder Randal Grichuk and right-hander Mike Mayers, and selected the contract of outfielder Luke Voit, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was among those to report (Twitter link).
Fowler, who hasn’t played since Wednesday, is dealing with a right heel spur, per Langosch. The big-money offseason signing has pulled his weight offensively for a club that has struggled to a 33-40 start, making his loss another blow to its slim playoff chances. Fowler has slashed .245/.336/.481 with 13 long balls, matching his home run total from last year in nearly 300 fewer plate appearances (277 to 551), and a career-best .237 ISO. The 31-year-old has seemingly taken steps backward in the field, though, after he made progress in the grass with the Cubs in 2016. All told, Fowler has accounted for minus-8 defensive runs saved and a minus-8.3 UZR/150 in 60 games.
At times a dominant member of St. Louis’ bullpen since debuting in 2013, the 27-year-old Siegrist is in the midst of one of his worst seasons and is now battling a cervical spine strain. The left-hander has managed a disappointing 4.28 ERA in 27 1/3 innings. Along the way, Siegrist has posted his lowest strikeout rate per nine (8.23), had issues with control (4.94 BB/9) and experienced a notable velocity drop. Siegrist has also had trouble versus left-handed hitters, who have batted .268/.375/.463 off him this year.
Voit, a 22nd-round pick in 2013, will fill the last spot on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster. The 26-year-old toyed with Triple-A pitchers prior to his promotion, slashing .322/.406/.561 with 12 homers in 293 PAs.
- The Cardinals will recall outfielder Randal Grichuk, whom they demoted to the minors May 29, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Redbirds sent down Grichuk after he batted a paltry .222/.276/.377 with a 29.8 percent strikeout rate in 181 plate appearances. He fared better at Triple-A, slashing .270/.313/.603 in 67 PAs, but struck out even more frequently (29.9 percent) and only posted a 4.5 percent walk rate. It’s unclear how often Grichuk will play in his return to St. Louis, at least initially, as the team has gotten terrific production in his spot (left field) from Tommy Pham. The Cardinals also have Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty as everyday outfielders, of course, so there’s no obvious fit for Grichuk in a starting role.
The Reds will promote young righty Luis Castillo to make his MLB debut on Friday, as C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Skipper Bryan Price cited the 24-year-old’s strike-throwing ability as a prime motivation for his call-up over a few other hurlers who are working at the team’s Triple-A affiliate. Castillo, who came over in the offseason deal that sent Dan Straily to the Marlins, has impressed thus far at Double-A. Through 80 1/3 innings over 14 starts, he owns a 2.58 ERA with a healthy 9.1 K/9 to go with just 1.5 BB/9.
Here are some more notes from Cinci and the game’s central divisions:
- In other Reds pitching news, veteran righty Homer Bailey is set to make his season debut on Saturday, Rosecrans notes, so long as a pen session today goes well. Bailey, 31, has turned in three strong rehab outings at Triple-A, allowing just two earned runs on 11 hits through 16 2/3 innings while sporting a 17:3 K/BB ratio. The Reds will hope that can carry over into the majors, as Bailey remains an important player for the organization this year and into the future. He’s owed $19MM in 2017 and another $49MM over the next two campaigns (including a buyout on a 2020 mutual option). Bailey is working back from surgery for bone spurs in his elbow, the most recent of several procedures, and hasn’t turned in a full season’s work since way back in 2013.
- The Cardinals, meanwhile, ought to be preparing to sell at the deadline this summer, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues. Ticket sales remain strong despite the club’s scuffles, he notes, but that doesn’t mean 2017 contention is terribly realistic for a club that sits five games under .500. (It is fair to note, though, that the Cards are still just four back in a mediocre NL Central.) As for potential chips, Ortiz suggests that pending free agent starter Lance Lynn ought to be made available, along with relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Seung-Hwan Oh.
- The Royals are seeing some progress from southpaw Danny Duffy, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. Duffy, 28, seems to be one more pen session away from embarking upon a rehab stint, though manager Ned Yost suggested he’ll likely require three minor-league starts before returning to the majors. When he’s finally able to return from his oblique strain, Duffy figures to represent quite an impactful addition for a K.C. team that has pushed back toward contention even without its top hurler.
- As the Tigers struggle to stay afloat in the AL Central, the club is dealing yet again with bullpen woes, as Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press writes. Skipper Brad Ausmus suggested that he isn’t terribly confident in the bulk of the club’s relievers, which isn’t terribly surprising to hear given the numbers. Shane Greene may have eclipsed Alex Wilson as the team’s primary setup option, it seems, but as Fenech notes the Tigers still are struggling to hand off to closer Justin Wilson. While youngster Joe Jimenez is throwing again at Triple-A, Detroit is understandably taking things slowly with him, leaving few clear options for a club that sits six games under .500 entering today’s action.
- While Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez’s name has come up in connection to St. Louis, the fact that the Cardinals are 11.5 games out of a wild-card spot might steer them away from position player rentals, notes Olney. As of now, the Redbirds only have one realistic path to a playoff berth – by winning the NL Central – but they also have plenty of ground to make up there (5.5 games). Moreover, they may have a sleeping giant to contend with in the reigning champion Cubs, who are 2.5 games behind upstart Milwaukee for the division lead.
- Matt Adams has done nothing but mash since joining the Braves, though the first baseman knows he could be on the move again once Freddie Freeman returns from the DL, Adams tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. While he enjoys playing in Atlanta, “whenever Freddie comes back, wherever the next spot may be…I either finish out the season with Atlanta or go somewhere else,” Adams said. “I’m open to anything right now. I’m taking it day by day.” The interview is well worth a full read, as Adams discusses his time with the Cardinals and his reaction to being dealt last month. Adams has a whopping 1.013 OPS and nine homers over just 114 plate appearances in a Braves uniform, making him a very attractive potential trade chip if Atlanta indeed does look to swap him again at the deadline.
- The Cardinals are one of several teams that could be both buyers and sellers at the deadline. For instance, St. Louis could consider trading Lance Lynn (a pending free agent) and then replace him in the rotation with one of the organization’s several young arms. After missing all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, Lynn has rebounded to post a 2.69 ERA, 8.67 K/9 and 2.37 K/BB rate over 73 2/3 IP this season. Peripheral numbers (.207 BABIP, 86.5% strand rate) indicate that Lynn has perhaps been a bit fortunate, as his ERA indicators (4.75 FIP, 4.40 xFIP, 4.35 SIERA) are well above his actual 2.69 ERA.
- Given that they’re five games back in their division and 10.5 out of a wild-card spot, the Cardinals don’t look like surefire buyers at the moment. Nevertheless, a pair of right-handed-hitting right fielders – the Tigers’ J.D. Martinez and the White Sox’s Avisail Garcia – have been frequently linked to the Redbirds this year, relays Cafardo. Martinez, a free agent-to-be who’s on an $11.75MM salary, is hitting a torrid .310/.398/.681 with 11 home runs in 133 plate appearances for the scuffling Tigers. Garcia, who’s much cheaper than Martinez ($3MM) and under control through 2019, is in the midst of a career year (.337/.378/.549 with 10 HRs in 262 PAs) for the soon-to-sell White Sox.
The Cardinals have released infielder Jhonny Peralta, per a club announcement. The veteran had recently been designated for assignment.
It’s no surprise that Peralta cleared waivers. He’s earning $10MM in 2017, the final season of the four-year free agent deal he signed when he joined the Cards.
At 35 years of age, Peralta seems to have hit a wall. After struggling through an injury-riddled 2016 campaign, there was hope that he’d bounce back this year. But he’s hitting only .204/.259/.204 through 58 plate appearances.
The story is similar on the defensive side of the spectrum. Generally regarded as a solid, albeit unspectacular shortstop, Peralta has drawn negative reviews for his glovework since the start of 2015 — even after moving over to third base last year. DRS and UZR have both pegged him at average thus far in 2017, though that’s in a sample of just 114 innings.
Still, it’s easy to imagine rival organizations taking a look at a player who was an All-Star in 2015. That’s especially true since Peralta can be had for the league-minimum salary, with St. Louis continuing to pay the vast majority of his salary. Even if he’s not capable of handling short on a day-to-day basis, it helps that he brings so much experience at the position. All said, for clubs in need of some versatility around the diamond, taking a chance on the 15-year MLB veteran may hold quite a bit of appeal.
- Cardinals lefty Marco Gonzales will make his first big-league appearance since 2015 in a start on Tuesday, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com writes. Gonzales made it to the Majors barely a year after the Cardinals picked him 19th overall in the 2013 draft, but he struggled in 2015 and missed the entire 2016 season after having Tommy John surgery. Now, after six mostly successful minor-league starts, he’s back.