Jhonny Peralta is back with the Cardinals after being activated from the disabled list, though Peralta told reporters (including Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that he’ll have to adjust to being a part-time player for the first time in his career. “Everybody is doing good and the team — we’re in second place,” Peralta said. “I understand the situation but it’s kind of hard for me to be on the bench and not play every day, because I know what kind of player I can be….I need to learn to be ready for whatever time or situation it is in the game.” Peralta was a productive starter for the Cards as recently as the 2015 season, though an injury-plagued 2016 opened the door for Aledmys Diaz and Jedd Gyorko to emerge, and those two have now established themselves as the Cardinals’ regulars at shortstop and third base. Peralta, who turns 35 later this month, is in the final year of a four-year, $53MM contract and is owed roughly $7.4MM for the remainder of the season. A trade could be difficult to work given this remaining salary and Peralta’s lack of recent production, though if Peralta is able to get somewhat back into form, he’ll give the Cards some solid veteran infield depth.
TODAY: The Reds likely won’t end up with Robert, president of baseball operations Dick Williams suggested in comments to Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Per Williams, the price is “moving beyond something that we are able to do.” While the club does indeed have interest, says its top baseball decisionmaker, “there’s a certain amount beyond which a franchise in our market just can’t afford.”
YESTERDAY: The White Sox and Cardinals are seen as the two likeliest organizations to land standout Cuban youngster Luis Robert, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Sources say the same to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
That’s not to say that other teams aren’t still involved in pursuit of the 19-year-old phenom, who will officially be eligible to sign this weekend. He will need to ink a deal by June 15th if he wishes to avoid the hard spending caps that will be instituted for the next July 2nd signing period — which seems a certainty at this point. Passan, in fact, suggests that Robert has already selected a team and will sign soon after he is eligible. Furthermore, he cites three sources in stating that the “suggested floor” when teams began submitting bids for Robert was $20MM — a sum that would be accompanied a 100 percent luxury tax.
Among the others that have been tied to Robert are the Reds, Astros, Athletics, and Padres. Neither the Nationals nor the Braves appear to be in pursuit, per Badler, despite going well over their own allocations. Those organizations have taken close looks at the intriguing prospect and have already accepted the maximum penalties for overshooting their pool allocations.
As Badler explains, the Cards are in a somewhat unique situation because of their lack of draft picks this year. (The club’s top three selections are gone due to the signing of Dexter Fowler and the Astros database access scandal.) That leaves the club with a large war chest with which to work internationally.
The White Sox, meanwhile, have not yet exceeded their 2016-17 pool, meaning they could avoid a two-year ban on $300K+ signings if they don’t get Robert. But Chicago is obviously focused on accumulating high-upside young talent that’s nearing readiness, and Robert is closer to the majors than the typical sixteen-year-old international signee. Notably, per Badler, the club hasn’t lined up deals with high-bonus talent for the ensuing signing period — perhaps suggesting that the organization is eyeing a move on Robert.
Whichever way Robert goes, Passan writes, it’ll be the end of an interesting era of major Cuban signings. For one thing, the pipeline of talent will likely hew to an earlier age, particularly if there’s a continued move to improve relations between the United States and the neighboring island nation. Combined with the new rules prohibiting teams from going past their spending limits on players under 25 years of age — even if they’d be willing to pay a 100% tax on overages — there’s little prospect for another major payday unless and until the system undergoes an unexpected change.
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.
- Cardinals lefty reliever Brett Cecil has fared poorly in the first season of the four-year, $30.5MM deal he signed as a free agent over the winter, having logged a 5.79 ERA and a 4.50 BB/9, and given up a 1.429 OPS to left-handed hitters. When speaking this weekend with reporters – including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Cecil used the word “embarrassing” multiple times to describe his performance, though he believes his problems stem from a fixable mechanical issue. “I know I have a good track record,” the ex-Blue Jay said. “Obviously, I know I can get guys out. And these are struggles I’ve dealt with before.”
- In another scary situation, Cardinals Triple-A pitching prospect Daniel Poncedeleon took a line drive off the head Tuesday and then underwent surgery Wednesday to relieve pressure around his brain. Poncedeleon has been in the intensive care unit of an Iowa hospital over the past few days, though doctors are “very encouraged by how things are progressing,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Saturday (per Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com). “Right now, everything is going in a very positive direction,” continued Mozeliak. “You don’t want to speak in absolutes. You don’t want to draw conclusions. But we’re very encouraged with where he’s at.”
- Cardinals righty Lance Lynn tells Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link) that he has not engaged in any long-term talks with the club. The pending free agent says he would “love to stay” in St. Louis, but it also doesn’t sound as if the organization should expect any discount. Lynn, who’ll soon turn 30, has returned from Tommy John surgery on a hot streak. Over 35 1/3 frames this year, he owns a shiny 2.04 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. If he can keep up anything approaching that work, and maintain his health, Lynn ought to make for quite an appealing free agent at season’s end.
- The Cardinals have released reliever Mitch Harris, as Glenn Sattell of MLB.com reports. The 31-year-old has continued to struggle with elbow issues. He had made a notable big league debut in 2015, making it to the majors after putting his professional career on hold during a stint in the Navy. The Naval Academy grad worked 27 innings of 3.67 ERA ball that year, though he managed only 5.0 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9 in that stretch.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Twins reinstated ByungHo Park from the minor league disabled list and cleared a spot on the Triple-A roster by releasing outfielder Quintin Berry, tweets Nate Rowan of the Rochester Red Wings’ public relations department. The 32-year-old Berry batted .194/.275/.278 in 40 plate appearances over 14 games with Rochester prior to his release. Berry hasn’t appeared in the Majors since the 2015 campaign, though his excellent speed and baserunning prowess have landed him on expanded September rosters for the Red Sox, Orioles and Cubs as a late-inning pinch-running option/defensive replacement off the bench. Berry is a career .265/.336/.368 hitter in 342 MLB plate appearances and has a collective .242/.339./.304 slash in parts of seven Triple-A seasons.
- Left-hander Mitch Harris announced on Instagram today that he’s no longer a part of the Cardinals organization (presumably meaning that he was released by the club). Harris, who is rehabbing from the same “primary repair” operation that former teammate Seth Maness had last August, had made just two appearances in Triple-A thus far in 2017. Harris sports a 3.64 ERA in parts of three Triple-A seasons (including this year) and logged a 3.67 ERA with 5.0 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9 in 27 innings for the Cards back in 2015.
The Cardinals had a fair amount of concern over center fielder Dexter Fowler’s right shoulder strain on Friday, but it seems he dodged a significant injury. Fowler missed his second straight game Saturday, though he told reporters – including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – that he only has “general soreness” and is ready to return to the lineup. The Cardinals are understandably taking a cautious approach with their big-money offseason signing, however. Meanwhile, another of their outfielders, Jose Martinez, suffered a groin injury Saturday and will probably head to the disabled list. If so, he’d join right fielder Stephen Piscotty on the DL, leaving the Redbirds with a banged-up Fowler, Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham as their top outfielders. The likelihood is that the Cardinals will promote High-A outfielder Magneuris Sierra to provide another option, tweets Goold. Sierra, who’s already on St. Louis’ 40-man roster, is known for his defense, as Goold wrote in December for Baseball America when he ranked the 21-year-old as the Cardinals’ fifth-best prospect (subscription required/recommended).
The Cardinals announced today that right fielder Stephen Piscotty has been placed on the 10-day disabled list due to a hamstring strain that he suffered in last night’s game. Meanwhile, Fowler underwent an MRI last night following a shoulder strain that was suffered upon diving for a ball in center field (as manager Mike Matheny said after the game, via Joe Lyons of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
In obvious need of outfield help, the Cards recalled Tommy Pham from Triple-A Memphis, and he’ll be with the team for tonight’s game. If Fowler, too, requires some time away from the club, other outfield options in Triple-A include veteran Todd Cunningham and well-regarded prospect Harrison Bader.
Piscotty, 26, got off to a slow start this season but has come around of late and was hitting .241/.378/.380 through his first 98 plate appearances on the young season. The former first-round pick solidified himself as the Cardinals’ everyday right fielder with strong play between the 2015-16 campaigns — so much so that St. Louis inked him to a six-year, $33.5MM extension just one month ago. To this point, there’s no indication of how long Piscotty will be expected to miss, although last night the outfielder described his injury as “mild” in nature (via Lyons).
There’s perhaps some greater concern surrounding Fowler, however. Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch reports that the team felt last night that Fowler’s injury could be the more serious of the two. The team has yet to make an announcement on Fowler’s status. Fortunately for the Redbirds, both Pham and starting left fielder Randal Grichuk are capable of playing center field, so the team still has multiple options in center field should Fowler require an absence of some degree.
The loss of two starting outfielders in a single game is a nightmare situation for any team, but the injuries are particularly troubling for a Cardinals club that ranks just 24th in the Majors with 110 runs scored. As a team, St. Louis has batted .254/.329/.411 (translating to a 96 wRC+ that is tied for 16th in baseball).