One Man Enters, One Man Stays, One Man Exits

OK, if you want to be technical, three men entered and two to four men exited, but that’s really pedantic and it doesn’t work nearly as well for a post title.  We have news in the middle of that desert we call the offseason and you are nitpicking?

Let’s hit it in the order of the title.  Yesterday was the deadline to put players on the 40-man roster or risk losing them to the Rule 5 Draft.  Everyone knew that Oscar Taveras was going to be on that list, but St. Louis also added shortstop Greg Garcia and outfielder Mike O’Neill to the roster as well.  They needed to add Garcia given the lack of shortstops close to the big leagues.  Given that right now the only shortstop even close to St. Louis is Pete Kozma (and obviously an argument could be made there about whether he counts as big league material), letting someone that had a .271/.377/.384 year at Memphis get away is a huge risk.  This is more insurance than the expectation that Garcia is going to challenge for the shortstop job.

As for O’Neill, he spent a lot of the year at Springfield, where he went .320/.431/.384.  Limited power, but seems to be able to hit at a pretty solid level and has a good eye, with more walks than strikeouts.  Obviously, to know more about him and Garcia you should check out Cardinals Farm or CardinalsGM, but both seem to be good additions to the 40-man, even if their big league days aren’t imminent.

Some interesting names in Goold’s list of who was eligible to be added.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cards lost Jordan Swagerty, at least initially.  He might get offered back to them, but someone is going to see if he’s healthy.  Tommy Pham might be another that someone gambles on.

Mike Matheny is The Man Who Stayed.  Matheny was the main reason for yesterday’s press conference, signing a three-year extension to his deal that keeps him in St. Louis through the 2017 season, at least on paper.  Manager contracts are often not worth the paper they are printed on, but in Matheny’s case it would be surprising to see him leave before his time is up.  The Cardinals enjoyed the consistency that Tony La Russa brought to the organization and with Matheny’s youth and the high esteem this club holds him in, he’s not likely to be fired anytime soon.  In fact, this ownership group hasn’t ever fired a manager, so it’s not like it’s a volatile place to work.

You can’t fault the extension either.  It’s not like they probably wouldn’t have come to an agreement at the end of next year, but why take that risk?  Why spend a year with questions around Matheny’s future?  He’s done his job well, even if he has a lot of second guessers.  An NLCS and a World Series appearance quietens a lot of criticism, though.  Matheny obviously connects with these players and is doing the job that the front office hired him to do, which is mentor and be a leader of men, while learning the tactical side of things.  It was a good thing to see, even if it probably could have been done in a press release rather than getting everyone worked up over a press conference.

In adding those players to the 40-man roster, obviously some spots had to be cleared to find room for them.  While Jermaine Curtis and John Gast may clear waivers–in fact, likely already have–and return to Memphis, Ryan Jackson was claimed by the Houston Astros, because of course he was.  Houston, the place were former Cardinal prospects go to get another chance, may give Jackson a trial in the spring.  If nothing else, he’s got to have more of an opportunity than he did here in St. Louis.  I’m not saying that he would have made much of a difference over Kozma–the team did win 97 games, which is tough to top, and Jackson struggled mightily during the second half of the season at AAA as well–but the fact that they didn’t even give him a shot when Kozma is going 0-27 shows that, for whatever reason, the hole he (or someone else) had dug for himself was too deep for him to get out of.  Hopefully he gets a shot in Houston.

The main person exiting stage right, though, was Chris Carpenter.  We all knew that Carpenter was almost definitely not returning for the 2014 season, but John Mozeliak made it official, stating Carp had told him he was retiring.  Given that, save a gutsy September and October of 2012, Carpenter hadn’t pitched in two years at the big league level, this is no shock.

Still, losing an icon of a certain time period is never fun.  Carpenter is going to always represent that stretch from 2004 to 2011, both good and bad.  You have games like Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS that will be played over and over again.  You have that dive to first to get out Elvis Andrus in Game 1 of the World Series that year.  His competitiveness and ability to dominate teams at the best of times will never be forgotten.  It’s not surprising that the only two years since 2004 that the Cardinals weren’t either first or second in their division were years without Carpenter.

Of course, that leads to talk about Carpenter’s legacy and all that.  I don’t think we’ll be retiring 29 on the wall, though it may not be issued again for a while.  That’s what the Cardinal Hall of Fame is going to be for, those that need to be honored for their contributions but weren’t quite to the level of number retirement.  If Carpenter had been healthy more of his career, he well might have gotten that retirement ceremony, but if he’d been healthier in his career, especially early, he may never have come to St. Louis.

The Cards suggested using the #ThanksCarp hashtag on Twitter yesterday.  I believe that says it all.  For all you did, thanks Carp.

Baseball shook last night with the trade of Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler.  On the face of it, that would seem to complicate the Cardinals’ search for a shortstop, as the logjam in Texas seemed to be the best place for a discussion.  Now, the expectation is that Andrus can just move over to second and Jurickson Profar man short.  Of course, if the Rangers do target Robinson Cano, then the situation might not just go back to the previous setting, but they might be more motivated to move Andrus to clear up some salary.  The trade winds look like they are starting to blow, so stay tuned!

More Exit Interviews today and tomorrow you’ll get to see my ballot for the Cardinal Blogger Awards.  If you’ve not voted yet, you have until noon tomorrow to fill out this form.  Also, Saturday there comes a Doctor Who-themed post, which I’m sure that no one will get as much of a kick out of as me, but it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want!  So keep checking back!

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