The Cardinals did a little walking in Memphis last night, taking on their affiliate in the first part of their tour of checking out their territory, but even though there was a lot of fun on the field, it was the news off the field that had everyone buzzing. Multiple reports had Yadier Molina very close to an extension, apparently a three-year deal worth between $55-$65 million.
Continual cautions that this is not a completed deal have typically fallen on deaf ears. With reporting like this, it’s a fairly strong indication that something will get done in time. It feels like the Cardinals have done enough that if they need an extra day or two, Molina might grant it. So, with all the caveats that things might not actually get done, let’s talk about this deal as if it was already put to paper.
We talked just earlier this week about a similar deal and why the Cardinals should make it. With their financial resources, paying Yadi $20 million a year really isn’t going to keep them from doing other things to make the team better if they come up. I don’t think this rules them out of getting their next franchise player in free agency in a couple of years, for instance. With the young (and, more importantly for this discussion, cost-controlled) players that are on their way, having Yadi on the books for a couple of years at a high price isn’t going to do anything terrible for the team no matter what happens.
Hopefully the idea on this deal is that they’ll start the transition to Carson Kelly like I outlined in December. With the news of this extension and the news that the Cardinals were quietly in on Jose Quintana, it seemed to spell trouble for Kelly if he wanted to become the next Cardinal catcher. However, I’m not sure that’s the case. Kelly will be 23 in the middle of this season. That means, at worst, he could start the 2021 season (the first year after Yadi) just a little shy of 27. That’s not just terribly old for a catcher. You’d like to probably have him active before then, but again, he spends all this year in Memphis and then most of next year as the backup, then you can see what 2019 and 2020 bring in regards to needing to pass the torch.
That’s not ruling out a Kelly trade, of course. If you can get someone like Quintana for him and others, you have to take a hard look at it. I’m just saying you don’t HAVE to trade Kelly because Yadi reupped. It’s not like there are other strong catching prospects in the system that will pass Kelly by in the span of this extension. It’s not like Harrison Bader, who has folks like Magneuris Sierra on his tail. Kelly’s pretty comfortable where he’s at and I don’t think the Cardinals are going to look for a way to move him. (If you wanted to be a hopeless dreamer, you could say John Mozeliak was close enough to a Quintana deal that he had to re-up Yadi to make sure they had a catcher next year, but I don’t think that’s quite the case.)
It wouldn’t be surprising to me if the contract wasn’t announced on Sunday morning so as to make sure Yadi got a huge ovation during the Opening Day ceremonies. I mean, larger than he was already going to get.
In other news, the 25-man roster has already gone through its first change, as Trevor Rosenthal will start the year on the (now 10-day) disabled list and Sam Tuivailala will take his place in St. Louis. Tuivailala played with the Cardinals last night and wound up giving up an unearned run in two innings, with one walk and one hit but zero strikeouts. We know what Tui brings, both strengths and weaknesses, and it seems unlikely that he’ll figure it out in his limited time in St. Louis. If Rosenthal gets healed up quickly, Tui will go to Memphis for him. If not, Tuivailala will probably get sent down when Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons gets activated in a few weeks. Either way, Sam doesn’t have much time to make a good impression, but we can always hope something will click.
Rosenthal pitched in five games this spring and did well, but obviously this lat strain has been an issue. I don’t know how much he pitched after his start–he wasn’t a name I heard come up very often. I’m no doctor so I’m not sure how connected or related lat strains are to oblique injuries, but if they are anything similar this could be an issue Rosie deals with for a while. Even if he comes back from the disabled list, there’s no telling how long it might be before he injures it again. Hopefully that’s not the case and a little more rest will do it, but given the Cards had already announced him as a part of the roster, it’s obvious you never know when it is going to flare up again.
Cardinals play in Springfield tonight, then get a day off at home before starting their season Sunday night at Busch Stadium. I’ve railed before about how the tradition of Opening Day has been completely mutilated throughout baseball. I’m old enough to remember when every season started in Cincinnati, home of the oldest franchise. This year, the Reds are one of the last teams to get started, with a 4:10 EDT first pitch.
I could understand the Sunday night spotlight game, though it was still a little iffy. (Some may remember the Cardinals and Reds played in the first one of these things.) But now there are games on Sunday afternoon before Sunday Night Baseball. Where’s the specialness of that? I wouldn’t mind if MLB took a page from their own playbook and start every game on Monday at the same time, like they do with Game 162. Get everyone off to a rousing start.
They don’t, though, and they aren’t likely to listen to me anytime soon. It is nice to not have to worry about missing work on Monday to catch the game on TV and it should be a game worth catching. Carlos Martinez, with his new contract and his new ace status–because, really, an opening start was all he was lacking–takes on the *pauses, swallows bile* World Champion Chicago Cubs. Remember, all the pregame festivities, the stuff that makes Opening Day in St. Louis so very special, will be on FOX Sports Midwest starting at 6:30 PM. With the return of real games, it marks the return of our pitcher vs. batter looks, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
Well, it would, but I think since the season hasn’t started rosters aren’t loaded on BR yet, so I’m getting an error trying to run the report. I do see that Carlos has 30 PA against Anthony Rizzo and the first baseman has a 1.064 OPS against the hurler, so maybe he should be careful there. On the flip side, Kris Bryant has a .491 OPS in 24 PA against Martinez, which is good to see. Carlos has a 3-3 mark with a 4.97 ERA against the Chicago club. He struggled against them last year (1-3, 4.80 ERA in five games).
Jon Lester goes for the Cubs, which probably means we don’t see Kolten Wong at second and that whole discussion can get started again. We know how good Lester can be, as he is 3-3 with a 1.97 ERA against the club in his career. He’s been even better at Busch, with a 2-0, 0.82 mark. The Cardinal with the most plate appearances against him is Molina, who has a .711 OPS against him (three doubles are the only extra-base hits) in 34 PA.
Baseball is here, folks! Enjoy your weekend and let’s talk about the game Monday morning, all right?