One of the limitations to the Winter Warm-Up has been the time constraints. For good or bad, keeping the presentations to an hour really leaves it up to the host on how the the show flows. This was on prime display for both of the afternoon sessions on Sunday but also perfectly explained how the Cardinals must shape the roster.
Let’s start with the good first, though, and key in on MLB Network and St. Louis native Fran Charles. He expertly navigated a conversation between Mike Shildt and his right-hand man, Oliver Marmol. The relationship for that pair is vital in a number of settings, of course, and Charles brought up how they met. It was fascinating to hear Shildt talk about scouting Marmol at the college level and fast forward to overcoming a seemingly unprecedented season in 2020.
The talk did turn to how Marmol dealt with the initial interaction with established stars Molina and Wainwright among others who are older than the bench coach. With that opening introduced, Charles was also able to get Shildt’s reaction to the fact that Yadi and Adam both are still free agents and key parts of his staff even without the title. To the manager’s credit, he didn’t back down from his earlier statements on wanting the pair back for a number of reasons. Here’s hoping that wasn’t just for the fans.
In the earlier session, the star of John Rooney’s Outfielder session was of course Willie McGee. Jeff Albert was there as well, although it really could have been an hour with only McGee and most would have been happy. It was refreshing to see how Dexter Fowler led the players and with this setting, it makes sense that he would be at ease without a set role. Fowler is, after all, in the last year of a guaranteed deal with a no-trade clause.
And that really was the problem at the same time. With so many outfielders on the 40-man roster, Rooney was left to navigate a very short window to get feedback from all six players. Only Austin Dean was missing from the group so breaking down how playing time will go truly isn’t easy. Fowler and Dylan Carlson are most likely to see Opening Day although the same argument could be made that both might be elsewhere in April.
Carlson could in theory open the season in Memphis to play everyday, but that seems counterproductive at minimum based on how he ended the Playoff run. Tyler O’Neill took home the Gold Glove and Harrison Bader just got a decent raise as the favorite to continue his run in Center. That leaves Lane Thomas and Justin Williams, with any of the four potentially fighting for both a roster spot or playing time to attract another team.
Nowhere else on the roster has as much redundancy which begs the question – why hasn’t there been more talk about potential trades. The easiest answer starts and finishes with the St. Louis front office. They are very tight-lipped to put it mildly and at this point, there really is zero reason to show your hand. While that seems obvious, it needs to be said that across the spectrum very few trades have been made.
It is true that the Cardinals have yet to make any moves and still have roster spots available. With a month to go before Spring Training, all seven of the players are left wondering the same thing we are – when will the first shoe drop?