Josh G.

K.I.S.S. for the Cardinals

For the longest time, trying to figure out the Cardinals has become one part mystery theater and two parts choose your own adventure. Yes, there have been many more ups over the last decade since my final deployment but in the past calendar year, the downs have begun to creep into the spotlight. Baseball in general goes in cycles, though, so it really should come as no surprise that St. Louis finds itself without a true identity for the first time in a very long time.

The argument made by my wife and many others that Yadier Molina remains the face of the franchise does hold some weight, but he can’t carry the load all by himself. As this is the first season without either Albert Pujols or Matt Holliday, the true leadership test has pushed to the front burner of many who follow the Cards religiously. No one discounts the on-field strengths that No. 4 brings on a daily basis, but Dexter Fowler was targeted for a reason.

In my attempts to figure out what kind of team the 2017 edition is under the Arch, one factor simply can’t be ignored. Mike Matheny bridged the gap well after TLR, maybe better than anyone could have given the circumstances. But after the rain delay last night and Fowler’s homer put St. Louis back in the lead, how is it that Tui gets the call in the 8th inning after two off days this week? We won’t even discuss Broxton’s outing or that Cecil momentarily saved the day because honestly, it just doesn’t matter at this point.

Matheny and his staff continue to take the color-by-numbers approach to the bullpen, and that will lead to only one conclusion in my opinion. But have no fear, this won’t be another doom and gloom post that matches the weather in most of Cardinal country! If you are not familiar with the acronym in the above headline, it normally stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. I am not ready to concede anything, however, and offer my own positive outlook in that St. Louis replaces the stupid. I know what you are thinking and if removing Matheny was truly the answer – that would have been done already, right?

For your Saturday offerings, I will give three views that have caught my attention and hope you chime in via the comments or any other social media avenue that is your preference. PH8 has always been one site that looks at how the Cardinals have pushed the envelope so let’s start with what everyone has to be thinking this morning – where in the world is Trevor Rosenthal?

There will be no conspiracy theories here, so I have to take this article for what it says. Or if you prefer another look, check out here before continuing. Now remember that St. Louis is about to play just about every day until the All-Star break and had two off days this week. If the team was already monitoring the workload for Rosie before this, raise your hand if that worries you as much as it does me. Having faith in the medical staff when dealing with professional athletes has never been a realistic hope anyway, especially with the wear and tear hurlers have on a regular basis.

It would benefit everyone if Mo was already taking calls looking at adding another arm or three to plug the existing holes, but how messy will the back end of pen look in a month.

On to much better topics we go, starting with how confident the organization must feel in the outfield depth now compared to even a week ago. Magneuris Sierra didn’t deserve a demotion, but he does need to be an everyday player. Sierra goes to an interesting situation already in Springfield but talent plays especially when you are the designated next man up for three positions. The 40-man roster shortage for once benefited a player that normally would not have gotten the call, and he exceeded all expectations.

Now briefly going back to the question about relievers, under no circumstance should Sierra be traded unless it is for an everyday star. Sierra is the exact type of player everyone covets and only should concern himself with getting better and making his way back up in September if not earlier.

Today marks another special date on the calendar but only because the Prospect Preacher is basically retired this season. Next month’s MLB Draft will not be a heavily covered topic here for obvious reasons, but that just means more print on the international market. So to recognize Happy Luis Robert Day – go right here for the latest. Part of me wants the Cuban sensation to take his time and let the drama build simply because it gives us more to talk about, but the other side of my brain just wants an answer.

Whether or not the Cardinals lock up the potential star, it is good to know how far the organization has grown the past decade. Adding talent to the St. Louis system any way possible has to be the goal, and money should not be the obstacle in my opinion. Robert might just be the most accomplished 19-year old the game has seen, but he is still a teenager. The room for error is great with any transaction, so I can’t wait to see how this one unfolds.

As rough a week as this has been for the Birds on the Bat, a positive ending is still very possible. The starting rotation has been nails, so let’s end there for the week. Enjoy the final couple of games before the blur begins, as the ride gets bumpy from here on out.

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Rarely has there been a time that I can remember bringing up my own playing days from Little League when thinking about a post. At the same time, however, the Cardinals have resembled a bad beer league team on more than a few occasions lately so maybe the correlation is due. It was also in early May many moons ago when my team faced adversity with a number of rain-outs early in the schedule. Not only did that make practicing a hassle but it caused a few issues in finding enough pitching to get thru the summer grind.

The one main difference between that championship-winning club and the St. Louis squad this season was pretty much everything was a home game when you have one playable park. I am not advocating something happening to keep the Cards on the road, but the home cooking at Busch just hasn’t been the same for the last year. That will not be changing anytime soon, though, given a pair of rain-outs next month are either going to make or break the campaign when you consider one other very important fact.

As much as I hate to say it, the defense in 2017 may actually be worse and will make it that much harder on the staff who needs to be prepared to phone a friend or five in Memphis as the schedule only gets more insane following a travel day on May 22nd. Twenty straight days of games will not allow for much practice so here’s hoping the defense just doesn’t need a day off or plenty of rest. The day of rest in June will be the 12th, as this next stretch truly is the murderer’s row of schedules.

The make-up with the second-place Brewers begins 27 games in yup, 27 days. I guess maybe the travel day between Baltimore and Philly ‘counts’ as resting, but the truth is we will all know by the All-Star break whether or not any arms are left and if this edition of St. Louis baseball will make any noise in September. Four teams are separated by 2.5 games in the National League Central, but defense such as last night will find the Cards fighting for the cellar and missing out on October baseball except for a very sad finale. Winning teams can overcome poor hitting or pitching as the World Series banners prove from 2006 and 2011.

This is where the schedule actually benefits the Birds on the Bat. Playing the hot hand will not be an issue for the manager or GM when it comes to needing a fresh body. It may actually come down to survival of the fittest but defense has to be at a premium when every out and inning is vital to keeping the workload down on the starters and bullpen alike. So at least in the case of having too much time to think, the next month and a half will be a wild ride to watch unfold. The Cardinals still find themselves in first place and with no pressing draft news for the Preacher, many Memphis updates will become that much more important as the calendar hits June. Buckle up for what is sure to be an interesting summer under the Arch!

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UCB Preseason Roundtable Day 1

Baseball is back! Hope everyone survived the long Winter and like me are expecting great things from the Birds on the Bat. If you happen to be lucky enough to catch Spring Training games, the Cardinals open exhibition season against their roommates in just over an hour.

One other rite of Spring for us at the UCB happens to begin one of my favorite events. Our humble group of St. Louis fans rarely get together in person so we use the interwebs to debate any and all things related to the Redbirds.

This year is an even more special occasion given the significance of both 1967 as well as who the Cards open the campaign against. Yup, we all get to hear about the Cubs at least until May or maybe June. Then the attention will turn towards the All-Star break and on to the dog days so my wife gets to become a baseball widow very soon.

It was my turn to hit lead-off and opened the Roundtable with a spirited look at the 3rd base debate. Here was my question and enjoy the responses!

PH8: With Carpenter moving across the diamond, all eyes are on how the hot corner will be decided. It honestly doesn’t matter who wins the job by April 1st, because I want to know who has it by August 1st.

Who if you had a pick would be running out next to Diaz over the last two months of the season. If the player joins the Cardinals via trade, the deal has to make baseball sense no matter how far ahead in the standings St. Louis is (optimism rules).

Mark (RetroSimba):

Jhonny Peralta likely will be the starting third baseman in August and September. That was the plan all along when they first signed him: solidify shortstop for a couple of years, then move to third. The Cardinals will give first priority to Peralta to see that plan and investment play out. At workouts in Jupiter this week, Peralta has looked fit and focused. He seems motivated to finish his Cards career on an upswing and help his cause in attracting one last lucrative contract offer in free agency.
Diane (Women Who Love Cardinal Baseball)
This may be a bold prediction, but I think Jhonny Peralta will be injured once again and Jedd Gyorko will take over the hot corner.  I don’t see any players available for a trade unless the Cards give up some of their young pitching talent.  Another scenario would be if Matt Adams returns to form, Carpenter could then be moved back over to third.
Tom (CardinalsGM)
I believe it is Peralta’s for the most part but many, many times Matheny will be tempted to have as many lefties in the line-up as he can. On those occasions I see Carp moving back to third and Adams at first. Could be GGaria at third and Carpenter at first. I see Jhonny only about 100-110 games starting.
Easton (Redbird Daily)
As much as I would like to say it will be someone else, I believe Jhonny  Peralta will be the starting third baseman throughout the season. I am sure that he has come into spring training with a positive attitude, of improving and staying it better shape, and that should help him out quite a bit.
If Matt Adams continues to impress in spring training, after shaping up this offseason, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cardinals start Adams at first and move Carpenter back to third. Then, Peralta could be packaged with a few prospects in a trade deal, even though the return wouldn’t be much.
Bill (I70 Baseball)
Let’s answer this one two ways: what I want to see and what we will see. It seems the consensus is what I assume we will see: Peralta will step up in his walk year and prove that he has the versatility to play the position. He provides the “stop gap” that the team is looking for going into the offseason, where they figure to be big players in free agency for the first time in a long time.
What I want is something a bit “Jocketty-esque”. I want to see the Cardinals identify the third baseman they will pursue in free agency this coming year (Mike Moustakas is real interesting) and make a deal at the deadline. Bring the player in, let him fall in love with the city, sign him long term. If Peralta/Gyorko are a stop gap fix anyway, you sacrifice very little to try and make that happen.
Daniel (C70 At The Bat)
I continue to hope/believe/daydream that the Cardinals, flush with a new TV contract, not burdened with any significant deals, and needing to revitalize the core, make a run at Manny Machado after the 2018 season.
If that actually is their plan, they can’t bring in anyone that’s a long-term option to play third.  Which probably means that Jhonny Peralta and Jedd Gyorko will see almost all the time at third this year, including down the stretch.  There’s nobody in the system that’s even close enough to replace them on a temporary basis and I can’t see John Mozeliak making a big deal.
That being said, if they aren’t going to make such a big splash, I like Bill’s idea of the McGwire/Holliday-like deal.
Kevin (STL Cards ‘N Stuff)
Wow, this is a tough one right off the bat, and the key there is August 1st not July 1st. In other words, after the trade deadline.
For me, it comes down to what the Cardinals have and what they’ll need. They have reliable on-base ability. With Fowler, Piscotty, Carpenter, Diaz, and potentially Wong, the Cardinals are going to be a team that gets on base a lot. However, their power potential ranges from questionable to mediocre and even unreliable. MAYBE Adams rebounds and provides power. MAYBE Peralta can stay healthy and contribute slightly better than average power. MAYBE Grichuk can finally be the Grichuk we all believe he can be.
But none of that is even “likely” – it’s just a good bet.
When it comes down to it, the Cardinals didn’t acquire the masher they needed over the offseason. Now, they’re left with a slew of 20 home run threats but no real bomber. Again, Grichuk has the power, but can he consistently make contact? I may believe he can, but I’ve learned not to bet on so many maybe’s.
And then there’s Peralta’s aging body at a new position.
I just have a hard time believing Peralta will stay healthy enough and productive enough to stick at third base when things get hairy around August and September. And I’m not sure the organization believes he will either. Think about it this way…
The Cardinals have committed to Carpenter at first base. They’ve committed to Diaz at shortstop. They’ve committed to Wong at second base. But they have specifically allowed Gyorko to float, the man who hit 30 home runs in part time duty last season. I believe they think Gyorko is going to be playing either second base or third base in August.
The problem is, by the time they get to that point, they are going to need power – reliable power – and the expectation of playing Gyorko (still somewhat of an unknown quantity in everyday duty) may not be enough to appease them…and that means trade acquisition.
So, here’s where I think the Cards could be on August 1st
Kolten Wong will finally blend well with an on-base team that allows him to contribute in a more balanced, less extreme role. In other words, he won’t be expected to be a top-tier OBP guy or a power-hitting second baseman or even a speedy/flashy kickstarter. He’ll be a little bit of all those things at a better than average level, and that will make him a well-balanced, productive player. He’ll stick at 2B. That opens up Gyorko for third.
Peralta will get injured. Or at least be achy enough that he won’t be producing. And I think that’s going to contribute to pressure to acquire a true power hitter in July. With the pieces on the board, I think the easiest piece to get with power is going to be a first baseman.
And that’s going to mean Carpenter at third base again.
I know the Cardinals have “committed” to Carpenter at 1B, but that commitment is only as good as their standings in August. A year ago, before the Cubs won, I would say the Cards would just let Gyorko play 3B and possibly pick up a replacement utility bench guy. Now, the stakes are higher. They can’t afford to take a gamble. They’ll trade for a sure thing – a “known quantity” – and it seems to be easier to find a first baseman on the market than it would be a third baseman.
So my answer is: Matt Carpenter…again…at third base.
For those worried about whether Mozeliak is willing to give up enough to make a trade, remember this: Sure, there’s the standard stuff (Cards need to identify a core player, need to respond to the Cubs last year, etc.), but one landscape changer behind the scenes is Alex Reyes. One of the roadblocks to putting together a deal last year and this offseason was clubs starting negotiations by demanding Reyes. That was, of course, a no-go that tended to stall negotiations early. But this year, Reyes’ surgery means he’s off the table. That could lead to more deals gaining enough traction and momentum to come together with other, more available prospects. Watch Alcantara’s progress in Springfield and possibly Memphis this year. He’s got the subtle media buzz and high end fastball that gets front offices talking, but he’s still raw enough and trying to harness enough control to be an enticing and moveable piece in a deal. And that prospect currency could mean the ability to grab a power hitter at first base and send Carpenter back across the diamond.
Bill,
Imagine KC trading Eric Hosmer to the Cardinals in that scenario…mmmmm….
They would have to get a haul to move him in state, but the World Series title has softened some of the Cardinal-hate among their fan base recently.
Jon (Redbird Dugout)
It will be interesting to see how Matheny uses the infield and how committed he truly is to keeping Carpenter at one position. I believe Carpenter is willing to play everywhere, but would really like to stay in one place and not be bouncing all over the infield on a nightly basis.
Adams and Gyorko will start the season on the bench. Both had intriguing seasons last year, but Gyorko’s is far more likely to be an outlier. I don’t think Gyorko will get anywhere near 30 home runs again. When it comes to Adams, I wish the Cardinals were committing to him at first base and using Carpenter at third this season. I think he’s got something to show, but I’m not sure that Adams will get enough of an opportunity to elbow his way into playing time except through injury.
The Cardinals are not going to make any trades for substantial improvements, so don’t hold your breath. They just don’t have the prospect firepower to do it, and what little they have is going to be needed over the next few years to ensure the Cardinals retain some form of relevance. Losing their picks to the Astros and being under an international signing penalty after blowing through the cap last year puts Mo in a box where the only real way to improve the team is free agency.
That said, I expect Peralta to remain relatively healthy and I expect him to have a good season with the bat. It would surprise me if he’s not still the regular third baseman on August 1st and throughout the season.
Unless the season just goes sideways in June, and then all bets are off.
Carly (KMOV)
As much as I would like to think that Mozeliak will make a big move at the trade deadline, we all know that it’s not likely to happen. If it does, then color me surprised.
With that being said, we have to look at those good ol’ internal options. Keep an eye on those minor league guys and just hope that they can stay consistent. Hope that they produce. Hope that they learn.
As far as our major leaguers go, I believe Carpenter will be back at third once August 1st hits. Peralta is a ticking injury time bomb right now – and he will most likely be hurt come August.
This is something that Mozeliak has to take into serious consideration. I asked him at the Warm-Up what his hopes were for Peralta. He said that his hopes where that he’s 100% and ready to perform. I’m sure most of us have those same hopes. Although, it is critical to take reality into consideration. Pick up a power-hitting third baseman that will be able to take the spot. If the Cardinals do this, then we don’t have to worry about moving Carpenter back over to third.
But keep an eye on Carpenter’s performance at first. Look at the details, see if he’s really performing to his full ability at first, and go from there. If he’s better off at third, then seek out a first baseman that will fill that roll at the trade deadline. I say this because I’m one of the people who think that Adams could potentially be traded.
I’m worried about Adams’ consistency and if he’s able to bounce back from last season. Sure, he lost a lot of weight and he’s in the best shape of his life (just like the rest of the players are……). Although, I believe it’s going to take a lot more than that.
Clearly this is a sensitive situation for the Cards right now. It’s going to be a very interesting season when it comes to seeing what Mozeliak does and how this team is managed.
Colin (Redbird Daily)
Who plays third base could depend on Matt Adams more than anything else. In the past, there have been stretches in which Adams has been very, very good. If the sleeker Adams can produce consistently, they’ll move Carpenter back to third. I don’t think Adams will hit at an All-Star level, but he doesn’t have to. If he’s better than Peralta and Gyorko, Carpenter should play third.
If it’s truly a binary choice between Gyorko and Peralta, my guess is they start the season with the best defender. After that, it will be decided by offensive need. I think Peralta is the best defender, and will hit well enough to hold onto the job. Gyorko will get enough at-bats around the infield to remain useful, but Peralta will be the every day third baseman on August 1st.
(Ed. Note – at this point we jump into more of the second part of the question and look at who may be brought in from outside the organization)
Josh (PH8)

Carly – I believe all of us will be surprised but maybe not in the way we expect. This question was worded in a way that left it open-ended come July. By the All-Star break, the pressure will be on the M&M’s (Mo and Matheny) to find a way back to October.

With that in mind, the Cards do look at options and find a willing team and a player familiar with the NL Central to hold down the clean-up spot. The follow-up question back to the group is would you only trade for Todd Frazier to keep the prospect haul lighter or go all-in for Jose Quintana as well?

Think of a package with Kelly, Bader, Alcantara, etc – does that move the needle enough? Frazier can thrive with so many on base and getting Quintana allows for other pitching pieces to be moved as well. What say you UCB?

Kevin (STL Cards ‘N Stuff)

I have an answer, but I don’t want to risk stepping on someone else’s question any more than my epicly long answer already did.  (Ed. Note – If we stole your question sorry but told Kevin to keep going!)
Daniel (C70 At The Bat)
As much as I’d love Quintana, the White Sox would be smart to wait and trade him after the season, if at all.  (I honestly don’t know why you trade a good, young, under contract pitcher, but that’s just me.) If the staff is struggling and that solves two problems, maybe Mo goes after it.  You’d probably have to add a couple of more names–Weaver, maybe, among others–to be in the ballpark of both guys, though.  Frazier, though, as a free agent at the end of ’17, would definitely be on the market and depending on his year and interest wouldn’t cost as much since he was a rental.
Kevin (STL Cards ‘N Stuff)
I just have to believe the only way Carson Kelly gets traded in any deal is if the Cardinals believe Yadi will be Yadi for the next five years…and I don’t see that happening. Kelly isn’t just valuable…he’s way to valuable to this specific organization to trade.
I like Frazier…but I have to believe a rental would not be the type of deal the Cards will want to go after considering the cost efficiency involved. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I believe now is the time to strike on a big trade, while Reyes is off the board.
Zach (Redbird Daily)
I don’t like any of the incumbent options at third base. I think Peralta has a chance to bounce back, but his contact quality last year was basically average or worse. While an offseason to heal his thumb injury might help, advancing in age another year will not.
That said, there are positive signs that Peralta is aging well. As players age, you might expect to see them start to cheat in the box. The result is more whiffs and more swings at balls outside the zone, which results in a lower walk rate and higher strikeout rate.
His swinging strike (or whiff) rate of 8.3% was below his career average of 10.4%, and his O-Swing%, of 27.2% was within 0.2% of his career average. Consequently, his K% was 17.9%, just below his career average. His BB% of 6.4% was down from his career rate of 8.3%, and has dropped every year since 2014. Additionally, while his O-Swing% was fine last year, it had been trending the wrong direction over the previous three seasons.
I’m not a fan of Gyorko as an everyday player. I don’t think he’s much more than an average hitter (his low OBP drags down his wRC+ despite his power), and I think he loses value if he isn’t used as a utility backup at potentially every infield spot. He’s an OK option, but he’s not the answer.
I’m with C70 in thinking the Cardinals will pursue Manny Machado (or Josh Donaldson), and covered how they can afford that move here. So, I think if they are in contention, they’ll look to the trade market for a guy under control through 2018.
I see Jean Segura of the Diamondbacks as an option, though he would move Aledmys Diaz to third base. That probably wouldn’t be a bad thing. Segura had a career offensive season in 2016. He would add speed and was an average defender at shortstop for the Brewers from 2013-15. If Diaz throwing arm holds up, he’d be a better third baseman than Peralta or Gyorko. I don’t think Diaz sticks at shortstop long term (I think he eventually ends up at 2B), especially if Delvin Perez develops, so this would just be a step in that direction.
Brian Dozier is also an option. I don’t see him replicating his 2016 power success – he went nuts in the second half, but in the first half he was the same hitter he’s always been. That’s not a knock: Dozier has been a pretty good hitter for a while. I think his performance slides a little bit, the Twins look to sell more aggressively, and the Cardinals are an obvious fit.
My prediction? Dozier. Segura would require too much creativity from Matheny, and pushing Diaz to a new position midseason might be a mistake.
(Ed. Note: Segura was traded to the Mariners this off season but is a guy who checks plenty of boxes for STL)
Josh (PH8)
We all realize how valuable it is to have Yadi’s eventual replacement in place, but I am curious the extension details once they are are released. Balancing the present and future is mighty difficult with Molina almost a 1st ballot HOF, especially with another 3-4 years.If that is the case, you risk prospect fatigue with Kelly and also have him on the 40-man wasting option years. Good problem to have, sure but best way to improve 3B for the future – get the best return for Bader, Kelly, and company now.
Adam (Redbird Daily)
The fan in me, like most of you, wants to see a trade to bring in someone like Dozier. The realist in me, however, say it will be Jhonny Peralta.
When looking at Peralta’s 2016 the most obvious thing that stands out is the thumb injury. I hear that mentioned often when talking about it but I do think it’s still being overlooked a bit. Essentially every example of a player I can find that had a ligament injury to the thumb struggled upon their return from the disabled list.
Maybe he is just aging poorly. Maybe he doesn’t have the ability to handle third base anymore. Both are reasonable concerns. But until we see either of those actually being the case I think we need to believe that a return to the 2015 version of Peralta is the most likely scenario.
If he fails the you could do a lot worse than Jedd Gyorko as his replacement.
I don’t believe Carpenter moving back to third will be a realistic option unless they trade for a first baseman which I don’t see happening. I’ve never believed that Matt Adams can be a consistent hitter and him getting in shape won’t change my mind on that. Until he can lay off the 55 foot breaking ball I will always have that mindset about him.
Josey (Viva El Birdos)
As much as I’d love to say Evan Longoria or Nolan Arenado, I’ll more reasonably state that Jhonny Peralta will be at third base come August.

I feel like Matt Adams will take on his 2013-type role, with a little more pinch-hitting and insertion in later innings. Assuming Kolten Wong is given his chances (and lives up to them), he’ll play second, to the right of Matt Carpenter at first base & left of Aledmys Diaz at shortstop.

Despite his unorthodoxly glorious 30 homers last year as he adopted a starting role down the stretch, I still feel Jedd Gyorko is better suited for more of a utility role. On top of that, Greg Garcia is the only other infield option.

Keep in mind Peralta’s a free agent at the end of the year. For a guy who, though he likely won’t re-sign, has done nothing but help this team, the least the Cardinals could do as a, say, parting gift, is allow Peralta to play daily to establish that he can still handle a full-time role. And as long as injuries remain at a minimum and if people can live up to their expectations (a big ‘if’, I’m aware) Peralta’s your guy at third base on April 2nd and August 1st.

Doug (Baseball Geek in Galveston)

I’m an off the wall guy, so I have an answer that makes no sense (that’s what makes baseball fun at times!) 😉

Keep Peralta where he is for now, but give Harrison Bader some reps at 3rd in AAA.
Grichuk, if he hits, is our LF (if he doesn’t, toss this answer out the window) we just spent a ton on Fowler for a while, and Piscotty is our RF for years to come, so where does that leave Bader? I think he has the talent to be more than a 4th OF, and at the very least, this’d increase his versatility.
Laura and Holly (STL CardGals)
I’m also somewhat concerned that Peralta will land on the DL again at some point this season. Unfortunately, even if these guys keep themselves in pristine condition through diet/training, etc., their age will eventually catch up with them, spawning increasing injury towards the end of their careers (i.e. Matt Holliday, 2016). If that does happen to Jhonny, I agree that placing Carpenter back at 3rd and Adams at 1st (in his case, the aggressive diet might be very effective, considering it’s tagged with his youth) makes the most sense to me.
And last but never least…
Kevin (STL Cards ‘N Stuff)
Just a side note: I wouldn’t put TOO much stock in Adams’ new physique. He comes into Winter Warm-Up every year to gasps and surprise at how much weight he’s lost. Seems to gain it back during the season.
Not saying he won’t keep it off this year, or that this weight loss is more dramatic than previous years, but just saying that he’s aggressively changed his body type multiple times before over the offseason.
Over 4200 words later this way by far the most fun Roundtable yet and just goes to show how much we have put 2016 in our rear view!

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Quintana Questions

Just when you think January will end without much to talk about, one article flips the script for all the wrong reasons. Granted any ‘news’ about the Cardinals helps get us closer to actual baseball, but it is true the silly season has turned into the wacky world after Chicago dominated both parts of the 2016 hardball calendar. I fully expected more from Cubs fans who may just be savoring the shiny new shirts that can finally replace the ones from the 80’s. This is not a slight on the Baby Bears either, as they are built to run towards another October in a steamroll fashion.

On the other side of the Windy City, however, much of the long winter was dominated by a White Sox club that retooled in the most glorious fashion. After months of speculation, both Chris Sale and Adam Eaton were traded to no one’s surprise. The real shock was in the return package on each and what that might signal going forward in the new CBA. Bill Ivie and I chatted yesterday and both feel St. Louis is primed to be very active on the trade front as well as in free agency the next two years.

That coincidence was before I had even heard about the story linked above, since Jose Quintana checks plenty of boxes for every contending team in the sport. It is only natural to speculate given that Chicago hardly has put to rest any of the discussion about their southpaw ace but the timing just seems off at least for the Birds on the Bat. Not only do the Cardinals have a full rotation at present, but they need the WBC just to find innings for a couple of other options. Acquiring a lefty starter to replace Garcia last month would have also required another move with Lance Lynn needing a spot, but that isn’t even the most head-scratching part of this.

Alex Reyes may be pushed back to start the season, and that in no way means he did anything to deserve a trip to Memphis. Carlos Martinez and Reyes form a dynamic duo that St. Louis can ride to the postseason for the next decade, but if Michael Wacha returns to form in March there is every reason to showcase him in April. The rookie phenom won’t be traded for Quintana or anyone else in 2017 or 2018, not when you are trying to catch the Cubs. Does taking Reyes out of the equation mean a deal between the two clubs is dead? That is the million(s) of dollars and years of control question that will have to be answered in any trade the next few years.

While the front office made the right move in sacrificing a first round pick to get Dexter Fowler, they can’t be in a hurry to clear up the 40-man roster crunch with one swift move. Because let’s be honest here, Quintana or any other game-changing target is going to cost much more in prospects than what the Cards should be willing to sacrifice in January. If this becomes a late June and into July question, though, feel free to mention how much the cost has risen between now and then. Giving up potentially 30+ years of control for even a top starting pitcher before any games have happened only adds to the concerns that one or more pitchers is not healthy.

Yes, the future is very bright in St. Louis but as many of us learned from the Brian Dozier non-news, other teams are going to continually try and use the Cardinals for leverage. Quintana may still end wearing the Birds on the Bat but personally, I am very much looking forward to this campaign and how some of that younger talent performs. There is always time to make moves during the dog days, and In Mo We Trust has never been needed more.

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Shopping Spring Sales

With most of the winter weather hopefully in the rear-view, it is officially time to start the baseball countdown. Pitchers and catchers report to Jupiter in less than a month with workouts in full gear before the WBC makes things interesting for the Cardinals more than most teams.  Before jumping into what might occur the next three weeks, read this Winter Warmup review for the latest happenings plus some chuckles.

St. Louis clearly has improved overall with returning healthy players in the pitching staff as well as the new Redbirds. That doesn’t mean the additions are finished, as Mo has already called for at least a lefty-hitting spare outfielder among other pieces. Bullpen arms are always a last-minute addition but those moves rarely move the needle unless you are talking a big trade which is unlikely. The biggest remaining pieces on the market closely resemble what everyone hopes Matt Adams could be, and that is one player who figures to get plenty of at-bats this March.

For anyone searching the clearance bin to find a Kyle Lohse Special, keep digging as the Cardinals still have a full 40-man roster. That does limit the possibilities unless a deal comes together quickly for the just the right piece but bargains have become harder to find. The pillow-contract angle actually would make sense if a first baseman was needed, so that can be scratched off the list as well. With all that being said, just what may be on the St. Louis shopping list t-minus 30 days and counting before the 2017 campaign begins.

The biggest priority has to be figuring who fits the outfield puzzle, and that is where the most attention will be down in Florida. It isn’t out of the question to say the only true roster spot up for grabs is who becomes the spare outfielder who hits from the left side. Adams even slimmed down will not be the answer, so that means another new Redbird should be joining Opening Day given the need. One intriguing name has to be Jordan Schafer if you look at the roster just the right way. Schafer could become Matheny’s swiss-army tool able to pitch or hit but how ready is the southpaw at the Major League level.

Schafer is a familiar name from his time with the Braves as an outfield prospect who was in the Texas League last year as a LOOGY. He has the inside track currently just because it doesn’t cost anything to see if he can make the club. How he is actually deployed around the beginning of March will be even more important because that will let everyone know if another move might be needed. Sam Fuld and a few of the other names out there have question marks as do nearly all the players still looking for teams. Personal favorite Brandon Moss won’t be back, but that was clearly part of the plan to get more athletic.

The 2017 season is right around the corner and honestly, I find myself looking forward to April more than any other season in recent memory. Enjoy the rest of Winter as we thaw out and get ready for Spring.

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Cupboard for Cards far from Empty

A funny thing happened on the way to Washington for the Winter Meetings. Most avid fans such as myself really thought that St. Louis was in the catbird seat to acquire an outfielder via the trade market. Things may have played out differently had Boston not overwhelmed the field and snatched a certain ace lefty (deja vu anyone?) away from the Nationals. Now as everyone knows, a deal isn’t official until Twitter announces it for at least the third time so counting chickens and all that only leads to more frustration and questions.

(On a side note it’s okay – you can admit that you were starting to question Mo given the last 12 months have been a struggle.)

By the middle of the Winter Meetings, it honestly felt like the Cardinals were the only team NOT to make a deal. Even the Baby Bears picked up a replacement closer when the rumor mill kicked into high gear. First it was the Adam Eaton dance followed very soon after by a possible Kansas City Shuffle (watched Lucky Number Slevin last night and highly recommend). Both of those options had positives but the real smoke before the fire happened when Colorado did the unexpected. Instead of looking at the Rockies as potential trade partners, the NL West afterthoughts gave Ian Desmond a truck full of money.

The fact that the Cardinals had been linked to Desmond and also the interest in Charlie Blackmon did two things to the Winter Meetings. One, it revealed the estimated cost of doing business and two, actual news was going to be moving slowly for St. Louis thanks to one very large commitment by the front office. Teams inquiring on potential deals were not asking for the present but the future and that was thankfully a non-starter. Then the real bombshell dropped and basically no one outside of a chosen few knew which way to go.

Washington quickly overcame finishing second in the Sale Sweepstakes and went right back to the same well in dealing what appeared to be a blow to a certain National League rival under the Arch. Eaton is a very nice player on a great contract – those two things became even more important with the new CBA and going forward with the penalties for going over the luxury tax. With that being said, the prospect price made everyone scratch their heads as the White Sox pulled off the deal of the year for sure and possibly one that sets the bar for position players going into the next decade.

To properly put it into perspective, the Cardinals would have MAYBE had a shot at Eaton had they been willing to offer Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, and Carson Kelly since the catcher was said to be high on Chicago’s wish list. Let that sink in for a bit just to see how devastating that would be in say…2018. Not to mention both Weaver and Kelly were just named the St. Louis Minor League Players of the Year, but that deal could not have worked out well any way you look at it. Hey, good on the Nats for doing what they can to persuade potential $400 mill man Harper that the grass isn’t always greener.

The Cardinals can hardly afford to trade arguably the three most important prospects that will factor in for the next 4-5 years. The Fowler signing didn’t really block anybody given there was a need and the loss of one draft pick is minimal at best compared to the acquisition cost of any of the options on the board. Bravo once again to the management team as well as the owners for realizing the best plan of attack was the one of least resistance. Now Memphis will be the place for reinforcements instead of question marks, and that makes the Preacher look forward to April all the more.

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While the 40-man roster is currently full, there will be at the very least one more change sometime between now and March. The Cardinals have stated that Carson Kelly will continue to see everyday work in Memphis which opens up a spot on the Opening Day roster for what should resemble the back-up catcher. 2016 ended as most campaigns do for the St. Louis catching carousel and honestly, does anyone think next season will be any different?

It will take plenty of time to figure out just how long Yadier Molina plans on holding down the fort behind home plate, and I am not going to be the one who pushes him towards the dugout. Molina has more than earned another contract in my opinion, but those discussions will surely come up in Spring Training between the front office and agent. There are two schools of thought on how best to fill the 25th roster spot for the Cardinals, but it will be a short-term fix no matter what. Could Kelly handle starting once a week and soaking up as much knowledge as possible? The obvious answer is sure – he kind of did that in September, right.

Instead it makes all the sense in the world to have the Memphis staff get even more familiar with Kelly, who has progressed faster than expected and will see many of those young hurlers before too long under the Arch. That means there will be either a reunion with a former Cardinal (see Fryer, Eric) or door #2 which is how I hope Mo fills the spot. Molina can serve as the back-up to Matt Carpenter at first base or just take some pressure off his knees while keeping the second catcher more involved. There will be plenty of opportunities to keep that .300 bat in the lineup plus provide a clearer picture of how Kelly fits in starting in 2018.

Molina and his agent surely have discussed how he wants to finish his career and can look at how Albert Pujols endures yet another rehab in hopes of extending his playing days. In order to catch the Cubs, St. Louis must upgrade the entire roster and that starts with the spot most fans would prefer not to see playing. That philosophy has worked for the last couple of decades but must be revamped when you look at the most recent World Series. Chicago utilized three catchers while Cleveland relied on a little known back-up all throughout October.

Giving Molina more starts at first base or DH on AL road trips also opens up more playing time for a catcher who normally wouldn’t think about signing with the Cardinals. It will definitely not be a timeshare situation but with plenty of quality catching options on the market, that is something to watch over the next month. Enjoy the holidays everyone as St. Louis finished their shopping early but that doesn’t mean a last-minute deal may show up under the tree.

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Cardinals Changing Their Stripes

A few years back, the biggest shock in any off-season I can recall was the announcement that there was now going to be more than just the Birds on the Bat for the front of the jersey. And while the St. Louis for Saturday home games might feel gimmicky to some, the reality is the Cardinals no longer have an advantage over the rest of baseball. Today’s announcement (nothing official just yet) puts the team under the Arch squarely in the middle of an arms’ race with more than a few bats thrown in for good measure.

Gone are the days of ‘hometown discounts’ and wanting to perform in front of a packed house every night. Baseball prints money now so it makes perfect sense for David Price and Jason Heyward to follow the dollar signs to bigger markets. Today the entire management team for the Cards should be applauded for getting Dexter Fowler because going forward everyone is on a level playing field. That’s not to say Carlos Martinez will sign a deal in the next few months that is perceived to be team-friendly but if he does, good on the player and team for having mutual interest.

What I hope beyond hope happens going forward, though, are that the two most recent signings put St. Louis in a better place going into the NEXT two Winters. Everyone agreed that this free agent class may have been the weakest in recent memory which also coincided with some of the wildest trade scenarios possible. Whether or not a play for Tara’s pick (see Blackmon, Charlie) was truly an option is a post for another day as one thing is for certain – the Cardinals were tired of being used as leverage and finishing second.

Celebrate today for what it means moving forward, especially as the build-up left a bitter taste after watching the Cubs and Nats get stronger. They chose to deal away prospects and will have to make more moves to counter the dreaded luxury tax that someday might even come into play for the DeWitt family. Yes I will have less to do come May and June since today also marks the biggest change in strategy to date. Mo sacrificed a first-round pick to make the big league club stronger, and that should be applauded in my opinion.

We have been spoiled the past two decades with some amazing teams and more importantly, future Cardinal Hall-of-Famers. Instead of worrying about a prospect who may or may not matter in five years, let’s give Molina and Wainwright the proper send off to their historic careers. Fowler was the right fit at the right time but make no mistake about it – the price will be higher than anyone predicted. Starting with the Mike Leake contract last December, St. Louis found out that history is great but the present requires more than red jackets or Ballpark Village.

For those of us who anxiously await the start of the season from the final out, the future is brighter today than it was yesterday. And no matter how you feel about the player, that is a cause to be happy this brisk Winter morning.

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Wow, times they are a changing. Building from with-in has turned into a novelty, and all Cardinals fans should prepare for an interesting 24 hours. The fun began early this morning when the St. Louis front office made the big league club better and proved how much Harrison Bader has put himself on the map.

Charlie Tilson grew up in Chicago and may be returning very soon as he was dealt to the White Sox for LHP Zach Duke. This deal is a great move for both sides in my opinion, not unlike the move last summer for Brandon Moss. Duke comes with a year of control and extensive experience in the NL Central. The former Pirate phenom has donned the Cincy uniform as well as turned he career around while a member of the Brew Crew bullpen.

Tilson, on the other hand, was added to the 40-man roster last Winter but honestly needed this move to have a real chance at making his dent in the majors. He wasn’t having a bad season for Memphis but the depth chart was full ahead of him with Bader storming the gate. Would things have turned out differently had Tilson not lost a year due to injury? Well some things we will never know but wish him luck moving to the AL Central.

Duke can be used in a number of ways, and this might be the only deal made by the Cardinals. Bullpen help was a must, and now there are a trio of lefties Matheny can use to get past the Cubs. Of course since there is plenty more time left before tomorrow’s trade deadline, check back as the fireworks are far from over!

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Matching Up For the Millers

Welcome to the Silly Season! Now that my favorite part of the season has passed (Draft) followed by an extremely eventful July 2nd (International Signing) period, it only makes sense to dive right in for my first post of 2016. The timing is right to re-introduce myself just as the craziest part of the calendar takes place over the entire weekend.

As far as those in St. Louis are concerned, the annual Trade Deadline should just be changed to Relievers ‘R Us until the middle of August. It has turned into a yearly tradition for the Cardinals that will continue sometime in the next 72 hours. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, however, the safest method is to go with what has worked in the past.

Let the Cubs get all press for making the splashy moves while the Dodgers and Nationals fight for the scraps. History has proven that while some trades (Holliday) pay off immediately, the cost of those deals can set an organization back years in the depth department. Look down the I-70 if you need proof at what may be happening very soon in Kansas City. The Royals went all-in last July with a couple of high profile deals that certainly paid off in the short-term.

Fast forward 12 months, though, and the defending champs are mired in next-to-last place nearly ten games back of the surging Indians. While no pitchers from Cleveland or KC figure to make the trek towards the Arch this summer, the lack of depth for the Royals has turned them into potential sellers. That is eye-opening given the talent on their big league roster but not very shocking when you factor in how much top-level depth matters in today’s game.

What all of that means in the NL Central race should be fairly obvious at this point. The St. Louis front office won’t mortgage the farm unless Mike Trout suddenly wants to be a Cardinal. As great as that would be, it isn’t happening this summer or any other one for that matter because the prospect cost would cripple what has quietly become a strength again. Don’t look now but all the new additions this summer have changed the dynamic of just how stacked the prospects are from Memphis down to Johnson City.

MLB recently released their updated Top 30 lists and one familiar name hasn’t changed. Alex Reyes won’t be trading in his Redbirds uniform just yet, but when he does it will be for the Birds on the Bat and not anything else such as pinstripes. Andrew Miller has become the latest can’t-miss closer with rumors spreading to any team with a winning record. Just for the sake of speculation, St. Louis has been grouped in most likely due to the fact that Reyes has positioned himself as one of the finest prospects in all of baseball.

Listen, my fandom has never been questioned but under no circumstances should Reyes or Luke Weaver be sent to another organization for a relief pitcher. As important as it is to get the bullpen figured out, the future rotation trumps all other needs. Way back in March, the lack of depth behind the starters was a hot topic that has all but disappeared thanks to health and more than a little luck. Instead of stressing about which new hurler will be joining the Cardinals in the near future, it is time to think about adding one from the recent past.

Struggling to adapt to his surroundings would be the ultimate cop-out for Shelby Miller, who is just as likely to change teams as Andrew for much different reasons. As much as Reyes has become the next great St. Louis starter, it wasn’t long ago that Shelby had fulfilled some of that same promise. Everyone knows about the deal that sent him to Atlanta, but the Braves maximized his value by shipping him out West. Arizona was familiar with Miller thanks to Dave Duncan and Tony LaRussa, but they never could have expected the struggles that have caused a demotion and questions about his future.

The interesting part then becomes how do you value Shelby moving forward. Daniel and I had a discussion earlier today about fit so I wanted to see how Miller has reacted in his return to the PCL. And to put it mildly, I see a number of ways that Shelby could help the Cardinals not only this year but for many more seasons. His stuff is still overpowering, so why not see if Shelby could help bridge the gap to Oh. He also could help release Tyler Lyons for more regular work by taking over the long-man role.

Would it be a risk? Honestly you can say that about any deal made the next two days or two years. As far as this pitcher is concerned, however, St. Louis already knows what they are getting and with many years of control at the same time. I still wouldn’t deal Reyes, Weaver, or Harrison Bader given the fact that Miller no longer appears to be a number one or two starter. But instead of selling the future for a 31-year old reliever, how about a hurler who doesn’t turn 26 until October.

Chances are both Andrew and Shelby won’t have to forward their mail until at least 2017 but anything can happen as the Wacky Weekend is about to commence!

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UCB September Project: Super 7 + 1

By far the best time of the year for baseball, the next month never gets boring in my opinion. It does help that the Cardinals are probably the most hated club in the game, but that will happen when you make playing in October a yearly party. The biggest reason for the continued St. Louis success has been the continued development of one of the best farm systems in baseball.

Look no further than the 2015 campaign with the contributions of a number of rookies who have graduated from the minors into being mid-season saviors as the injury parade continued on under the arch. It is also true that this year’s Super 7 list could very well be the first to not feature a single player who will contribute in next calendar season. And you know what, I’m completely okay with that as the organization continues to reload.

Everyone has an idea of what counts as a prospect to them, but I use a unique approach as the Preacher. Any player who has already made an appearance wearing the Birds on the Bat is ineligible for my list, so this month’s UCB project is all about the future. It wasn’t as hard as expected to piece my seven names together, and I’m willing to bet most of the below players will show up in one way or another on the majority of any prospect lists.

That’s also why I give one bonus prospect who I fully expect to land in the Top 7 when we revisit this in another year. One thing is for certain, however, as the Cardinals continue searching for the hidden gems of the draft and all over the world. It may not matter where St. Louis finds the talent, because the system just keeps on producing.

Alexander Reyes slots at number one on every list, and he won’t be a disappointment if 2016 is spent mowing down the competition as the Memphis ace. Reyes could also serve an apprenticeship in the bullpen first since triple-digit readings on the radar gun work at any level. I was lucky enough to catch the RHP in person, and I was impressed with the poise of the young flamethrower. He is as close to untouchable as there is in the organization and will be fun to watch for years to come.

This is where things get more fun, though, as there is no wrong answer to this list. After the initial two months to the season, Magneuris Sierra was not having nearly as good a time as Jack Flaherty in Peoria. The Cardinals were aggressive in sending the reigning prospect of the year to full-season ball, and Sierra was quite frankly not ready. He rebounded quite nicely in Johnson City to place second on my list as well as fourth for Baseball America.

Sierra needed a hurdle to climb, and his trip back to Peoria next year should include a familiar face from the Appalachian League top-10 list. Edmundo Sosa continues to impress, and the shortstop gets high marks in the field as well as at the plate. He certainly could be in the discussion for best position player with a strong 2017, and he looks firmly entrenched in the top five.

Flaherty and another RHP will always be linked together in more ways than just my top five. Luke Weaver is only behind his fellow 2014 first-round pick due to age. Flaherty dominated the Midwest League and very well could have used a call-up to replace Weaver had the Texas League came calling. There is still plenty of time for the pair to share a rotation, as both front line starters will be highlighted with honors in the very near future.

Weaver left nothing to prove for Palm Beach and only a late start to his season prevented a promotion to Springfield. There he would have had the luxury of the next wave of stellar outfielder at his disposal. Charlie Tilson probably rates as the most underrated player in the system, and he also has the best chance on this list of spending all of next year at the highest level. Tilson missed a crucial season of development due to injury but has not let it stop him upon returning.

Kolten Wong may be the most remembered pick from the 2011 Draft, but I would argue Tilson should not be forgotten. He doesn’t turn 23 until December and crushed the always tough Texas League to the tune of 0ver 200 total bases and a whopping 46 steals. While no fault of his own, the current outfield depth makes a strong season at Memphis a priority for the Illinois native. He also presents the best-case scenario for the third center fielder on the list and the one most likely to be given plenty of time to develop.

Nick Plummer was a surprise choice for St. Louis in this year’s June draft, but he also represents what the Cardinals needed the most. Pitching has been a strength of the organization that has carried the major league club all year, but the lack of offense should be the bigger story. Injuries to position players are harder to overcome, and it was imperative that depth was added without having to break the bank since that will be coming soon enough.

Plummer and my bonus pick, Bryce Denton, are the first test subjects if you will of the new approach that is certain to be used going forward. The only way you can counter 100 on the gun is with the quickness at the plate that players such as Randall Grichuk have shown. Plummer and Denton possess the same skill set even if the results take a few years to witness the evolution. Any way you look at it, the next 5-10 seasons will need contributions from everyone on this list for the Birds on the Bat to remain atop their perch in the National League Central.

1. Reyes, RHP Springfield

2. Sierra, OF Johnson City

3. Flaherty, RHP Peoria

4. Sosa, SS Johnson City

5. Weaver, RHP Palm Beach

6. Tilson, OF Springfield

7. Plummer, OF GCL Cardinals

Bonus — Denton, 3B GCL Cards

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Garcia Gets a Look

To make room on the active roster for newcomer Brandon Moss, Matt Holliday has been put on the 15-day DL. Greg Garcia was also recalled to add depth as Dan Johnson’s tenure with the Cardinals appears to be over. The veteran 1B was DFA to open up a spot on the St. Louis 40-man roster.

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