C70 At The Bat

Thursday night, the Cardinals ended an–well, tumultuous seems a bit strong, as does controversial, so let’s go with unpredictable–era by sending Jaime Garcia to the Atlanta Braves for three prospects.  Somewhat interestingly, the Cardinals also got out completely from under the $12 million Garcia is owed next season.  A tenure marked with some brilliance but with a lot of frustration came to a close.

As Meet Me At Musial listeners know, I always defer to my friend John Nagel when it comes to prospect evaluation.  John’s not overly excited about the return for Garcia, but there is some value there.  The way I see these guys, the Cardinals lost a lot of Memphis-shuttle pitchers this year, with Tim Cooney being picked up by Cleveland and Marco Gonzales out of options.  They needed some guys that could come up and contribute, albeit in a limited way, if a starter went down or a bullpen arm was needed.  John Gant (who I will for a long time confuse with former Cardinal farmhand John Gast) actually faced the Cardinals twice in the April series against the two clubs last season, though with not really any success (two innings, five hits, four runs).  He’ll probably be the first guy up, since he replaced Garcia on the 40-man roster.

With the 40-man pretty full, getting a guy like Chris Ellis also has some value, because he’s an insurance piece that doesn’t take up much room.  Once the season gets going, Tyler Lyons will move to the 60-day DL and temporarily free up a spot if they ever needed to promote Ellis, but having a guy in Memphis who is still young enough to have some upside is a nice thing to have in case it all goes south.  You’d hate to rely on him to save a season, but he could plug a hole for a week or two if necessary.

As for Luke Dykstra, it would seem he’s more in the “lottery ticket” vein.  He’s had a little success in the lower ranks and maybe he could turn into something that eventually would be helpful at the big league level.  That help isn’t likely to include power, but if he can be that leadoff-type guy (which would require a lot more discipline to take some walks), there could be something there.  He’s a long way off and maybe the organization thinks they can tinker and get more out of him.  That could go for the two pitchers as well.

Garcia’s time in St. Louis is likely to be remembered by fans for his head-case reputation (deserved or not) and some significant playoff failures, but when he was on he was one of the best lefties to come through the Gateway City in quite some time.  It’s indicative of his inconsistency that he was nominated for two Games of the Year on the Cardinal Blogger Award ballot while having his worst full-season ERA of his career.  Garcia was outstanding in his real rookie season of 2010, coming in third in the ROY voting with a 2.70 ERA and 13 wins. He never quite reached those heights again, though his 2015 season, only slightly marred by injury, might argue with that statement.

Back in 2010, Nick (my co-founder here at the Conclave) had a great campaign going with his push for Garcia to be on the roster.  (I still regret never getting a Honkin’ for Jaime shirt.)  Garcia rewarded Nick’s insight that season and always tantalized folks with his talent (something he seemed to often get the most out of facing the Brewers).  There’s no-hit stuff with Jaime, but there’s also a lot more games of four or five runs early or a deflating loss after a good run.  Garcia’s time in St. Louis had probably run its course, especially with his relationship with the front office occasionally being on edge, but we wish him well in Atlanta (for however long he may stay there).

That wasn’t the only news of the weekend, though.  In a bit of a surprise to me, the club non-tendered reliever Seth Maness.  I didn’t know until I saw Derrick Goold mention it in a tweet that Maness didn’t have Tommy John surgery but a less involved elbow surgery.  Given my discussion with Davis Ward, I kinda expected they’d stick with Maness, but the limited 40-man flexibility probably spelled his doom.  (I still am surprised Jose Martinez hasn’t been cut, given the room that the seem to need.)  We talked about it in the Exit Interview, but Maness had a pretty good run after his first DL stint last year.  It wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s got a new team fairly shortly, one that could have the luxury of letting him get better to hopefully provide dividends.

Matt Holliday already knows his new team, the New York Yankees.  Holliday will be $3 million poorer than he could have been if the Cardinals exercised his option but still got a pretty solid “make good” contract.  I still think the Cardinals probably should have kept Holliday on the option to see if he bounced back, but there’s no doubt that an AL team with the DH makes a lot of sense for him.  The Cardinals go to New York in April, so it won’t be long before we get an up close and personal look at him in pinstripes.  That’s going to feel pretty weird, isn’t it?

According to Mark Saxon, the ESPN writer that covers the Cardinals, his sources tell him that the Cards are planning one major free agent signing and one major trade in the next week or so, giving the team a new look and feel before the holidays.  We’ll see if that happens–I’d believe the signing is more likely to happen as trades can flake out at the last minute.  If the club is doing both, it would seem that the signing would not be Dexter Fowler, because I don’t know what you trade for if you aren’t getting a center fielder.  However, the only other “major” signing would seem to be Justin Turner, whom the Cards may or may not have interest in, depending on who you believe.  I hope that the Cards make a splash in some regard, if only to make it easier to come up with a blog post!

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Talking With John Mozeliak

For the third straight year, John Mozeliak has been gracious enough to answer some submitted questions from the members of the United Cardinal Bloggers.  We throw a variety of questions at him and he answers a select few.  This year, 11 bloggers participated and fired a total of 47 questions of varying subject matter at the general manager.  Mo answered a little over 60% of them and the bloggers and podcasters that asked the questions will be publishing those answers over the next week or two, so keep on a lookout for those.

This year, Mozeliak answered three of the six questions I submitted.  He passed on the strangeness of this October, whether the Cubs success spurs moves more than any other team, and how comfortable the organization is with their Cuban scouting.  Here are the questions he did tackle.  Please note that we started compiling these questions in early November, so a few things may have changed between when we asked them and when he answered them today.

C70: Is there an expectation inside the industry that the qualifying offer mechanism will be modified or eliminated in the upcoming CBA? How have those negotiations affected this winter’s market?

Mo: Yes, the details are still coming out. It was something important to the players, but nothing will change this off-season. It will change post 2017 season.

C70: Does the fact that some upcoming free agent classes appear to be so deep impact how you approach this offseason?

Mo: Yes, we want to be aware of future free agent classes. In terms of how we address 2017 versus our long-term strategy is something we debate, and we understand the free agent class helps answer that. Our focus is to improve the upcoming year, and we think there are solutions out there.

C70: What’s the funniest trade suggestion you’ve ever read from a fan or writer? Also, if you read blogs, are you occasionally tempted to comment pointing out just how far off base the writer is?

Mo: The funniest trade discussions probably are ones for example that center around someone like Mike Trout. It’s just unrealistic and puts a smile on your face, but it’s not going to happen. Really there are times where it’s just so crazy it’s almost insane – so you just move on.

In terms of responding: the answer is yes, but I remind myself it’s not prudent and show restraint.

As always, I’m appreciative of Mo’s time with us both here and at the Blogger Day the Cards have hosted over the past few years.  There’s nothing in his job description that says he has to acknowledge this obsessive section of the fanbase, but he does it and seems to enjoy it.  The answers this year aren’t very in depth, though again that is partly a function of how many he had to answer, but let’s look at them anyway.

Of course, we’re hearing a lot today about the collective bargaining agreement that the players and owners agreed to last night, even if all the details haven’t seemed to be hammered out.  There won’t be a first round pick attached to free agents in the coming years, which should make for a little more activity on the free agent market.  On the flip side, that probably also means fewer players will be extended a qualifying offer, because the only way that it made sense often was that the player would decline and the team would get a nice top pick.

The lack of a first round pick will be big in the next couple of years as some deep free agent classes are scheduled to hit the market.  Mo could have probably bought himself a little cover with the “why aren’t they spending” crowd if he said that the plan was to be aggressive in years where there were actual top talents available.  It’s not surprising that he wouldn’t want to commit to that in writing, of course, but I know that some folks would feel a little better if they knew it was the quality of players available that was keeping them quiet, not a lack of desire to spend.

And in case you were wondering, we can officially shut down any Mike Trout rumors.  Unless that’s what Mo wants us to think……  The amount of restraint to resist commenting on some Twitter or blog projected trade has to be immense, especially when you think it’s crazy.  (Though I do wonder if any GM has ever been inspired by reading a blog trade to at least explore it.)

Again, keep an eye out for some of the other questions and answers that turned out much better than mine!

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It’s Thanksgiving Day, and I hope that you are somewhere with family, looking forward to a enjoyable meal and all the warmth the holiday can bring.  I’ll be heading out to my parents soon for turkey, cranberry sauce, and all the wonderful side dishes that we have as a tradition.  What’s also a tradition, at least around this blog, is to review some things that we as Cardinal fans should be thankful for at this time of year.  So if you make a list, or if you get put on the spot during some pre-meal discussion, here are a few items for which to give thanks.  (There may be repetition from prior year lists, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthy.)

–The history of the organization.  Yes, we’ve seen the Cubs break a curse this year, and that’s still somewhat painful, but we can be thankful that it doesn’t take 108 years between Cardinal titles.  They’ve won three times in my lifetime with four other trips to the World Series tossed in for good measure.  We have luminaries like Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock that have worn the birds on the bat.  You can make a starting nine out of Cardinal players that are in the Hall of Fame, it feels like.  The history of this club is as rich as any outside of the New York pinstripes and that’s a great thing to be a fan of.

–While some may gripe at their spending habits or their cautious approach to things, Cardinal fans are blessed to have this kind of ownership and front office.  The Cardinals’ 2016 Opening Day salaries were significantly larger than teams from New York and Chicago.  The market size for the club is well on the small side in relation to the rest of MLB, but you wouldn’t know it by the way they put their money into the club.  Could they do more?  Could they do it differently?  Perhaps, and that’s a fair argument.  However, I’d rather discuss how they spend rather than if they are going to spend at all, as you have to do with so many owners around the league.  Also, John Mozeliak’s approach to things has seen the Cardinals in the postseason much more often than they’ve been sitting at home in October and we’ve only seen sub-.500 baseball once in his tenure.  The Cardinals go into every day with a good chance to win that night’s ballgame and that’s in large part to the folks at the top.

–We should also be thankful we got to see Matt Holliday play in St. Louis as well as being grateful for that last weekend under the Arch.  Holliday arrived in the shadow of Albert Pujols and then played second fiddle to folks like Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, but there’s no doubt he was one of the rare folks to get a long-term, big-money contract and live up to it.  He was a pillar of production as well as a great person to have in the community.  We should definitely be appreciative of the time he spent here and what he meant to the organization.

–There are two faces left from the most recent core three and I think everyone is thankful that Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina ply their trade in Cardinal red.  Besides the fact that both of them have been overall some of the greatest performers in the league, much less on the team, both have done incredible things off the field, whether it’s Wainwright’s Big League Impact or Yadi’s M4 clothing line to raise money for various charitable needs.  If the public face is any indication, these are two incredibly fine human beings and it’s great to claim them as ours.

–It may not have led to the most fulfilling season, but it was kinda neat to see all the homers this year, wasn’t it?  It wasn’t typical Cardinal baseball, but we should be thankful that we got one of those crazy seasons where the ball continually left the yard.  It seems less likely that it’s going to happen going forward, so enjoy those memories.

–Give thanks also that The Final Boss was more than just a catchy nickname.  Seung-hwan Oh rescued the bullpen after the implosion of Trevor Rosenthal and without that, who knows how miserable 2016 would have been?  (I mean, it’s been a rough year all the way around it seems, but that would have been even worse.)

–Also, we should be thankful for the young, upcoming generation.  Alex Reyes leads that, of course, but you have folks like Luke Weaver and Harrison Bader that should provide some great moments as well as folks like Stephen Piscotty and (hopefully) Randal Grichuk and Kolten Wong that are more established but are still fairly new in their major league career.  We heard a lot about the “aging core” and there was some truth there, but the next core might be closer than folks think.

–We’re fans of a team that draws huge ratings every day on TV, so much so that there’s a billion dollar contract coming.  Of a team that has consistently won over the past two decades.  Of a team that has limited public miscues out of its players.  Of a team that is seen as one of the crown jewels of baseball.  How can you not be thankful for all of that?

On a personal note, besides health, family, and the like, I’m thankful for all the folks that I’ve met blogging over the past nine-plus years.  I appreciate those that read here on a regular basis as well as listen to the various podcasts and I’m honored when I hear kind words about my output.  I hope that you will continue to stick with me going forward and that you have an exceptionally great Thanksgiving!

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Cecil B. De 30 Mil

The Cardinals announced their first real transaction of the offseason yesterday, making official Brett Cecil’s four-year, $30.5 million deal with the club.  Cecil, who will turn 31 midway through the season, was recently a Toronto Blue Jay, so he’s learned his trade in the tough (at least for pitchers) AL East.  The Cards also gave him a no-trade clause and designated Brayan Pena for assignment.

Now that we’ve got the facts out of the way, it’s time for opinion.  My colleague Doug has already weighed in on this matter, but I think I’m a little more optimistic than he is about it.  I will say that my first reaction to the deal was that four years seemed a long time for a reliever, given the vagaries of the group due to limited sample sizes.  That said, the longer deal makes sense when that was the thing that brought Cecil into the fold, topping the other offers that he currently had on the table.  I don’t think it’s a terrible thing, but especially not as an incentive.  At the very worst, the club could cut him the last year of the contract and eat the $7 million or so.  That money isn’t a huge factor to the club now and will be even less so when the TV contract kicks in for 2018.

Plus, given the history the Cardinals have had recently with relievers and multi-year deals, this hopefully means you can get at least two full years out of Cecil.  It seems like all the recent two-year deals have been wiped out by injury so if something happens to Cecil (which we hope it doesn’t, though he did have a muscle strain last year that sent him to the DL for a few weeks), at least there’s a chance to get more than a month of work out of him (hello, Jordan Walden!).

The money is nothing.  As Fangraphs noted, this is not really out of line with what Darren O’Day got last offseason.  You know that line in Field of Dreams, “for it’s money they have, and peace they lack?”  That’s pretty much the Cardinals.  Finances are not going to be an issue if they can 1) find a free agent that fits their needs and 2) that player wants to join them after seeing the contract.  I’m not saying they are going to throw money around all willy-nilly, but if they feel they have to have a player, their comfort level with larger sums is going to be fine.

I wouldn’t be all that concerned with the no-trade clause either.  If the Cardinals are going to contend over the next four years, the likelihood is either Cecil is going to be a key part of that.  If they don’t, it’s possibly because Cecil has underperformed and, as such, wouldn’t be worth much on the trade market either.  If there does come up a situation where the Cards want to trade him, no-trade clauses can often be bought out.  I can’t blame the guy for asking for one and it is interesting that a club that had been reluctant to give those out now has done so in back-to-back offseasons, with the first being Mike Leake.  We’ll see if this is a change in organizational strategy or just what they needed to do in individual cases.

Is his performance worth the target the Cardinals put on him?  It seems to be.  I’ve not watched Cecil pitch, as far as I know, but the highlights seem to show that he’s definitely got strong stuff.  I texted a friend of mine who is a Blue Jays fan and he said he always like Cecil, which is a pretty strong recommendation to me.  His numbers from last year overall look a bit pedestrian, but after he returned from the muscle strain he put up a 3.42 ERA and batters had a .222/.267/.394 line against him while he struck out 36 in 26.1 innings.  Those numbers improved as he got back into his rhythm, as he had a 1.04 ERA in his last 8.2 innings, striking out 14 and allowing just five hits.

The three years before last year all look great on the stat lines as well.  He even made the All-Star Game in 2013 as a reliever, which isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish.  He’s got postseason experience and done well there also.  All in all, this looks like a great addition to the back of the bullpen and it gives it a chance to be that hammer that we thought it was going to be last year with Walden, Seung-hwan Oh, Kevin Siegrist, and Trevor Rosenthal.  Now, if Rosenthal can be more in line with his past and not his 2016, you have Cecil, Rosenthal, and Siegrist that can come in at basically any time and in any order, with Oh nailing down the ninth.  While these guys can’t play every day–and the biggest issue with this flexibility is going to be seeing how Mike Matheny uses it–a late inning lead should be pretty safe, especially if the starters can get into the sixth and seventh more often than they did last season.

While bullpen additions (save closers) aren’t usually that exciting and headline-making, this looks like a good move on the part of John Mozeliak to shore up what wasn’t exactly a weakness last year but could have used a little tinkering, especially with the loss of Tyler Lyons for much of the year.  There should be–SHOULD BE–a lot less knotted stomachs and heart palpitations in the late innings in 2017.

As for the removal of Brayan Pena from the 40-man, that’s a pretty interesting move in itself.  The key is going to be whether Pena elects to become a free agent after clearing waivers.  If not, my guess is they came to Pena, told them what they wanted to do, and said they’d add him back to the 40-man in March when they could move people like Seth Maness, Zach Duke, and Lyons to the 60-day DL and free up some 40-man spots.  Given that the Cardinals have indicated that they still want Carson Kelly to get regular time in Memphis this year, this seems to be the most likely scenario.  It would be strange if they signed a veteran backup in March when they could have kept Pena and ditched someone like Jose Martinez (who the club really must like to have continued carrying him on this 40-man).  I’m often wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Pena decided to stay in the organization.

Mozeliak has addressed one of his major issues.  Now he can look to fixing the outfield, which is likely to create a bit more of a splash, at least in chatter, than Cecil, whatever it may be.  Seems like it’ll be an after Thanksgiving move, though, so hope you enjoy your turkey as you speculate!

 

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Exit Interview: The Index

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been taking a look at every player that was on the St. Louis Cardinals roster this season, plus the manager and the general manager.  That’s a lot of posts, so here is your handy-dandy index to all of them, in case you missed someone or want to reread one that you caught the first time.  This series always gets a lot of response and I appreciate all of you who have told me how much you enjoy it!  Also, be sure to check out all the various podcasts that got a shout-out throughout the series!

STL CardGals
Double Birds Podcast
Viva El Birdos Podcast
Talking About Birds
Cubs Cards Cast
Two Birds on a Bat

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Exit Interview: John Mozeliak

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s (or, in this case, Bill DeWitt’s) office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is STL CardGals.  Laura and Holly recap most every series and usually bring a very positive approach to whatever is going on with the Birds.  Find them on iTunes and check out their website for some totally biased baseball.

GM: John Mozeliak

Overall grade: B-

Positives: Was able to shore up the bullpen at the trading deadline without a major shakeup, getting Zach Duke for Charlie Tilson….modified the plan on Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver and got them to the majors before many expected them….didn’t sell the farm for a quixotic run at the Cubs, instead stuck to the general plan that has been fairly successful.

Negatives: “Came in second” is now the new Cardinal meme after falling short on David Price and Jason Heyward….seemingly overcorrected for missing Price by signing Mike Leake for five years….saw the two-year extension handed to Jordan Walden become completely a waste when Walden was again hurt all year.

Overview: For the most part, #InMoWeTrust still works as a mantra.  There’s still faith that there’s a long-term plan and that the moves that are made are careful, calculated, and in service to that plan.  The Cardinals did miss the playoffs for the first time in five years, but there aren’t many teams that can say they’ve been to the playoffs five straight years, even with the wild card(s).  Things could be a whole lot worse.

Unfortunately, sober and calculated maneuvering, while intelligent and successful in the long term, don’t exactly make for a whole lot of excitement.  The pursuits of Price and Heyward were about the most you could hope for with this club.  A run at Chris Sale?  It’d be nice, but does anyone think they’d actually do it?  Making a run at Bryce Harper when he’s a free agent in a couple of years?  Don’t hold your breath.  Look at this past trading deadline, for instance.  While the Duke move was a smart move and a good move, it didn’t exactly move the needle when it came to excitement.

The grumblings for the club to “do something” get louder when they have an October to gain purchase.  Mozeliak is not likely to take much heed of those speaking online, but the fact that the club attracted less than 40,000 to some games at the very end of the season for the first time in years will have him taking notice.  Ultimately, you don’t want Mo to sacrifice what’s been working for some cheap thrills, but it’d be nice if the two paths could cross every once in a while.

Outlook: Mozeliak’s made his first real move of the offseason, signing Brett Cecil to a four-year deal.  It would seem unlikely that Mo is done, but we’ll see if the moves that he does make will quiet the drumbeats or just add more fuel to the fire.  No matter how much people talk, though, Mo’s here for as long as he wants to be here, it would seem.  If Mike Matheny‘s job is safe, Mozeliak’s is even more so.

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Exit Interview: Mike Matheny

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s (or, in this case, John Mozeliak’s) office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is Two Birds on a Bat.  One of the more recent shows I’ve found, these guys are a bit of a throwback, just three guys talking about the game (though with a professional-sounding show).  Plus they regularly have Bengie Molina weighing in.  Find them on iTunes or check out their site!

Manager: Mike Matheny

Overall grade: C

Positives: Started to break out of the “closer in the ninth” mold, occasionally deploying Seung-hwan Oh, especially, in the eighth inning if necessary….had only 13 sacrifice bunts from non-pitchers, which was one more than last year but over 10 less than the year before….won his 400th game during the season….had the support of his GM, as John Mozeliak said he would “walk the plank with him”.

Negatives: Barely was over .500 on his instant replay challenges….still has curious timing on those challenges, for instance, his first challenge (which he didn’t win) was in the bottom of the first inning of the first game….did not receive Manager of the Year votes for the first time in his career….finished out of the playoffs for the first time in his career….his “leader of men” reputation took a little hit with Kolten Wong publicly airing grievances.

Overview: There’s very little middle ground when it comes to Mike Matheny, at least on the Twitter.  There are some on there that make it their mission to defend him for any infraction, real or perceived.  There are many more that would actually buy suitcases and then help him pack them.  When a team misses the playoffs by the slimmest of margins, it’s pretty easy to point to the manager as a reason, if not the reason, that the team isn’t playing postseason baseball.

While I’m not enamored with a lot of Matheny’s tactics or decision making (seriously, look at some of the situations that he challenged a call and note their game impact), it’s difficult for me to definitively declare that, with this person or that person at the helm, things would be significantly different.  We see even supposedly great managers making regularly questionable calls.  For all the praise Joe Maddon gets, there were times during the year that he didn’t use Aroldis Chapman in the eighth and saw the game get lost.  His overuse of Chapman in the World Series almost kept the curse alive.  And bunting with the World Series winning run on third with one out?  Even Matheny, for all his flaws isn’t doing that.  Terry Francona looked like a genius earlier in the playoffs, but throwing everyone (not just Corey Kluber) on three days’ rest is a huge reason why Cleveland blew that 3-1 lead.

I get that just because nobody is perfect doesn’t mean we can’t demand a higher standard from the man in the Cardinals’ chair and that’s perfectly fair.  I’m just not completely sold that another person would make that much of a difference.  There is no doubt in my mind that Matheny has grown as a tactical manager since he started this job (or, perhaps, that he’s got a better crew around him to give options) and it’s possible that he’ll develop into an above-average one over time.  He may not, either.  Until things get untenable in the clubhouse or the team needs the kick a new voice would bring, I can’t really agitate for his dismissal.

Outlook: If manager contracts really meant much, Matheny’s recent extension would keep him here until 2020.  The front office likes him and the owner doesn’t seem to counteract that, so Matheny’s chair is as cool as a metal one outside in a Canadian winter.  It would likely take two sub-.500 seasons for him to be dismissed early and even that would be allowed if there were suitable excuses (such as injuries).  As long as Matheny keeps the clubhouse, he’s probably leading the Cardinals.

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Exit Interview: Kolten Wong

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is Cubs Cards Cast.  No doubt it’s been tough for Dan, a Cards fan in Chicago, to talk with John, a Cubs fan in St. Louis, this season but they always are able to discuss both teams with only good-natured ribbing.  Find them on iTunes or check out their site!

Player: Kolten Wong

Season stats: 121 games, 313 PA, 39 R, 7 2B, 7 3B, 5 HR, 23 RBI, 34 BB, 52 K, .240/.327/.355, 83 OPS+, 1.5 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 7, Goat 6

Overall grade: C

Positives: Hit .268 on the road….July was his best month, with a .814 OPS….had an .851 OPS coming off the bench….hit .400 with five extra-base hits as a pinch-hitter….hit .667 with a 1.714 OPS in the first at-bat of the seven games he led off….had a 1.131 OPS when he led off an inning….hit .313 on the first pitch….hit .556 on a 2-0 count, but only had nine plate appearances that ended with that count….hit .313 with nobody out in a frame….hit .304 in medium leverage situations….hit .308 in the first inning….hit .429 with four homers in his seven game stint in Memphis mid-season….had a .717 OPS against starting pitchers….hit four of his five homers at night….hit .409 with three homers in the six games after his Rob Rains interview came out….most defensive metrics placed him above average at second.

Negatives: After signing a five-year contract during the spring, stumbled out of the gate hitting .226/.306/.226….if the contract was supposed to assure him to be the starting second baseman, the fact that he only started 14 of 24 games the first month may have undermined that….hit .219 as a second baseman….had a .554 OPS when batting first….hit .170 with two strikes on him….hit just .165 with two outs….had a .475 OPS with runners in scoring position….hit .067 with two outs and RISP….hit .164 in high-leverage situations….hit .178 against the Cubs.

Overview: Whither Kolten Wong?  There’s a school of thought that says leave him out there, let him play everyday, and things will turn around.  After all, that seemed to work for Randal Grichuk, at least in part, right?  As I mentioned earlier in the season, though, I still remember those phrases being used for Tyler Greene as well.  Spoilers–Tyler Greene actually wasn’t that good.  There’s no doubt Wong has talent, but whether he can tap into it to be an All-Star second baseman, like some of us have thought he could be, is iffy.  Of course, not getting that consistent playing time can affect a person, especially someone like Kolten, who has always been emotional and passionate.

Most anything that I could say about Wong I said in the post right after the Rains interview.  Matheny probably needs to let Wong play more, but Kolten has also got to embrace those opportunities and step up, making it difficult or even impossible to jerk him around in the lineup.  2015 was Kolten’s best year and it was also the only year he’s gotten over 440 at bats.  Let him play and if we are still having this discussion after next season, then changes probably should be made.

Outlook: With the emphasis on defense and baserunning, Wong seems to be in line for a more regular turn at second next season.  (Wong went 7-for-7 in steals and those seven swipes tied for the team lead with Stephen Piscotty.)  The idea seems to be to have less moving around next season, which hopefully will benefit Wong and let him blossom into the player we think he can be.

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For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is Talking About Birds, the only Cardinal podcast that….well, whatever Nate wants to make up this week.  Nate and Ben break down the week that was with humor and insight.  Plus they have me on sometimes, which I enjoy.  Find them on iTunes or check out their site!

Player: Jerome Williams

Season stats: 0-0, 5.71 ERA, 11 games, 17.1 IP, 22 H, 6 BB, 8 K, 1.615 WHIP, 6.61 FIP, -0.2 bWAR

Hero/Goat: None

Overall grade: C

Positives: Had a shutout in Memphis….only allowed earned runs in two of his 11 outings….only allowed one run (and it was unearned) in 6.1 innings at Busch….had a .528 OPS against in July….if batters took the first pitch, they hit .229….batters had just a .652 OPS with nobody out….if he faced batters twice in a game (18 PA in these situations), they hit just .188….all the runs allowed came with four or more days of rest….had a .242 BAA in night games.

Negatives: Gave up four unearned runs, which would have led to a higher ERA had they been earned….allowed six runs against the Cubs and five against the Reds….did not pitch in anything but low leverage situations….had a 4.89 ERA in Memphis….batters had a 1.004 OPS against him the first time they faced him in a game….they had a 1.138 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position….he allowed a .994 OPS with runners on….batters hit .360 against him with two outs in an inning….the first batter he faced in a game hit .455….batters had a .818 when they hit the first pitch….if they swung at the first pitch, their OPS was 1.292.

Overview: “Hopefully, we don’t need Jerome.”  When your manager makes a comment like that when you get promoted, that’s probably pretty telling.  Matheny may have meant it as he hoped the starters would go deep enough into games that a long man like Williams, who was promoted around the time Tyler Lyons was having knee problems that we as fans didn’t really know about.  The move seemed strange, but in retrospect the thought process was sound, you just wish there’d been someone better than Williams to get that call.

Williams pitched in five of the club’s first 13 games after he was promoted, but then only saw the mound six more times, only four in the entire month of September.  He did finish his season with a four inning scoreless streak, which means that if he never plays again, at least he went out on a little high.

Outlook: Williams was a free agent at the end of the season and there is no conceivable situation that would see him back in St. Louis, at least not on a major league deal.  He’s actually younger than players like Adam Wainwright–he won’t turn 35 until the first week of December–but it feels like this was his last stop.  Some other team might want a veteran innings eater to be minor league insurance, but there would seem to be a lot better options out there than Williams for that role.

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Exit Interview: Luke Weaver

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is the Viva El Birdos podcast.  John and Heather break down all the recent happenings in Cardinal Nation with the skill and approach you’d probably expect if you are a VEB reader.  Find them on iTunes or check out the site!

Player: Luke Weaver

Season stats: 1-4, 5.70 ERA, 9 games, 36.1 IP, 46 H, 12 BB, 45 K, 1.596 WHIP, 4.33 FIP, -0.7 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 1, Goat 2

Overall grade: C+

Positives: Made his major league debut August 13 in Wrigley Field….had a 3.48 ERA in his first six starts….had a 6-3 record and a 1.40 ERA in Springfield….made one start in Memphis, a six-inning, two-hit, no-run outing, before being promoted….righties hit .264 against him….much better at home, at least in BAA (.239 vs. .343)….struck out more than a batter per inning….second place hitters had a .222 BAA….when batters swung at the first pitch, they hit .205….batters hit just .200 leading off an inning….limited hitters to a .501 OPS between pitches 51 and 75….the Brewers were the only team he faced twice and they hit just .191 against him.

Negatives: Numbers were skewed by some rough late outings….Allowed six runs in his final start, which was in Coors Field, lasting only two innings….allowed five runs in his only relief appearance, a 0.2 inning outing against the Reds….numbers could have been worse, but the six runs he allowed against the Giants were unearned….overall, in his last three appearances, he threw just 5.1 innings and had an ERA over 18….batters hit .311 against him overall….allowed seven home runs, including one in each of his first five starts….lefties had a 1.025 OPS against him….had a 6.08 ERA on the road….his ERA for September was 8.22….in five of his eight starts, he got two or less runs of support….batters hitting first had a 1.143 OPS….batters hit .349 if they took the first pitch.

Overview: When the year began, basically all of the focus for those looking at minor league pitchers was on Alex Reyes.  Even with his suspension, he was considered the crown jewel of the organization.  Weaver quickly proved that he was not chopped liver by any means, though, and when August rolled around, while Reyes was technically promoted first, they were both announced at the same time and Weaver was the one to be a starter.  Getting the call to face the Cubs in their home park for your first outing had to be daunting for him, but it didn’t show and save for the home run trait immediately flaring up, Weaver pitched well and set himself up for a good run.

Of course, when you aren’t throwing 101 like Reyes, sometimes you have to make adjustments a little more quickly.  The league seemed to figure him out in his last few outings, and it’s tough to blame fatigue since he threw almost as many innings in 2015 as he did in 2016.  Still, there’s a lot to like about Weaver and while his rep might have gotten a little tarnish on it in September, it still shines pretty brightly.

Outlook: I’ve said before that Reyes and Weaver are kind of like Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty.  One the star, a player that looks to be a huge name in all of baseball.  The other a more consistent threat, a guy with less of a ceiling but he’s going to give you that higher floor almost every time out.  We’ll see if that analogy holds throughout the coming years.  Of course, there’s also a chance we’ll have to find out from afar.  With all the pitching options, Weaver could be the key to acquiring a quality player in the trade market.

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For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is Double Birds Podcast.  Chase and El Maquino, joined occasionally by guests, cast a sometimes critical but always informed eye on all things Cardinals.  Find them on iTunes or check out Chase’s blog.

Player: Adam Wainwright

Season stats: 13-9, 4.62 ERA, 33 games, 198.2 IP, 220 H, 59 BB, 161 K, 1.404 WHIP, 3.93 FIP, 1.0 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 10, Goat 9

Overall grade: D

Positives: Threw his only shutout of the year during 2006 reunion weekend….batters had a .687 OPS at home….he also had a 3.20 ERA under the Arch….had his best month in July (3-0, 1.77 ERA)….won his last start, which was a must-win game when he started it, on the final day of the season….batters had a .302 OPS on an 0-2 count….they hit .191 in any two strike count….opponent’s OPS with runners in scoring position was .679….limited batters to a .225 BA when there were two outs and RISP….batters hit .260 in low-leverage situations….eventually could find a groove, with batters having a .257/.303/.381 line between pitches 51 and 75.

Negatives: Led the league in hits allowed….lefties hit .306 against him….had a 6.18 ERA on the road, as batters had an .888 OPS when he was wearing the grays….allowed a .299 average in the second half….had a 6.10 ERA in August and a 5.05 mark in September….had a 7.50 ERA in his losses….had 13 games where he got six or more runs of support and, though he went 7-2, had a 6.29 ERA….batters hitting first nicked him for a .316 average….batters had an .837 OPS when they swung at the first pitch….when they hit the first pitch, .434/.440/.651….batters leading off an inning had a .358 average….in 41 late and close PA, the line was .364/.462/.515….batters had a .325 average and .793 OPS in high leverage situations….had a 4.68 ERA in the first three innings….had a 7.98 ERA against the Cubs.

Overview: Before the season started, Waino called into a SiriusXM radio station that had just done a fantasy draft, promising that his low selection would prove to be a bargain.  Later in the year, Wainwright indicated that he was finally getting his legs back after his Achilles injury and had made some adjustments, so now things would be much better.  Time after time, Uncle Charlie kept saying he was going to turn the corner, that he was going to step back to his normal levels.  Time after time, though, things didn’t actually get any better.  Only 12 times did Wainwright allow two runs or less in an outing.  He had a seven game stretch from mid-June to late July where he had a 2.27 ERA, which raised a lot of hopes, but in his next five starts the ERA was 7.71.  While he ended the season on a good note, allowing just two runs in six innings in his final start, but the three games before that, against the Giants, Rockies, and Reds, his ERA was over 7.

You would like to think that maybe some bad starts overshadowed things, that the ugly tarnished a better than you’d think season.  That just isn’t the case.  Going through the splits, going through the game log, there’s not much to grab on to.  Even folks with Cardinal red glasses have to acknowledge that Wainwright was a disappointment through and through, especially when the playoff race was so close.  Even a Wainwright that was halfway between a typical Waino and this version would have probably had the Cards in October.

Outlook: So what do we think about Wainwright for 2017?  There’s no doubt that big #50 is going to work hard this offseason, that he’s going to promise a return to his former levels, that you shouldn’t underestimate him.  However, he turned 35 close to the end of the season, which would seem to mean that his prime is past.  (This is hard for some of us, who still remember rookie Wainwright and it doesn’t seem possible he could be on the down side of his career.)  If he’d had a stronger end of the season, you could argue better that maybe a bounce back was coming, but I don’t think that there’s enough there to really latch on to that.

It would seem that, far from being the Cardinal ace, Wainwright could be the #3 starter by mid-season next year, behind Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes.  In fact, if the Cardinals did something crazy like acquired Chris Sale without losing Reyes, Wainwright could be the #4 guy.  Most likely a very good #4, but still, nobody would have thought that possible this time last year.

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Exit Interview: Michael Wacha

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is STL CardGals.  Laura and Holly recap most every series and usually bring a very positive approach to whatever is going on with the Birds.  Find them on iTunes and check out their website for some totally biased baseball.

Player: Michael Wacha

Season stats: 7-7, 5.09 ERA, 27 games, 138 IP, 159 H, 45 BB, 114 K, 1.478 WHIP, 3.91 FIP, -0.4 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 2, Goat 5

Overall grade: C-

Positives: Left-handed batters hit .264 against him….limited hitters to a .246 average and a .707 OPS on the road….gave up a .751 OPS in the first half….didn’t lose a game in the second half….had a strong June, with a 3.34 ERA and a .227 BAA….batters hit .204 with a full count on them and just .196 when they had two strikes….batters had a .731 OPS when the bases were empty….in 16 late and close PA, batters hit .133/.188/.133….allowed a .699 OPS in low-leverage situations….was actually most effective (.224 BA, .695 OPS) between pitches 76-100.

Negatives: Spent time on the disabled list as the stress reaction in his shoulder created problems again….righties hit .307 against him….had a 6.18 ERA at home….batters had a .944 OPS against him in the second half….batters hit .500/.500/.875 against him in four September outings….allowed a 1.352 OPS as a reliever….batters hit .298 when they took the first pitch….batters had a 1.044 OPS when they were ahead in the count….the first batter he faced hit .308….batters hit .327 with nobody out….allowed an .885 OPS with runners in scoring position, a mark that jumped to 1.002 when two outs were added to the equation….gave up a .900 OPS in high-leverage situations….had a 10.03 ERA against the Cubs.

Overview: Wacha allowed five runs, four earned, in 4.1 innings in his 2016 season debut.  Unfortunately, that was more a sign of things to come than an aberration.  In a three game span in May he had a 12.00 ERA and never pitched more than four innings in any of those starts.  Only once after returning from the disabled list in September did he have a scoreless outing.  Matheny’s decision to start him against Pittsburgh in the next-to-last game of the year seemed disastrous when he allowed three runs in the first, though the game was saved by a offensive rally and the fact Wacha didn’t go out for the second.  Wacha never seemed to be able to command his changeup this season and when he wasn’t able to throw that for strikes, batters could sit and wait on a fastball that, at least later in the season, was probably impaired by the stress reaction.

The 2016 version of Wacha was such a far cry from the 17-win, 3.38 ERA that the 2015 put up, even if the FIP of the two seasons wasn’t that different.  That might mean that Wacha can bounce back next season, but the end of the season makes that a tough bit of optimism to hold on to.

Outlook: There is talk about Wacha moving into a bullpen role, perhaps a multiple inning reliever like what they have in mind for Trevor Rosenthal.  That said, I’ve always thought that the stress reaction really precluded him from getting off the four-day rest schedule, though I may be mistaken.  If that’s the case, though, you’d think he’d be more like the old Joe Kelly model, where he might not pitch but once every couple of weeks when a long man is needed rather than as a fireman type to keep games from blowing up.  Most likely, the club will hope that the offseason workout regimen they have him on will build the needed muscle to handle the stress reaction and let him return to the starting rotation.  What we’ll see out of Wacha next year is truly anyone’s guess.

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