Last week, after the abrupt and unseemly end of a strong season, John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny conducted a bit of a post-mortem/look-forward with the St. Louis media. It’s a pretty regular tradition and I expect most teams do something like this, though I don’t know for sure. Derrick Goold had a solid run down of the topics discussed and I want to go through those and discuss them in a bit more detail.
–The first and possibly most immediate point was the fact that Yadier Molina was having surgery on that thumb and would be needing 8-12 weeks of recovery time. Since spring training is roughly 16 weeks away, that’s not likely to be an issue that the Cards will have to deal with to start 2016. Mozeliak said that Molina didn’t make it “substantially worse” by playing in the NLDS, though it probably shows you that it was hanging by a thread that leaving Game 3 early and not playing at all in Game 4 wasn’t “substantially worse”. Would the team have been better just using Tony Cruz as the starter? That definitely wouldn’t have made a difference in the outcome of the series, even if Cruz did have a big double in Game 4. Hopefully this means that St. Louis will do a better job trying to identify a very solid backup catcher. Not a Cruz or a guy like Ed Easley that you don’t want to see play regularly, but someone that can come in and give you two starts a week and do so without a significant offensive drop off.
The club has made lip service to this idea of resting Molina more for a couple of years now, yet he played in 136 games (which, save for last year’s injury-related decline, is right in line with what he’s been doing since 2009) and caught more innings than he had since 2012. There was no resting Yadi this year and there’s going to have to be. He’ll be 33 and a half when the season gets started and the productivity of catchers at that age starts dropping pretty rapidly. We all love Yadi, but we need to see less of him going forward and to do that effectively, there’s got to be some sort of realistic threat backing him up.
–Next was that all the coaches had been offered contracts to return for next season. (That’s good news for regular podcast visitor Jamie Pogue!) While most of the coaches pass through the season anonymously, we all know the names of the hitting and pitching coach. Nobody’s talking about Derek Lilliquist, for good reason, but John Mabry‘s return has got some people worked up. Given the fact that this is the second year of a mediocre at best offense, folks naturally wonder what good is a hitting coach for a team that has trouble hitting. Mozeliak doesn’t believe that the offense’s needs are as drastic as some folks think, and he should know, I guess, but you do wonder.
For instance, you could argue that Jhonny Peralta‘s second-half slide is more indicative of his future than his first half team-MVP run. Matt Holliday isn’t going to be what he used to be, even if he can stay on the field next season. We’ve talked about Molina and the odds that his offense is going to continue to be declining. While those are the only real age-related questions, there are plenty of others. Is Matt Adams ever going to fully develop? Kolten Wong has proven that he has some intriguing potential, but he’s amazingly streaky with it. Stephen Piscotty was outstanding this season, but can he continue to do that as the league adjusts to him?
And all that assumes the resigning of Jason Heyward to complement whatever is out there. Obviously, there’s no guarantee that he will return and, if he doesn’t, you wonder if Piscotty and Tommy Pham, along with Holliday and Randal Grichuk, can do enough as the main outfielders. There’s a good chance they can, but there’s not a solid track record yet for a number of those guys.
All of that doesn’t really answer the hitting coach question, though. Is Mabry the right guy in that situation? You could make the case that it doesn’t much matter. After all, Mabry was the assistant under Mark McGwire when the offense was fairly solid and he was the head guy in 2013 when the offense exploded with a record batting average with runners in scoring position. Last year David Bell was the assistant hitting coach, this season it was Bill Mueller (who was a much better major league hitter), yet the numbers didn’t change much at all. How much is a hitting coach worth to the offense, anyway?
I’ve got no answer to that. It probably varies player-to-player, anyway. With the amount of video and other information available to players these days, there is some level of self-help that they can do. Can Mabry help, pick out flaws, suggest different attacks? Sure. I’m not saying at all that the position isn’t necessary these days. I’m just not sure that you can assign a whole lot of credit or blame to the hitting coach.
—Carlos Martinez is going to spend much of his winter in Florida, working on that shoulder. He’ll be rehabbing and working out much of the winter, but the club doesn’t think there will need to be surgery. I sincerely hope they are right, because losing Martinez in 2016 would be a tough thing to deal with. We’ve seen what shoulder injuries have done to folks in the past and let’s hope that this one is one of the most minor ones we could come across.
–Mo will talk to Heyward’s representatives this week to start looking at what a framework for a contract might contain. I’ve said a couple of times this week, both on the latest Best Dans and last night’s Gateway, that I can’t imagine a situation that would seem to fit Heyward better. I don’t think he wants to be a Yankee with all the pressure and expectations that go with that. I don’t think he wants to go somewhere just for the money. So finding a place that’d pay him well, that can be a regular winner, but can also be a team that he doesn’t have to carry, a place with all those qualifications doesn’t just pop out at me. My feeling is that it’s about 95% that Heyward returns to St. Louis, probably with the richest deal that they’ve ever given out but a deal that also likely won’t overpay him, or won’t do it by much.
–No decision has been made on Jaime Garcia‘s option and the club has until after the World Series to make that decision. Garcia pitched well enough that I think the Cardinals have to pick that up, even if he’s not necessarily in the plans for next year. A lefty with his ability making $11.5 million and an option for the next year at another reasonable rate would have significant value on the trade market. Obviously his season was outstanding and, in a vacuum, St. Louis wouldn’t hesitate to snap that up. However, given his history and given the issues they’ve had in communication with him in the past, including this postseason with him starting a playoff game after two days of illness, sending him elsewhere wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.
Bernie Miklasz, on his new radio show, talked to Bob Nightengale not too long ago and he dropped in, almost as an aside, that David Price would really like to play in St. Louis. One of the ways Nightengale suggested to free up the money was to deal Garcia, which would make a decent dent in whatever Price was asking. A rotation of Adam Wainwright, David Price, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and perhaps Lance Lynn, perhaps Marco Gonzales, perhaps a placeholder for Alex Reyes, that’s a rotation that you would not want to see coming. Of course, getting Price and Heyward (because, unlike Nightengale, I think most of us would say Heyward is a requirement, not an option) would cost more money than this club has typically shelled out. It’s also a quick way to revitalize the core of the club, but that’s a topic for a different day.
–Mo wants to bring Brandon Moss back next season. That’s not a huge surprise, if only because if Moss leaves, there’s a good chance Mo will have nothing to show for his trade deadline dealings this year. Jonathan Broxton is guaranteed to have his option declined and Steve Cishek, in my mind, is almost automatic to be a non-tender candidate. Moss got better after his rough start in St. Louis, though he still is streaky and can strike out with the best of them. With Mark Reynolds gone, though, Moss would be a solid bench bat. There’s a little problem in that he hits lefty just like Adams does, but Moss can fill in out in the outfield as well. I’d expect, given how excited Moss was to come to St. Louis, they’ll be able to come up with some sort of deal that saves the club some money based on what he made this year.
–We all know that Peter Bourjos is as good as gone, but Mozeliak wouldn’t come out and say that. Perhaps he’s trying to trade Bourjos, perhaps he’s just trying to be nice and help have some positive press out there for Bourjos when he has to go hunting for a job. While Mo says they’ll assess where they are at, it would be stunning if Bourjos is still with this club when the winter meetings start in December.
–We may not see a LOOGY next year out of the pen. Randy Choate will be gone, of course, as his contract has come to an end and his usefulness some would say ended before that. The media session brought out suggestions of Gonzales or perhaps Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons as a lefty reliever that could do more than just get left-handers out. You’d have less need for pitching changes, perhaps letting Lyons or Gonzales start an inning when you know players like Anthony Rizzo are coming up. As our boy Lyons is (I believe) out of options next season, anything that keeps him on the big league roster is fine with me.
–Wainwright could have started Game 5, had he not been needed in Game 4 (and, obviously, had there been a Game 5). It’d have been more of a bullpen game, but I imagine you’d have seen Wainwright out there for three innings or more to start the game. Can you imagine him taking the ball in Busch Stadium for a deciding contest? The crowd would have been crazy. One of the few high spots of that NLDS was seeing the real return of Wainwright and having a much better feeling about him going into next season.
–The relationship with the team and Lynn may be a little strained right now, given the fact that they skipped him for John Lackey on short rest after being so positive with Lynn all season long. Matheny made it more about the fact that the Cubs were such a fastball-hitting team, but that’s still got to be a bit of a slap in the face, especially to a player like Lynn that’s been testy at times. The club is talking about mending fences and such and it probably won’t be a big deal, but if they did make the big splash and bring in Price, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see them deal Lynn for some sort of hitter.
–Speaking of dealing, the Cards want to look externally for a backup shortstop, which probably had Greg Garcia a little concerned. Not that Garcia was going to be a regular shortstop or anything and he could still have a role on the team as a utility guy backing up second and third, but still, if you are him, you can’t be excited about hearing such things. There aren’t a lot of interesting options on the free agent market and most of them are starters anyway, so that might require some sort of trade this offseason.
–Holliday isn’t going to play first base. I think we all knew that and I’m surprised that even came up. Piscotty did a fine to excellent job after his transition and if you are going to plug anyone into that spot to free up the outfield log jam, it would seem to be Piscotty. Of course, what do you do with Adams then? That’s going to be one of the questions of the winter.
The news won’t be as free-flowing as this media session was for a while, but there are still things to talk about. We’ll soon take a look at the Cardinal free agents and what should be done about them as well as keeping up with whatever else comes up. Plus the Mets are now up 2-0 on the Cubs, which is great! That should cheer up your Monday!