The Cardinals had their annual official kickoff to a new season this weekend, the Winter Warmup. (In the spirit of the big news of the weekend, perhaps it should be noted that the Cardinals’ convention is clearly designed to support their charitable arm, while I can find no such information about the Cubs convention that was also held this weekend.) There wasn’t necessarily any big news that came out of this–the back-and-forth between Cardinal and Cub players seemed to take top billing–but there’s a few things that I wanted to discuss, some of which Tara and I got into on the most recent Gateway to Baseball Heaven.
Before I do, though, I want to hat tip the folks that covered this event for the United Cardinal Bloggers. Dennis, Steven, and Adam did a great job and I’ve not had a chance to get through all their coverage yet. They represented the blogging community well as they interacted with the professionals and covered the event from their perspective. Thanks, guys!
Probably the most notable thing from this weekend was the idea that John Mozeliak and the front office don’t really seem to know what’s going on with Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna has said he’ll be ready for spring training, but it seems he’s fairly unsupervised by Cardinal personnel during this time of rehab. Which seems really strange to me. I get there are some barriers as Ozuna has elected to do his rehab at home in the Dominican Republic, but in this day and age that shouldn’t put up too much of an obstacle.
While Mo says he’s not worried–even if he was worried, it doesn’t seem like WWU would be the place to broadcast that–we heard right after the season that everyone was sent home with detailed plans for their offseason, with check-ins and everything. The term “babysitting” was used, though most players didn’t seem to have a problem with it. So why, when Mike Shildt can talk with Carlos Martinez weekly as Tara pointed out on Gateway, are we just “hoping” that Ozuna is OK and on track? The Ozuna/front office relationship has seemed a bit strained ever since they acquired him because he came to spring training still affected by his shoulder after (it seemed) perhaps not doing everything the Cardinals expected him to do to rehab it. Which, you would think, would give them more incentive to basically sit on Ozuna this offseason and make sure everything is going according to plan.
Because what if it’s not? What if Ozuna is not going to be 100% by Opening Day? Sure, he could be still useful for the team–people tend to forget he was a good player last year even without the power, though not the player the Cards thought they were getting–but 2019 is, as we continue to hear, the year. A key and defining year for the Cardinals and their future. That year is a lot better if Ozuna’s healthy enough to hit 30 homers again behind Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt.
Also, if Ozuna’s going to be out for any length of time–which, let me be clear, does not seem to be the case–it’ll make the decision to not go after Bryce Harper even more puzzling and frustrating. If Ozuna’s hampered, having the bat of Harper to cushion that would let 2019 still be a strong year. If he’s out, Dexter Fowler and/or Tyler O’Neill could probably play some left and get more at bats that way instead of having to rely on both of them at the same time or Jose Martinez on the regular in the outfield. My feeling is there is no way Ozuna is a Cardinal in 2020, so whatever you have to do, it’s only for a year. We’ve hashed the Harper stuff enough, though, and I think we all know the angles there.
Of course, maybe Mo would have said something if he was concerned about Ozuna, because he allowed that Luke Gregerson‘s offseason had been “less than perfect”. Gregerson’s strength isn’t where he wanted it to be after an offseason throwing program. Which, if you are Luke Gregerson and you want to play baseball this year, has to be concerning. We’ve gone over what the bullpen roster crunch looks like and that makes this spring pretty much make-or-break for both Gregerson and Brett Cecil. (Cecil, it should be noted, has lost weight, which may or may not be helpful in him returning to his pre-Cardinals form.) Gregerson’s deal ends at the end of the season and it would be unsurprising to me now that, without some sort of turnaround, Gregerson is a casualty in the spring. Which is about par for the course for Mo’s reliever contracts–remember Jordan Walden? Or Jason Motte‘s extension? Let’s hope for better from Andrew Miller–but it wouldn’t be a huge issue for most of us.
Justin Williams showed up in a cast after hitting a TV. Which is a better alternative than what could have been, because reading between the lines it sounds like it could have easily been a person.
“The situation is definitely resolved, and both ends of the parties [are] definitely going to move forward from it and deal with situations in a better manner,” Williams said. “It was just something I’ve been dealing with for a while, and it just accumulated over time, honestly.”
I mean, I guess he could have been really frustrated over this season of The Flash or something or his television set has more personality than mine does. Whatever the case, that may not work out well for him. Williams is hanging on to the 40-man roster by his fingernails and it wouldn’t take much to bump him off of it. This puts another thing on the negative side of the ledger should the Cards need to make a decision.
Perhaps the more interesting news surrounded Alex Reyes. We knew the club was preparing him as a starter with the possibility that he could move to the bullpen, especially given the fact that the rotation as it currently is constructed is sorta full. So that wasn’t news, but the fact that the Cards were focused on getting him a significant number of innings might have been. There’s been some talk about Alex Reyes as closer, but as Mo said, they don’t want to look up at the end of the year and see Reyes only has 50 innings or so. It feels like they want Reyes to be a long man and you wonder if you won’t see him a lot on days Adam Wainwright pitches. Wainwright’s contract has plenty of incentives, but none (as far as I remember) for innings pitched. They are more for starts, so you could see Waino go four or five and then Reyes come in for two or three each time. It probably wouldn’t be able to work like that–they’d probably use Reyes some during the week as well–but that might be an interesting version of the piggy-back method the Cards have run in the minors.
There was plenty of other tidbits from the weekend and hopefully we’ll tackle those in a future post or on the next edition of Meet Me at Musial. Most importantly, we can now turn our focus to February 13, when pitchers and catchers report. That’s three weeks from tomorrow. Baseball is coming, folks. Baseball is coming!