Notebook: Winter Meetings, Day 1

Day one of the Winter Meetings is in the books with the headline clearly being the Giancarlo Stanton press conference. It was an otherwise slow day reinforcing things we pretty much already know.

Cardinals “aggressively” pursuing Colome

To break the ice this morning, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the St. Louis Cardinals and the Colorado Rockies were both aggressively pursuing Tampa Bay Rays closer Alex Colome. The news is of little surprise given that they’ve been connected to Colome since the summer. The Rockies may be the Cardinals’ toughest competition for Colome with the Chicago Cubs saying that their new addition Brandon Morrow will be the closer next season unless they are able to re-sign Wade Davis.

In return, the Rays would likely be looking for a corner outfielder that could pair long term with Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza. That would make the Cardinals and their depth of outfield talent a great match. Harrison Bader would give the Rays a very good defensive outfield at the very least.

Second base could also be a place they could upgrade, which could see Kolten Wong or Jedd Gyorko becoming available. Wong’s younger brother Kean Wong plays in the Rays organization, reaching Triple-A last season and delivering the game winning grand slam against the Memphis Redbirds in the Triple-A Championship Game.

Stanton reveals neither Cards nor Giants were on his list

Giancarlo Stanton was officially introduced as a member of the New York Yankees this afternoon and it revealed a great deal about the trade process. Neither the Cardinals nor Giants were on Stanton’s trade list that he provided the Marlins at the beginning offseason, however the Marlins pursued trades with them anyway. After it became clear that they were going to be able to get a larger return from those two franchises, they made an effort to force Stanton to accept the trade or be stuck in Miami.

Stanton met with the Giants and the Cardinals before ultimately deciding that they weren’t close enough to winning and weren’t a good fit for him and rejected the trades and effectively called the Marlins’ their bluff. He was then traded to the Yankees for far less than what they could have gotten from the Giants or Cardinals since they no longer had any leverage.

Cardinals are in on Ozuna

Jenifer Langosch reports that the Cardinals are pursuing Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who the Marlins say is more likely to be dealt than their other coveted outfielder Christian Yelich. Ozuna has two years of team control via arbitration remaining while Yelich has up to five years remaining on a team friendly guaranteed contract.

The difficulty here is that there are reports that Yelich is unhappy in Miami given what has happened and would like out while Ozuna has said that he would be happy to stay.

Athletics interested in Piscotty and Grichuk

Susan Slusser of the Bay Area Chronicle reports that the Oakland A’s continue to have interest in Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk as they search for a right handed hitting outfielder. The Cardinals are believed to prefer to trade Piscotty to the Bay Area so that he can be closer to his family following his mother’s ALS diagnosis last year. But it is unclear what kind of return the Cardinals could expect.

Cardinals may add another starter

Derrick Goold is reporting that John Mozeliak has said that the Cardinals could add another starting this pitcher if the right situation came along. If the Rays were to make Chris Archer available, Goold believes that would qualify.

Where the Cardinals stand entering the winter meetings

Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings start today as front office executives, agents, and players descend on Orlando, Florida, for four days of meetings that will culminate in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. Not only is this where the MLB offseason typically heats up, but nearly the entire league has been standing still, waiting while Giancarlo Stanton decided where he would play in 2018. With his trade to the Yankees complete, look for things to be pretty active as teams should look to quickly move to fill their needs.

For the Cardinals, there were two main priorities that John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch laid out earlier this offseason. Here is where they stand in those pursuits and what to look for this week. And as I did during the GM Meetings last month, look for my daily notebook with links to all the Cardinals related reports worth reading.

Closer and additional relief help. The Cardinals agreed to terms with RHP Luke Gregerson last night in a deal that was hopefully just the first step towards filling this need. According to GM Michael Girsch, the Cardinals were hoping to bring in multiple relievers this season, beginning with an established reliever and there are a few at the top of the market in Wade Davis and Greg Holland. The Cardinals were linked with interest in Holland shortly after the season ended, but since then we’ve heard little to support that connection. There’s been little talk or action in the relief market period.

It appears like the Tampa Bay Rays will be active sellers this week and the Cardinals and Rays have discussed closer Alex Colome since the summer and have touched base a few times. Those talks will likely intensify, especially if the rumored interest of the Chicago Cubs is true. Colome is the most obvious trade target, in my opinion as Baltimore seems to think they’ve got a chance in the AL East this year.

On the free agent market, Derrick Goold is reporting that there seemed to be momentum towards a deal with Addison Reed at one point this winter, but the slow relief pitching market seems to have shelved it. Reed could wait to see what guys like Holland and Davis pull in before pulling the trigger on a deal.

Middle of the order hitter. With Giancarlo Stanton officially off the market after he declined a trade to St. Louis and joined the New York Yankees, the pickings here are pretty slim. The Blue Jays are reportedly not planning to trade Josh Donaldson, nor are the Orioles expected to consider dealing Manny Machado. Either would be an obvious target for the Cardinals. Outside of them, there is really no obvious answer here. Only lesser options.

The Cardinals could always leverage their existing talks with the Marlins to pursue another of their outfielders. Christian Yelich will likely get kept, but Marcell Ozuna is very much available and the Cardinals’ interest in him has been reported.

Another intriguing Marlin may be Justin Bour. He’s more of a platoon style first baseman, but he’s hit 63 home runs in 327 games over the past three seasons while hitting .272/.344/.498. He’d pair nicely with Jose Martinez at first base.

There was a suggestion made that the Diamondbacks, who are in a tight financial situation, may have interest in trading A.J. Pollock who is projected to make over $8 million in arbitration. It’s been an injury plagued career for Pollock, but in his last full season he was an All Star, won a Gold Glove in center field, and posted a 131 wRC+.

In free agency, there has been interest in Eric Hosmer reported. The national baseball media will inevitably link the Cardinals with JD Martinez, though I expect he will get a deal he has no ability to live up to.

It was also reported around the GM Meetings last month that the club had made an offer to Logan Morrison, though Morrison remains a free agent.

Starting pitching. Conveniently enough, Mozeliak indicated this the third priority that they’d look at after addressing the first two. But it was the first move they made, signing RHP Miles Mikolas to a two year deal out of Japan. That signing gives them a projected rotation of Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Luke Weaver, and Mikolas. That rotation still has questions and finding more innings is a concern.

There’s really only one guy in that rotation you can reasonably expect to throw 180+ innings this season without a problem, and that’s Martinez. There’s the health of Wacha and Wainwright that present big questions as well as the need to build Weaver up to the demands of a MLB starting pitcher. I think having another guy you can bank on having throw 180+ innings is a must if this team intends to make a run this year.

With the Rays selling, Chris Archer will be the name on everyone’s lips this week. With three straight 200 inning seasons, he could benefit greatly from a step out of the American League East. I also like Jake Odorizzi from the Rays as a good value pickup here, but even he has questions.

In free agency, I am not in support of pursuing Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta. Both have seen their numbers decline year-to-year the past few seasons. Arrieta is on the wrong side of 30 and Darvish had a rough year in his first full season back from Tommy John. Basically here, Lance Lynn outperformed both of these guys last year, though he had the worst peripherals of them all. So I don’t see the point in bringing any of them in. Tyler Chatwood, who the Cubs signed, would have been a good solution here as well.

 

News: Cardinals sign Luke Gregerson to two year deal

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to terms with right handed pitcher Luke Gregerson on a 2 year, $11 million deal that has a vesting third year option. The deal is pending a physical, which is expected to be performed on Tuesday.

The story. The Cardinals have been looking to add a couple of relievers to their bullpen and complete their first addition of the winter with the signing of Gregerson on the eve of the winter meetings.

The numbers. Gregerson, 33, has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball over his career with a 3.02 ERA in nine Major League seasons. Unfortunately, his 2017 season represented his career worst season. The former Cardinals’ draft pick posted a 4.57 ERA last year over 61 innings for the Houston Astros. It wasn’t just a bad start that doomed him, he had a 5.33 ERA in the second half of the season. To top it off, Gregerson threw just 3.2 innings during the 2017 postseason while the Astros bullpen struggled. All of those innings were mop up work.

The impact. 6/10. The addition of Gregerson is intended to be one of the Cardinals’ late inning arms. Three years ago, I’d have been all over this signing. Today, I am unimpressed by it.

On paper, Gregerson can check a lot of boxes. He’s been a very good reliever in the past. He’s a veteran voice out there, which is something the Cardinals have liked to have. And he has closing experience, notching 46 saves in about a year and a half as the Astros closer a couple years ago.

The fear for me with this signing is that Gregerson will struggle as he did last year. I understand that relief work is a little more up and down, but Gregerson had been consistently dominant over his previous eight seasons. Maybe it’s just bad memories of Jonathan Broxton finding his way into games he had no business being in purely because he was the veteran reliever in the bullpen and I’m projecting. Maybe I’m not.

It is just the first signing as the club hopes to add another arm to the bullpen, most likely the established closer they seek. They’ve talked with Tampa about Alex Colome and they’d been linked with interest in Greg Holland before the offseason began. Perhaps we’ll see some action and the club’s offseason start moving this week as Giancarlo Stanton has finally been traded and teams start working on their next options.

Column: If Cardinals miss on Stanton, what’s next?

It’s been over a month now since I wrote my initial “Rumor Mill” post on Giancarlo Stanton and the odds that he might come to St. Louis. And we’re still waiting on Stanton to decide what he’s going to do.

The latest reports are that the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants have both made offers that the Miami Marlins have accepted. Those offers now rest in the hands of Giancarlo Stanton as to whether to take either one and head out of town or stay in Miami or hope that another team, such as his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers, get involved. And if some reports are to be believed, they’re still in contact with the Marlins.

The Giants expect resolution by the end of the week while the Cardinals have declined to talk about it but are preaching patience. And now it seems that when Stanton gave the Marlins his list of teams he’d approve a trade to, that neither the Giants nor the Cardinals were on it. Which would certainly explain quite a lot of what’s gone on over the last month because there were a number of things that weren’t adding up.

But if Stanton does decide to go elsewhere, what do I think the Cardinals should do next?

First, trade for Alex Colome. The Cardinals have already checked in on Alex Colome this winter and have been interested in him for awhile now. If Stanton falls through, it will be time to complete this deal.

Over the past two seasons as Tampa’s closer, Colome has a 2.63 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP, and 84 saves. For comparison, Trevor Rosenthal‘s best two year stretch as St. Louis’ closer featured a 2.65 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP, and 93 saves from 2014 to 2015.

The negatives on Colome would be that his ERA did jump from 1.91 in 2016 to 3.24 last season. Looking at the numbers, he got hit harder on his four seam fastball in 2017 than he did the year before, which saw him feature his cutter much more often. The result was a drop in strikeout rates. But his HR/9 also dropped too. In an era where most pitchers are seeing that increase and in a division that features two of the more home run happy ball parks in baseball, I find that promising.

Colome is first year arbitration eligible this season, so he has three years of control remaining.

I know there’s been a lot of speculation about bringing in Chris Archer as well, but if I were the Rays, there is no way I’d trade those two players together. Archer and Colome likely represent two of their most valuable trade pieces and would net them a larger overall return if traded separately. I place the need for a closer slightly ahead of starter right now, so I go with Colome.

Then go horsetrading for Marcell Ozuna. With much of the groundwork already laid in the discussions for Giancarlo Stanton, the Cardinals could and should work towards acquiring another of the Marlins’ outfielders. Splitting from what seems to be most of Cardinals nation, I prefer Marcell Ozuna to Christian Yelich.

This isn’t new for me. If you read last winter, I had Ozuna on my list of five players that the Cardinals should acquire last winter. He fulfilled his promise with a career year in 2017, slashing .312/.376/.548 with 37 home runs and a 142 wRC+. He also added a gold glove to boot. The question on Ozuna is whether that’s what we’ll see going forward or if it’ll be closer to the .265/.316/.433 and average 22 home runs we saw over the last three years.

There are some things that give me hope. Primarily that his 2017 season was exceptionally consistent. His worst month last year was in June where he hit .297/.349/.525. He also mirrored his performance in the first and second halves really well. A season is an incredibly long time to maintain that level of performance which has me leaning towards the explanation that he just put all the tools together at 26.

As far as Yelich, my main complaint is that he is a stereotypical Cardinal. He is a high floor player who is good enough to be good, but not good enough to be great. And too many players you can describe like that is the Cardinals’ problem. Outside of 2016, Yelich has settled in around a 118 wRC+ player overall. The confounding factor may be that he’s been a much better hitter on the road in his career. The argument many make is that this is more representative of the player he would be in St. Louis.

Trying not to turn this into an Ozuna versus Yelich column, I take Ozuna because 1) his ceiling is higher, 2) he would cost less, and 3) you’re only attached to him for two years instead of four if he busts because we know what neither of these two are capable of doing once they don’t have Stanton around them in the lineup.

We’ll still need a setup guy, so show Juan Nicasio the money. When the season wrapped up it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Nicasio was going to return to St. Louis. Then the Cardinals made it clear they were going to look at acquiring a proven closer and Nicasio’s interest waned. I think he wants to close and would like to go somewhere and prove that he can. He thought that was going to be St. Louis, but then learned that it would not be.

I’m not sure what he’s looking for dollar-wise, but it’s time to give it to him. The Rangers set the market when they gave LHP MIke Minor a 3 year, $28 million deal this week. Minor, while a better starting pitcher than Nicasio was, is a similar story. Started for his first five years in the Majors and then reinvented himself as a reliever, posting a 2.55 ERA over 65 appearances.

Nicasio started and relieved for a few years before posting a 2.61 ERA over 76 appearances last year exclusively out of the bullpen, including a dominating stint as the Cardinals’ closer last September.

You can’t make him the closer, but you can show him the money. I’ve suggested 2 years, $12 million for him since September, but understandably the cost could go higher as relief pitching is being more highly valued than ever before.

For the last piece, I go get Zack Cozart. At 32, Zack Cozart hits free agency for the first time coming off a tremendous career year as he slashed .297/.385/.548 with 24 home runs and a 141 wRC+ for the Reds and once again played plus defense at shortstop.

Such a move would allow the club to move Paul DeJong back to his primary position, third base. While DeJong impressed me with his ability to play shortstop last season, signing a plus shortstop would arguably give the Cardinals plus defense all the way around the infield.

I always hate acquiring guys off career years, but I think this one could be okay. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Cozart would find a 3 year, $42 million deal this winter. That’s an AAV of $14 million, which I think is fair. If Cozart can continue to play plus defense and give you average offensive production relative to his position, which he has managed to do so far, I think this could be a good move.

And there’s always the possibility that he produces somewhere between what he’s done the last two years, slashing .274/.346/.484, it could turn out to be a very good move indeed.

The focus of these moves is really not to focus all in on 2018. I think if you miss out on Stanton and adding an elite bat like his becomes unlikely, I think the best strategy is to acquire what you need while you can to position the team towards 2019 and beyond.

The deals I’ve laid out, assuming that they don’t find ways to trim additional salary for guys like Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, or Jedd Gyorko would put them around $170 million in payroll. That, combined with the contracts they have hitting free agency after next year, leave themselves with plenty of room to pursue free agents or add a big contract.

It’s not so much about keeping “dry powder” at the ready, but so that a club without a feature hitter has the ability to add one should one become available.

News: Cardinals sign free agent pitcher Miles Mikolas

What happened. It is being reported that the Cardinals have agreed to a 2 year, $15.5 million deal with free agent RHP Miles Mikolas.

The story. The Cardinals said that finding a starting pitcher was a secondary concern to their needs of finding a centerpiece bat and a closer for their bullpen, but it’s the starting pitcher that they find first. Multiple teams involved raised the price on them a little bit, but in the end they signed Mikolas to a two year deal worth nearly $16 million after receiving more competition for him than expected.

The numbers. Miles Mikolas, 29, was drafted in the 7th round of the 2009 draft by the San Diego Padres. He made his debut in 2012 out of the bullpen for the Padres and was traded twice in the 2013-14 offseason and ended up with the Texas Rangers. In 2014, he posted a 6.44 ERA over 10 MLB starts.

After getting released by the Rangers, Mikolas went to pitch for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. Over the last three seasons for Yomiuri, Mikolas went 31-13 with a 2.18 ERA over 62 starts and 424.2 innings in Japan.

The impact. 5/10. It’s not huge, but it is starting pitching help for an organization that has a deep talent of pool there but serious questions about where they are going to get innings from.

That deep pool of talent has been noted by many since the first report broke, with many suggesting that it creates an opportunity to trade some of that talent which may be the case. But in my opinion, another starting pitcher that you can lean on is what this club needed. Teams that get the most innings out of their rotation are typically in the postseason.

Mikolas will likely slot into the rotation spot vacated by Lance Lynn‘s free agency. That pencils in the Cardinals’ rotation to be Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Luke Weaver, and now Mikolas.

With the rumors that the Marlins have an interest in Wacha, there is some suggestion that he could be headed to Miami in a pending Giancarlo Stanton trade and that Mikolas might fill his spot in the rotation. Either way, the Cardinals were going to need some starting pitching help.

Whether Mikolas provides what they need is another question. Obviously Mikolas put up dominating numbers in Japan last season, but he also did it while pitching more than anyone else. In 2017 Mikolas led NPB starting pitchers with 27 starts and 188 innings pitched. He was second in BB/9 and WHIP.  He also averaged just shy of 7 innings per start.

If Mikolas was a Japanese pitcher who had never pitched in the Majors, we would probably be looking at this signing a little differently. So if Mikolas can translate what he’s learned over the past few years in Japan to the Majors, he should provide the help that the Cardinals need.

It’s also worth noting that his last pitching coach in the Majors was Mike Maddux, who the Cardinals brought in as their new pitching coach this season. Perhaps on the suggestion of Maddux. Mikolas never found success in Texas, but perhaps three years later he’s ready.

News: Cardinals tender contracts to Grichuk, Wacha, and Lyons

What happened. Along with the trade of Aledmys Diaz, the St. Louis Cardinals tendered contracts to all remaining unsigned players on their 40 man roster ahead of tonight’s 8 pm Eastern tender deadline. That includes outfielder Randal Grichuk and pitchers Michael Wacha and Tyler Lyons.

The story. Major League clubs were due to tender contracts to their Major League players who were under team control today. Salaries are yet to be set through salary arbitration or by the team if players are not yet eligible for arbitration.

The numbers. Randal Grichuk, 26, hit .238/.285/.473 with 22 home runs and a 94 wRC+ in 442 plate appearances last season. He received 36 fewer plate appearances than he did last season, but for all intents, most of his walk rates were virtually identical with his 2016 campaign. I’m a big fan of Grichuk as a player. He hits a ridiculous amount of extra base hits for being as poor of an overall hitter as he is (only Giancarlo Stanton and Nolan Arenado have been better since he arrived in the Majors) and plays plus defense.

Grichuk is a prime trade target this winter as the Cardinals make an effort to thin out their outfield ranks. However, I am on record saying that I think that’s a mistake. Grichuk is the perfect player to pencil in 8th almost every night and just let him go.

Michael Wacha, 26, posted a 4.13 ERA and a 12-9 record over 30 starts this season for the Cardinals, throwing 165.2 innings. For Wacha, the biggest success of the season was that he remained healthy through the year and took the ball 30 times. He also posted a 3.63 FIP, which is lower than the 3.87 FIP he posted during his All Star season in 2015.

Tyler Lyons, 29, posted a 2.83 ERA over 54 relief innings for the Cardinals as he made the full time transition to the bullpen. Late in the summer, Lyons had an incredible run of success where through July and August he was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. His 11.3 K/9 was a career best for him at any level.

The impact. 3/10. It has some impact, but there were no surprises today. Even the trade of Diaz was expected to some extent. Depending on the moves this team makes, all three of these arbitration eligible players who the club tendered contracts to is expected to play a big role.

News: Cardinals trade Aledmys Diaz to Blue Jays

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals traded infielder Aledmys Diaz to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for minor league outfielder J.B. Woodman.

The story. With today being the deadline to tender contracts to players under team control, the situation of Aledmys Diaz was about the only one of interest. The 27 year old infielder saw his original 4 year, $8 million contract he signed with the Cardinals as an international free agent expire while he did not have enough MLB service time to qualify for salary arbitration. It meant the team had control over Diaz’s salary, but he also only have his salary reduced 80%.

The numbers. Diaz was a bit of a rookie sensation in 2016 as he would hit .300/.369/.510 with 17 home runs and a 133 wRC+. It was a continuation of a hot streak Diaz started on the previous summer after the team designated him for assignment to make room on the roster. Unfortunately, the clock struck midnight on Diaz in 2017.

Diaz ran into the sophomore slump this year, hitting .259/.290/.392 with 7 home runs and a 78 wRC+ in 301 plate appearances in the big leagues this season. He lost his starting job at shortstop to Paul DeJong and spent time at Triple-A Memphis.

J.B. Woodman, 23 this month, was drafted in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Blue Jays. After a stellar pro debut in low A ball, he struggled in Single-A Lansing last season where he hit .240/.329/.378 with 7 home runs in 96 games. The left handed hitting outfielder played a pretty even split of center and right fields this season and is considered a plus defensive outfielder. He had been considered the Blue Jays’ #28 prospect according to MLB Pipeline.

The impact. 2/10. Behind Trevor Rosenthal, I always considered Diaz to be the Cardinals’ most likely non tender candidate. DeJong has a hold on shortstop at this point and with Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia as third basemen and the talk that they may use Matt Carpenter there next season there was just no reason to pay Diaz the at least $2 million they would have been obligated to pay him.

For Woodman, obviously he was viewed highly at one point in time as he’s just 18 months removed from being a second round draft pick. This is essentially a swap of two previously highly viewed guys who struggled last season.

This is a lottery ticket trade and probably indicates that the Cardinals were set to non-tender him, so getting something is better than nothing. And when Commissioner Manfred passes a rule outlawing infielders, the Cardinals are going to be set with so many outfielders in their system.

Rumor Mill: Shohei Ohtani

Major League Baseball today announced that their teams have ratified the new posting agreement between MLB and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. The maximum release fee (or posting fee) remains $20 million and a player, once posted, has 21 days to reach an agreement with a Major League Baseball team.

With that done, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters announced today that Shohei Ohtani will be posted today. That means that Ohtani has until December 22nd to secure a Major League deal.

At 23 years old, Ohtani will enter the Majors subject to the international bonus pool system. Teams have various amounts of money in their pools and some are under restriction. For example, the Texas Rangers have $3.535 million in their pool, which is the most of any team at this point. The Cardinals are currently under penalty for exceeding their bonus pool last year and are only able to extend a signing bonus of $300,000.

But this decision appears to be about more than money for Ohtani.

Had Ohtani waited two more years, he would not have been subject to the international bonus pool system and would have been a free agent, able to sign a contract without any caps. Since it’s probably not about who can make him the highest dollar offer, there is really no excuse for every team in baseball to extend him an offer. 30 teams, 30 offers or fire your General Manager.

This past spring we talked about Luis Robert and the only other international prospect  that could be talked about in the same breath as him was Shohei Ohtani.

Despite being slowed by an ankle injury this season, Ohtani hit .332/.403/.540 with 8 home runs over 65 games as a hitter while posting a 3.20 ERA over 5 starts as a pitcher.

To get an idea of what he can do when healthy, in 2016 he hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 104 games as a hitter and had a 1.85 ERA in 21 games (20 starts, 1 relief appearance) as a pitcher.

While most believe his highest potential is as a pitcher, Ohtani wants to continue to play both ways. In my opinion, that’s why he’s coming now.

Consider that if Ohtani waits two years and signs the $200 million deal that many believe he could have scored had he waited, he is really making too much money for a team to get cute with. Think about how we all hold our breath every time Mike Matheny uses Carlos Martinez as a pinch runner. Now imagine if Martinez was playing the outfield a couple days a week.

By coming earlier, Ohtani costs the team less money and the potential lost value is not as high, which would allow him an opportunity to prove he can do it productively enough to be worth the risk.

But regardless of all of this it comes down to whether the Cardinals are or should be interested. Obviously, because I’m writing about this I think that they should. Mainly because the odds are good that he performs well enough to recapture the $20.3 million investment it would take to bring him in.

The Cardinals need both a starting pitcher and a hitter and Ohtani could help fill both needs by slotting into the rotation and then also playing the outfield a couple days a week.

The organization has also been showing evidence of thinking about how a two way player would work. I think back to the experiment with Jordan Schafer last spring while they considered using him both ways that ended when he got hurt. And bringing in Seung-hwan Oh to help him transition from the Japanese leagues to the United States.

The Cardinals missed on Luis Robert. The general sentiment seems that they will probably miss on Giancarlo Stanton. I feel like I’m just repeating myself at this point, but the opportunity to sign a player with the potential that Ohtani has does not come around that often.

There isn’t much of anything out there that specifically links Ohtani to the Cardinals. Not like there really would be since John Mozeliak runs a quiet ship and keeps his cards close to his sweater vest.

However, they have said that they expected to explore the starting pitching market “later” in the winter. Why would they wait to start laying groundwork with starting pitchers they might have interest in? Unless they weren’t interested in anyone that was available yet and were mulling the pursuit of Ohtani. And if they could sign Ohtani, that would offset the loss of some of their young arms that might be traded away this winter.

I’m positive that they’ll check in on him because that’s what the Cardinals do. If nothing else, they should extend him their maximum offer and see what happens. Worst case scenario they finish second.

Column: Pressure builds towards Stanton decision

There are a few natural deadlines built into the MLB offseason as teams discuss trades and other moves. The first is the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline that came and went on November 20th. The next, the non-tender deadline will come on December 1st, Friday night, and would seem to be the next natural deadline. Meanwhile, the baseball world waits for the Miami Marlins and Giancarlo Stanton to decide what they are going to do this winter.

Yesterday a report from Clark Spencer reiterated that back in October that the Marlins told Giancarlo Stanton that he can either accept a trade this winter or he can remain in Miami while they trade everyone else to get payroll down to their desired level. That it comes up again now could just be happenchance or it could be someone asking for it to be brought up again to put the pressure on Stanton.

It’s been pretty apparent since day one that the Marlins wanted to trade Stanton. And it makes sense.

At 10 years, $295 million remaining on his contract, Stanton is their highest paid player. So highly paid that I pointed out when he signed this contract three years ago that the Marlins committed more money to him than they’d spent on payroll from 2009 to 2013 combined. So when the new ownership of the Marlins talks about reducing payroll, trading Stanton is the biggest single move they could make towards that goal.

But of course they don’t just want to dump the contract, they need to get some prospects in return. Good ones who can help them build their foundation so they can pull off what the Cubs did in 2016 and the Astros did this year. Lose for a few years and then win big. It was actually the Marlins that first perfected this concept. Unfortunately, they never kept those teams around long enough to see if they could sustain that success.

So you have a team that wants to trade Stanton. And several teams lined up to take him. What’s the problem?

Well, the confounding factor in all of this is that Stanton possesses the only no trade clause that the previous Marlins ownership had ever given out. Not even in their pursuit of Albert Pujols back in 2011 did they slip a no trade clause into an offer.

This situation has also been rather opaque from all sides.

The Giants and the Cardinals seem to be the most aggressive in their pursuit of a trade for him. The Red Sox are probably next in line. The Dodgers, rumored to be Stanton’s preferred destination as they play in his home town, have kicked the tires, but don’t seem to be very motivated to make a big offer. Probably because they know they are Stanton’s preferred destination.

The Marlins find themselves in a difficult situation. Apply too much pressure and back Stanton into a corner on one trade offer and he might exercise his no trade clause and torpedo his trade value. That’s why I think this had dragged on. The Marlins want to give Stanton options to reduce the risk that he exercises that no trade and effectively puts an end to their ability to get anything of value for him on the trade market other than salary relief.

On the other hand, I am not convinced that Stanton actually wants to leave Miami. After all, you don’t sign a 13 year contract to play somewhere you don’t want to live.

In all of this we have not heard Stanton ever once say that he doesn’t want to be in Miami. That immediately signals to me that this is not a “trade me and get me out of town ASAP” kind of situation. What Stanton has said is that he does not want to take part in another rebuild because he’s tired of losing.

And if tired of losing is your criteria, it’s honestly hard to find a place that wants him that fits the bill.

The Giants have been reported to be the most aggressive in their pursuit of Stanton, but they have a severe lack of talent depth and the free agent contracts they’ve signed in recent years have not panned out. They finished last season 64-98 and tied for the worst record in baseball. If you want to win out of the gate, San Francisco is out.

The Cardinals want him, but let’s be honest here that there are more questions than answers right now in St. Louis. The team has missed the playoffs for two straight years now, something they’ve only done once since the turn of the century. And there is little to suggest that it won’t be three. They’ve effectively finished further from the World Series than they did the year before for the past four years. And they have three big holes they need to fill this winter in order to have a chance next season and no proven ability to make the big deal to fill them.

That’s not to deny that the Cardinals’ future does look bright and a player like Stanton is the missing piece to their long term success, but even with Stanton on the roster there are big questions about whether they can contend right away. So winning in St. Louis is not a slam dunk.

So as you can see, it’s not a guarantee that Stanton would accept a trade to the Giants or Cardinals and they’d win. Too many questions and that creates reluctance if winning really is his criteria.

So while he might be tired of losing, arguably the two most serious suitors for him don’t guarantee him a much better situation. And arguably, given what the Marlins could get for the other players on their roster, it might serve him better to stay in Miami, force them to rip up the roster and turn it around in a few years,

That’s what brings me back to the belief that the Marlins are more interested in trading Stanton than he is in being traded.

I think he is happy to remain in Miami, even if he has to endure losing for awhile longer, because there isn’t a team in serious pursuit who gives him a situation that’s guaranteed to be better and losing in Miami is better than losing most other places.

I said earlier this winter that he would be dealt by November 20th or not at all and I’ve seen nothing recently that changes my mind. It would not surprise me at all to see him starting in right field for the Marlins next season. Because I’ve seen nothing to indicate he actually wants to leave.

I think Stanton is very happy to wake up every morning overlooking the ocean and paying no state income taxes on his $325 million salary. Unless something better comes along. And I don’t see that happening either.

News: Cardinals add four to 40 Man Roster

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals added LHP Austin Gomber, RHP Derian Gonzalez, OF Oscar Mercado, and OF Tyler O’Neill to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. The 40 man roster now stands at 39 players.

The story. Today was the deadline for the Cardinals to add players to their 40 man roster to protect them from December’s Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 Draft will take place on the final day of December’s Winter Meetings in Orlando. Minor league players who were 19 or older when they signed and played four years and 18 or younger and played five years are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they are not on the 40 man roster.

The numbers. Austin Gomber, 23, was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Florida Atlantic University. He posted a 3.34 ERA over 26 starts for Double-A Springfield, initially struggling with the promotion to Springfield. From mid-June on, he posted a 2.34 ERA over his final 15 starts. He is ranked as the Cardinals’ #8 prospect by MLB.com.

Derian Gonzalez, 22, was signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela. He posted a 4.33 ERA in 15 starts and 3 relief appearances for High A Palm Beach. He missed time with a shoulder injury this summer and after a stint in Rookie ball, returned to Palm Beach as a reliever striking out 8 of the 12 batters he faced.

Oscar Mercado, 22, was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of high school. Last season Mercado debuted as an outfielder and was a full time outfielder this season for the first time. He also had a bit of a breakout season with the bat as well, hitting .287/.341/.428 with 13 home runs over 120 games with Double-A Springfield. He is ranked as the Cardinals’ #18 prospect by MLB.com.

Tyler O’Neill, 22, was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of high school by the Seattle Mariners. A consensus top-100 prospect before the 2017 season, O’Neill was acquired in July for Marco Gonzales. Between his two minor league stops, O’Neill hit .246/.321/.499 with 31 home runs in 130 games at the Triple-A level. He is ranked as the Cardinals’ #4 prospect by MLB.com.

The impact. 6/10. O’Neill was an obvious addition for the Cardinals as he might be the only bat in the system with the potential to be a middle of the order hitter. Gomber on the verge of knocking on the door to the Majors and might be in play as a fifth starter option for the club in Spring Training if the cards fall his way.

The additions of Gonzalez and Mercado represent a couple players who have had a good season, but are still developing and need to back up those performances to prove their worth.

The club was expected to have made a trade before today to help thin out the 40 man roster to give them more space for options, however, that did not end up being the case. Given that they didn’t make another trade to clear some space, they must be comfortable with those they are leaving unprotected this season. The last two years, the Cardinals have lost RHP Luis Perdomo and IF Allen Cordoba in the Major League portion.

A noted absence was Patrick Wisdom who hit .243/.310/.507 with 31 home runs over 127 games for Memphis this season. Wisdom was left unprotected last season as well and went unclaimed. That may not be the case this year.