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.

Notebook: GM Meetings, Day 4

This is it. The final day of the GM Meetings in Orlando, Florida. General Managers will return home and attempt to build on the face-to-face discussions they had this week as they negotiate via carrier pigeon and pony express until they all return in December for the Winter Meetings that still happen technically in the fall.

Not much happened today, but for everything that happened at the GM Meetings relating to the Cardinals, you can check out Day 3, Day 2, and Day 1‘s notebooks.

And don’t forget to go vote in the Cardinal Blogger Awards.

Giants have been the most aggressive on Stanton?

Bob Nightengale is reporting this morning that the Miami Marlins are not close to trading Giancarlo Stanton, but that the San Francisco Giants have been the most aggressive in trade discussions.

This doesn’t surprise me too much. The Giants desperately need both outfield help and offensive help and Stanton would help most. The problem for the Giants comes in as they are generally considered to have one of the worst farm systems in baseball, hence their need to be more aggressive. The system has no consensus top-100 prospects. Their top-3 prospects according to MLB.com (3B Christian Arroyo, 1B Chris Shaw, and RHP Tyler Beede) have all appeared on various top-100 charts this season, but never on multiple.

But the Giants’ offer sounds like it may be built around outfielder Heliot Ramos who is their #4 prospect according to MLB.com and first round draft pick in 2017. Ramos hit .348/.404/.645 with 6 home runs in 35 games in rookie league this season.

GMs respond to trade requests with emojis and GIFs?

Ben Nicholson-Smith from SportsNet Canada with my favorite piece of reporting of the week. He reported this morning that he learned this week that GMs use emojis while texting about trade deals, but some also reply with GIFs.

And some actual news…

The Cardinals received the #39 pick in the competitive balance lottery. And Lance Lynn official declines his qualifying offer.

News: Lance Lynn declines qualifying offer

What happened. Free agent RHP Lance Lynn declined the St. Louis Cardinals’ 1 year, $17.4 million qualifying offer to remain a free agent. As a result, the Cardinals will get a Competitive Balance Round B pick in next summer’s draft regardless of how much Lynn signs for.

The story. Teams can offer their outgoing free agents a one year “qualifying offer” that this year was valued at $17.4 million. If the player accepts, they are no longer a free agent and are under the terms of that qualifying offer. If the player rejects the offer and then signs with another team the team can receive a compensatory draft pick.

For a player like Lynn, he is in free agency looking for bigger money and more years than the one year qualifying offer, so he declined it.

The numbers. How much Lynn stands to gain on the free agent market has been a big question. Personally, I see him between $110 and $125 million over 5 years. However MLB Trade Rumors had him at 4 years, $56 million and Fangraphs had him at 3 years, $48 million. That’s a stark difference.

The impact. 1/10. He was going to reject this offer anyway. Though I believe he could have benefited from betting on himself again and returning for another year. Prove that 2017 was no fluke and that the wall he hit in September was purely because he didn’t pitch in 2016.

However, he may not have been enthused about the idea of accepting a one year return to St. Louis given that the club didn’t make any contact about negotiating a contract extension last year.

Personally, if he does fall to the ranges that are suggested by MLBTR and Fangraphs, it would behoove the Cardinals to jump onboard and bring Lynn back. I get the argument that he isn’t the kind of guy you want to drop $25 million a year on, but if the number gets down into the $14 to $16 million range, the arguments lose steam quickly given his track record.

News: Cardinals receive Competitive Balance draft pick

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals received the #39 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft as part of the Competitive Balance process.

The story. In the 2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement, the MLB instituted a Competitive Balance Round of the draft. The process was continued in the 2017 CBA. The 10 lowest-revenue clubs and the clubs from the 10 smallest markets are eligible to receive a Competitive Balance pick. You can read more about it at the MLB.com Glossary if you want more info.

The numbers. The Cardinals will pick at #19 in the first round of the MLB Draft and now they will pick up pick #39.

The impact. 3/10. After losing their first three picks in last season’s draft, one a compensatory pick to the Cubs for signing Dexter Fowler and the other two for an employee hacking the Astros’ analytics database, they will now gain an extra pick early in this season’s draft.

Who knows who they’ll pick or who will be available at this point, but there should still be some good talent available at #39. Dakota Hudson was taken #34 in 2016. Jake Woodford was taken #39 in 2015. Jack Flaherty was taken #34 in 2014. Stephen Piscotty was taken #36 in 2012. So the potential upside there is strong.

Something special about the Competitive Balance picks as well is that they can be traded, though only during the regular season. So don’t expect that to be part of the compensation package for a player like Giancarlo Stanton.

 

Notebook: GM Meetings, Day 3

And were off on the penultimate day of the General Manager Meetings in Orlando, Florida. As always I recommend clicking through to the articles to support the reporters who are doing the work getting us these nuggets that keep us on the edges of our seats.

And if you’ve been visiting another planet for the last couple days, catch up with Day 2 and Day 1 notebooks as well.

Morrison weighing offer from the Cardinals?

Rob Rains reported yesterday afternoon (and apparently I missed it) when discussing that the Cardinals had talked to free agent first baseman Logan Morrison that he was also reporting that Rains was weighing contract offers from the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels.

Morrison is hard to figure out just how much he would command in free agency, so I don’t have a guess that would be worth anything. He’s coming off a 1 year, $2.5 million deal with Tampa that had another $1.25 million in incentives.

Morrison was worth 3.3 WAR over 601 plate appearances last season. Based on my tweet this morning with last season’s WAR/600 numbers, that would have put him in an effective tie with Dexter Fowler as the team’s third most valuable player in 2017. But his previous career high in WAR was 1.1 in 2014. So it is yet to be determined whether that’s repeatable, real change in approach or whether it’s a fluke. In addition, those 601 plate appearances are a career high for a player who debuted in 2010.

With the news that Matt Carpenter has been told to come to camp expecting to be a “super utility” guy, it looks like Morrison might be their option at first base.

Cardinals and Rays have talked about Colome?

Jon Morosi reported this afternoon that the the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays have discussed closer Alex Colome in trade talks. Derrick Goold added that it’s not the first time the Cardinals have called the Rays asking about Colome either.

The 28-year-old Colome is one of my favorite potential Cardinals’ targets this winter. Colome led the league with 47 saves last season for the Rays with a 3.24 ERA. He has three years of salary arbitration remaining and would likely cost quite a bit to bring in. However, the other options like Wade Davis or Greg Holland pose their own questions. The Rays, who are looking at a franchise high in payroll next season, may have interest in selling off guys who don’t have guaranteed contracts. Colome is projected to earn $5.5 million this season.

There is some concern with his drop in strikeouts from 11.3 K/9 to 7.8 K/9, but he started using his cutter more this year than ever before and saw a huge drop in line drive rates while maintaining an increase in ground ball rates.

Cardinals and Marlins talk about Stanton?

Jon Morosi is also reporting this afternoon that the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins discussed trade concepts based around acquiring Giancarlo Stanton today. Presuming this means anything more than what’s already been talked about for the better part of two weeks, this would seem to indicate there’s some traction there.

Derrick Goold added that the two sides also met to discuss improvements to Roger Dean Stadium, where both spend spring training. The park needs some modernization and the lease requires mirroring improvements.

Cardinals have no interest in Martinez?

Derrick Goold is reporting this afternoon that the Cardinals have no interest in J.D. Martinez and have had internal conversations about Carlos Gonzalez.

I’m not a big fan of signing a player off a career year mainly because you’re likely to overpay for regression. That’s Martinez. His .690 slugging percentage was impressive, but a far cry from the .540 slugging percentage he averaged over the previous three seasons. He also hit twice as many home runs as he did in 2016 in one fewer game. In other words, that’s some unsustainable success.

For Carlos Gonzalez, he struggled last season before finishing it on fire. Unfortunately, he still struggled away from Coors Field. That’s not to mean he might not still be capable of being a productive player. I feel like playing at Coors Field for 81 games a year creates bad habits in hitters. His bat is not the answer the Cardinals are looking for, but it may allow them to make another player available for acquiring someone they need via trade.