News: Adam Wainwright picks up sought after Silver Slugger

What happened. St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher Adam Wainwright named by Louisville Slugger as the best hitting pitcher in the National League in 2017.

The story. The “Silver Slugger Award” is presented by Louisville Slugger to the best offensive player at every position in the American League and the National League. The winner is determined by votes from managers and coaches.

The numbers. Adam Wainwright posted a slash line of .262/.279/.452 with a pair of doubles and a pair of home runs in 42 at bats this season. He led all Cardinals pitchers in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, runs scored, and tied for the lead in runs batted in.

On April 21st against Milwaukee, he went 2-for-3 and hit a two run home run to put the Cardinals on top 2-1. And then hit a two RBI single in the next inning to stretch the lead to four runs.

His next home run came on June 1st against the Dodgers. He hit a two-run home run to put the Cardinals on top 2-0 and the score would stay that way.

On July 22nd against Chicago, he only went 1-for-3, but that hit broke up a perfect game bid by Jon Lester in the sixth inning.

Wainwright led the his fellow pitchers in runs scored, batting average, slugging percentage and tied with Cardinals’ teammate Carlos Martinez in runs batted in with 11. He was second in home runs behind Madison Bumgarner, who started just 17 games this season.

He had a .462 batting average this season with runners in scoring position.

Over the past two seasons now, Wainwright has hit .231/.252/.452 with 9 doubles, a triple, 4 home runs, and 29 RBI in 119 plate appearances. Projected out to 600 plate appearances, that puts Wainwright on pace for 45 doubles, 5 triples, 20 home runs, and 146 RBI.

The impact. 3/10. This was an award that Wainwright had spoken of wanting to win many times.

Wainwright becomes the third Cardinals’ pitcher to win a Silver Slugger Award since they began giving out the award in 1980, joining Bob Forsch and Jason Marquis.

News: Cardinals lose 8 to minor league free agency

What happened. Eight minor league players for the St. Louis Cardinals became minor league free agents yesterday. They are right handed pitchers Mark Montgomery, Miguel Socolovich, and Josh Zeid, catchers Gabriel Lino and Albert Rosario and outfielders Anthony Garcia, Nick Martini and C.J. McElroy. Baseball America has the list of all 572 players who became minor league free agents on Monday evening.

The story. Teams can renew a minor league player’s contract six times before the player can become eligible for minor league free agency and become eligible to sign with any other team. Players in this minor league free agency class would have been drafted in 2011 or earlier.

The numbers. Mark Montgomery, 27, joined the Cardinals organization this year on a minor league deal. The right hander posted a 2.43 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in 66.2 relief innings for Triple-A Memphis, which left many surprised that he didn’t get an opportunity with all the bullpen shuffles the team made near the end of the season.

Miguel Socolovich, 31, joined the Cardinals in 2015 on a minor league deal and has spent time with the big league club. This past season he had a 4.15 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 39 innings for Triple-A Memphis. He was designated for assignment in May after posting an 8.68 ERA and 1.66 WHIP over 18.2 innings with the big league club. Over three years with the Cardinals he had a 3.80 ERA over 66.1 innings.

Josh Zeid, 30, joined the Cardinals this year and posted a 5.19 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP in 102.1 innings for Triple-A Memphis. He began the season in the rotation for Memphis, making 12 starts and 21 relief appearances.

Gabriel Lino, 24, also joined the Cardinals this season and began the season with Springfield, posting a .267/.339/.419 batting line over 58 games before moving to Memphis following the promotion of Carson Kelly in July. There Lino hit .236/.317/.347 over 22 games.

Alberto Rosario, 30, joined the Cardinals organization in 2015 as a minor league free agent and has served as catcher for most of that time with Triple-A Memphis. This season in Memphis he hit .247/.291/.279 over 50 games. He’s also served at times as the backup catcher for the big league club hitting .171/.209/.220 in 23 games over two years.

Anthony Garcia, 25, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 18th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. After a strong 2015 season where Garcia hit .285/.400/.476 with 11 home runs for Springfield, Garcia was added to the club’s 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. He would struggle to find any traction in Triple-A, however, hitting .232/.299/.397 in 102 games with Memphis. He was outrighted off the 40 man roster in April 2017.

Nick Martini, 27, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 7th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. In a system packed with outfielder talent, Martini had somewhat of a breakout season this year, hitting .303/.394/.436 over 98 games for Triple-A Memphis.

C.J. McElroy, 24, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 3rd round of the 2011 MLB Draft. Twice named the Fastest Baserunner in the Cardinals’ system by Baseball America, he never quite reached the promise of a third round pick. It wasn’t until 2015, his fifth year in the organization that he hit his first home run. Over six seasons he hit .256/.325/.308 across four levels. He missed the 2017 season due to injury.

The impact. 1/10. These are guys that the organization doesn’t think can cut it at the big league level or they would have been protected. It’s also possible that they expect they can bring some of these guys back. I would expect Rosario to return to Memphis where he’ll get an opportunity to be the next catcher up for the organization, a role he’s had for the last few seasons.

I also hope that the club can bring back Mark Montgomery. With the numbers he had, it was a surprise to me that he didn’t get a shot this summer through all the bullpen turmoil that the club had.

News: Paul DeJong named finalist for NL Rookie of the Year Award

What happened. St. Louis Cardinals’ shortstop Paul DeJong has been named a finalist for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

The story. A fourth round pick out of the 2015 MLB Draft as a Senior from Illinois State University, Paul DeJong, 24, made his MLB debut on May 28th by taking the second pitch he saw from Rockies closer Greg Holland deep for a pinch hit home run. He would fill in for the injured Kolten Wong initially, but a month after his debut, DeJong successfully pushed last season’s rookie standout Aledmys Diaz out of the starting job at shortstop.

The numbers. After that pinch hit home run in his debut, DeJong would hit 24 more big league homers in 2017 to finish the season with 25 home runs. His final slash line would be a very respectable .285/.325/.552 with 25 home runs.

He led the team in home runs, becoming the first Cardinals’ rookie to do that since Albert Pujols in 2001. He also led the team in slugging percentage. His 26 doubles led National League rookies.

Slugging is something he did well. Between Triple-A Memphis and St. Louis, he hit a total of 38 home runs in 2017.

The impact. 1/10. It’s hard to give this much impact seeing as it’s a solo award and Cody Bellinger is the favorite to win it, but it is a nice feather in DeJong’s cap. He becomes the first Cardinals player to be in the top-3 since Kolten Wong was in 2014.

DeJong’s next step will be finding a way to avoid a sophomore slump like the guy he replaced at shortstop. In 2016 Aledmys Diaz broke onto the scene hitting .300/.369/.510 with 17 home runs for the big league club, but stumbled this season, hitting just .259/.290/.392 and received a mid-season demotion to Memphis.

On the plus side, DeJong plays better defense than Diaz did.

News: Cardinals make Lance Lynn a qualifying offer, make roster moves

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have made a qualifying offer to free agent pitcher RHP Lance Lynn. In addition, the club has given RHP Trevor Rosenthal his unconditional release and outrighted IF Alex Mejia and C Alberto Rosario off the 40 man roster. Their 40 man roster now stands at 35 players.

The story. Today was the deadline for the club to make qualifying offers to their pending free agents and Lance Lynn was an obvious choice as he is looking for a long-term deal this winter.

On the roster moves end, Trevor Rosenthal was going to be spending most of the 2018 season rehabilitating from his August Tommy John surgery. This will free up his roster spot immediately instead of on December 1st non-tender deadline. In additional roster moves, Alex Mejia and Albert Rosario were outrighted to free up 40 man roster space.

The impact. 2/10. This isn’t a completely meaningless day due to the release of Trevor Rosenthal. Many, myself included, were hoping that the Cardinals and Rosenthal could come to terms on a two year deal that would pay him while he rehabs for a lower rate with incentives in 2019. However, I imagine any phone call to Rosenthal’s agent Scott Boras would have been met with a, “We’d love to discuss a two year deal with you… in free agency.”

There was absolutely zero incentive for Rosenthal to sign a deal before the non-tender deadline. Either the Cardinals tender him and he doesn’t need to sign anything more than the one year tender or they don’t and he gets 29 additional teams offering for his services. It was a no-brainer on Rosenthal’s side of the table. Yes, there is the risk that he has to rehab next year without a contract, but that probably doesn’t scare a guy who made $11 million the last two years as much as it does you and me.

For Lance Lynn, this is no surprise. With his pursuit of a long-term deal, a one year deal has little interest to him and he is expected to decline the qualifying offer. From what I’ve understood the Cardinals should receive a compensatory pick after the second round for Lynn next summer.

The decision to outright Alex Mejia is a little bit of a surprise to me, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Mejia’s value is as a utility infielder and they already have a number of players capable of playing that role and there are a number of players with a higher ceiling than Mejia to protect.

The outrighting of Alberto Rosario is more a procedural thing to remove him from the 40 man roster. He is eligible to elect for minor league free agency, as he has been the past few seasons, but has remained with the team.

News: Cardinals name Mike Maddux pitching coach

What happenedOriginally reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the St. Louis Cardinals have officially named Mike Maddux as their new Pitching Coach. Bryan Eversgerd has been named Bullpen Coach.

The story. The Cardinals declined to renew the contracts of Pitching Coach Derek Lilliquist and Bullpen Coach Blaise Ilsley at the end of the season, opting to make an effort to redefine the pitching coach position. Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak indicated that the club wanted to change their approach to capitalize on analytics and take a more modern approach to managing a pitching staff.

The numbers. Mike Maddux, 56, was part of Dusty Baker’s staff in Washington for the past two years where the club won 95 games in 2016 and 97 games in 2017 with a pair of division titles. Maddux became available when the organization decided to part ways with Baker following the season.

Prior to that, Maddux spent seven seasons with the Texas Rangers and was pitching coach for the Rangers when the Cardinals faced them in the 2011 World Series. Before that, he was with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Bryan Eversgerd, 48, joined the Cardinals’ organization in 2001 and has served as pitching coach at almost all levels of the minors since then. For the past six seasons he has been the Pitching Coach for Triple-A Memphis.

The impact. 9/10. This is a significant coaching move for the Cardinals, especially with the way they seem to want to be positioning the Pitching Coach.

The Cardinals had interest in Jim Hickey, but according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, moved on to Maddux after he became available. Nightengale also added that Maddux had received five job offers since his departure from the Nationals, but that the Cardinals were his first choice.

The move might signal a change of pace for the Cardinals’ organization when it comes to their offseason approach. When Maddux was hired by the Nationals before the 2016 season, he was believed to be the highest paid pitching coach in baseball.

Maddux’s approach to attacking an opposing team’s lineup involves managing the lineup, attacking hitters inside to open up the plate, and focus more on late movement than pure velocity or overall movement. He is regarded as one of the best pitching coaches when it comes to pitching mechanics in the game.

I’m sure there are guys who are much more knowledgeable than me who could break this down more, but it’s an interesting hire for the Cardinals. He has been a managerial candidate with the Cubs, Red Sox, and Astros in the past, which might fit with an organization who is looking to give their Pitching Coach more responsibility for managing the pitching staff.

News: Shildt, Oquendo, and McGee headline Cardinals coaching moves

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that Jose Oquendo will return as third base coach for the Cardinals this season. In addition to those moves, the Cardinals have named Mike Shildt the Bench Coach and Willie McGee will join the Major League coaching staff.

The story. Following the departure of David Bell last week to take a front office job with the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals moved quickly to sort out the newly opened position. It was widely expected that Shildt would be the top internal pick for Bench Coach, but who would fill the opening at third base was unknown.

The numbers. Since a knee surgery took him off the Major League staff after the 2015 season, Jose Oquendo, 54, has worked in Florida with the minor league infielders. He had previously spent 16 seasons as the Cardinals’ third base coach following a stint at the team’s bench coach in 1999. Many have attributed his departure as one of the key reasons for the club’s lack of defensive fundamentals over the past two seasons.

Mike Shildt, 48, joined the Cardinals in 2004 as a scout and became a manager in 2009, winning three minor league championships along the way. He joined the big league staff before the 2017 season as Quality Control Coach before being assigned as Third Base Coach following the reassignment of Chris Maloney.

Willie McGee, 58, joins a Major League coaching staff for the first time. He has most recently served in the front office as a roving instructor. McGee played 13 seasons with the Cardinals as a player, hitting .294/.329/.400 in 1,661 games. He won the 1982 World Series with the franchise and won the 1985 Most Valuable Player Award. He won a pair of batting titles with the Cardinals and led the league in triples in 1985 as well.

The impact. 8/10. The return of Jose Oquendo to the big league coaching staff is a big development, as I did not expect him to return to the staff since he was suggested to have long desired a post in Florida working with the organization’s young players. But his willingness to return shows that the rumored divide between he and Mike Matheny may not be as wide as has been suggested.

The move of Shildt to become the bench coach was expected. It’s been suggested that Shildt has been positioned on the Major League staff to be the guy who would step in as interim manager should a decision to relieve Matheny of his duties be made. Shildt has won one of the Cardinals’ George Kissell Awards in player development and is viewed as perhaps the strongest “Kissell disciple” in the organization.

It would seem to be the hope that with Shildt running spring training and the return of Oquendo that the tools are all there and available for the players to improve their fundamentals.

The addition of McGee to the coaching staff is only the second biggest surprise of the day. It is still not confirmed what role he will play on the coaching staff. McGee is one of the two players that the organization has had as a roving base running instructor in the minor leagues, and I suggested in January that the Cardinals should consider investing in a base running coach. It’s possible we could see that fall under his list of responsibilities.

The organization still needs to sort out the pitching and bullpen coaches. It was reported that John Mozeliak went to meet with former Rays’ pitching coach Jim Hickey about the job last week, however the Cubs are also in the market for a pitching coach and they are also planning to interview Hickey for the job which would reunite him with Joe Maddon. In my opinion, Hickey is the right guy for the job and it would be a shame if he ended up in Chicago, but I almost expect it at this point.

News: David Bell takes front office job with Giants

What happened. Cardinals’ bench coach David Bell has taken a front office job overseeing minor league player development for the San Francisco Giants.

The story. At the end of the season when the team confirmed that pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley weren’t returning next season, John Mozeliak said that he did not expect there to be any changes on the other team’s coaching staff. However it seems there will be more staff turnover than previously expected.

The numbers. David Bell joined the Cardinals’ organization in 2014 as the team’s assistant hitting coach. A year later he was promoted to bench coach, where he has served since. He has said before that his goal is to be a manager. He has now served as a minor league manager, base coach, and bench coach in his career. Now he’ll add a major front office role to his resume.

The impact. 8/10. This really depends on how you view the impact of the coaching staff, but I see it as a big development for the Cardinals. In my opinion, the bench coach and the pitching coach are the two most important coaches in the dugout when it comes to helping the manager formulate game strategy and both will be replaced.

This can be good or bad. Most see Matheny’s in game management as his biggest issue, but I do feel like it improved when Bell was promoted to replace Mike Aldrete.

My wish list for a bench coach, especially for Matheny, is someone who has plenty of his own managing experience so that they have encountered many of these same game situations before and aren’t learning managerial strategy on the fly.

The club will obviously look at all their options, but one internal option that has to be an early favorite for the role would seem to be Mike Shildt.

Shildt joined the Cardinals in 2004 as a scout and has eight years of managing experience, including championships in 2010 and 2011 at Johnson City and 2012 in Springfield. He joined the big league staff before this season as Quality Control Coach before stepping in as third base coach when Chris Maloney was reassigned.

The bench coach is generally responsible for scheduling and managing the work during spring training. As a proclaimed George Kissel disciple, Shildt would seem to be the right guy to help correct some of the fundamental lapses and perhaps a promotion would help him do that.

 

News: Cardinals part ways with Derek Lilliquist and Blaise Ilsley

What happened. The Cardinals announced today that they will not renew the contracts of pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley. The team expects that the remainder of the coaching staff will be returning for 2018.

The story. As part of the decision to not offer contract renewals to Lilliquist and Ilsley, Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak has said that the organization wants to rethink the strategy of pitching use with the implementation of new analytical data and more modern views of bullpen usage.

The numbers. Derek Lilliquist has been one of the organization’s longest tenured coaches, joining the Cardinals’ in 2002 as pitching coach for the Rookie league Johnson City Cardinals. He served at multiple levels before spending 2008 to 2010 as the team’s pitching coordinator in Jupiter where he worked with rehabbing pitchers. He joined the big league club after the 2010 season as the bullpen coach, but was promoted to interim pitching coach in August 2011 when Dave Duncan took a leave of absence. That move was made permanent after the 2012 season.

Blaise Ilsley became the bullpen coach for the Cardinals following the 2012 season after spending five seasons as pitching coach for the Triple-A Memphis Rebirds. Before that he spent six seasons as pitching coach of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. He was the Cardinals’ 2004 winner of the George Kissell Award, presented annually for excellence in player development.

The impact. 9/10. Someone on the coaching staff was going to lose their job this winter, it was just a matter of who. I did expect Ilsley to lose his job. Obviously the optics of the video of him standing next to an obviously uncomfortable Trevor Rosenthal trying to warm up in the bullpen without a word, where later we found Rosenthal needed to have Tommy John surgery, didn’t help.

Perhaps it was most surprising that it ended up being Derek Lilliquist, who has generally been well regarded during his time with the team, was the man on the way out.

My first reaction was a laugh that John Mabry was able to hold onto his job for another winter, but the more I think about the firing of Lilliquist, the more I think it actually does make logical sense.

One of the reasons the Cardinals pointed out was that they wanted a change in how the pitching staff was handled. The idea there is that Lilliquist has a voice in how the bullpen has been managed. Considering that Matheny and Lilliquist have been together since the beginning, that’s something I’m willing to consider.

So at that point there are three options. First, either Matheny is following Lilliquist’s advice on how to manage the bullpen. Second, Lilliquist agrees with the way Matheny manages the bullpen. Or third, Matheny was ignoring Lilliquist’s advice on how to manage the bullpen. If it’s been established that Matheny is sticking around, all three are reasons to find a new pitching coach in the hopes that you find someone who will either give Matheny better advice or that he is more likely to listen to.

Regardless, we will find out.

Lilliquist is also the last hold over from Tony La Russa’s coaching staff from the 2011 season. So going forward this entire staff will have been chosen under Mike Matheny’s management. There will be no excuses for him next season. Perhaps this is the organizational equivalent of giving Matheny enough rope to hang himself.

It will be interesting to see who is hired to take Lilliquist’s place and ultimately I’ll reserve my judgement for whether it is a good move until we know the corresponding one.

Personally, my hope remains the same as it was when the Cardinals needed to find a new bench coach when Mike Aldrete left for Oakland. Bring in someone with experience from outside the organization who brings their own ideas to mesh into the way this team is managed.

News: Wainwright to undergo surgery

What happened. It was confirmed that RHP Adam Wainwright will have surgery to remove a cartilage flag from his right elbow today.

The story. Wainwright struggled down the stretch with pain in his elbow that he called similar to an issue he had after the 2014 season. Unlike in 2014, Wainwright was not able to pitch through it and he believes it contributed to a bone bruise and his diminished velocity this season. He admitted that it had bothered him since a July 22nd start against the Cubs. Following that game he went to the disabled list with a back injury.

The numbers. Despite Wainwright’s 12-5 record and the team posting a second-best 15-8 record in his starts (behind Luke Weaver‘s 8-2 team record), Wainwright endured the worst season of his career. His 5.11 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 1.50 WHIP, 10.2 H/9, 1.0 HR/9, and 3.3 BB/9  all career highs numbers.

The impact. 1/10. The impact here is negligible since we already knew that he was probably going to need surgery to remedy the problem. The real key will be whether this will actually help improve his performance next season. With his performance this year and the fact that it demonstrably had an effect, it certainly can’t hurt.

At 36, Wainwright is the old dog in this rotation. If the Cardinals’ plans to “go young” remain in tact, he looks like he will have ten years over the next oldest pitcher in the rotation. Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha are both 26, Luke Weaver is 24, and Jack Flaherty, who is the odds on favorite to be the fifth starter next year, will be 22 in a couple weeks.

Wainwright will be in his “age 36” season next year, as defined by Baseball-Reference. There was only one starting pitcher in 2017 who was in their age 36 season and made over 10 starts. That was CC Sabathia who posted a 3.69 ERA and 14-5 record in 27 starts for the Yankees. Hopefully that comparison bodes well for Wainwright, since Sabathia too has had to overcome his own struggles in recent years and managed to put together a good year.

News: Cardinals recall Breyvic Valera

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals recalled infielder Breyvic Valera from Memphis before tonight’s game.

The story. This is Valera’s second stint of the season with the Cardinals. He made his debut earlier this month, but was returned to Memphis for the end of the Pacific Coast League playoffs. With their season ending Tuesday, Valera joins Aledmys Diaz and Josh Lucas as Redbirds to return to the big league club after the minor league seasons have ended.

The numbers. Breyvic Valera hit .314/.368/.450 with 22 doubles, 6 triples, and 8 home runs for Memphis this season in a breakout year. He hit .250/.308/.333 in the Pacific Coast League playoffs and Triple-A Championship game. During his brief stint with the Cardinals he went 1-for-5 with a walk in 3 games.

The impact. 1/10. I don’t see this bringing much of an impact and he will likely see most of his action as a defensive replacement. With his performance this year, he is likely safe from any offseason roster moves. This is further insurance against Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko at third base while both have dealt with injuries down the stretch.