Cardinals trade Matt Adams to Braves for prospect

Everyone knew Stephen Piscotty was going to be activated on Saturday in time for the game, after all, he was in the lineup and batting second. What was unknown was what the corresponding roster move was going to be. Would they send out their extra pitcher or make room some other way. Some other way was the answer as the Cardinals announced that they have traded 1B Matt Adams and cash to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor league infielder Juan Yepez.

Adams, 28, is hitting .292/.340/.396 with 1 home run this season over 31 games. The former 23rd round pick hit .271/.315/.453 with 56 home runs in 486 career games in Cardinal red.

He will join former teammate Jaime Garcia with the Braves, a team that became interested in adding a first baseman after learning that they would be without Freddie Freeman for three months after he broke his left wrist.

Since the Cardinals committed to Matt Carpenter at first base this winter, it didn’t really make much sense for the organization to bring Adams back for 2017, except in the hopes of trading him. The team even tried him in left field for a bit early in the season, but that didn’t pan out as hoped. There was nowhere in St. Louis for him to carve out an opportunity.

He will get that opportunity in Atlanta, where he will get the chance to play regularly over the next three months until Freeman returns. Freeman is a player I’ve often compared Adams to. Early in his career, Freeman struggled against left handed pitching as well, but the Braves kept playing him and after a couple seasons he adapted and has become one of the league’s best and most consistent hitters.

Adams never got that opportunity to play through those struggles and adapt in St. Louis, though he showed a hint of being able to hit left handed pitching last season, as he hit .283/.300/.522 off them.

The trouble for the Cardinals that I see with this deal is the loss of a power bat off the bench. This is likely a case of an opportunity coming up to trade Adams somewhere where he would get the chance to play that he wouldn’t have had in St. Louis. It’s not the first time that the organization has “done right” by a player in Adams’ shoes. But I can’t shake the feeling that they just chose Jhonny Peralta over Adams. And I don’t think that’s the right decision.

As far as the Cardinals’ return, Yepez, 19, was signed by the Braves out of Venezuela in 2014 for a little over a $1 million signing bonus. In 121 career minor league games, he has hit .281/.355/.407 with 6 home runs in the Braves organization. At 6’1″ and 200 pounds he is still considered a very raw prospect.

In 2015, after hitting .299/.364/.458 as a 17 year old in rookie leagues, Yepez was considered to possibly be one of the highest ceiling bats in the Braves’ organization. The scouting reports cite quick hands and great contact skills. There are questions as to his plate approach, but he is still young. He walked just 7.6% of the time compared to a 23.0% strikeout rate.

His defense is also a question. Originally signed as a third baseman, scouts have hinted at a move to first base, where he has played the majority of his minor league games, since he was signed. The Braves moved him back to third base this season.

In discussing Yepez, Mozeliak termed him as a “lottery ticket” type prospect. He was a young player that was thought highly of and has stalled a bit recently. The Cardinals are expected to assign him to Peoria.

Cardinals release RHP Mitch Harris

RHP Mitch Harris announced this morning that he has been released by the St. Louis Cardinals with a post on Instagram. The team confirmed it later in the day.

Today was my last day as a St. Louis Cardinal. I couldn’t be more proud of the time I’ve spent with this organization. They believed in my when others didn’t. They provided me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and to that I say thank you! Today marks the end of my time with the Cardinals but the beginning to another journey. I don’t know what God’s plan is but I know I’m excited for it. Thank you Cardinal Nation for your unending support! Thank you to the coaches for pushing me to become the pitcher they knew I could be. Thank you most of all to my teammates. I’ll cherish all our time together and most importantly our friendships. It was an honor to wear the “birds on the bat” … Thank you!

Mitch
Aka LT

Harris, 31, was originally drafted by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 2008 draft out of the United States Naval Academy. Due to his military service commitment and unable to get an early release from his service (as NFL players had been able to do), it would be until 2013 before Harris would see a professional mound for his minor league debut. Yet the Cardinals held onto him.

In 2015, the Cardinals called Harris up and he would make his Major League debut in Milwaukee, allowing two hits, two walks, and striking out one in 1.1 innings of work. When he did that, he became the first Naval Academy graduate to pitch in the Major Leagues since 1921. Harris would spend three cups of coffee with the the Cardinals that year, posting a 3.67 ERA and 1.59 WHIP over 27 innings of work.

He would arrive to camp in 2016 as one of the players in the running for a bullpen spot, but arm soreness would derail his spring. In June he opted to have “UCL reconstruction,” a procedure pioneered by Dr. George Paletta and also undergone by former Cardinals’ teammate Seth Maness. Maness has 1.50 ERA in 6 innings for the Royals triple-A affiliate this season.

Harris would throw two innings in spring training and start the season on the disabled list as he worked to regain strength. He would also make two appearances this season for Memphis between disabled list trips, most recent being a 1-2-3 inning on April 16th.

When he was informed of his release, he was preparing to take another bullpen session as he worked towards returning to the mound. He told the Post-Dispatch that he is one to two weeks from being back to game ready.

Cardinals call up Pham, place Piscotty on DL

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have placed RF Stephen Piscotty on the 10 day disabled list and called up OF Tommy Pham from Memphis. Piscotty was lifted early at the end of the 2nd inning of last night’s game after running out a ground ball and appearing to tweak his hamstring.

We’re still waiting for more information, but Piscotty seemed to indicate to the media last night that he was optimistic that it wasn’t too severe. However, he may still be day-to-day for an indeterminate amount of time right now, even with a minor spasm. This is the advantage of the shorter disabled list. Rather than Piscotty staying active day-to-day and wasting a roster spot. It also keeps him from pushing it to return sooner than he would if he were on the active roster.

The Cardinals will recall Tommy Pham who was hitting .283/.371/.500 with 4 home runs and 19 RBI in 25 games for Memphis this season. He has mostly played right field so far this season.

Pham has proven himself capable of putting together quality stretches in the Majors in the past. After he was recalled on August 27, 2015 to the end of the season, Pham hit .303/.379/.532 with 4 home runs over 39 games with the Cardinals. And then last summer in the month that followed the All STar Break, he hit .263/.359/.550 with 6 home runs in 28 games. Unfortunately he stumbled hard after that, striking out 23 times in 39 plate appearances to finish out the year.

The Cardinals could really use Pham to come up hot and put together one of those stretches for them.

Also pointed out by Wes Keene on Twitter. The Cardinals’ press release was worded as “outfielder Stephen Piscotty (right hamstring strain) have been placed” (emphasis added) indicating that at least the media relations department was prepared for the Cardinals to place two players on the DL this morning.

That other player was Dexter Fowler who left after the third inning with a shoulder injury. The Post-Dispatch is reporting this afternoon that the club hasn’t yet confirmed Dexter Fowler’s diagnosis though the club fears it may be more severe than Piscotty’s.

The club will also likely wait until they know what roster move they will make to correspond to Fowler’s DL trip before making that official.

Cardinals recall Tuivailala, place Lyons back on DL

The St. Louis Cardinals have placed LHP Tyler Lyons on the 10 day disabled list for a right intercostal strain. They have called up RHP Sam Tuivailala to take his place in the bullpen.

Lyons started the season on the disabled list as he worked towards returning from offseason knee surgery. He returned on April 20th and made two appearances, throwing 3 innings and allowing 1 earned run. His latest outing, last night saw him pitch a scoreless 7th inning right before the Cardinals launched a comeback to force the game into extra innings.

Three innings in two weeks is apparently enough as he will now hit the DL again with the muscle strain.

In his place, the Cardinals have recalled Tuivailala who most recently was up in the big leagues as the 26th man for the team’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays but was unused. He started the season on the big league roster due to the injury to Trevor Rosenthal. He has made three appearances and allowed 1 earned run over 3 innings pitched.

Tuivailala has made 7 appearances for the Memphis Redbirds so far this season and has yet to allow a run in 8.1 innings of work.

Cardinals outright OF Anthony Garcia

The St. Louis Cardinals outrighted outfielder Anthony Garcia off the team’s 40 man roster on Monday.

Garcia, 25, was first put on the 40 man roster following the 2015 season when he hit .283/.391/.477 with 13 home runs between 87 games in Springfield and 18 games in Memphis. After that, the wheels fell off.

In 2016, Garcia started the season in Memphis and hit just .192/.281/.336 in his first 38 games before being demoted to Springfield in late May. He would stay in Springfield through mid-July and regain some traction. He would hit .280 with 5 home runs over his final 31 games in Memphis.

But this season he was off to a rough start, batting .182/.250/.303 with a home run over 12 games.

It is rare for an organization to make such a move during the season without a need for his roster spot, but the Cardinals took this opportunity to create a little more room on the 40 man roster, now carrying just 38 players.

Cardinals activate Lyons, place Peralta on DL

This afternoon the Cardinals announced that they have activated LHP Tyler Lyons off the 10-day disabled list. To make room on the roster, the Cardinals have placed 3B Jhonny Peralta on the 10-day disabled list with an upper respiratory illness.

Lyons is making his return after 5 months rehabilitating after surgery on his right knee. He allowed 2 runs over 14 innings with Memphis so far this season. He will take his place in the Cardinals bullpen, where he has a 2.69 ERA over 90 innings of work since 2013.

Peralta is 3-for-25 on the season and has struggled to find a rhythm at the plate, striking out 9 times in the 8 games he’s played. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said on Monday that the 34 year old was not on a long leash with his performance.

He has not appeared in a game since those comments as the Cardinals swept the Pirates with Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia taking time at third base. Mike Matheny also indicated that Matt Carpenter could return to the position if it made sense to fit different bats into the lineup. Both Matt Adams and Jose Martinez can play first base.

Matheny told the Post-Dispatch that Peralta would say he needs to get more opportunities and that the bat would come around with more opportunity to play, however with the struggles the offense has had so far this season, the lineup is not prepared to carry another struggling bat when they have players who can cover his position.

But the disabled list stint will allow the Cardinals to send Peralta out on a rehab stint for up to 30 days to get regular playing time to hopefully turn the bat around. With his short leash, this may be a last ditch effort to see if Peralta can fix the problems with his swing and return to be a productive player for the Cardinals.

Rosenthal activated from DL

The Cardinals announced today that right handed pitcher Trevor Rosenthal has been activated from the 10-day disabled list. To make room, Sam Tuivailala was optioned to Memphis.

Rosenthal was placed on the DL with a right lat injury just before Opening Night. He appeared in 5 games in spring training going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings of work while striking out 11.

A healthy Rosenthal could be a boost for a bullpen that has allowed 13 earned runs over 17.1 innings of work through their first six games this season. But that is based on the hope that he has straightened out the struggles he had last year where he lost the closer’s job to Seung-hwan Oh.

Tuivailala will return to Memphis. He made 3 appearances and allowed 1 run in 3 innings of work while striking out two.

Piscotty signs six year extension with Cardinals

John Mozeliak should have began his press conference this afternoon doing his best Oprah impression. “You get an extension! And you get an extension! EVERYONE GETS AN EXTENSION!” Because that’s what it feels like, right?

The Cardinals announced today that they have signed a 6 year, $33.75 million deal with outfielder Stephen Piscotty. The deal will begin this year and run through the 2022 season and includes a $15 million option for the 2023 season. Piscotty asked his agent in February to engage the Cardinals to see if a long-term contract was a possibility, and it came to a quick resolution.

“This was a pretty easy decision for me,” said Piscotty in this afternoon’s press conference. “It came down to the fact that, one, I love this organization, and two, this deal gives myself and my future family financial security. The fact that now I can not worry about the business side for the next six years is an extremely relieving feeling. I think it’s going to make me a better player. To have that relief is very valuable to me.”

Piscotty had a solid season in 2016, his first full one in the big leagues, hitting .273/.343/.457 with 22 home runs and 85 RBI. He posted a 112 OPS+ and a 2.9 WAR.

That 2.9 WAR was the fourth highest among right fielders in baseball last year.

He went 1-for-3 with two walks in last night’s season opener against the Cubs after a rough spring training.

On long-term planning, Piscotty becomes the third Cardinal who has a guaranteed contract through at least the 2021 season. The other two signed their deals this winter as well, Carlos Martinez and Dexter Fowler. Of course, that doesn’t count players like Aledmys Diaz or Alex Reyes who would be in their arbitration years at that point.

That creates an interesting situation now too, considering both Fowler and Piscotty are each signed for at least another five seasons. Where does that leave top prospects Harrison Bader, Magneuris Sierra and recent Cuban signee Adolis Garcia?

Piscotty has experimented at first base in the past couple years after playing it some in college. But Matt Carpenter is also signed through 2020. Could it mean they’re potentially available for a mid-season trade? Time will tell.

Molina signs a three year extension through 2020

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have signed catcher Yadier Molina to a 3 year, $60 million extension that will keep him in their uniform through the 2020 season. The new deal will replace his option year next season. While rumors of the deal being finalized spread on Thursday night, both sides maintained that the deal was not yet done prompting quite a bit of hand-wringing as the weekend played out and the Opening Day deadline loomed.

It was a good move for the Cardinals who get to lock up one of their franchise icons and likely enable him to finish his career having spent the entirety of it with the Cardinals.

“I can’t be more happy than I am right now,” said Molina in the press conference on Sunday afternoon. “This is a dream come true. I have always wanted to be here.”

The deal had many moving parts to consider.

At 34 years old, Molina will now be 38 when his contract comes to an end, well past the traditional useful life for a catcher. But Molina has proven anything but traditional at catcher.

The organization also seems to have his heir apparent in Carson Kelly, a consensus top-100 prospect and the best catching prospect in baseball. Kelly will start the season in Triple-A and his advancement is closely tied to Molina’s future.

But the organization has also talked about it’s desire to keep some of it’s core players so that they can finish their careers in St. Louis. It didn’t happen with Albert Pujols. It didn’t happen with Matt Holliday. It seems like it will happen for Yadier Molina. And if I had to choose one of the three, I think the Cardinals got it right.

The deal makes Molina not just the highest paid catcher in baseball, with his $20 million average annual value, but the highest paid Cardinal ever, surpassing Adam Wainwright’s $19.5 million mark from his extension signed before the 2014 season.

As I’ve said while discussing the potential of this deal before, I like the extension even if Molina fails to maintain his offensive production because of the other skills he brings to table that won’t decline. His work ethic, his drive, his ability to read batters and create a game plan. With those, he has a good chance of providing a solid value to the organization through those years.

And if he struggles or succumbs to injury, they have Kelly waiting for an opportunity. Hopefully Molina is pragmatic enough to understand when his backup playing, may be better for the team. I thought it was telling that Mike Matheny mentioned during the press conference a disabled list trip he took in 2004 while Molina was serving as his backup catcher and realized that he opened the door and there was no going back.

As I considered this deal and what it will mean to have Molina potentially finish his career as a Cardinal, I often thought back to five years ago and the negotiations around Albert Pujols’ departure. Because I never legitimately thought that Molina was going to leave. Not just because I feel like Molina is more legacy minded and that his and the Cardinals’ contract wants lined up better, but because the organization is on much steadier footing than it was five years ago. Molina’s deal is a testament that the organization believes that too.

Consider that after the Cardinals won the World Series in 2011, Pujols was headed for free agency and a Hall of Fame manager was riding off into retirement. Their top-3 offensive contributors were Lance Berkman (35), Matt Holliday (31), and Albert Pujols (Also 31). Their two best starting pitchers were Kyle Lohse (32) and Chris Carpenter (36) and their closer was Jason Motte (29). All told, that’s an average age of 32 for those key contributors.

Their top-20 prospects list included a number of Cardinals who would go on to provide contributions at the big league level. Matt Carpenter, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, and Oscar Taveras were all on that list, but they weren’t due for a couple more years. Over the short-term, you could say that the future and the odds of the Cardinals’ returning to the playoffs was bleak.

Compare that to where the Cardinals stand now. Las year their top-3 offensive contributors were Matt Carpenter (30), Aledmys Diaz (25), and Stephen Piscotty (also 25). Their top-2 starting pitchers were Carlos Martinez (24) and Adam Wainwright (33). Their closer was Seung-hwan Oh (33). That’s an average age of 28 for those players.

Their top-20 prospects list is also littered with guys with big league potential. And while you can’t bet on particular prospects, you can bet on depth as there would have to be a lot to go wrong for this current crop of prospects to come up empty in big league contributions.

The future has much more hope in 2017 than it did going into 2012.

After the 2011 World Series, Mozeliak faced a roster and organization in flux. Unlike the Cubs this winter whose offseason strategy was basically: “Don’t break it.”

I think if Mozeliak was honest, the 2012 and the years that followed worked out better than expected. The last thing the organization needed to do was give a franchise record $250 million contract to a 32 year old player coming off three seasons of decline and the worst season of his career. Many owners would have give Pujols whatever he wanted simply out of fear. But they stuck to their guns and in the end, someone else paid up.

In hindsight, that Pujols deal ended up being good for the Cardinals. Many of the nagging injuries that he has struggled with have taken their toll and he can no longer play the field every day like he would have needed to in St. Louis. He is still a contributor on offense, but not in the same way he once was. In a way, both sides have benefited from it.

The fear with this deal is that we will see that same fate with Molina as we watch him get old right in front of our eyes. And while that may be, I’m glad to know the team feels like they have stable footing to offer a deal like that to a player like Molina. (And that they aren’t afraid to spend some cash.)

Cardinals confirm Opening Day roster

Though most of their 25 man Opening Day roster has been assumed, as Matheny notified players last week who would be making the roster, the St. Louis Cardinals confirmed it today. The 25 man active roster for tonight’s season opener will include 14 players who were developed inside the organization.

Rotation (5)
RHP Carlos Martinez
RHP Adam Wainwright
RHP Lance Lynn
RHP Mike Leake
RHP Michael Wacha

Bullpen (7)
RHP Seung-hwan Oh
LHP Kevin Siegrist
LHP Brett Cecil
RHP Matt Bowman
RHP Jonathan Broxton
RHP Miguel Socolovich
RHP Sam Tuivailala

Catchers (2)
C Yadier Molina
C Eric Fryer

Infielders (7)
1B Matt Carpenter
2B Kolten Wong
SS Aledmys Diaz
3B Jhonny Peralta
1B Matt Adams
2B/3B Jedd Gyorko
IF Greg Garcia

Outfielders (4)
LF Randal Grichuk
CF Dexter Fowler
RF Stephen Piscotty
OF Jose Martinez

The MLB Disabled List will feature five players on Opening Day, all pitchers. Those are LHP Zach Duke (60 day DL), RHP John Gant (10 day DL), LHP Tyler Lyons (10 day DL), RHP Trevor Rosenthal (10 day DL), and RHP Alex Reyes (10 day DL).