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).

The World Series Champs come to town

For the first time in 108 years, the Cubs will open up a season as the defending World Series champions. For the first time in Mike Matheny‘s tenure as manager of the Cardinals, they will open the season at home.

The Cardinals went 86-76 last year and finished 17.5 games behind their rival Cubs. After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010, they added Dexter Fowler and Brett Cecil while securing their future in Carlos Martinez and locking up Yadier Molina who may now finish his career having worn only a Cardinals’ uniform.

The Cubs are not quite the same team that went 103-59 and won the World Series last year. The aforementioned Fowler left in free agency and joined the Cardinals. Also gone is Aroldis Chapman who played such a crucial part of the Cubs’ playoff run last season. In their place the Cubs have brought in former Cardinal Jon Jay and acquired Wade Davis from the Royals, but regardless, they’ve had a lot of talent walk out the door.

Time will tell just how much of a step back they’ll take and how the division will shape up, but the last team that had back-to-back 100-win seasons was the 2004-2005 Cardinals. Since then, there have been just six 100-win seasons, with teams averaging 90 wins the next season.

Game 1: Martinez v. Lester

Carlos Martinez, fresh off signing a 5 year extension with the Cardinals this winter, will make his first Opening Day for the Cardinals, facing off against Jon Lester. Martinez had a 1.38 ERA this spring over 13 innings for the Cardinals this spring, that book ended a 1.13 ERA over 8 innings for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. He was 1-3 with a 4.80 ERA in 5 starts against the Cubs last season. He has a 3.78 ERA over 36 starts and another 36 relief appearances in Busch Stadium in his career.

Opposite him will be Jon Lester making his sixth career Opening Day start and second for the Cubs. He has a 4.08 ERA on Opening Day. Lester made three starts for the Cubs this spring, posting a 5.73 ERA over 11 innings of work. At 33 years old, he is coming off a career year that saw him post a 2.44 ERA and win 19 games. He was 2-0 with a 0.87 ERA in 3 starts against the Cardinals last season. He has a 0.82 ERA in 3 starts in Busch Stadium in his career.

Game 2: Wainwright v. Arrieta

Perhaps coming in in the exact opposite situation of Martinez is the man he is attempting to supplant as the Cardinals’ ace, Adam Wainwright. Wainwright will take the ball in game two coming off the worst season of his career, going 13-9 with a 4.62 ERA last year. That didn’t correct itself this spring either as he posted a 7.78 ERA over about 20 innings of work. Wainwright was 1-1 with a 7.98 ERA in three starts against the Cubs last year. He has a 2.79 ERA over 129 career starts in the current Busch Stadium.

After his Cy Young campaign in 2015, Jake Arrieta looked a bit more human last year, but only a little bit. He was 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA for the Cubs last season. This spring he had a 5.79 ERA over 14 innings. He was 3-1 with a 2.38 ERA over 4 starts against the Cardinals last season. He is 1-1 with a 4.22 ERA in 4 starts in Busch Stadium.

Game 3: Lynn v. Lackey

Before this post went live this paragraph joked that the starter of the third game would be named Michael, either Leake, Wacha or Lynn. Since Lynn is Michael Lance Lynn. No really, he is. Google it.

Lynn will be returning to a big league mound for the first official time since Tommy John surgery after the 2015 season. He posted a 1.20 ERA over 15 innings this spring with a 0.93 WHIP. He is 6-6 with a 4.16 ERA in 14 starts against the Cubs in his career. Lynn is 34-17 with a 2.82 ERA over 62 starts and 10 relief appearances in Busch Stadium.

On the other end is former Cardinal John Lackey. He was 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA for the Cubs last season. He too struggled in spring training, posting a 6.39 ERA in almost 13 innings. He was 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA over 4 starts against the Cardinals last year. He is 12-4 with a 2.02 ERA over 24 career starts in Busch Stadium.

Who’s hot, who’s not

Cubs’ infielder Ian Happ finished with the fifth highest batting average in spring training this year, hitting .411/.469/.804 with 5 home runs, but he will start the season in the minors.

The Cardinals’ Jose Martinez, or ‘lil Tsunami as I’m calling him, was 8th, having hit .380/.508/.740 with 4 home runs, and made the team in the final bench spot as likely the fourth outfielder.

On the shelf

There will be four Cardinals on the MLB Disabled List to open up the season, but Trevor Rosenthal is the highest profile guy for the Cardinals there. We learned on Thursday afternoon that he would start the season on the DL after issues with his lat have returned. Sam Tuivailala was called up to take his place.

Brian Duensing is the only Cubs player on the DL to open up the season. He’s had back spasm issues.

Column: Wong’s comments further illustrate communication problems

Kolten Wong is an honest guy. Perhaps to a fault. He also carries his heart on his sleeve. Perhaps to a fault as well. You ask him a question, you’re likely to get a straight up answer, whether that is wanting to play every day or become the team’s leadoff hitter.

This is the same guy who, after getting picked off of first base in the 2013 World Series as a rookie who had spent less than a month and a half in the Majors, stood at his locker with tears in his eyes and answered every question.

This is the same guy who felt he needed to double down and moved to St. Louis this winter, leaving his warm and sunny Hawaiian winter base for the cold and snowy midwest. But it’s what he felt he needed to do.

The Cardinals had already shown their commitment, locking him up for $25.5 million over five years, four of which remain. Both John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny spoke highly of him as an exciting player who can provide gold glove defense. Much of the organization’s desire to improve on defense was tied up in the idea of Wong playing every day.

Then with a week remaining in spring training, Matheny tells the media that Wong is likely to start the season in a platoon share with Jedd Gyorko.

Being who he is, when asked about Matheny’s comments, Wong was emotionally honest about it. But as we typically learn in situations like this, despite how much fans may say they want players to be more honest and less cliche, being honest with the media is not the best policy. His reactions came across like an ultimatum to many: play me or trade me.

And that of course did not play well with a fanbase who would have much rathered Wong say something to the effect of, “I’m just happy to be here and help the team however I can.”

To his credit, Wong did not let it stew. He followed up to provide more context to his comments. He wants to stay in St. Louis and be the guy here, but he understandably wants to play everyday. And if that can’t be in St. Louis, he’d like to save everyone four years of hassle and do it somewhere else.

In pure baseball terms, he has not done enough to secure a full time job. But in the larger picture, I totally get it.

Over the years the organization has not shied away from the suggestion that Kolten Wong is their second baseman of the future. But he has yet to get the full support of his manager, despite Matheny’s insistence that there are “exciting things ahead” for Wong. That relationship has always prompted questions.

The question now is whether it can be salvaged or whether Wong and the organization should move on.

It all started in Wong’s first season, 2014. Wong was hitting .225 on April 26th when he was demoted to the minors because Matheny wanted to get more playing time for Mark Ellis, who was hitting .125 at the time. Ellis would finish the season hitting .180 and retire after generating little interest in free agency. Wong would hit .254 after returning on May 16th.

Wong’s second year, 2015, saw Wong left unimpeded at second base and he responded. He hit .280/.343/.434 with 9 home runs in the first half and was widely considered an All Star snub. He slumped after the break though, hitting just .202/.264/.264 while starting 32 consecutive games. Greg Garcia came up, Wong got a night off, and then he finished the season hitting .287/.331/.398 from the middle of August through the end of the season.

But the damage was done. What was a solid finish to the season and an improvement over his rookie year turned into a story about how he was now a question mark. All from a four week stretch in the middle of an otherwise All Star caliber season.

Over the winter the team acquired Gyorko, a three year starter at second base for the San Diego Padres. At the same time, the organization committed to Wong with his five year deal. It was an endorsement for Wong, but he once again had to look over his shoulder.

As many predicted, Wong struggled to open up the year. Once again he found himself demoted midseason. When he returned on June 18th, he would hit .251/.351/.401 to end the season. The return brought a fresh mindset, more than anything, but he still lacked the feeling of freedom to play aggressively.

Why do I think that? He only tried to steal four bases after he returned. For a guy who might be the fastest one on the roster, that’s a problem. It tells us something. Especially when Matheny gets up at Winter Warmup and tells us that he gives the green light “more often than not.”

To me, those Winter Warmup comments point to a problem stirring in the organization.

When Matheny told the media that he was likely to play Wong and Gyorko in a platoon, ultimately he was saying that he needs to play Gyorko at some point and it makes sense to see him when he has the platoon advantage. That seems a perfectly acceptable and defensible statement. But Wong’s reaction makes it obvious that he and Matheny had not talked about the manager’s ideas for playing time distribution early in the season.

After 3+ years of being Wong’s manager, Matheny should know better.

Whether or not you like the way that Wong’s wired or not, we have yet to see him play with Matheny’s full support. And he is the kind of player that needs to have that. He needs to have the confidence instilled in him that he is free to make some mistakes by being aggressive and that it won’t leave him riding the bench for the rest of the week.

That’s the kind of manager we have been led to believe that Matheny is, but there seems to be mounting evidence to the contrary.

We have seen the player Wong can be when he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder. I like that player. That player is worth having. That player is worth playing every day at second base.

But the lack of communication between Matheny and Wong illustrates a problem I’ve been seeing. Instead of being an obvious comment about playing time distribution, it’s seen as a warning shot from a player who perceives his manager doesn’t believe in him.

Ask yourself why organizations make such a big deal about wanting to personally inform a player that they’ve been traded or released before hearing it from the media. Ostensibly it is so they hear it first hand and face-to-face rather than second hand where the message may not be as accurate.

But they don’t seem to have the same qualms about a manager talking about playing time distribution without having discussed it with his players. That seems just as important to me.

If this was the first time I saw communication breakdowns, I might be able to give it a pass. However, they gave Matt Carpenter a heads up that they intended to use him as their everyday first baseman in 2017. But according to Randal Grichuk, he had not been told of the team’s hope to sign a center fielder and move him to left field. Neither had Michael Wacha been told anything about how to prepare to potential roles the team had in mind for him, all while they talked to the media about his potential in a multi-inning relief role.

Good communication skills are a key to success in anything that involves more than one person. A misinterpreted message can lead to misunderstanding or worse. Misunderstandings and the resentment they can leave is not something you want in a clubhouse.

I know that many will fire back to my opinion on this with an argument that the player’s job is to whatever they’re told to do, whether that is play second base, left field, or sit on the bench. And that’s true. But if you want them to actually buy in to your plan rather than just follow it, as Matheny commented about at Winter Warmup, you have to communicate the plan. They need to know.

The sooner you tell them, the quicker they can get over any potential objections or hurdles and accept it and buy in. That way they can come to spring training ready to be bought in. Instead, it seems guys are being left to figure out the plan on the fly and that will create it’s own set of issues.

Kelly among cuts as Cardinals further trim spring roster

The Cardinals announced today that they have optioned catcher Carson Kelly and pitcher Mike Mayers to minor league camp, as well as assigned infielder Patrick Wisdom and outfielder Adolis Garcia. The moves leave 37 players remaining in major league camp including 9 non-roster invitees.

Kelly, 22, is at the center of everyone’s attention these days as the organization nears a potential extension with Yadier Molina. Kelly, the #1 catching prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, is considered to be Molina’s eventual replacement with his path to the Majors being complicated by such an extension.

Kelly hit .286/.387/.455 between Springfield and Memphis last season and was 2-for-13 in a brief appearance in St. Louis last September.

With Molina playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, Kelly got an opportunity to see more time working with the big league club in spring training. Unfortunately, he struggled at the plate, hitting just .182/.300/.182 over 16 games. He will be the everyday starter in Memphis as he waits for an opportunity behind Molina.

Mayers, 24, got his first opportunity in St. Louis last season as he was called up to make a start for the Cardinals. But over one start and four relief appearances, Mayers was hammered, allowing 16 earned runs over just 5 innings. Otherwise, he pitched well in the minors, posting a 3.19 ERA over 25 starts and 144 innings between Memphis and Springfield.

It was going to be difficult for Mayers to do any worse that he had last season with the big league club, but he rebounded nicely. Over 11 innings of work in 7 apperances, Mayers had a 1.64 ERA on a 1.00 WHIP. He is likely headed for what is shaping up to be a stacked rotation in Memphis.

Wisdom, 25, hit .233/.303/.374 with 5 home runs last season with Memphis in a disappointing season. He had hit 43 home runs over the previous three seasons. He hit .300/.405/.667 with 3 home runs this spring with the big league club. It was an impressive start to a player who should be knocking on the door and is about to get some pressure from behind in the organization. He heads into 2017 as Memphis’ third baseman.

Garcia, 24, was just signed by the Cardinals and has only been in camp and eligible to play in Grapefruit League games for a little over a week now. He went 2-for-13 with a walk and three stolen bases in his brief time with the big league club. He is expected to begin the season in the Memphis outfield.

Pham optioned out, likely settles roster battles

The Cardinals announced this morning that they have optioned outfielder Tommy Pham to Memphis. The move leaves them with 41 players in major league camp and likely ends the battle for the final bench spot on their Opening Day roster.

Pham, 29, hit .250/.359/.403 with 4 home runs last season in 37 games between Springfield and Memphis. He also spent most of the season in the big leagues, hitting .226/.324/.440 with 9 home runs in 78 games. He ended the season with a 39% strikeout rate which kept him from seeing the field down the stretch.

He has put together some very good stretches in the big leagues, hitting .303/.379/.532 with 4 home runs and 5 triples over the final month and a half of the 2015 season and hitting .244/.353/.479 with 7 home runs in July and August last year. Leaving some clamoring each time for a larger role on the club.

But has also struggled, as evidenced by a 40.5% strikeout rate in the second half last year. He finished out 2016 going 3-for-18 in September with 10 strikeouts.

Pham admitted this spring that he had had some vision issues last season, which would help explain the strikeouts, perhaps related to his keratoconus diagnosis, but those are corrected now.

Regardless, Pham struggled to find traction this spring, hitting .209/.320/.379 over 21 games. His option to Memphis means he will join a talented and crowded Memphis outfield picture that is expected to include top prospects Harrison Bader and Adolis Garcia.

At 29 and injuries getting in the way each time he has an opportunity to stick in the Majors, his time with the Cardinals is seemingly approaching it’s end.

The move leaves Jose Martinez as unchallenged for the final bench spot now. He has told media that he will be on the big league roster to open up the season. Martinez hit .367 this spring while playing both outfield and first base. He will likely join Jedd Gyorko, Matt Adams, Greg Garcia, and Eric Fryer as bench players on the team’s Opening Day 25 man roster.

Cardinals option Tuivailala

The Cardinals announced today that they have optioned right handed pitcher Sam Tuivailala to Memphis. With 10 days until Opening Day, the move reduces the number of players in Major League camp to 42, including 11 non-roster invitees.

Tuivailala, 24, is one of the pitchers I identified in my most recent column as a contender for the final spot in the bullpen. The decision on him appears to be made, however.

Outside of one appearance, Tuivailala had a solid spring for the Cardinals. On March 12th against Miami, Tuivailala pitched 0.2 innings and allowed 4 runs on 2 hits, 2 walks, and a hit batter. He made five other appearances for the big league club this spring, pitching 6 scoreless innings with a 1.00 WHIP.

But on the bright side, he did strikeout 12 batters over those 6.2 innings of work. The only pitcher in camp with more is Michael Wacha with 15, who has also pitched 10 more innings.

That leaves Tuivailala in Memphis to start the season where he struggled last year with a 5.21 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 47 innings of work. He’s broken his curveball back out in and effort to add more weapons to his arsenal, but Tuivailala will be out of options next spring, so this is the year for him to show the Cardinals he deserves a spot in the 2018 bullpen.

With Tuivailala being optioned out and Tyler Lyons not likely to be ready for Opening Day, it looks like the final bullpen spot will likely go to Miguel Socolovich.

Cardinals send three more to minor league camp

The Cardinals continued paring down the roster, this time optioning infielder Breyvic Valera to Memphis and assigning catcher Gabriel Lino and outfielder Todd Cunningham to minor league camp following the Cardinals’ 12-6 victory against the Astros. The moves leave the Cardinals with 44 players in major league camp, including those playing the World Baseball Classic.

Valera, 25, had a solid season last year, hitting .304/.363/.362 between Springfield and Memphis. He has gained a reputation for being a good fielder wherever you put him, which has been reflected in the fact that over his 7 seasons in the Cardinals’ organization he’s played multiple games at every position on the field, except pitcher or catcher. His minor league statistics are an oddity, in that, he has hit well at every level except Double-A in the hitter friendly Texas League. But they still protected him from the Rule 5 Draft in November by adding him to the 40 man roster.

He continued that steady production this spring, hitting .304 with a walk and a triple in 15 games. He will likely start the 2017 season with Memphis.

Lino, 23, reached as high as Triple-A for the Phillies in 2015, but was shuffled back to High-A last season as he was passed by other prospects. He hit .236/.312/.357 with 5 home runs over 58 games between Clearwater and Reading. The Cardinals signed him to a minor league deal over the winter.

He appeared in five games for the big league club this spring, going 2-for-7 with an RBI and a walk. Added primarily as organizational depth, Lino could start the season at almost any level, as high as Carson Kelly‘s backup in Memphis or further down the chart.

Cunningham, 28, was signed to a minor league deal. He spent last season with the Angels, hitting .278/.378/.387 with 6 home runs for their Triple-A club and then .148/.179/.259 in a 20 game cup of coffee with the big league club. He’s spent time in three of the past four seasons with a big league club, batting .207 over those 67 games.

He appeared in 16 games for the Cardinals this spring, sporting the rare .182/.333/.227 batting line where his OBP is higher than his slugging. Given his age and experience, he is likely headed to Memphis this year.


Four more players trimmed from major league camp

The Cardinals optioned pitcher Rowan Wick and outfielder Anthony Garcia to minor league camp and assigned pitchers Josh Lucas and Zach Phillips there as well. That leaves 47 players in major league camp, including those playing the World Baseball Classic.

Wick, 24, is entering his second season since transitioning from position player to pitcher. He posted a 2.44 ERA over 44 innings between Palm Beach and Springfield last season. Over the winter he was added to the Cardinals’ 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but also means we could see him at some point on the big league roster.

This spring he made three appearances for the big league club, allowed 4 runs on four walks and one hit in just over 2 innings of work.

Garcia, 25, was an 18th round pick by the Cardinals in the 2009 draft and was added after a stellar 2015 years ago to the organization’s 40 man roster. But he struggled last season, hitting .238/.308/.388 between Springfield and Memphis.

With the depth at outfielder in the organization between the three big league starters, Harrison Bader, and Magneuris Sierra, Garcia may be the most vulnerable member of the 40 man roster. He hit .250 this spring with 2 home runs while appearing in 16 games for the big league club.

Lucas, 26, is a right handed pitcher drafted in the 21st round of the 2010 draft by the Cardinals. He posted a 3.25 ERA over 53 innings of work for Springfield last season. He also had some cups of coffee with Memphis where he struggled with a 9.39 ERA over 8 innings of work.

He took advantage of his opportunity this spring, throwing 5 scoreless innings of work, allowing 2 hits and a walk with 3 strikeouts.

Phillips, 30, is a left handed pitcher. He made 8 relief appearances for the Pirates last season, with a 2.70 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 7 innings of work. Over 62 innings in Triple-A between the Pirates and the Orioles organizations, he had a 4.35 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.

He had some mixed results this spring, posting a 5.06 ERA and 1.69 WHIP over his 5 innings of work in 6 appearances.