Coming back home having left the W’s behind

The St. Louis Cardinals (3-9, 5th in the NLC) come back home after a disastrous six-game road trip that saw them go 1-5, including a sweep by the New York Yankees. They return to face the Pittsburgh Pirates (6-6, T-3rd in the NLC) who are coming off a sweep of the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.

The Cardinals were 10-9 against the Pirates last season, including 5-5 against them at Busch Stadium after sweeping them in the final series of the season.

Game 13: Lynn v. Nova

Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23 ERA) will take the ball in tonight’s series opener against a team that has given him fits. In his last time out, Lynn allowed four earned runs over five innings of work as he struggled against the Nationals. The last time Lynn faced the Pirates was in September of 2015 when he threw five shutout innings. While there are three Pirates who have faced Lynn twenty or more times and hit better than .300 against him, Jordy Mercer has absolutely ripped him to a .389/.450/.556 slash line.

Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25 ERA) has pitched some of the best baseball of his life since being traded to the Pirates last summer. His career ERA in a Pirates uniform is a full run and a half better than his career ERA in a Yankees uniform. His success continued in his second time out, allowing just 3 earned runs over 6 innings, but took the loss to the Reds. He has never faced the Cardinals in his career. Dexter Fowler leads all Cardinals, having gone 2-for-3 against Nova in their careers.

Game 14: Leake v. Kuhl

If you’re wondering how you back up 8 innings of one run baseball, Mike Leake (1-1, 0.60 ERA) has a good idea. He threw 7 shutout innings against the Nationals his last turn on the bump. He’ll take the mound in the second game of the series. Leake was 1-2 with a 5.82 ERA in 4 starts against the Pirates last season. Ex-Cardinal David Freese has hit .560 against Leake in 25 at bats against him to lead the Pirates.

Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38 ERA) has two solid starts under his belt this season, allowing just a single run over 6.1 innings against the Red Sox last week. He was 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in 2 starts against the Cardinals last season. He allowed 2 earned runs over 5 innings in his only start in Busch Stadium. Both Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina are 2-for-4 against him.

Game 15: Wacha v. Cole

Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00 ERA) continued his good start, allowing 3 earned runs over 6 innings of work against the Yankees in his second start of the season, though he still took the loss. Wacha was 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA over four starts against the Pirates last season. The Pirates are led by Andrew McCutchen‘s .480 batting average against him in 25 at bats.

Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29 ERA) started out rough on Opening Day, but has rebounded with two straight quality starts. He allowed 2 earned runs over 6 innings his last time out to get his first win of the season in a game against the Cubs. Cole was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 2 starts against the Cardinals last year. He has a 3.13 ERA in 5 starts at Busch Stadium in his career. Matt Carpenter leads the Cardinals with a .385 batting average and 3 home runs against Cole in 26 at bats.

Who’s hot, who’s not

I think you can easily make a case that both Stephen Piscotty and Mike Leake are hot coming into this series. Piscotty has hit .318 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI in the six games since returning from a knee injury that kept him out of the lineup the last two games of the first homestand. Leake, of course, threw seven scoreless innings his last time out.

On the cold side, I have to take Dexter Fowler. The Cardinals’ leadoff hitter is 3-for-22 over the past week with just a single extra base hit and a major contributing factor to their offensive woes to start the season.

It’s a tossup between David Freese and Andrew McMutchen for the Pirates. Freese has hit .389 along with a .522 on base percentage over the past week, but McCutchen has hit .333 with a .708 slugging percentage.

On the cold side, the Pirates have Josh Bell who is 1-for-15 over the last week, having started in 4 of the team’s six games.

On the shelf

Matt Carpenter is dealing with a finger injury that looks like it will take him out of the season opener. He is day-to-day as he deals with that. Tyler Lyons will also make what is expected to be his final rehab appearance for Memphis before being called up to help solidify the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Gregory Polanco is day-to-day with groin discomfort and has missed the last couple days. May be available off the bench to pinch hit if needed.

Ex-Cardinals Watch

2011 postseason hero David Freese signed a one year deal with Pittsburgh last season and then signed a two-year deal over the offseason to return. He wasn’t quite expected to have the role he has, but legal troubles with Jung-Ho Kang has given Freese an extended opportunity and he has responded, entering the series hitting .344/.488/.594 with 2 home runs.

Ah, there’s Pete Kozma!

The Cardinals (3-6, T-4th in NLC) are coming off their third series loss to open up the season, but managed to win a tough one against Max Scherzer in the series finale on Wednesday to avoid the sweep. Those are opposite feelings to those of the Yankees (5-4, T-2nd in ALE) who are coming off a sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays after struggling to open up the year.

The title is, of course, a reference to the Washington series preview that asked where Pete Kozma was. Kozma, who provided some postseason heroics against the Nationals, made the Yankees big league roster this year after not playing in the Majors last year.

This will be the Cardinals’ first trip ever to the new Yankee Stadium and the first time they have faced off against the Yankees in the Bronx since 2003. The Yankees swept the Cardinals in that meeting. There are no players who appeared in that series still playing professional baseball in the Majors. Though it’s a fun fact that Mike Matheny and Joe Girardi both caught for the Cardinals in that series.

Game 10: Wacha vs Tanaka

Michael Wacha (1-0, 1.50 ERA) will complete the second trip through the rotation when he takes the mound on Friday night. Wacha allowed 1 run over 8 innings in his debut against the Reds. It was a big start for him as he carried the momentum from a strong spring into the season. Wacha started one game against the Yankees in 2014, allowing 3 runs over 7 innings. Four Yankees have faced Wacha before, led by Starlin Castro who has hit .455 with 2 home runs against Wacha in 22 at bats.

Masahiro Tanaka (0-1, 11.74 ERA) is making his third start of the season as the Yankees brought him back in their fifth game after he failed to make it through three innings in the season opener. He allowed 3 runs over 5 innings against the Orioles in his last start. Tanaka is 20-7 with a 3.31 ERA in 39 starts at Yankee Stadium. No Cardinals batters have faced Tanaka.

Game 11: Martinez vs Sabathia

Carlos Martinez (0-1, 3.65 ERA) has had an up and down start to the season, dominating the Cubs on opening night before getting tagged for five earned runs over five innings by the Reds. Martinez pitched two scoreless innings of relief when they faced the Yankees in 2014. Five Yankees players have faced Martinez before, hitting a collective .227 against him.

CC Sabathia (1-0, 1.64 ERA) has kept his opponents in check so far this season as the Yankees have won both of his games. He allowed two earned runs over six innings of work in his last start against the Orioles. Sabathia is 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 3 starts against the Cardinals, the last coming in 2008 where he threw a three-hit complete game shutout while pitching for the Brewers. He is 49-31 with a 3.70 ERA in 108 career starts in Yankee Stadium. Two Cardinals players have faced Sabathia before, led by Dexter Fowler who is 2-for-5 against him.

Game 12: Wainwright vs TBD

Adam Wainwright (0-2, 7.00 ERA) allowed 5 earned runs on 11 hits over four innings in his last start against the Nationals as he was unable to dance his way out of trouble like he did against the Cubs. Wainwright has never faced the Yankees before though six Yankees have faced Wainwright before, hitting a collective .205 against him. Starlin Castro has hit .256 against him. Former teammate Matt Holliday is 0-for-4 against Wainwright.

The Yankees have not yet confirmed who will be starting opposite Wainwright, but it would be Michael Pineda‘s turn in the rotation. Pineda allowed just one run on two hits over 7.2 innings in his last start against the Rays. Pineda has never faced the Cardinals and is 13-11 with a 3.97 ERA in 38 starts in Yankee Stadium. Dexter Fowler and Jhonny Peralta have both faced Pineda before, both are 1-for-3 against him. Fowler hit a double while Peralta hit a home run.

Who’s hot, who’s not

For the Cardinals it is definitely Aledmys Diaz who is hot. He played two of the games over the weekend against the Nationals and hit three home runs. He has hit .273/.273/.682 with 3 home runs and 5 RBI over the last week. Stephen Piscotty gets an honorable mention, mainly on the strength of his 5 RBI game on Wednesday afternoon. For the Yankees, it’s Aaron Judge. In the last week, Judge is batting .429/.529/1.071 (not a typo, a slugging percentage over 1.000) with 3 home runs and 6 RBI.

The Cardinals’ bullpen gets the cold nod. If it wasn’t for Matthew Bowman, the stats on the bullpen would be awful. It’s just ugly. Bowman has a 0.50 WHIP in a team high 5 appearances. The second lowest WHIP in the bullpen is Miguel Socolovich‘s 1.60, which is not very good. Brett Cecil, Kevin Siegrist, and Jonathan Broxton all have allowed greater than two and a half baserunners per inning on average.

For the Yankees its hard to find a clear cut cold option. I’d have to go with Austin Romine who is 1-for-9 since being called up to take over when regular catcher Gary Sanchez hit the disabled list this week.

On the shelf

Tyler Lyons threw six innings of two-hit shutout baseball in a rehab start against the Colorado Sky Sox on Wednesday. The club may begin to look at calling him up in the coming days as their bullpen has had some struggles.

The Yankees are without two starting position players as Didi Gregorius (right shoulder strain) and Gary Sanchez (right biceps strain) are on the DL and not expected to return until May.

Ex-Cardinals Watch

With the Yankees are former Cardinals players Matt Holliday and Pete Kozma. Holliday is currently hitting .276/.462/.448 with a home run and leads all of baseball with 10 walks. Kozma is 0-for-2 with a walk.

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.

Where’s Pete Kozma when you need him?

The Cardinals (2-4, 4th in NLC) head to Washington (3-3, T-2nd in NLE) for their first road series of the season. They’re looking to gain some traction as the starting pitching has typically been strong, but the offense has been lacking. Seemingly plenty of opportunities, just failure to convert, which has been the typical story in St. Louis for awhile now.

The Nationals played a rare three game home series to open up the season before heading on the road for three games and then return home. They come into the series having lost their three game series against the Phillies.

Game 7: Wainwright v. Roark

Adam Wainwright will be looking to get the Cardinals’ season pointed in the right direction as he takes the mound for his second start. Wainwright allowed 2 earned runs over 5 innings in a very mixed start against the Cubs. Wainwright was 1-0 against the Nationals last season, allowing 4 earned over 7 innings of work. He has made six regular season starts in Nationals Park and is 4-2 with a 3.55 ERA.

On the other side, Tanner Roark will be making his second start of the season. He allowed 2 earned runs over 6 innings of work and picked up the win in his season debut against the Marlins. The last start he made against the Cardinals was in 2013 where he allowed 4 earned runs in 5 innings of work and took the loss. He is 22-13 and has a 2.79 ERA in 274 innings of work in Nationals Park.

Game 8: Lynn v Gonzalez

You can call it a successful return to the mound for Lance Lynn who allowed 2 earned runs over 5.1 innings of work in his season debut against the Cubs, especially against a team that has given him fits in the past. He last pitched against the Nationals in 2015, allowing 1 earned run over 6.1 innings of work. He’s made two starts in Nationals Park in his career and has a 3.86 ERA.

A rain delay was not enough to derail Gio Gonzalez‘s season debut as he threw six shutout innings against the Marlins. He made one start against the Cardinals last year and was blown out to the tune of 6 runs over 4.2 innings of work. He has made 74 starts in Nationals Park in his career and is 33-20 with a 3.24 ERA.

Game 9: Leake v Scherzer

Lost in a game where the offense didn’t show up, Mike Leake was downright dominant in his debut against the Reds, allowing 1 earned run on 6 hits and 1 walk over 8 innings of work. He was 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 2 starts against the Nationals last season. He is 1-6 with  3.75 ERA in 6 starts in Nationals Park in his career.

St. Louis native Max Schezer allowed 2 earned runs in 6.2 innings of work in his season debut against the Phillies. He was 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in 2 starts against the Cardinals last season. He is 13-10 with a 3.01 ERA in 31 starts in Nationals Park for his career.

Who’s hot, who’s not

Aledmys Diaz hit two home runs on Saturday afternoon and went 1-for-4 on Sunday to put his batting average on the season at .296, which leads the team. And for the Nationals, Daniel Murphy went 1-for-4 on Sunday which moved his batting average to .480.

Matt Carpenter was going to be my guy here, but getting on base twice on Sunday bumped him, instead I’m going with Jhonny Peralta. Peralta is 2-for-11 on the season and is hitting .182. He, along with Diaz, are the only two Cardinals who have not taken a walk yet this season, but Peralta has 6 strikeouts in those 11 ABs.

And for the Nationals, I’m going with their bullpen. It features Blake Treinen, Enny Romero, Oliver Perez, Sammy Solis, and Shawn Kelley, all of whom have ERAs over 8.

On the shelf

Trevor Rosenthal is expected to be activated by the Cardinals for this series, Sam Tuivailala was sent to catch up with the Memphis Redbirds after Sunday’s game. Tyler Lyons is scheduled to make his second rehab start on Wednesday for Memphis. Stephen Piscotty was out of the lineup over the weekend with knee soreness, but is expected to be back in the lineup this week.

For the Nationals, shortstop Trea Turner is day-to-day with a hamstring problem. He is expected to miss 2-3 days, which would put him returning in the middle of their series against the Cardinals.

How do you hate a Brandon Phillips-less Reds team?

The Cincinnati Reds (2-1, T-1st in NL Central) come to town fresh off a series victory against the Philadelphia Phillies. On the downside for them, that loss was their season opener. The Reds aren’t expecting much this season with a very young team, but as with any in division rival, can cause problems because of how often the teams play.

The Cardinals (1-2, 3rd in NL Central) lost their opening series against the Cubs after winning Opening Day. The team received good starting pitching, but struggled to convert with runners in scoring position, a problem the team has had the last few years in general.

Game 4: Leake v Garrett

Mike Leake will make his season debut for the Cardinals against his former team, he spent five and a half seasons with the Reds before being traded and then signing a big five year deal with the Cardinals before the 2016 season. Last year Leake’s results were questionable, but all his fielding independent metrics were very good. The hope is that the defense will improve behind him, which will allow him to improve.

Leake posted a 3.81 ERA over 26 innings this spring for the Cardinals. He has a 4.05 ERA in 19 starts in Busch Stadium. He went 0-2 and posted a 7.25 ERA in four starts against the Reds last season.

Amir Garrett, the Reds’ #2 prospect according to MLB.com and a consensus top-100 prospect in baseball, will take the ball to make his Major League debut in the season opener. He posted a 2.55 ERA over 145 innings last year between Triple-A and Double-A. He had a 4.22 ERA over a team high 21 innings in spring training for the Reds. The left hander has a mid-90 mph fastball and two other off pitches he can use to produce outs.

Game 5: Wacha v Arroyo

Michael Wacha will get the first opportunity to put his strong spring results to the test in the second game of the series. Wacha posted a 2.42 ERA over 26 innings this spring as he is looking to re-establish himself as a key part of the Cardinals’ rotation after struggling through last season and suffering a recurrence of his stress injury. He is 16-8 with a 3.68 ERA in 41 starts and 7 relief appearances in Busch Stadium for his career. He was 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts and a relief appearance last year.

Bronson Arroyo will be making his first big league start since July 15, 2014 where he went 5 innings and allowed just 1 earned run against the Dodgers before having Tommy John surgery. He would miss the 2015 season before signing with the Nationals for 2016. He threw 9 minor league innings before elbow soreness shut him down again. After another procedure in August, he was back in camp this spring with the Reds. He had a 4.70 ERA over 8 innings for the Reds this spring. He is 3-9 with a 5.33 ERA in 17 starts in Busch Stadium for his career.

Game 6: Martinez v Feldman

In his season debut, Carlos Martinez proved the hype was real as he shut down the Cubs over 7.1 innings. He struck out 10 and walked none. He was 2-0 with 3.46 ERA in 2 starts against the Reds last season. He is 15-13 with a 3.63 ERA in 37 starts and 36 relief appearances in Busch Stadium.

Scott Feldman didn’t even make it through 5 innings in the Reds’ season opener, allowing 3 earned runs in 4.2 innings of work. After a leadoff home run and all three runs scoring in the first two innings, he did settle in. Feldman has started just once against the Cardinals in his career, allowing 5 runs in 5.1 innings of work in 2013 while pitching for the Cubs. So he is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA in 1 start at Busch Stadium for his career.

Who’s hot, who’s not

Yadier Molina went 3-for-9 with 3 walks against the Cubs. Meanwhile Randal Grichuk put together a great series, going 3-for-12 with a home run and 4 RBI with every one of those three hits driving in a run. *cough* clean-up hitter *cough*

Jedd Gyorko, meanwhile, has appeared in 2 games for the Cardinals so far this season and is 0-for-6 with 3 strikeouts. Probably don’t want to miss Brett Cecil‘s 36.00 ERA, allowing 4 runs over an inning of work.

I’m also going to give the hot nod to the entire Reds bullpen. They’ve had two quick exits by starting pitchers already this year and have had to pitch 12.1 innings, allowing just one run on 7 hits.

Cold on the Reds is right fielder Scott Schebler who is 1-for-9 so far this season. Joey Votto is right there too at 2-for-11 with a home run and no walks.

On the shelf

Trevor Rosenthal threw a bullpen session yesterday and may be back on April 9th, when he is expected to be eligible to come off the DL. It seems Meanwhile, Tyler Lyons should be beginning a Triple-A rehab assignment any day now.

The Reds are missing catcher Devin Mesoraco who is on rehab assignment in Double-A. Starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, who in 20 starts last year was the Reds’ best starting pitcher, is likely out for the year with a UCL sprain.

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.