News: Cardinals lose Wilson, add two in Rule 5 Draft

What happened. No St. Louis Cardinals players were chosen in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft this year. 2B Jacob Wilson was selected by the Washington Nationals in the Triple-A phase while the Cardinals chose OF Angel Moreno from the Tampa Bay Rays and OF Jean Selmo from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The story. The Rule 5 Draft is the final official event of the Winter Meetings every year.  In general, players who were signed out of high school or international free agency in 2013 or earlier and out of college in 2014 or earlier are Rule 5 Draft eligible. This is to help give young players who potentially stagnate in a team’s system or find themselves blocked to be given another opportunity earlier in their careers.

The numbers. Jacob Wilson, 27, was a 10th round pick of the Cardinals in the 2012 draft. After breaking through to Triple-A last season, Wilson found himself spending the entire 2017 season in Double-A Springfield where he hit .248/.337/.417 with 17 home runs in 129 games. Wilson was left exposed last winter and went unclaimed. That was not the case this year as he was chosen by the Washington Nationals.

Angel Moreno, 21, was an international signing by the Tampa Bay Rays out of the Dominican Republic. He has played professional baseball for five seasons in the Rays organization, moving to High-A Charlotte in 2017 where he hit .229/.290/.288 with no home runs over 71 games. His scouting report indicates a plus defensive outfielder with an average arm and good bat speed at the plate.

Jean Selmo, 17, was an international signing by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of the Dominican Republic. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League last season, hitting .232/.332/.372 with 3 home runs for the Diamondbacks. I was not able to find much by way of scouting report on him, but found a World Showcase report on him from a couple years ago that described him as having a strong physical build for his age with good bat speed who projects for big power.

The impact. 0/10. There’s not really any impact for the team right now. The minor league portions of the Rule 5 Draft, where all three players were claimed, have different rules than the Major League portion which require the player to stay on the big league roster for the entire season.

The additions of two more outfielders (after acquiring one in the Aledmys Diaz trade) likely gives us a hint that more outfielders are on their way out of the organization. These guys are likely intended primarily to back fill the system as the big league club trades away some of their upper level talent. But, especially in Selmo’s case, these guys are still young enough with enough potential that they’ve still got an opportunity to develop into productive players.

News: Cardinals trade Stephen Piscotty to Athletics

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to send OF Stephen Piscotty to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for prospects utilityman Yairo Munoz and 2B Max Schrock.

The story. There were some hiccups to this deal as it was reported late last night that the deal was done and then nearly an hour later that there had been a snag and was still being worked out. Following the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna, which is expected to become official today, the club needed to make room and that meant moving Piscotty.

The numbers. Piscotty, 26, hit .234/.342/.367 with 9 home runs over 107 games with the Cardinals this season in the worst season of his career. Over two and a half seasons in the big leagues with the Cardinals, he hit .268/.346/.438 with 38 home runs and 66 doubles.

Munoz, 23, was an international free agent when he signed with the Athletics in 2012. This past season he hit .300/.330/.464 with 13 home runs between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. He is viewed as a plus defensive player who is capable of playing every position on the field and split his time in 2017 between shortstop, third base, and ceer field. He was Oakland’s #13 prospect according to MLB.com.

Schrock, 23, was a 13th round pick of the Washington Nationals in the 2015 MLB Draft. They acquired him in August 2016 in exchange for former Cardinal LHP Marc Rzepczynski. Schrock hit .321/.379/.422 with 7 home runs in 106 games for Double-A Midland this season while playing second base. He was Oakland’s #17 prospect according to MLB.com.

The impact. 6/10. Piscotty still has a great deal left in the tank, in my opinion. He had moments where he showed the flashes of what gave us such home when he hit .273 and 22 home runs in 2016, but he had others where he just flat out struggled.

No player likes to make excuses, but it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do for a living or how much you make, it’s hard to focus when there’s things going on at home. Even more difficult when you’re half a country away. And this year has not been easy on Stephen or the Piscotty family personally or professionally.

Hopefully returning the Bay Area can help him get his feet back under him and back to the player the Cardinals expected they were getting when they signed him to a 6 year, $33 million extension before the 2017 season began.

In return the Cardinals picked up two minor league players who look to have had success at every level through the minors. Very reminiscent to me of a guy like Greg Garcia, who went mostly unheralded but worked his way up and has been a productive utility guy off the bench for the Cardinals.

As I read and did research on these guys, the thing that stuck out to me about each was that Munoz can pay every position on the field (he’s in the right place to get to work with Jose Oquendo now too) and that Schrock and flat out hit.

It was a bit of a non-baseball decision to move Piscotty to Oakland, but I do believe that the Cardinals got a fair return for him considering last season. This does not look to be a straight contract dump.

Notebook: Winter Meetings, Day 3

With Ozuna watch concluding this morning as it was confirmed that the Marlins and Cardinals had agreed to a trade, we still don’t have all the details of the trade. Beyond that, there are a couple moves reportedly still being worked on, reportedly Mozeliak cancelled an interview tonight due to “escalating situations,” so it will be interested to see where things go.

Tomorrow will mainly feature the Rule 5 Draft, the closing event of the official winter meetings, with most front offices having packed up and headed home by that time. Last year, Mozeliak told us Wednesday night that he didn’t expect to get anything done and then agreed to terms with Dexter Fowler later that night and was introduced in St. Louis on Friday. So things can turn around in a moment.

Nicasio agrees to deal with Mariners

In ex-Cardinals news, Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Seattle Mariners and RHP Juan Nicasio have agreed to terms on a two year deal. Nicasio posted a 2.61 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 76 appearances last year, his first full season working exclusively out of the bullpen. Nicasio, 31, was acquired by the Cardinals last September to serve as closer. He posted a 1.64 ERA and 1.00 WHIP and was 4-for-4 in saves over 9 appearances.

The Mariners and Cardinals were reportedly both in talks with him today in an effort to sign him, but it looks like the Cardinals lost out. The deal will be $17 million over 2 years.

Cardinals close to dealing Piscotty to the A’s

There were a few reports today that the Cardinals are close to finalizing a deal to send outfielder Stephen Piscotty to the Oakland A’s in exchange for potentially 2-3 prospects. One of the names consistently mentioned is utilityman Yairo Munoz. Munoz hit .300/.330/.464 last season with 13 home runs between AA and AAA while splitting time at shortstop, third base, and center field. He is rated their #13 prospect by MLB.com.

Rockies close to bringing Holland back

Jon Heyman is reporting that free agent closer Greg Holland is close to returning to the Colorado Rockies. Holland posted a 3.61 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with a league leading 41 saves for the Rockies last season. He declined a $15 million player’s option that could have paid him up to $21 million after incentives if he had duplicated his 2017 season.

The Cardinals were one of the teams reported as having interest in Holland earlier this offseason, but I believe they still prefer the Rays’ Alex Colome to any of the free agent options.

Cardinals still talking about additional relief options

Ken Rosenthal also reports that the Cardinals and the Rays are still in contact with the Tampa Bay Rays about Alex Colome. Prices of free agent relievers are soaring, so too is likely the trade price of an arbitration controlled option like Colome. Along with more teams becoming interested.

Orioles making progress on Machado trade

Brittany Ghiroli is reporting that the Orioles are making good progress on trading third baseman Manny Machado with more than five teams interested.

The Cardinals’ interest remains in the exploratory phase. GM Michael Girsch suggested that it wasn’t something they were likely to pursue, however Derrick Goold reported that Cardinals officials have met with the Orioles to determine what the asking price would be.

This may be a scenario where the Cardinals complete a trade with Tampa for an Alex Colome and/or Chris Archer and then take stock of where their farm system stands to see whether it makes sense for them to take the risk of trading for one year of Machado.

News: Cardinals to acquire Marcell Ozuna

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to acquire outfield Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins in exchange for RHP Sandy Alcantara, OF Magneuris Sierra, RHP Zac Gallen, and LHP Daniel Castano. The deal is pending physicals.

The story. The Cardinals have been on the market for a middle of the order hitter to add to their lineup and after trying to land Giancarlo Stanton, it looks like they’ve found their man in his former teammate Marcell Ozuna.

The numbers. Ozuna, 27, hit .312/.376/.548 with 37 home runs and a 142 wRC+ last season for the Miami Marlins.  He led the Marlins in batting average and on base percentage last season as well as being second in home runs and slugging percentage. Over four full time seasons in the Majors, Ozuna has hit .278/.333/.465 with 93 home runs in 583 games.

He has two arbitration years remaining and is projected to earn $10.9 million this season.

Alcantara, 21, posted a 4.31 ERA over 22 starts and 3 relief appearances for Double-A Springfield this season which earned him a September call up to the big league club. There he posted a 4.32 ERA over 8 relief appearances. He had a 4.20 ERA in 5 starts in the Arizona Fall League. He is the Cardinals’ #9 prospect according to MLB.com.

Sierra, also 21, hit .317/.359/.317 in 22 games in the big leagues this season as injury needs saw him make the job from High A ball to the Majors. Overall in the minors, Sierra hit .270/.318/.363 with 1 home run between Peoria and Springfield He is the Cardinals’ #6 prospect according to MLB.com.

Gallen, 22, is a former 3rd round pick of the Cardinals from the 2016 MLB Draft. He posted a 2.93 ERA over 26 starts between High A Palm Beach, Double-A Springfield, and Triple-A  Memphis.

Castano, 23, is a former 19th round pick of the Cardinals from the 2016 MLB Draft as well. He most recently posted a 2.57 ERA over 14 starts for Low-A State College.

The impact. 8/10. Acquiring Ozuna is not the model shattering move that acquiring Giancarlo Stanton would have been, but it’s a quality addition for the club that needed a potential difference maker in the lineup.

I’ve been in on the Cardinals acquiring Ozuna since last winter when I named him one of my five players the Cardinals should be interested in. He responded with a career year that put himself on the map as a potential impact bat. After the Cardinals came up empty on Stanton, he was my preferred outfielder if the Cardinals went back to Miami looking for help.

There is no magic number I can give you that will convince you of what I believe, that Ozuna is a better acquisition than Christian Yelich, and I understand that he isn’t the surefire difference maker in the same way that Stanton was going to be, but he can definitely help. His wRC+ last season ranked 13th in Major League Baseball among qualified hitters last season, just five spots behind his new outfield partner Tommy Pham.

It’s unclear exactly how the Cardinals will align their outfield, but in comparison to the other two positions last year, the Cardinals struggled in right field with a 101 wRC+. Of the three projected starting outfielders for the Cardinals, Dexter Fowler‘s 121 wRC+ last season is the lowest.

As far as the cost, the Cardinals just acquired the man who was the 13th best offensive player in baseball last season who is 27 years old and just won a gold glove award without surrendering a top-100 prospect. Beyond that, without surrendering one of their own top-5 prospects, leaving plenty of muscle for an additional move for another bat or a closer.

Alcantara is probably the one that hurts the most, but in my opinion, he is the kind of pitcher that prospect evaluators love because their pitches have so much potential but they never live up to that potential because players don’t generally improve their control as they rise up through the minors into the Majors. I have similar problems with Alex Reyes. The pure stuff is sexy, but once MLB hitters figure out what you can and can’t throw for strikes, the clock strikes midnight.

If we’re honest, Sierra is probably not an MLB starter, though his speed and defensive abilities will probably keep him around. Gallen put up solid numbers and will be interesting to watch. If I was a betting man, I’d suggest that he is most likely to have the best MLB career out of all of them. Castano is so low in the minors that anything could happen.

This is likely not the final move for the Cardinals this week. The club will still need to find a taker for Stephen Piscotty to help clear up the outfield situation and they’re deep into discussions with Tampa for at least a closer.

If the changes that Ozuna made at the plate for the 2017 season are for real, the Cardinals got a steal. If not, I think his floor is still high enough to be a productive member of the lineup. And if you don’t get what you expect, you’re not attached to him for the next five years.

Notebook: Winter Meetings, Day 2

Day two of the Winter Meetings in the books in Orlando. A couple interesting things and the Cardinals might be about ready to do something.

Cardinals not expected to talk to Martinez

Derrick Goold told 590 The Fan’s The Morning After show this morning that he does not expect the Cardinals to much of a conversation with free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez. Martinez hit .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs this season between Detroit and Arizona. His agent, Scott Boras, is reportedly asking for a 7 year, $210 million deal.

Orioles shopping Machado

As reported by Ken Rosenthal at the The Athletic, the Baltimore Orioles have gone beyond simply listening on Manny Machado and are now actively shopping their 25 year old third baseman. Rosenthal also reports that Louis Angelos, the son of team owner Peter Angelos and the Ownership Representative, is personally involved in those discussions, perhaps lending to the seriousness of their intentions.

Machado hit .259/.310/.471 last season in his worst big league year since his rookie season. The previous two years he finished in top-5 in the voting for the American League MVP Award. He won two gold gloves at third base, but has reportedly requested to move back to shortstop next season to increase his value as a free agent, which he will become after 2018. The Cardinals can slide Paul DeJong back to third base to open up shortstop for Machado.

The Cardinals will be linked with any Machado pursuit, as the Cardinals need a middle of the order hitter and the Orioles need pitching help more than anything else. It seems like a match. However, after being burned on trading for a year of  Jason Heyward only to see him walk in free agency, will John Mozeliak be a little more gun shy about pursuing a rental like Machado?

Machado is projected to earn $17.3 million as a third year arbitration eligible player next season and he’s been in the same breath with Bryce Harper as far as guys who will be pursuing the $400 million mark in free agency next winter.

The question is how much a year of Machado is going to be worth in prospects. Rosenthal reports that the Orioles’ goal is to acquire two young, controllable starting pitchers. The Cardinals would seem to have the depth to meet that goal if necessary.

Cardinals are in on Davis

Their closer hunt continues with Jon Heyman reporting that the Cardinals are one of the teams in on Wade Davis. The Rockies and Cubs are also in on him. Davis, 32, posted a 2.30 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 32 saves last season for the Cubs. Davis has notched a 1.45 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over the past four seasons between the Royals and he Cubs.

MLB Trade Rumors projected a 4 year, $60 million deal for Davis.

Ozuna to the Cardinals might be close

Tonight Joe Frisaro, Miami’s MLB.com reporter, is reporting that the Cardinals are the front runner for a Marcell Ozuna trade. He also reported that the offer is two of Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, and Sandy Alcantara as well as either Stephen Piscotty or Randal Grichuk.

Also tonight both John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch spoke optimistically about the potential of making a move soon. Most believe that they are talking about acquiring Ozuna. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald tweeted tonight that indications are that the Marlins will deal Ozuna soon.

Notebook: Winter Meetings, Day 1

Day one of the Winter Meetings is in the books with the headline clearly being the Giancarlo Stanton press conference. It was an otherwise slow day reinforcing things we pretty much already know.

Cardinals “aggressively” pursuing Colome

To break the ice this morning, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the St. Louis Cardinals and the Colorado Rockies were both aggressively pursuing Tampa Bay Rays closer Alex Colome. The news is of little surprise given that they’ve been connected to Colome since the summer. The Rockies may be the Cardinals’ toughest competition for Colome with the Chicago Cubs saying that their new addition Brandon Morrow will be the closer next season unless they are able to re-sign Wade Davis.

In return, the Rays would likely be looking for a corner outfielder that could pair long term with Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza. That would make the Cardinals and their depth of outfield talent a great match. Harrison Bader would give the Rays a very good defensive outfield at the very least.

Second base could also be a place they could upgrade, which could see Kolten Wong or Jedd Gyorko becoming available. Wong’s younger brother Kean Wong plays in the Rays organization, reaching Triple-A last season and delivering the game winning grand slam against the Memphis Redbirds in the Triple-A Championship Game.

Stanton reveals neither Cards nor Giants were on his list

Giancarlo Stanton was officially introduced as a member of the New York Yankees this afternoon and it revealed a great deal about the trade process. Neither the Cardinals nor Giants were on Stanton’s trade list that he provided the Marlins at the beginning offseason, however the Marlins pursued trades with them anyway. After it became clear that they were going to be able to get a larger return from those two franchises, they made an effort to force Stanton to accept the trade or be stuck in Miami.

Stanton met with the Giants and the Cardinals before ultimately deciding that they weren’t close enough to winning and weren’t a good fit for him and rejected the trades and effectively called the Marlins’ their bluff. He was then traded to the Yankees for far less than what they could have gotten from the Giants or Cardinals since they no longer had any leverage.

Cardinals are in on Ozuna

Jenifer Langosch reports that the Cardinals are pursuing Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who the Marlins say is more likely to be dealt than their other coveted outfielder Christian Yelich. Ozuna has two years of team control via arbitration remaining while Yelich has up to five years remaining on a team friendly guaranteed contract.

The difficulty here is that there are reports that Yelich is unhappy in Miami given what has happened and would like out while Ozuna has said that he would be happy to stay.

Athletics interested in Piscotty and Grichuk

Susan Slusser of the Bay Area Chronicle reports that the Oakland A’s continue to have interest in Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk as they search for a right handed hitting outfielder. The Cardinals are believed to prefer to trade Piscotty to the Bay Area so that he can be closer to his family following his mother’s ALS diagnosis last year. But it is unclear what kind of return the Cardinals could expect.

Cardinals may add another starter

Derrick Goold is reporting that John Mozeliak has said that the Cardinals could add another starting this pitcher if the right situation came along. If the Rays were to make Chris Archer available, Goold believes that would qualify.

Where the Cardinals stand entering the winter meetings

Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings start today as front office executives, agents, and players descend on Orlando, Florida, for four days of meetings that will culminate in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. Not only is this where the MLB offseason typically heats up, but nearly the entire league has been standing still, waiting while Giancarlo Stanton decided where he would play in 2018. With his trade to the Yankees complete, look for things to be pretty active as teams should look to quickly move to fill their needs.

For the Cardinals, there were two main priorities that John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch laid out earlier this offseason. Here is where they stand in those pursuits and what to look for this week. And as I did during the GM Meetings last month, look for my daily notebook with links to all the Cardinals related reports worth reading.

Closer and additional relief help. The Cardinals agreed to terms with RHP Luke Gregerson last night in a deal that was hopefully just the first step towards filling this need. According to GM Michael Girsch, the Cardinals were hoping to bring in multiple relievers this season, beginning with an established reliever and there are a few at the top of the market in Wade Davis and Greg Holland. The Cardinals were linked with interest in Holland shortly after the season ended, but since then we’ve heard little to support that connection. There’s been little talk or action in the relief market period.

It appears like the Tampa Bay Rays will be active sellers this week and the Cardinals and Rays have discussed closer Alex Colome since the summer and have touched base a few times. Those talks will likely intensify, especially if the rumored interest of the Chicago Cubs is true. Colome is the most obvious trade target, in my opinion as Baltimore seems to think they’ve got a chance in the AL East this year.

On the free agent market, Derrick Goold is reporting that there seemed to be momentum towards a deal with Addison Reed at one point this winter, but the slow relief pitching market seems to have shelved it. Reed could wait to see what guys like Holland and Davis pull in before pulling the trigger on a deal.

Middle of the order hitter. With Giancarlo Stanton officially off the market after he declined a trade to St. Louis and joined the New York Yankees, the pickings here are pretty slim. The Blue Jays are reportedly not planning to trade Josh Donaldson, nor are the Orioles expected to consider dealing Manny Machado. Either would be an obvious target for the Cardinals. Outside of them, there is really no obvious answer here. Only lesser options.

The Cardinals could always leverage their existing talks with the Marlins to pursue another of their outfielders. Christian Yelich will likely get kept, but Marcell Ozuna is very much available and the Cardinals’ interest in him has been reported.

Another intriguing Marlin may be Justin Bour. He’s more of a platoon style first baseman, but he’s hit 63 home runs in 327 games over the past three seasons while hitting .272/.344/.498. He’d pair nicely with Jose Martinez at first base.

There was a suggestion made that the Diamondbacks, who are in a tight financial situation, may have interest in trading A.J. Pollock who is projected to make over $8 million in arbitration. It’s been an injury plagued career for Pollock, but in his last full season he was an All Star, won a Gold Glove in center field, and posted a 131 wRC+.

In free agency, there has been interest in Eric Hosmer reported. The national baseball media will inevitably link the Cardinals with JD Martinez, though I expect he will get a deal he has no ability to live up to.

It was also reported around the GM Meetings last month that the club had made an offer to Logan Morrison, though Morrison remains a free agent.

Starting pitching. Conveniently enough, Mozeliak indicated this the third priority that they’d look at after addressing the first two. But it was the first move they made, signing RHP Miles Mikolas to a two year deal out of Japan. That signing gives them a projected rotation of Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Luke Weaver, and Mikolas. That rotation still has questions and finding more innings is a concern.

There’s really only one guy in that rotation you can reasonably expect to throw 180+ innings this season without a problem, and that’s Martinez. There’s the health of Wacha and Wainwright that present big questions as well as the need to build Weaver up to the demands of a MLB starting pitcher. I think having another guy you can bank on having throw 180+ innings is a must if this team intends to make a run this year.

With the Rays selling, Chris Archer will be the name on everyone’s lips this week. With three straight 200 inning seasons, he could benefit greatly from a step out of the American League East. I also like Jake Odorizzi from the Rays as a good value pickup here, but even he has questions.

In free agency, I am not in support of pursuing Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta. Both have seen their numbers decline year-to-year the past few seasons. Arrieta is on the wrong side of 30 and Darvish had a rough year in his first full season back from Tommy John. Basically here, Lance Lynn outperformed both of these guys last year, though he had the worst peripherals of them all. So I don’t see the point in bringing any of them in. Tyler Chatwood, who the Cubs signed, would have been a good solution here as well.

 

News: Cardinals sign Luke Gregerson to two year deal

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to terms with right handed pitcher Luke Gregerson on a 2 year, $11 million deal that has a vesting third year option. The deal is pending a physical, which is expected to be performed on Tuesday.

The story. The Cardinals have been looking to add a couple of relievers to their bullpen and complete their first addition of the winter with the signing of Gregerson on the eve of the winter meetings.

The numbers. Gregerson, 33, has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball over his career with a 3.02 ERA in nine Major League seasons. Unfortunately, his 2017 season represented his career worst season. The former Cardinals’ draft pick posted a 4.57 ERA last year over 61 innings for the Houston Astros. It wasn’t just a bad start that doomed him, he had a 5.33 ERA in the second half of the season. To top it off, Gregerson threw just 3.2 innings during the 2017 postseason while the Astros bullpen struggled. All of those innings were mop up work.

The impact. 6/10. The addition of Gregerson is intended to be one of the Cardinals’ late inning arms. Three years ago, I’d have been all over this signing. Today, I am unimpressed by it.

On paper, Gregerson can check a lot of boxes. He’s been a very good reliever in the past. He’s a veteran voice out there, which is something the Cardinals have liked to have. And he has closing experience, notching 46 saves in about a year and a half as the Astros closer a couple years ago.

The fear for me with this signing is that Gregerson will struggle as he did last year. I understand that relief work is a little more up and down, but Gregerson had been consistently dominant over his previous eight seasons. Maybe it’s just bad memories of Jonathan Broxton finding his way into games he had no business being in purely because he was the veteran reliever in the bullpen and I’m projecting. Maybe I’m not.

It is just the first signing as the club hopes to add another arm to the bullpen, most likely the established closer they seek. They’ve talked with Tampa about Alex Colome and they’d been linked with interest in Greg Holland before the offseason began. Perhaps we’ll see some action and the club’s offseason start moving this week as Giancarlo Stanton has finally been traded and teams start working on their next options.

Column: If Cardinals miss on Stanton, what’s next?

It’s been over a month now since I wrote my initial “Rumor Mill” post on Giancarlo Stanton and the odds that he might come to St. Louis. And we’re still waiting on Stanton to decide what he’s going to do.

The latest reports are that the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants have both made offers that the Miami Marlins have accepted. Those offers now rest in the hands of Giancarlo Stanton as to whether to take either one and head out of town or stay in Miami or hope that another team, such as his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers, get involved. And if some reports are to be believed, they’re still in contact with the Marlins.

The Giants expect resolution by the end of the week while the Cardinals have declined to talk about it but are preaching patience. And now it seems that when Stanton gave the Marlins his list of teams he’d approve a trade to, that neither the Giants nor the Cardinals were on it. Which would certainly explain quite a lot of what’s gone on over the last month because there were a number of things that weren’t adding up.

But if Stanton does decide to go elsewhere, what do I think the Cardinals should do next?

First, trade for Alex Colome. The Cardinals have already checked in on Alex Colome this winter and have been interested in him for awhile now. If Stanton falls through, it will be time to complete this deal.

Over the past two seasons as Tampa’s closer, Colome has a 2.63 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP, and 84 saves. For comparison, Trevor Rosenthal‘s best two year stretch as St. Louis’ closer featured a 2.65 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP, and 93 saves from 2014 to 2015.

The negatives on Colome would be that his ERA did jump from 1.91 in 2016 to 3.24 last season. Looking at the numbers, he got hit harder on his four seam fastball in 2017 than he did the year before, which saw him feature his cutter much more often. The result was a drop in strikeout rates. But his HR/9 also dropped too. In an era where most pitchers are seeing that increase and in a division that features two of the more home run happy ball parks in baseball, I find that promising.

Colome is first year arbitration eligible this season, so he has three years of control remaining.

I know there’s been a lot of speculation about bringing in Chris Archer as well, but if I were the Rays, there is no way I’d trade those two players together. Archer and Colome likely represent two of their most valuable trade pieces and would net them a larger overall return if traded separately. I place the need for a closer slightly ahead of starter right now, so I go with Colome.

Then go horsetrading for Marcell Ozuna. With much of the groundwork already laid in the discussions for Giancarlo Stanton, the Cardinals could and should work towards acquiring another of the Marlins’ outfielders. Splitting from what seems to be most of Cardinals nation, I prefer Marcell Ozuna to Christian Yelich.

This isn’t new for me. If you read last winter, I had Ozuna on my list of five players that the Cardinals should acquire last winter. He fulfilled his promise with a career year in 2017, slashing .312/.376/.548 with 37 home runs and a 142 wRC+. He also added a gold glove to boot. The question on Ozuna is whether that’s what we’ll see going forward or if it’ll be closer to the .265/.316/.433 and average 22 home runs we saw over the last three years.

There are some things that give me hope. Primarily that his 2017 season was exceptionally consistent. His worst month last year was in June where he hit .297/.349/.525. He also mirrored his performance in the first and second halves really well. A season is an incredibly long time to maintain that level of performance which has me leaning towards the explanation that he just put all the tools together at 26.

As far as Yelich, my main complaint is that he is a stereotypical Cardinal. He is a high floor player who is good enough to be good, but not good enough to be great. And too many players you can describe like that is the Cardinals’ problem. Outside of 2016, Yelich has settled in around a 118 wRC+ player overall. The confounding factor may be that he’s been a much better hitter on the road in his career. The argument many make is that this is more representative of the player he would be in St. Louis.

Trying not to turn this into an Ozuna versus Yelich column, I take Ozuna because 1) his ceiling is higher, 2) he would cost less, and 3) you’re only attached to him for two years instead of four if he busts because we know what neither of these two are capable of doing once they don’t have Stanton around them in the lineup.

We’ll still need a setup guy, so show Juan Nicasio the money. When the season wrapped up it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Nicasio was going to return to St. Louis. Then the Cardinals made it clear they were going to look at acquiring a proven closer and Nicasio’s interest waned. I think he wants to close and would like to go somewhere and prove that he can. He thought that was going to be St. Louis, but then learned that it would not be.

I’m not sure what he’s looking for dollar-wise, but it’s time to give it to him. The Rangers set the market when they gave LHP MIke Minor a 3 year, $28 million deal this week. Minor, while a better starting pitcher than Nicasio was, is a similar story. Started for his first five years in the Majors and then reinvented himself as a reliever, posting a 2.55 ERA over 65 appearances.

Nicasio started and relieved for a few years before posting a 2.61 ERA over 76 appearances last year exclusively out of the bullpen, including a dominating stint as the Cardinals’ closer last September.

You can’t make him the closer, but you can show him the money. I’ve suggested 2 years, $12 million for him since September, but understandably the cost could go higher as relief pitching is being more highly valued than ever before.

For the last piece, I go get Zack Cozart. At 32, Zack Cozart hits free agency for the first time coming off a tremendous career year as he slashed .297/.385/.548 with 24 home runs and a 141 wRC+ for the Reds and once again played plus defense at shortstop.

Such a move would allow the club to move Paul DeJong back to his primary position, third base. While DeJong impressed me with his ability to play shortstop last season, signing a plus shortstop would arguably give the Cardinals plus defense all the way around the infield.

I always hate acquiring guys off career years, but I think this one could be okay. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Cozart would find a 3 year, $42 million deal this winter. That’s an AAV of $14 million, which I think is fair. If Cozart can continue to play plus defense and give you average offensive production relative to his position, which he has managed to do so far, I think this could be a good move.

And there’s always the possibility that he produces somewhere between what he’s done the last two years, slashing .274/.346/.484, it could turn out to be a very good move indeed.

The focus of these moves is really not to focus all in on 2018. I think if you miss out on Stanton and adding an elite bat like his becomes unlikely, I think the best strategy is to acquire what you need while you can to position the team towards 2019 and beyond.

The deals I’ve laid out, assuming that they don’t find ways to trim additional salary for guys like Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, or Jedd Gyorko would put them around $170 million in payroll. That, combined with the contracts they have hitting free agency after next year, leave themselves with plenty of room to pursue free agents or add a big contract.

It’s not so much about keeping “dry powder” at the ready, but so that a club without a feature hitter has the ability to add one should one become available.

News: Cardinals sign free agent pitcher Miles Mikolas

What happened. It is being reported that the Cardinals have agreed to a 2 year, $15.5 million deal with free agent RHP Miles Mikolas.

The story. The Cardinals said that finding a starting pitcher was a secondary concern to their needs of finding a centerpiece bat and a closer for their bullpen, but it’s the starting pitcher that they find first. Multiple teams involved raised the price on them a little bit, but in the end they signed Mikolas to a two year deal worth nearly $16 million after receiving more competition for him than expected.

The numbers. Miles Mikolas, 29, was drafted in the 7th round of the 2009 draft by the San Diego Padres. He made his debut in 2012 out of the bullpen for the Padres and was traded twice in the 2013-14 offseason and ended up with the Texas Rangers. In 2014, he posted a 6.44 ERA over 10 MLB starts.

After getting released by the Rangers, Mikolas went to pitch for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. Over the last three seasons for Yomiuri, Mikolas went 31-13 with a 2.18 ERA over 62 starts and 424.2 innings in Japan.

The impact. 5/10. It’s not huge, but it is starting pitching help for an organization that has a deep talent of pool there but serious questions about where they are going to get innings from.

That deep pool of talent has been noted by many since the first report broke, with many suggesting that it creates an opportunity to trade some of that talent which may be the case. But in my opinion, another starting pitcher that you can lean on is what this club needed. Teams that get the most innings out of their rotation are typically in the postseason.

Mikolas will likely slot into the rotation spot vacated by Lance Lynn‘s free agency. That pencils in the Cardinals’ rotation to be Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Luke Weaver, and now Mikolas.

With the rumors that the Marlins have an interest in Wacha, there is some suggestion that he could be headed to Miami in a pending Giancarlo Stanton trade and that Mikolas might fill his spot in the rotation. Either way, the Cardinals were going to need some starting pitching help.

Whether Mikolas provides what they need is another question. Obviously Mikolas put up dominating numbers in Japan last season, but he also did it while pitching more than anyone else. In 2017 Mikolas led NPB starting pitchers with 27 starts and 188 innings pitched. He was second in BB/9 and WHIP.  He also averaged just shy of 7 innings per start.

If Mikolas was a Japanese pitcher who had never pitched in the Majors, we would probably be looking at this signing a little differently. So if Mikolas can translate what he’s learned over the past few years in Japan to the Majors, he should provide the help that the Cardinals need.

It’s also worth noting that his last pitching coach in the Majors was Mike Maddux, who the Cardinals brought in as their new pitching coach this season. Perhaps on the suggestion of Maddux. Mikolas never found success in Texas, but perhaps three years later he’s ready.