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.

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.

Five things about the Cubs Series

The St. Louis Cardinals went to Wrigley Field this weekend with a chance to put themselves neck-and-neck with the division leading Chicago Cubs and came up empty. With the sweep, the Cardinals fall to six games back in the division, just a game shy of the farthest they’ve been out of the division all season.

They will continue on the road. First headed to Cincinnati for three games and then to Pittsburgh for another three before returning home for four more against the Cubs.

This season isn’t over. No, contrary to everyone wanting to pack it in, the Cardinals’ season isn’t over. The Cardinals have 13 games remaining this season and still have four to play against the Cubs in Busch Stadium. I fully expect that when the Cubs come to St. Louis next week that the Cardinals will still have a shot at them.

Why? I’ve consistently said that one of the most infuriating things about the 2017 Cardinals is that they just won’t roll over and die. Every time I’ve been ready to declare the season effectively over, they’ve found a way to rally back to the verge of contention. So, I don’t foresee them letting me off this easy.

Struggling with the core. One of the biggest issues for the Cardinals this season has been the struggles of the three main guys they have committed to in this lineup. Often this season Dexter Fowler, Matt Carpenter, and Stephen Piscotty have batted 1, 2, or 3 in some fashion in the Cardinals’ batting order and yet the Cardinals are just 18-28 when all three start the same game.

This has become an issue in the second half while all three are dealing with and playing through injuries and when all three start the Cardinals are 0-6 in the second half.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when Mike Matheny has to sit these guys and mix the young players in and adjust his lineup to compensate, the team as a whole seems to perform better.

Lyons gets touched up twice. Entering this series, Tyler Lyons had allowed just one earned run on 22.1 innings over 24 appearances in the second half. In the series, Lyons was touched up for runs twice. First by an Addison Russell home run with the Cards down 3-1 on Saturday and the second when Matthew Bowman allowed one of his inherited runs to score to give the Cubs the lead on Sunday.

Offense went cold. The Cardinals’ offense scored just six runs over the three game set against the Cubs. And half of those runs came on a home run by Dexter Fowler. That is the second fewest runs they’ve scored in a series this season. The only one worse was when they scored five runs in a four game series against the Diamondbacks at the end of July, but they won two of those games.

One run woes. On Sunday the Cardinals lost their 28th one-run game of the season as their record now stands at 20-28. The only team with more one-run losses are the 58-91 Phillies who are also one of the worst teams in baseball. Not exactly stellar company.

News: Cardinals option Luke Voit

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals optioned first baseman Luke Voit to Memphis to return their MLB roster to 25 players after keeping outfielder Stephen Piscotty.

The story. On Sunday, the Cardinals played in the Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and due to the extra travel, Major League Baseball allowed them to use a 26th man. That man was Stephen Piscotty. However today they need to return the roster to 25, which meant optioning someone and the club elected to keep Piscotty.

The numbers. Luke Voit was called up on June 25th and he hit .316/.366/.684 from his call up until the All Star Break while starting 9 of the team’s 15 games. With the return of Kolten Wong after the break, Voit’s playing time suffered and he made just 5 starts over the next 16 games and hit just .155.

However, Voit’s numbers were turning around in August. He has hit .304 in August including .375 in the two games he’s started. But he has started just 2 of 19 games in August.

Stephen Piscotty went 2-for-4 with a walk in his return to the big leagues yesterday.

The impact. 6/10. The biggest issue with the return of Piscotty, as I pointed out yesterday, is that it is into a crowded and productive big league outfield.

Voit had been hitting and Gyorko had not been and yet Carpenter was not moved across the diamond to accomodate that. That move would have been the most logical way to find Voit more playing time, but much like was the case for Matt Adams, there is no room for him in St. Louis as long as Carpenter is considered this team’s first baseman.

News: Stephen Piscotty added as 26th man

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals designated outfielder Stephen Piscotty as their 26th man for today’s Little League Classic.

The story. Originally it was reported that Magneuris Sierra was on his way to Williamsport to be the club’s 26th man, but after changing their mind at the last minute, it was Piscotty who was activated this morning. Both the Cardinals and the Pirates were given approval to use a 26th man for today’s game due to the additional travel.

The numbers. Stephen Piscotty, who has had a rough year, has hit well over the past several days in Memphis. In 8 games, he has hit .313/.421/.781 with 4 home runs. The biggest plus would seem to be the appearance of his power, something that has been down this season.

The impact. 6/10. The outfield is not exactly a position of need for the Cardinals at the moment, and even if Piscotty is back for good or whether it is just a one day trip, he is not an improvement on the available players and might actually muddy up the situation.

Just look at these numbers in the second half. Tommy Pham has hit .321/.419/.489 with a 142 wRC+. Randal Grichuk has hit .305/.336/.581 with a 135 wRC+. Dexter Fowler has hit .308/.443/.487 with a 146 wRC+. And when you throw Jose Martinez into the mix too, four of the Cardinals top-5 hitters of the second half are outfielders.

If Piscotty does stick around, and I think the odds are good that he does, who is sitting to give him playing time when you’ve already got four outfielders who are excelling at the plate?

News: Cardinals option Stephen Piscotty

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals optioned outfielder Stephen Piscotty to Triple-A Memphis to make room for outfielder Dexter Fowler, who has been activated from the disabled list.

The story. Fowler has been on the disabled list since July 25th with a left forearm strain and had been slumping since the All Star Break.

Piscotty meanwhile has been struggling all year. Slow out of the gate and then compounded by his mother’s ALS diagnosis. It’s been a hard year personally and professionally for Piscotty so far, and now he’s been demoted.

The numbers. Fowler was hitting .200/.313/.225 in the 11 games between the start of the second half and his trip to the disabled list. He has had an up-and-down season so far in his first year with the Cardinals, hitting .241/.333/.452 over 81 games with 14 home runs. Initially signed to be the team’s leadoff hitter, Fowler has been moved out of that spot, but seems to have found a home batting third.

Stephen Piscotty is hitting .232/.340/.362 with 6 home runs and a 90 wRC+ so far this season. That wRC+ represnts a 25 point decline from the 115 wRC+ he put up last season and a 43 point decline from the 133 wRC+ he put up in 2015 after his debut.

After he spent some time away from the team following his mother’s diagnosis, he looked like he was getting his season pointed in the right direction, hitting .271/.385/.469 with a 120 wRC+ in June. But he would go cold in July, hitting just .171 before hitting the DL with a right groin strain. Since his return on August 1st, he hasn’t fared much better, hitting .176/.222/.235 in six games.

The impact. 6/10. The move is big for the Cardinals because they’ve had trouble keeping their young players pointed in the right direction at the plate this season. Three of their eight Opening Day players have now spent time in Memphis to get a chance to clear they head and get right at the plate.

Fowler is in the lineup and batting sixth tonight. If Fowler is hitting, the team could sure use his bat right about now.

Piscotty activated from the DL

The Cardinals activated outfielder Stephen Piscotty from the disabled list today and optioned outfielder Harrison Bader to Memphis.

Piscotty returns to the team after exiting the first game back after the All Star Break with a right groin strain. He went 3-for-15 with two doubles in five rehab games with Single-A Peoria.

The former top-100 prospect has struggled to find his footing this season, his second full season with the club. He is hitting just .236/.348/.371 with 6 home runs this season. His 95 wRC+ is 20 points lower than the 115 wRC+ he put up last season in his first full season in the big leagues.

He had a relatively successful June, hitting .258/.377/.452, and it seemed like he might be turning the corner. However, in the 10 games before he hit the DL, he slashed a paltry .171/.216/.200.

In the corresponding move, Harrison Bader will return to Memphis where he is putting together a solid season. In six games for the big league club, Bader hit .286/.348/.381 with a 95 wRC+ and scored the game winning, walk off run in his debut.

Piscotty goes to the DL; Sierra recalled

The St. Louis Cardinals placed outfielder Stephen Piscotty on the 10 day disabled list today with a right groin strain and recalled outfielder Magneuris Sierra from Double-A Springfield. Sierra will not arrive in time for tonight’s game against the Pirates, however should be ready to play on Sunday.

Piscotty has struggled this season to find his footing, hitting just .236/.348/.371 with 6 home runs in 69 games for the Cardinals this season. His 95 wRC+ is a career low, a full 20 points lower than it was last season.

Following his mother’s diagnosis with ALS in May, Piscotty looked to be turning his season around, hitting .286/.373/.540 over the next 20 games, but then his performance once again began to tail off. But has hit just .200/.307/.246 over the last 20 games.

His injury is believed to be minor, but it will take some time for it to completely heal. So the organization decided to recall Sierra for his third cup of coffee in the Majors this season.

Sierra is hitting .375/.429/.375 as a big leaguer this season with hits in 8 consecutive games to begin his MLB career, a Cardinals record. He was last up in early June for Jedd Gyorko’s paternity leave and went 1-for-2 with a walk in his one game. Since that game, he has hit .301/.342/.413 over 35 games with Double-A Springfield.

Five things about the Cubs Series

Well that wasn’t supposed to happen. The St. Louis Cardinals headed to Wrigley Field for a three game weekend set against the Chicago Cubs and came up empty, swept in three games. Every game was close, every game was winnable, and the Cardinals led at points in each of those games and was unable to convert anything into a win.

The Cardinals are now 26-28 and 2.5 games behind Milwaukee for the lead in the NL Central. The scary part is that the Cubs are embarking on a stretch where they will play bad teams, so they may be poised to put together a run that will see them put a lead on the division.

As for the Cardinals, they now head to Cincinnati to begin a four game series against the Reds.

Lost leads

The Cardinals had a lead in each of the three games, but came up winless which just increased the frustration level with this series.

On Friday, Dexter Fowler received his World Series ring and led off the game with a solo shot. The Cardinals added another run courtesy of Magneuris Sierra in the top of the 2nd. After that, they stopped scoring as a struggling John Lackey would go on to pitch 7 innings. The Cubs tied up the game in the bottom of the 6th and then won it in the bottom of the 8th on a couple of poor defensive decisions by Magneuris Sierra and Jhonny Peralta.

On Saturday, Jose Martinez plated Fowler and Tommy Pham with his first at bat in the top of the first. They would add another with Yadier Molina‘s sixth home run of the season in the sixth inning. But the Cubs would score four runs in the bottom of the 7th as Mike Leake ran into trouble and allowed a grand slam to Kyle Schwarber.

On Sunday, the Cubs struck first with a run in the bottom of the third, but the Cardinals came back in the top of the fourth to take a lead. Stephen Piscotty hit a three run home run and Paul DeJong drove in Jedd Gyorko as the Cardinals sent all 9 batters to the plate. But that 4-1 lead wouldn’t hold for long as Michael Wacha turned around and allowed five runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Cardinals tied it in the sixth, but the Cubs would beat Matthew Bowman for the winning run in the 7th on three unlikely singles by left handed hitters (Bowman had allowed just a .167 batting average to LHBs entering the game).

Missing Gyorko

With Jedd Gyorko staying behind in St. Louis for a couple days with his family following the birth of his daughter last week, the Cardinals lineup looked completely different. Gone was Gyorko’s .323 average in the #4 spot, which stacks up 7th in Major League Baseball among cleanup hitters.

Gyorko has 60% of the Cardinals’ at bats in the cleanup spot this weekend and anyone else has hit .265 with 18 RBI in 23 games.

On Friday afternoon, Yadier Molina was in the cleanup spot and went 0-for-3 and left four runners on base. Three of those game while striking out with the bases loaded in the top of the 8th of a 2-2 game. The Cubs took the lead in the bottom and never looked back.

On Saturday, Jose Martinez got a crach at it and drove in a pair of runs in the first inning, but never came to the plate again with a runner on base.

Nice to have Piscotty back

Since returning from his personal leave to spend some time with his mother following her ALS diagnosis, Piscotty has gone 5-for-14 with a home run and five walks, reaching base in all five games since his return, for a line of .357/.526/.643. He also seems to have found a home in the #3 spot in the Cardinals lineup with the move of Matt Carpenter to the #2 spot. Seeing him put some good games together has been nice to see. This team needs him hitting again.

Carpenter goes hitless

Matt Carpenter went hitless in the series against the Cubs. That’s the first time this season he’s gone hitless since the middle of last September when he went 0-for-10 in a series also against the Cubs. Something he only did three times last season.

In 29 games since May 1st, Carpenter is hitting .192/.331/.404. He does still have 6 home runs, but he doesn’t have a home run or an RBI since May 21st against the Giants.

I’m not one of these guys who believes that Carpenter can only lead off, but it isn’t like Dexter Fowler has been killing it in the leadoff role either. Perhaps it would be worth swapping them up for a week and see what happens. If you insist on batting two most struggling batters 1-2, what difference does their order make? If Carpenter says he’s more comfortable leading off, put him there and see what happens. It’s not like you have anything to lose.

Is it time to scratch Wacha?

Michael Wacha started the season on an excellent streak. In his first 7 starts, he had a 2.74 ERA and pitched at least 6 innings in each start. Since then, it’s been some very opposite results. In his last three starts, Wacha has a 11.91 ERA and hasn’t even made it into the sixth inning.

In his first 7 starts last year, Wacha had a 3.12 ERA. Over his next three he had a 12.00 ERA. Before settling in with a 3.75 ERA over his next 10 starts.

But with Tyler Lyons and John Gant now up on the big league roster and capable of acting as both starter and reliever and Marco Gonzales now four starts into his return at Memphis with a 2.81 ERA, does the team look at giving Wacha a brief rest? With the fear of his shoulder issues returning, the team looks to be taking a cautious approach to him.