The Cardinals have been peppered with new, daily rumors about their ongoing interest in mega-trades with other teams: with the Rangers for Profar; with the Orioles for Hardy; with the Rockies for Tulowitski; with the A's for Lowrie. We were also faced with a rumor regarding David Freese and the Yankees.
This off-season is probably going to be full of such false rumors, many of which are not merely the fevered imaginings of a sportswriter craving hits. Many are trial balloons proposed by one side or the other in an effort to create buzz or drive up the price on an asset, or to see how quickly or vehemently the other club denies such a rumor.
It is our lot in life as baseball fans to read each rumor and, voluntarily or involuntarily, mentally "try on" that proposed trade. The ensuing discussions show that we value each player and prospect very differently.
I suspect the club will be fairly patient, and we will have to endure several rounds of these rumors before the club finds a trade or signing that makes sense for it. I would be surprised if a deal gets made this week or next week.
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It has become more and more clear that the club is unlikely to offer Carlos Beltran the multi-year deal he seeks, much less win a bidding war for his services. He is being pursued by multiple clubs. The interesting thing is that, given the new CBA rules, the Cardinals have very little reason to be concerned about which club ultimately signs Beltran.
As a reminder, the compensation for the Cardinals is NOT getting the other club's pick. The Cardinals instead get a comp pick in between the 1st and 2nd rounds. So, it's mostly immaterial whether the Yankees, Royals, or Rangers sign Beltran. The minor point of interest is that the other team loses any unprotected first round picks, which would move the Cardinals' drafting positions in the first and compensatory rounds up a single number. That is, the Cardinals would pick at 30 instead of 31.
The only exception would be if the Phillies or Mariners (who have a protected first round pick) should sign Beltran. We'd still get the compensatory round pick, but a club with a protected pick would lose the second rounder instead, and the Cardinals' first and compensatory round picks would not move up. I'm not sure there's a huge difference between picking 30th and 31st, but it's something to think about.
It's also worth noting that we move up a notch regardless of whether the player who receives a QO was ours or not -- a sort of rising-tide-lifts-all-boats scenario. So, if the Giants sign Ellsbury, the Angels sign Ervin Santana, the Brewers sign Kendrys Morales, the Yankees sign Carlos Beltran, etc., the Cardinals could find their #31 draft pick becomes a #25 pick or better very quickly. This is probably not the most likely scenario, since the QO recipients may re-sign with their original clubs or with a club with a protected pick. Still, it's an interesting and as-yet-untested aspect of the new CBA rules. With 13 players declining qualified offers, even half of them signing to a new club with an unprotected pick would have draft ramifications.
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In ex-Cardinal news, Nick Punto will be moving up the coast from LA to Oakland, and one-time-Matt-Holliday-trade-piece Clay Mortensen is joining the Royals on a minor league deal. Mark De Rosa will be joining the MLB Network as an analyst and an expert on how much getting hit on the wrist REALLY REALLY hurts.
Brendan Ryan appears to be in serious talks to return to the Bronx as Derek Jeter insurance and the late-inning replacement with the biggest imaginable swing in defensive ability in baseball history.
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Current and former Cardinal coaches also saw a couple of shake-ups.
Bengie Molina is departing for Texas to serve as the Rangers' first base coach. I'd like to note that this leaves the Cardinals with a flexible coaching spot, which could be filled by another assistant hitting coach, or some other coach, including an assistant pitching coach. For instance, an assistant pitching coach & lead demonstrable emotional outburst with profuse cursing coach. If, you know, we have an eligible candidate fitting that profile in the process of retirement. . . . .
Former pitching coach, semi-beloved curmudgeon, and survivor of an unreasonable number of recent personal blows Dave Duncan also announced that he would be serving as a pitching consultant for the Diamondbacks. This move was expected, as Shelley Duncan and his family make their home in the Phoenix area.
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Adam Wainwright finished a deserved second place to Clay Kershaw in Cy Young voting, despite his career year. Wainwright's newest and most exciting development this year was a stunningly low walk rate, at 3.7% or 1.30 BB/9. I may have a unique definition of "exciting" in my life.
Wainwright and Kershaw were both close by peripherals, with Kershaw's 2.39 FIP narrowly edging Wainwright's 2.55 FIP. Unfortunately for Adam, their ERA's showed a bigger spread, 1.83 to 2.94. That disparity probably reflects some ordinary baseball weirdness, as well as the defensive strength of the infield behind Kershaw and the weakness of the one behind Wainwright.
As long as Wainwright can stay healthy and continue to pitch at this elite level, I think Adam will pull down a Cy Young one of these seasons. He is very capable of having a second 20-game winning season, heading the staff of a very talented Cardinal ballclub, which counts for something (whether or not it should). Improved defense at third base, whether from a healed David Freese or more Matt Carpenter innings, and a more airtight bullpen in 2014 should help his ERA and win totals.
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I would just like to reassure Pete Kozma that all the things I said about him this year were apparently "coming from a place of love."
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As the Arizona Fall League winds down, I'd just like to remind everybody of what an outstanding season our stars down there are having. Stephen Piscotty is hitting .346/.407/.494, for a .413 wOBA and a 147 wRC+. Even with a .397 BABIP, that's a very good looking line. Conventional profiles see him starting the season at Memphis and holding down a starting corner outfield job. If he continues his steady performance in Memphis, he could help the major league club as a right-handed pinch hitter and corner outfielder after the All-Star Break.
Supposed Skip-Schumaker-redux James Ramsey is hitting .250/.373/.441, for a .379 wOBA and a 126 wRC+. He is continuing to strike out way too much, with a 22% K rate in Arizona, but his walk rate has remained consistently high across all levels, including a 16.9% in the AFL. It remains unclear whether a player who strikes out at such a rate can be successful in the majors, but his chances surely improve if he can keep walking a lot, remain a plausible center field defender, and continue to show the gap power he's demonstrated this season; he has a .191 ISO in the AFL, to go with a .173 ISO at Springfield. Ramsey probably needs a little more seasoning, but could be a September call-up or fill Adron Chambers' vacated role as a substitute for an injured outfielder.
Fellow 2012 draftee Jacob Wilson has also impressed, with a .302/.362/.419 line and a .366 wOBA and a 117 wRC+ in the AFL. Wilson is further behind Piscotty and Ramsey, having succeeded in single-A ball, but sputtered over a partial season in high-A. Wilson represents another possible right-handed power hitter in the Cardinals org.
The pitching performances were less notable. Sam Gaviglio continues to look like a valid pitching prospect, turning in a 3.58 ERA, 4.07 FIP, and a 21/8 K/BB rate in the challenging run environment. Dean Kierkehfer and Lee Stoppelman turned in passable performances as relievers for Surprise, though Stoppleman's 2.16 ERA looks a lot better than a 12/8 K/BB rate might suggest.
There are more prospects competing in Venezuela and Puerto Rico this winter, though few of particular note beyond Anthony Garcia.