Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cardinals are taking a hard look at David Price

Usually when it comes to trade rumors, you can discount much of what is being thrown around as just that, rumors.  However, when more than one person is hinting at someone, chances are that it is true.  Like they say "where there's smoke, there's fire".

That appears to be the case when it comes to the Cardinals and Tampa Bay's David Price.  According to Joe Strauss, the Cardinals remain "fixated" on Price, while Derrick Goold indicates that the Cards interest in Price is reminiscent of their pursuit of Matt Holliday in 2009.

This is a bit surprising, as we were told just a week and a half ago, by Goold himself, that the Cardinals were looking for "hitting not (Jake) Peavy".  Of course, Price is not Peavy and, as Strauss points out, beyond Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn, there are many questions surrounding the Cards starting rotation.

Despite the loss of Yadier Molina, there is still the belief that the hitting will come around.  Matt Holliday is starting to heat up.  He is hitting .304/.407/.522 in July and Allen Craig is too good of a hitter to be hitting only .244.

There have been signs of life with the offense and I think that the Cardinals just need to string a few good games together to get on track.  However, the way this season has gone so far, that's a big if.

On the flip side, despite being 3rd in the NL in starters ERA, the Cardinals pitching has been shaky as of late.  Shelby Miller was recently demoted to the bullpen after posting a 7.30 ERA in his last 5 starts, with the Cards saying he looks "tired".  Carlos Martinez has been maddeningly inconsistent, as most rookies are, and Joe Kelly just came off the DL as is still trying to find his form.

Add in that Jaime Garcia is done for the year and Michael Wacha could be out at least until September and you can see why John Mozeliak could be looking to add a pitcher. 

So, if you're going to add a pitcher, why not go big?

Well, according to Goold, there are a couple things the Cardinals will need to sort out first, before they even consider a trade for Price:  (1) the chances of Price re-signing with them and (2) their willingness to pay the high cost (both in terms of money and prospects). 

In his Baseball Tonight podcast last Friday, Buster Olney indicated that he thought that Price would be open to signing an extension with the Cardinals, as St. Louis is close to his hometown of Nashville.

As to the second point, the Cardinals certainly have the money for Price.  Their 2014 opening day payroll of $107 million was less than their 2013 payroll of $115 million.  Plus, they will have the salaries of Jason Motte ($7.5 million) and Mark Ellis ($5.25 million) coming off the books, giving them at least $20 million to play with.  Add in the new MLB TV deal that kicked in this year, as the Cards should be flush with funds.

The main question that remains is whether Mo will be willing to part with the prospects required to last Price.

For his part, Price is making it hard for any team, let alone the Cardinals, to say no, as he has posted an 0.85 ERA over his last 4 starts and a 1.64 ERA over his last 9 starts. 

With 11 days until the deadline, it will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Will the Cardinals make a big splash this trade season?

With the All Star Break out of the way (finally) and meaningful games being played again, many will be turning their focus to the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. 

The last couple years have seen little trade activity for the Cardinals.  Last year, the Cards acquired John Axford, but not until after the trade deadline.  Before that, in 2012, the team acquired Edward Mujica. In fact, you have to go back to the July 2011 trade deadline for the last significant move at the deadline.  That was the year that saw the club trade Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller and a couple prospects for Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepcynski, Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson.

Now, with the deadline less than two weeks away, we're left to ponder what John Mozeliak has up his sleeve this year.  Will he make the big move to acquire a hitter or a pitcher or will he just tinker with the bullpen (or make some other minor adjustments)?

The Cardinals have been reportedly looking at adding an offensive upgrade at second or third, which would likely push Kolten Wong to the bench.  Ben Zobrist is a prime trade candidate for the Cards, but the Mariners are reportedly pursuing him, according to Jon Paul Morosi

On the other hand, the season-ending injury to Jaime Garcia and the uncertain status of Michael Wacha, not to mention the recent demotion of Shelby Miller to the pen, have many concerned about the Cardinals pitching depth.  Jeff Samardzija is already off the market and while David Price is available, the Cards will have many competitors to acquire his services (including the aforementioned Mariners.).

Derrick Goold was a guest on Buster Olney's Baseball Tonight podcast, in which he indicated that he thinks the Cardinals would at least be willing to discuss a deal involving Oscar Taveras for David Price.  At a minimum, Goold says that the Cards will have to address their surplus of outfielders at some point.

Another concern is the loss of Yadier Molina, who will likely be out for the rest of the regular season.  ESPN's Jim Bowden (subscription required) reports that the Cardinals are planning to scout the Twins' Kurt Suzuki as a potential upgrade over Tony Cruz and George Kottaras.

My guess is that the Cards will be relatively active this go around.  They won't make any big moves, but will make a series of middle-tier moves to shore up their lineup and rotation.  I think they will go after Suzuki, then add an infielder, such as Zobrist or Martin Prado and maybe an innings eater, such as Jake Peavy.  None of these guys will cost the Cards a lot, but each of them would be an upgrade at the respective positions.

At this point, its all speculation as its difficult to tell which direction Mo will go or if he even will make a move.  The team certainly has the pieces in place to make a splash, with an abundance of major league ready outfielders and young arms to dangle in front of selling teams--basically, the Cards have the pieces to acquire any player they want. Its just a question of who do they want and how much are they willing to give up.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Revisiting the Cardinals and Troy Tulowitzki rumors (again)

Don't look now, but Ken Rosenthal is stirring up rumors regarding Troy Tulowitzki and a possible trade.  Per Rosenthal, Tulo indicated that he would be open to a trade, saying "I want to be somewhere where there’s a chance to be in the playoffs every single year.”

However, before we all get our hopes up about the possibility of adding a true impact bat this month, Rosenthal is quick to point out that its more likely that Tulowitzki would be traded in the offseason rather than now.  

Still, it makes one wonder if the Cardinals might pursue the Rockies All-Star shortstop this winter.

This season might be lost for the Redbirds, as the recent injury to Yadier Molina and the general malaise of the team have this writer wondering if they have what it takes to even make the playoffs.  The Cardinals considered a trade for Tulo last winter before they ended up signing Jhonny Peralta to play short and they might revisit the idea again, if the Rockies make him available.

Peralta can easily shift over to third base, with Matt Carpenter moving to second, to make room for Tulowitzki.  Kolten Wong would be the odd man out, but he hasn't exactly shown that he is major league ready.  Perhaps he could end up being a trade piece (maybe even this month).

As Rosenthal points out, I'm sure many Cardinals fans would be willing to trade Allen Craig, Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal to the Rockies for Tulo, as he suggested last year.  The Rockies are in desperate need of pitching help and the Cards still have a nice stable of young arms.

The only thing that concerns me about Tulowitzki is his home/away splits.  While he is a career .299/.374/.518 hitter, he has hit .324/.398/.565 in Colorado and just .275/.349/.470 on the road.  However, fans had the same concerns about Matt Holliday and he's turned out alright.  Besides, if those road numbers are his standard with the Cards, its still better than any shortstop we've had since I don't know when.

Its an interesting situation and one that bears watching this winter, however, its not gonna help the Cardinals this year.

Cards Claim George Kottaras

In other news, the Cardinals claimed catcher George Kottaras off waivers from the Indians.  He will provide the Cards with much needed depth after Molina's injury.  Kottaras is a career .216 hitter, but does have some power, as his career ISO (isolated power) is .199, which is above league average.

He will replace Audry Perez on the active roster and will likely split time at catcher with Tony Cruz while Molina is out.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How do Cardinals replace Yadier Molina?

Short answer:  You can't.

The Cardinals playoff chances took a big hit today as the team found out that starting catcher Yadier Molina would miss 8-12 weeks after suffering a ligament tear in his right thumb. That timetable puts him out until mid-to-late September, effectively ending his season, although he could be back in time for the playoffs (if the Cards make it).

This is the worst thing that could have happened to an already struggling team.  Not only are the Cardinals losing one of their better hitters, but they are also losing the leader on defense and a guy who acts like a manager on the field.

Molina has been invaluable in working with the Cardinals young pitchers and helping them develop, while his throwing ability as well as his ability to frame pitches saves the team several runs each year.

Backup Tony Cruz will take over for Molina in the short-term, while GM John Mozeliak has already acknowledged that he will scour the market for any available catchers, according to Jennifer Langosch.

But what catchers might be available?

Well, the Yankees have an abundance of catchers in their system and Brian McCann, who they signed to a 5-year deal prior to the season, blocking them all. 

According to David Lennon of Newsday, the Yankees could make Francisco Cervelli available.  He is a career .271/.342/.368 hitter, but has only thrown out 22% of base stealers in his career. 

ESPN's Jim Bowden (via Bernie Miklasz), also lists the following catchers as being available:

Kurt Suzuki, Twins.
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies.
Hector Sanchez, Giants.
John Buck, Mariners
A.J. Pierzynski, Red Sox
Ryan Hanigan, Rays.
Jose Molina, Rays

Buck and Pierzynski were recently designated for assignment and can probably be acquired for cheap.  Ruiz would only be available if Phillies GM Ruben Amaro finally admits defeat and starts selling.  Yadier's brother Jose is also well known for his defense (37% CS) and pitch framing, but is a career .235 hitter and is hitting only .187 this year.  Suzuki and Sanchez are pretty similar.  Sanchez has a career .257 average and has thrown out 26% of basestealer, while Sanchez has a .251 average and 26% CS).  Hanigan has thrown out base stealers at a career 39% rate, but his offense has dropped off considerably the last two years.

None of these guys are going to replace Yadier, but there are a few who could be upgrades over Tony Cruz and that's all Mozeliak will be looking for at this point.  What this really means is that other Cardinals need to step it up to help replace Molina's production.  If not, this season could be over in a hurry.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cardinals are "looking for offense not Peavy"

In case you missed it, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the Cardinals and Jake Peavy yesterday, with Gordon Edes, Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark all reporting the Cards interest in the Red Sox pitcher.  Jon Morosi even indicated that the Cards and Red Sox were in active trade talks regarding Peavy.

However, Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch put the brakes on that talk with a report that the Cardinals are "looking for offense not Peavy", saying there is no match with Boston given that Joe Kelly is expected to return to the starting rotation on Friday.

Goold also tweeted that Cards GM John Mozeliak believes that the team would have to give up one of its starters to acquire a top starter, resulting in a net loss in years of control.

This is yet another example of why trading season is so much fun.  You never know who is telling the truth (or even what the truth is) and what is just info that is being "leaked" to try to leverage ongoing negotiations.

In any case, I wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinals land both a starting pitcher and a hitter.  Their pitching depth has taken a big hit lately and its no secret that their offense could use some help.  Bringing is a "cheap" pitcher (in terms of prospects) like Peavy would allow the Cards to use their bigger trade chips to land a bat.

With a little over 3 weeks remaining until the (non-waiver) trade deadline, we do know this:  Mo is definitely looking to do something significant to shake up this team.