Tag Archive | "Contract Situation"

Cardinals Spring Training Pics From InsideSTL

Our friends over at InsideSTL spent last week hanging out at a picnic table, and eventually under a tent, in Jupiter, Florida and talking with any Cardinal players that came by and were willing to sit down for a few minutes.

What resulted were some great candid shots of the guys as well as a very candid interview with Adam Wainwright about his contract situation.

The images below were posted to their website and are being shared here with their permission.

Carlos Beltran

Picture 1 of 62

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Wainwright Comments Sound Similar To Pujols

St. Louis Cardinals ace starting pitcher Adam Wainwright announced Tuesday that contract talks between himself and the Cardinals have stalled for the time being. It’s not time to panic that Wainwright won’t come back, but the result wasn’t pretty the last time contract talks between the Cardinals and a superstar fell apart in spring training.

AlbertPujolsAdamWainwright

That last time was in 2011 when Albert Pujols arrived at spring training in Jupiter, Fla., with one year left on his contract with the Cardinals.

“I have made it very clear that I do not want any of this to be a distraction during the season, and it was for that reason, that we came up with a deadline,” Pujols said Feb. 16, 2011, the day contract talks officially ended until after the season.

Wainwright has not set that type of deadline, but time is becoming precious for him and the Cardinals to hammer out a new contract before the season starts.

Wainwright’s biggest concern is the same reason Pujols wanted to set a deadline in his negotiations: He doesn’t want the contract situation to become a distraction.

“There does need to be some urgency on both sides just to try to get this done if it’s going to happen before the season starts, just for peace of mind for everyone,” Wainwright said earlier in the week.

Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t adding up no matter how much both sides want to get a deal done. Sound familiar?

Pujols and the Cardinals both suggested they wanted to get a deal done quickly so Pujols would remain with the Cardinals for the remainder of his career, but it didn’t happen. Pujols is now set to enter the second year of his 10-year, $240-million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

As was the case with Pujols two years ago, Wainwright’s value is something of a mystery right now. He’s a Cy Young Award-caliber pitcher who is unquestionably going to be the ace of the Cardinals’ pitching staff this season. But, he’s also a 31-year-old pitcher who has already missed an entire season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.

Pujols was considered the greatest player in the game heading into the 2011 season. He had just come off of a season when he hit .312 with 42 homeruns and 118 RBIs, but people still asked the same questions about Pujols as they are currently asking about Wainwright.

Pujols was 31 years old, and a long-term deal could create many problems for a team if he gets hurt or simply doesn’t produce nearly as much as he ages. That’s the great unknown that factors into all contract negotiations with star players.

Still, the Cardinals would do well to sign Wainwright before the season starts. They signed catcher Yadier Molina to a five-year, $75-million contract before the 2012 season, nobody said a word about contract negotiations for the rest of the season and Molina had the best season of his career.

Pujols and the Cardinals didn’t get a deal done a year earlier, and Pujols had the worst season of his career. That was the first time he hadn’t hit at least .300 or had at least 100 RBIs.

Wainwright’s value will also likely increase, possibly dramatically, if he has a stellar 2013 season. The price of pitching rises exponentially each offseason, and there is little doubt the asking price for good pitchers during next year’s free-agent period will again produce eye-popping contract numbers.

These are anxious times as the Cardinals and another star player battle through contract negotiations in February. And with each passing day, the situation only gets scarier with the possibility Wainwright might not be a Cardinal beyond 2013.

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Who are the backups to the St. Louis Cardinals backstop?

The St. Louis Cardinals are all in training camp and preparing for the 2012 season! Those are sweet, sweet words for Cardinal fans all over the world. This is the time of year where every team has hope for the upcoming season, and the joy of baseball fandom is at its highest. As has been much discussed on this site, there are a lot of questions the Cardinals face as they approach a new season: new manager, new pitching coach, no Albert Pujols at first base, ace pitcher (Adam Wainwright) returning after a missed year following Tommy John surgery, Yadier Molina entering final year of his contract, Lance Berkman moving to first base, David Freese trying to stay healthy for a full season, Tyler Greene trying to win the second base job, Allen Craig trying to get back on the field, Shelby Miller and Matt Adams trying to crack the big league roster, Carlos Beltran first season with the Birds, Holliday moving into the 3 spot in the batting order…have I left anything out?

News broke out of Jupiter earlier this week that the Cardinals and Yadier Molina are very close on a 5-year extension for a reported $70-75 million. As of the writing of this article, the deal has yet to be completed or finalized. Molina’s contract situation begs the question of just who would replace Molina should he leave after the 2012 season? Would it come from within the organization or outside the organization? This article will look at the three catchers in the Cardinal system that would be next in-line should Molina leave, or perhaps more importantly (based on news of a deal being close for Molina), which guy could provide serviceable backup starts when Molina needs a rest.

Bryan Anderson is a 25-year old catcher that was drafted by the Cardinals in the 4th round of the 2005 amateur draft. Anderson made his big-league debut in 2010 and has seen only 32 at-bats. He has played time at the AAA level all the way back to 2008. His batting average in the minors is .281 and he has hit between 3-12 home runs each season. While not a home run hitter, he does swing a pretty good bat with gap power that can produce a lot of doubles. Scouts say Anderson is athletic with good bat-speed and plate discipline. He has a quick release from behind the plate but only average arm strength. His blocking and receiving also need some work before he is major-league ready. He certainly has the right coach to help him in manager Mike Matheny, but he appears to be a guy that could get squeezed out of an MLB opportunity. He’s  not a good enough defender (yet) to play catcher but not enough of a power bat to become a DH.

Tony Cruz is also a 25-year old catcher. He was signed by the Cardinals in the 27th round of the 2007 amateur draft. Like Anderson, Cruz does not have many major league at-bats. Unlike Anderson, he was not drafted as a catcher. Cruz was drafted as a 3B, but was moved behind the plate because of his strong arm. His only time up in the big show came in 2011 when he accumulated 72 plate appearances in 38 games. Cruz stayed in the low minors longer than Anderson. He did not reach the AAA level until 2010.

Part of his development will be improving his slow release behind the plate (if only we could combine Anderson’s release and Cruz’s arm strength). Unfortunately, Cruz is a mediocre offensive weapon. His minors slash line is .264/.319/.414 and his AAA slash line is .232/.295/.389. He is a singles hitter that struggles to make consistent contact.

Koyie Hill was signed by the Cardinals to a minor-league contract during the 2012 off-season. Hill is 32 years old, was drafted by the Dodgers organization in the 4th round of the 2000 draft. He played sparingly at the big league level from 2003-2008. Then he played in 83, 77, and 46 games during the 2009-2011 seasons. Most of his playing time was received when Geovany Soto went down with injuries.

Hill was given playing time for his defensive abilities much more so than his offensive capabilities. Hill struggles to make contact, has a ground ball rate over 50%, and does not have a good eye at the plate (quite the combination). His best major league year season at the plate was 2009 when he hit .237 with with 2 HRs and 24 RBIs in 253 plate appearances. 2009 also marked the most plate appearances Hill has seen in a season to this point in his career.

A deeper look at these catcher’s skill sets and numbers makes it understandable why the Cardinals are willing to throw the years and dollars at Molina that is being reported. I did not even touch on all the intangibles a catcher brings to the team outside of the sheer numbers. The way Molina handles pitchers will ease the transition from Duncan to Lilliquist. The way he throws runners out and keeps runners from attempting to steal will keep many runs off the scoreboard. He is the guy you want behind the plate to groom Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and others in the coming seasons. Those who would call a five-year contract to Molina foolish must not fully understand all the intangibles he brings to the team that truly make a difference in the standings at the end of the year.

Another exciting aspect to Molina is that 2011 was his most productive season at the plate. For whatever reason, a lot of catchers are late bloomers offensively, and Molina was no exception. In 2011, Molina batted .304 with 14 HRs and 65 RBIs. He has excellent discipline at the plate, drives the ball well to the opposite field, and makes contact over 90% of the time. His numbers are trending in such a way that I would not put a .300-20-80 season beyond him in any of the next three seasons.

There is one last factor to take into consideration. In this age of advanced metrics, we sometimes reduce a players worth to numbers on a page. It has been a long time since I have seen a Cardinal play the game of baseball with more passion than Yadier Molina. The Cardinals need him in the clubhouse if for no other reason than that. Passion is contagious.

If for some reason, the deal does not get done with the Cardinals and Molina, you have to believe the club would look outside the organization for a starting catcher. At 25, Anderson and Cruz have time to continue to develop, but nothing they have done to this point in their careers lead you to believe they would be the long-term answer.

This writer hopes Molina wears the Birds on the Bat for years to come. Let’s make it happen Mo!

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No news is good news to start St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training

The St. Louis Cardinals opened camp for pitchers and catchers Feb. 18 and had their first full-squad workout Thursday in Jupiter, Fla. So far there hasn’t been much of note to come from any Spring Training activities, and that’s a good thing.

At this point last year the Cardinals had already grabbed headlines throughout the country for two major reasons. First baseman Albert Pujols showed up to camp after shutting down contract negotiations with the team, and starting pitcher Adam Wainwright blew out his elbow on the first day.

This year everything has been more low-key, which is slightly amazing since the team is the defending World Series champions.

That’s not to say the team’s Spring Training isn’t full of storylines. Catcher Yadier Molina is approaching a contract situation similar to what Pujols experienced last year, and the team has a new manager in Mike Matheny. Both of those situations will get plenty of attention as the season approaches and probably throughout most of the season, but not much is going to happen to either of them anytime soon.

Molina and the Cardinals still have a ways to go in contract talks that have thus far been inconsistent, at best. Although people will be interested in what Matheny does throughout Spring Training, managers don’t often do many noteworthy things until it comes time to make roster decisions late in the spring.

Instead, Cardinals camp has opened quietly and all of the on-field action has been positive. Lance Berkman provided the grandest entrance to Spring Training this side of Pujols when he arrived Thursday with a mustache worthy of professional wrestler Sgt. Slaughter.

We’ve seen teams invent some interesting hairstyles in the name of team loyalty and a late-season push. For example, the Tampa Bay Rays sported Mohawks for their stretch run to the World Series in 2008. If the Cardinals are in a tight battle late in the season, might they grow rally mustaches?

These are the days to have fun. This is the first week the team has been together since it won the World Series in October, and they still have another week until actual Spring Training games begin. Once March 5 rolls around and the Cardinals take the field against the Miami Marlins, they should be close to game shape and the ever-interesting position battles will begin in earnest.

Fair or not, that is also when fans will begin evaluating Matheny. Former manager Tony La Russa used the Grapefruit League standings as motivation. He wanted the Cardinals to leave Florida on top. Whether Matheny takes the same approach is yet to be seen, but this is a veteran team with core players who know how to prepare for the regular season.

The Cardinals haven’t had a headline-grabbing Spring Training to this point, but early spring headlines usually aren’t very positive.

There is a saying that a bad Spring Training means a good regular season. That might not be 100 percent the truth, but a Spring Training without many newsworthy events usually means a smooth transition into the regular season for potential playoff contenders such as the Cardinals.

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Here We Go Again…Maybe

This week, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch caught up with St. Louis Cardinal catcher Yadier Molina to talk about, among other things, his contract situation. Molina’s current deal is set to expire after the 2012 season, which would make the backstop a free agent for the first time in his career.

Unfortunately, this story is starting to sound a lot like the one told by Albert Pujols leading up to his eventual departure from the Cardinals. Obviously, in situations like this one, it is expected that the player will mention that the deal is about business. When it comes to free agency, a lot of monetary figures get thrown around that most regular folks just can’t comprehend. But, to be fair, these players want to get paid what they believe they are worth. And when one team is willing to come closer to that figure than another, and the difference is significant enough to outweigh anything else, then yes—it really is all about business. It is the business of baseball. There may be feelings involved, but business is what ultimately drove Pujols to the LA Angels. And Molina is now faced with similar prospects.

But another cliché Molina tossed into the interview also matched Pujols’ cadence months earlier: the dreaded “It’s out of my hands.” Seriously…this again? Actually, Yadi, no…it is not out of your hands. It is directly in your hands. You are the player. Your performance on the field drives your worth to the Cardinals and any other team that wants to sign you. You and your agent talk about what you believe your worth is, and then you take it to these teams. Maybe you don’t directly negotiate with the team; we get that. But “It’s out of my hands?” Sorry…not buying that bill of goods again.

At any time, Molina and his agent could start throwing numbers at the Cardinals. He is due to make $7 million this year, and is only 29. He is climbing into the upper echelon of catchers’ salaries and figures to get one more lengthy deal. He is still one of the top defensive catchers in the game, remains a clutch hitter, and is a leader in the clubhouse. The cards are on the table—no pun intended. So is the old “It’s out of my hands” routine just a benign way of saying “I’ll go with whoever pays the most” or what?

It is hard to tell, really, because Molina is one of the toughest players to read. He keeps a pretty low profile when it comes to speaking out publicly. One thing mentioned in the article is that he does not plan on imposing the same Spring Training negotiating deadline Pujols did last year, which definitely helps the process. The Cardinals, for their part, have some significant salary room in 2013 but also some significant holes to fill, at least as of now. That team will need a first baseman, at least one starting pitcher (and maybe two), and some hefty arbitration raises may be due to guys like David Freese and Jason Motte. But do they still have enough room for a bigger contract for Molina? And more importantly, does Molina really want to stay in St. Louis?

Speculation that Molina may also bolt for Anaheim to join his chum began to surface before the ink on Pujols’ contract was dry. And the Angels would certainly appear to have the salary space to take on Molina or anyone else they think can get them back to a World Series. But the Cards may have an ace in the hole with Mike Matheny, Molina’s old mentor, at the helm of the team. Or maybe not. It’s entirely possible Molina already knows exactly what he wants to do, and no amount of money or personal lobbying will change that. Of course, that could be the case from either side…at least until the Mystery Team steps in.

The Cards probably shouldn’t let this one get to the free agency deadline. Molina is a core member of the Cardinals, and now represents the old guard—he’s one of the longest-tenured players on the team. And this next contract is as much in his hands as it is anyone else’s.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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Future Headline: Tough 1st Half Paves Way For NL Central Title

…at least that’s my opinion. The Cardinals finished the unofficial first half of the season with a 49-43 record and in a tie for first in the NL Central. While this might not seem very remarkable to most baseball fans, to those of us who have followed this team since losing to the division to the Reds last October, it is.

In the nearly ten months that have passed so much has taken place. Adam Wainwright finished in the top five of yet another Cy Young vote, while Albert Pujols just missed out on his 4th MVP award. On top of that Jaime Garcia had put up a strong rookie campaign winning 13 games with a sub 3.0 ERA and Matt Holliday put together a great first full season as a Cardinal. Then…

The offseason came. What should have been an exciting few months waiting for Pitchers & Catchers to report turned in to the Pujols contract watch. In addition to that was the annual TLR mulling-over-returning-contract-situation. What joy it was. Finally it was time for the Cardinals to head down to Jupiter and we could get back to baseball. Then… (time elapsed for story purposes)

Adam Wainwright felt a twinge in his elbow, nuff said, Freese broke a bone in his hand, Holliday missed nearly a month of games, Kyle McClellan landed on the DL and Ryan Franklin forgot how to pitch and Pujols had the micro-fracture. Suddenly (or not so suddenly) a season of promise was headed the wrong way. Then…

In the midst of it all Lance Berkman re-discovered his Astro-MYP type form; Lohse & Garcia combine to win 17 games, Holliday, Freese and the rest got healthy, Fernando Salas pitched his way to 16 saves and of course there was Pujols’ super-human recovery. Most importantly the Cardinals kept finding a way to win. Yes it was back and forth, up and down first half full of streaks but the team survived and did more than stay afloat. They sit atop the NL Central as we enjoy the All Star break.

The old saying goes, “what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.” This is the case in St. Louis. Tony’s guys did not pack it in or give up any of the numerous times they could have. Without the injuries, Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay, Tony Cruz, etc would not have had the chance to show their value and add depth to a bench that was initially seen as a weakness. Salas, Lance Lynn and others have found important roles as well. The Cards head in to Cincinnati to start the second half with nearly all their pieces intact. Most importantly they can look forward to Carpenter and Pujols both averaging out to their career norms. That means a lot more production from your two most important players.

The Cardinals and TLR have been here before and know how to win. Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh will fade off as the summer heats up…quote me and St. Louis will once again rise up. All NL Central teams be warned the Cardinals are getting healthy and coming back to claim what is rightfully theirs..the NL Central crown.

As usual these are just my thoughts…if you’re smart you’ll most likely agree. If not keep on reading and you’ll get up to speed.

Follow me on Twitter @SportsbyWeeze or check out my thoughts on the Rams at RamsHerd.com

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On Deadlines And Drama

For weeks now Cardinal fans have endured “updates” of the doom and gloom variety on the Albert Pujols contract situation. The Cardinals, for their part, let it be known that they were told the deadline for a contract to be signed this offseason is the second Pujols steps on the Spring Training practice fields in Jupiter, Fla. Pujols has been saying the same for some time now. And as the deadline approaches, reporters from all over the country see it fit to remind baseball fans that Pujols still does not have a new deal. But I have a different take on this saga.

There is no reason to panic. And I even have reasons why.

The Cardinals and the Pujols camp have both been steadfast in maintaining silence to the media while this plays out. So where are these writers and broadcasters getting their information? Well, in short, nowhere. I’m not saying the info is made up, but what are we hearing, really? “Sources” or “People familiar with the negotiations” exist, I’m sure. But are they Pujols, his agent Dan Lozano, GM John Mozeliak, or one of the DeWitts? No, they are not. So what we have heard is little more than speculation. Speculation does not equal news; speculation equals those in the know sharing what they think would, could, or should happen based on what they are told by people who may or may not know what they are talking about.

One of the big items brought out recently was that the Cards had not made a formal offer to Pujols yet. You might think “What the heck are they waiting for?!?!” While I can’t answer that question, let me say this: if it is true the Cardinals have not made a formal offer that could be a good thing. At least Pujols has not turned down an offer from the Cards, right?

And I am not buying the whole “waiting until the last minute” hysteria, either. Do people honestly think DeWitt and Mozeliak are sitting around their offices tossing a stress ball back and forth saying “When do you think we ought to start writing up that Pujols contract?” Get real. Everyone has known this was coming. The Cardinals know exactly what they are going to offer Pujols. They have known for a while, I’m sure. A few i’s probably need to be dotted and a t or two may need to be crossed, but this offer is almost certainly ready to go. Bill DeWitt Jr. is a very shrewd businessman, and John Mozeliak has many years working big, complicated deals as an assistant and general manager. People like this do not procrastinate and they do not miss the boat. What if the team sends the contract offer today, or tomorrow? What if it is signed by Tuesday and this all goes away? Will the panic really have been worth it?

The money and the years certainly do need to be carefully considered. When it was reported that Pujols was asking for $300 million over 10 years, people freaked. “He won’t be worth $30 million per year in his 40s!” they cried. I tend to agree. No player can possibly live up to that salary at that age. And if Pujols and his agent believe the Cardinals are the only team that will have reservations about paying him that much at that age, I think they will end up disappointed should he decide to explore free agency. If it is crazy for the Cards to pay him that much at that age, why would it be OK for another team to do it? Pujols is on the record saying he wants to finish his career as a Cardinal and he is not only about money. So would he really sign somewhere else for an extra year or a couple million more per?

One other thing I will agree with is the superficiality of this deadline. It could be a bluff, or it could be meant to pressure the team to make an offer. But if Mozeliak calls Lozano in May, is the agent really not going to answer the phone? Or will he answer and say, “I understand you’re offering my client a quarter of a billion dollars, but we’re just not going to accept any proposals during the season!” Come on. And the Cards do still have an exclusive negotiating window up until five days after the World Series, should it go that far.

I fully admit I wish this whole thing was already done. I do want the Cardinals to sign Pujols. I want to watch him finish his career wearing the birds on the bat. And I think they can come to an agreement that satisfies both Pujols’ desires and the team’s budgetary expectations in order to field a competitive team.

But the sky is not falling. Not yet, anyway.

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Cards Start Working on Depth Issues

The Cardinals added a couple veteran arms Friday to begin addressing an area that crippled the 2010 squad: depth.

The Cards signed Miguel Batista and Ian Snell to minor league deals and invited them to Spring Training. Batista, 39, and Snell, 29, figure to compete for the “sixth starter” role, which means they will be asked to pitch long relief and make a spot start in the event one of the rotation mainstays need a break. Snell also may put some pressure on Kyle Lohse in competing for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Hopefully the team is not done adding pieces like this. A good number of quality free agents remain on the market, and as Spring Training approaches their asking prices will only go down.

The biggest area of concern continues to be third base. I don’t think anyone wants to give up on David Freese, but he is returning from ankle surgery and has yet to prove he can stay on the field for an entire season. I don’t even have a problem with Freese being anointed the starter before he takes the field; what I do take issue with is the Cards going into the season without a true third baseman as his backup. The Joe Thurston/Felipe Lopez/Pedro Feliz stuff isn’t going to fly anymore. But I also understand the Cards don’t have millions to throw around until they know the outcome of the Albert Pujols contract situation. So the signing will need to be of the low-risk, high-reward variety. Perhaps a bounce-back candidate like Joe Crede would be a good move.

Another bench move should be to get a “damage” bat; a known presence that gives other teams pause. I like the idea of Dan Descalso, Jon Jay, and Allen Craig getting a chance but no one will consider them to be guys that are lurking as a pinch hitter in the late innings. Jermaine Dye and Jorge Cantu are a couple of players who could re-gain their power strokes if given a shot.

I know these are not guys who are going to win MVP awards anytime soon. But the Cardinals already have a full starting roster for 2011; they need pieces and role players. Friday’s signings are a first step in what appears to be the right direction. But thinking they are done would be a mistake.

Chris Reed is a freelance writer who also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and at Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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