Tag Archive | "John Mozeliak"

Are Descalso’s Days Numbered?

Daniel Descalso will enter the spring simultaneously in an unfamiliar, yet accustomed, position. In one regard, he is at odds with the team over his contract, and as a first-time eligible arbitration candidate, he gets to stake a claim for himself. GM John Mozeliak has stated that both sides have some “significant differences” between their stances on the subject, and is even willing to take it past arbitration and to a trial potentially.

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However, at some point, the matter will be settled, and in the case of Descalso, that is when things could become oddly clear—in one direction or another. In one regard, he’ll be back in a position that he has found himself in the past, which is showing up to compete for a role. However, for a change, there is no clear role that works in his favor alone.

“We’ll see where I fit,” was Descalso’s own take on what capacity he could serve in for the 2014 Cardinals, which is a very reasonably uncertain take on the upcoming month.

The Cardinals underwent an infield facelift since last October, trading away David Freese, while moving Matt Carpenter back to third base. Additions were made in the forms of free agents Jhonny Peralta and Mark Ellis, while the organization’s Player of the Year in Kolten Wong has been promoted to assume a daily role in the majors as well. All things considered, it is a tight spot for Descalso, who just a year ago, was in a competition (albeit a brief one) for the starting second base job last spring.

But things have not gone in his direction much over the past year. His average stayed south of .240 for the second consecutive season a year ago, in fewer at-bats than the year before. Descalso’s claim for place value is as a part-time player, but his performance last season torpedoes that idea as well. As CBS 920’s Corey Rudd points out, in career off the bench, he carries a .432 OPS mark, which drags him south of even Pete Kozma’s offensive value, which has been much more maligned than even that of Double D.

Yet the most eminent threat to his place could be even beyond contractual issues or continued offensive shortcomings, rather it is that his niche is being closed in on as well. Being able to take to the field as late inning defensive upgrade has been his benefit, but it is also being closed in on by the Cardinal additions, and can be pressured by the continued emergence of Greg Garcia as well.

While seeing time in Memphis at both second base and shortstop (sound familiar?), the left-handed hitting (once again, ahem) Garcia hit .271, yet saw a clear uptick in his late season production after getting over a nagging hamstring issue in the first half of the season. Garcia had an encouraging effort in his first spring training, and could be a viable option for the club if he as a repeat effort.

Adding to the equation that Ellis has expressed an openness to play multiple positions if needed and the continued presence of Kozma may be required due to the limitations of Peralta in the field, and Descalso’s margin for error is getting tighter and tighter.

Creating a clear purpose is of the utmost importance for the reserve candidates for any roster, and for a team with as much brimming talent as the current Cardinals feature, having clear mark is an absolute. Descalso’s most distinguishable feature is quickly becoming not much more than being a familiar name, which can become easy to forget in the rat race of March baseball.

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Peter Bourjos Q & A: Learning A New Home & ‘The Catch’

One of the consistent questions around the Cardinals in recent years has been if they will upgrade in center field. Often, the idea is around finding a new bat for the position, however when the opportunity presented itself to make such a move, John Mozeliak went in the opposite direction by acquiring one of the most renown outfield gloves in the game, which is the one that Peter Bourjos brings with him.

Boston Red Sox v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

While his reputation was already set coming into last June, but he affirmed it with one of the most athletic catches in recent memory on a long shot by Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy. And while explaining it could be the way to go, reliving it is a much livelier experience:

The 26-year-old has frequented highlight reels since debuting with the Angels in 2010, and has was good enough with the glove for manager Mike Scioscia to keep Mike Trout relegated to left field when Bourjos made it to the lineup. His combination of speed and fearless tracking on anything hit into the outfield is a big addition to a Cardinal team that has struggled in both outfield range and speed of any sort for a number of years.

I-70 got a chance to speak one-on-one with the newest addition to the Cardinal outfield mix on Monday. He discussed ‘the play’ that put him on the map, his approach to doing what seems improbable in the field and how he is preparing to make a regular impact in the Busch Stadium terrain.

 

I-70: A play that is really noted with you is the catch against the Orioles last year, where you went back to the fence and seemingly defied gravity to bring back an easy home run. What comes to your mind in a moment like that?

Bourjos: You kind of space out and forget about the ball, and that’s the key. You can be afraid of hitting the wall, and on that particular play I timed the jump and it was just me and the ball. I really had no thoughts in my head at all.

I-70: When you look at a park like Busch Stadium that you’ve never played in before, how do you go out and get a feel for how to approach what you need to do for positioning yourself and getting familiar with it?

Bourjos: I think you have to work on that in batting practice. Feel the dimensions out, where the warning track is and how padded the wall is. All of those things go into account with getting your work in and learning from the other guys as well.

I-70: Have you been to the Stadium yet?

Bourjos: I went over a few weeks ago, but it was covered in snow so I didn’t get to see it much, but it is a beautiful stadium.

I-70: When you get to camp, are you looking forward to getting with Matt and Allen and the other outfielders to get a feel for how they approach the field and what their range is to gauge what will be needed of you.

Bourjos: Yeah, there’s a comfort level with your other outfielders, and even the middle infielders, about what they can get to, and having that relationship about what they can get to on certain balls.

I-70: A lot of how busy you are has to do with the type of game that is being pitched as well. How excited are you to play behind a pitching staff like the Cardinals features?

Bourjos: Oh, I can’t wait. Obviously, there’s not going to be as many balls to run down because the staff is so good. Occasionally there’s going to be lazy fly balls more than likely. We had a pretty good staff earlier on in my career in Anaheim, and there wasn’t a lot to do out there, and boring is good because that means that the pitchers are doing their job.

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Peralta Signing Creates Best-Case Outcome

The aggressive Cardinal offseason continued this weekend, when the club came to terms with free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta. It is a signing that seems contrary to how the team has operated in years past, but it certifies one thing above all others: the team is ready to get over the hump.

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The woes that the club had at shortstop began early in the year, and continued on through the fall. Pete Kozma gave everything he had, but could not recapture the regular effort at the plate he found in September of 2011. The reality of the situation was grim: Kozma was the worst regular in baseball at the plate last season, who’s defense was solid, but not to a transcendent level that would entice the team to give him another chance. So the team gritted through a lemons-to-lemonade style situation at the position, but made no secret that making an upgrade was of the most essential of priorities.

While virtually every shortstop in baseball was discussed in some fashion or another as being a fit with the team, and “how much is too much for Player X” has been the hottest water cooler talk in the city, it is clear that John Mozeliak’s commitment to keeping his homegrown talent in tow continues to be the highest priority for the future of the team. However, with such an immediate need, there had to be not another fill-in resolution; there had to be an end brought to any further concern about the position.

Peralta represents both middle ground between upgrade, compromise and a rescue. What he adds is another extra-base hit threat. At his worst, he’s an above replacement level player (which is a .255 hitter, with a .308 on-base percentage), which are both numbers that Peralta has regularly surpassed over the course of his career. For the better part of the past decade, with Kozma, Ryan Theriot, Brendan Ryan, Cesar Izturis, and even Rafeal Furcal, the Cardinals have hovered around or below those replacement level numbers, and now have a drastic increase in the balance of their everyday equation, and potentially an All-Star level performer, although the depth at shortstop in the NL surpasses that in the American League.

A clear advantage that he brings to the lineup is a much needed upgrade against the left-handed pitchers that plagued the club over the last two seasons regularly. As a team, the Cardinals hit .242 against left-handed starters, nearly 30 points beneath their team mark of .269. Peralta hit .352 in 2013 against southpaws. Also, while framed with an image of being an offense-only performer, he is capable currently of making more plays in the field than he is credited with, although the Cardinals will likely take a step backwards regarding infield defense with Matt Carpenter restricted to third base and Peralta being in the mix.

All of this was made available in the form of a four year, $53 million dollar pact, which pays him just north of $13 million per year. For a player that has proven to be an above average player at a premium position, it is a fair amount. The roundabout word is that Peralta actually left money on the table to join the Cardinals, which shows signs he is motivated to win as well. There are the rumblings about rewarding a player that was suspended last fall for performance enhancing drug usage, and what the deal represents regarding the acceptance of these players post-suspension. And it is true that the deal represents a departure from the club’s usual method of operation: cost-controlled, low-risk/high reward deals, as well as a preference for defense-first production up the middle. Yet, in the current state of the team, a change of course was needed.

The reality of the case is that Mozeliak is going all in to get the Cardinals past the last step on the mountain right now, while not compromising any of the young talent that is the nucleus of the organization. Peralta’s signing is a victory on all of those fronts; the team has addressed all of its biggest concerns, made a win-now decision that won’t cripple the team long-term and keeps all of its greatest assets in tow, with protection of the potential yet to be fulfilled.

 

Matt Whitener is a staff writer for I70, and can be followed on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and contact directly at WhitenerCSP@gmail.com.

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Freese Trade Provides Needed Reality Check

The Cardinals pulled the trigger on one of the most roundly debated moves in many years Friday afternoon, by trading third baseman David Freese to the Anaheim Angels. It is a decision that is good for business, but more difficult for the heart.

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With all due respects to Colby Rasmus, perhaps no Cardinal in recent memory has had a steeper roller coaster ride than Freese did over his career. It was a five-year run highlighted by one of the greatest postseason performances of all-time, balanced in the middle by All-Star effort and local celebrity. Yet it also saw some dark recesses of freak injury and spoiled expectation.

However, perhaps he never received a fair shake either. After his incredible October in 2011, he instantly, he became one of the great hometown heroes in the city’s history; the prodigal son turned Cardinal great. It was an irresistible combination that was further in his encore season. In 2012, he hit 20 home runs and made his first All-Star team, a performance which further extended his heroic nature.

Yet what became painfully true was that his peak created that skewed image.  At best, Freese was a sensation, whose had a four week run that raised him to a level of expectation that he never should have been at long-term. Expectations overextended the reality, and when his year in the clouds came back to Earth, the reality became even harder to take. Then, when complicated with active nostalgia and the hope that his peak could be regained, his continued struggles with the strike zone, along with growing compensation due, amplified frustrations to a point where a change of scenery was a must for both side.

Ultimately, change had no choice but to come. He had become a man out of place, as well as out of time. Freese never looked comfortable in 2013, and was creating void far too wide to ignore. His numbers plummeted across the board, and his defensive range followed as well. For a team with few, but glaring, needs that the Cardinals already have, another year with Freese potentially underachieving was not an option. He became a man without a role in the lineup; a presence at a run producing position that could not drive in runs, as well as a single-dimensional player that did neither well enough to warrant a regular position.

And now, he leaves as he came in many regards. He was the return for Jim Edmonds in the trade that sent him to St. Louis after the 2006 season. In the full-circle nature of the life, there is some interesting closure in the departure of Freese. Edmonds arrived in St. Louis as an exciting defensive presence that immediately revived a stagnant Cardinal club. The return for him is yet another former Angel that will bring the same type of ability to a Cardinal outfield that Edmonds did in 2000. Peter Bourjos is a welcome upgrade from the overrated ability of Jon Jay in center and a needed ground covering presence between Matt Holliday and the likely duo of Allen Craig and Oscar Tavares in right. He is an instant upgrade, and in all truth, a steal in regards to return on where Freese’s stock seemed to be.

But now, the slowly grinding reality of trading away one of the preeminent faces of the city to Anaheim will set in, where he will not-so ironically join the last man that left an emotional void in the Cardinal fanbase when he departed. Yet the question begs to be answered, how does the . The organization that turns pages with more ease than any other will do just that, and a fan base that has had a more complicated time in doing so will have to once again.

For Freese, there will always be country within Cardinal Nation. And now with, both his highs and lows in the rearview, his legacy will begin to set itself; as a complicated, yet great flash in team history, and one that will one day have a place within the walls of Busch again, just not in the now.

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The Past Meets The Future—Matheny Extended, Carp Retires

It was a day of coming and going for the Cardinals. In the first major personnel announcements of the offseason, General Manager John Mozeliak announced that the organization was furthering its leadership on the bench with Mike Matheny, while also making official the retirement of Chris Carpenter.

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In the current, the decision to continue on further with manager Matheny was affirmed over the long-term—not that there was ever any question regarding it. In his second year, the Cardinals finished with a National League-best 96 wins, going to win its first National League Championship under his guide, before reaching Game 6 of the World Series. For these efforts, he finished fourth the voting for NL Manager of the Year and saw it come to a head today with a three-year contract extension that will keep him in St. Louis through the 2017 season. Before the 2013 season, his third year option that covers the 2014 season was previously picked up.

Matheny has played a pivotal role in keeping the organization afloat after future Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa retired two years ago. In a time where the team could have slipped into a minor rebuilding phase, under his watch it has instead returned it to the NLCS two consecutive years and won its first NL Central in four years. In his first two seasons on the bench, Matheny has a record of 185-139, which is the third best two-season start to managerial career in Cardinal history.

             HISTORY IN THE MAKING

Matheny has quietly climbed into elite company in Cardinal history in his first two years as manager. His 185 wins bring him in a third all-time in team history for manager wins over the first two seasons:

Billy Southworth (1941-42): 203-104

Frankie Frisch (1934-35): 191-116

Mike Matheny (2012-13): 185-139

Johnny Keane (1961-62): 177-147

Joe Torre (1991-1992): 167-157

Perhaps what has been most impressive has been the handling of the young guard of Cardinal prospects that Matheny has embraced. They have become an important foundation of the team, both now and in years to come. Armed with a ready to win, yet continually developing roster, the move to secure Matheny over the long-term is yet another strong early investment in continued Cardinal success.

 

Yet, while the club was securing its future, it also announced the newest part of its past. The biggest announcement of the afternoon was Mozeliak confirming what was long assumed to be coming: the retirement of Carpenter. Injuries curtailed the last two seasons for the 38-year-old pitcher, and he mustered only three starts since 2011. After mounting a final comeback attempt in mid-June, only to see it derailed in Memphis after the same nerve issues that ended his 2012 in Spring Training returned. Ultimately, it became clear there was nothing left to pursue in regards to continued attempts to return, and as his contract also expired with the club at the end of the season as well, it became clear that it was time to move on.

Injuries often kept Carpenter from being the regularly dominant presence at the front of the Cardinal rotation, but when he was there, he was among the best hurlers to ever wear the Birds on Bat. After beginning his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, Carpenter signed with the Cardinals in December 2002, but missed his first season in St. Louis with an elbow injury.

But from the time he made his Cardinal debut in 2004, on through 2006, he was as good a pitcher as the National League had. Over that time span, he posted a record of 51-18, including winning the first Cardinal Cy Young in 2005 since Bob Gibson hoisted the award 35 years before. In 2006, he anchored a Cardinal staff that salvaged a failing season to win the team’s first World Series since 1982.

While he missed all but five games in 2007 and 2008 due to a second elbow surgery, he played an important role as mentor to the young Adam Wainwright, becoming a critical part of launching a career that has seen him join Carp among the elite Cardinal hurlers all-time. He returned to the top of his game in 2009, joining Wainwright in the top three of the NL Cy Young vote, a third such finish for Carp.

His final great hurrah was in the 2011 postseason, when he authored one of the great postseason games in history, winning a 1-0 dual with Roy Halladay. Overall, he posted a 4-0 record that October, including two World Series wins over the Rangers, including the decisive game seven victory.

Overall, he finished with a career record of 144-95, and a 10-4 postseason record, the seventh most wins in playoff history. With the Cardinals, his career record finishes at 95-44 with a 3.04 ERA and finished in the top ten in strikeouts, winning percentage, WHIP and postseason wins. He fought through a litany of injuries during his career: a torn shoulder labrum, torn ulnar-collateral ligament, and finally thoracic outlet syndrome, that led to the nerve and circulatory problems that ultimately brought his career to a close.

Due to time lost, Carpenter will not reach Cooperstown, but will loom large in the lore of his era. He is likely to be a quick inductee into the forthcoming Cardinals Hall of Fame when the Ballpark Village-based Cardinal museum is completed. Nobody will ever wearing his number 29 again most likely, despite the fact it is not eligible to be “officially” retired under current team rules. As for his future in the game, there has been continued dialogue between him and Mozeliak on finding a place for him with the club, most likely in a coaching capacity. Because, for one of the game’s great warriors, a suit-and-tie front office gig will not do. Rather, keeping him close to the dirt and the players that continue the legacy that he so intensely embraced is the only way.

As it has always been, its only goodbye for now for Carp.

 

Matt Whitener is a staff writer for i70 Baseball. He can also be found at The Sports Fan Journal and Cheap.Seats.Please, as well as on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and WhitenerCSP@gmail.com

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“Drew” The Right Thing: Why Stephen Is Best For Cards

The rumor mill around the Cardinals search for an upgrade at shortstop has hit red alert levels of speculation. Yet while the names of nearly every player in the game at the position has crossed the lips of one person or another about what direction the team could go in, the easiest way to solve the problem will require some sacrifice—in the form of a contract to Stephen Drew.

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Drew is not the sexiest option on the table; those honors go to Troy Tulowitzki and Elvis Andrus. Likewise, he is not as potent of an offensive threat as Jed Lowrie or Jhonny Peralta, or even the pure fielding genius that Pete Kozma was. Over the past three years, the 30-year old has played for three different teams and never hit over .255 at any stop. What’s more, the 124 games he played in this past season in Boston, while hitting .253 with 13 home runs, 67 RBI and 112 hits were all high marks that he had not touched since 2010.

None of that sounds too great, does it? Not when there are numbers floating around like Tulowitzki’s five years of 24 or more home runs, or Andrus’ 40 steal summer are in the mix. Add in the fact that it is going to cost in the neighborhood of $13 or so million a season for his services (with negotiations overlooked by Scott Boras of all people), and a pursuit of Drew sounds like a full-fledged ride on the Crazy Train.

But stepping back from the surface level of it shows that the investment into Drew is perhaps the safest route of action for the team. For one, the cost of acquiring any of the numerous players that could be explored on the trade market is heart stopping strong. Teams are going to sift through the plethora of cost-controlled, Major League proven, sub-25 year old talent that the Cardinals have built the core of their team around. This is a group that includes Shelby Miller, Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly among others at the MLB level (it has been stated that Michael Wacha is not available under any circumstances), and could stretch into inquires around Oscar Tavares and Kolton Wong at the next level. A combination of any of those players is a tough pill to swallow, for any player and dents what allows the Cardinals to consistently compete at the level that they do: having high-talent, low cost returns throughout their middle market salary capabilities.

Despite the notion that he “has” to move some of them, especially considering what seems to be a logjam off starting pitchers; John Mozeliak has repeatedly stated that he is not keen on moving his young arsenal of talent. And there is good reason to see why he feels this way. The rotation is ever evolving and outside of Wainwright, there is no proven year in, year out presences in the mix yet. Basically, the time is now, but the picture is still developing and making a brash move while the incubation stage is not quite finished yet could be a leap of faith off the wrong cliff, even if the return is an elite talent at another spot.

So in the end, how do you remedy this situation, while still bringing in as much improvement at the club’s biggest need position still? Pay the price for Drew. Market value often gets tied to numbers, but it is almost always determined more by being in the right place, at the right age, at the right time. Drew is likely to command in the neighborhood of $52 million over the next four years, and quiet honestly is worth it. Yes, he’ll get more than he is worth, and will therefore become prone to inherit the crown of thorns that Matt Holliday has so expertly won in the court of public opinion over the past four years. But the simple truth of it is every deal can’t be one that the team wins. Meaning that cost for a plus shortstop is not going to be a fair one; it is a high demand position that can name its own price within reason. The good thing is that money isn’t an obstacle for the Cardinals, who cleared over $35 million dollars from its 2012 roster between the departures of Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, Jake Westbrook, Edward Mujica and Carlos Beltran from its ranks.

And speaking of Beltran, it is his original purpose that a Drew acquisition most closely replicates. No, he will not hit 30 home runs or even be guaranteed to make two All-Star Games in as many years as Beltran did. Realistically, the team does not need that from its shortstop. But what he will be able to do is fill a major void in place that has to find an answer at, which is exactly what Beltran was acquired to do in December of 2011 on the heels of the Pujols departure. He came to town with a big dollar figure, and an injury prone reputation, but in return he gave the team everything it needed and erased what was a briefly a gaping hole.

That is what Drew represents, an instant replenishment that does not create a new one via acquiring his presence. Look past the numbers and see the truth; the smartest move does not always have to be the cheapest one, rather it should be the most comprehensively effective one.

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Matt Holliday and Measuring the Moment

For all that can be said about Matt Holliday, one thing that can’t be taken from him is his flair for the moment. On Tuesday night, for the second time in this season’s playoff run, he delivered a decisive and momentum swinging blow for the Cardinals, and has once again delivered them to brink of moving to the next round.

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Yet when looking at his plain performance, it is easy to see why he receives some of the criticism he does. Despite being leaned on to be the main producer for the struggling Cardinal lineup, he has more often than not failed to live up to that billing. In the NLCS, he is hitting .125 and hadn’t had a hit in over 10 at-bats before his massive fourth inning home run against Ricky Nolasco, which drove in Matt Carpenter and was a resounding moment in reviving a Cardinal offense that seemed to be on the verge of an early hibernation for a second year in a row.

The motivation of this big statement was very familiar, because it was the same thing his Game 4 home run in Pittsburgh did just last week. With the Cardinals on the brink of elimination, he provided the support to make Michael Wacha’s masterful performance stand up, via a two-run seventh inning home run. And now, as a revived Cardinal team finds itself awakened and with three chances to advance itself to the World Series, the team’s fortunes have been pulled in place by the most incorrectly criticized player in recent Cardinal history.

The image of Holliday is tarnished by the shadows it stands in, as well as the image it is supported by. From day one, there was the idea that he was rental player, which cost the team too much to land (the now laughable expense of Brett Wallace and two other minor leaguers who never made it far). Yet in his first postseason, it was one dropped fly ball in Game four of the NLDS during the Cardinals last October trip to Los Angeles which remains the highlight of his first campaign in St. Louis. Much more than the .353 average he hit once coming over from Oakland which provided much needed non-Pujols created offense and helped the team win the NL Central by a runaway 7.5 games.

He was John Mozeliak’s first blockbuster acquisition, as well as his first big dollar contract dealt out. The purpose of Holliday’s acquisition was to be the second half of a potent heart of the lineup along with Pujols, but to also be security in case he was not able to be retained. Ultimately, the latter became reality, albeit after the Cardinals won a World Series in a season where Holliday put up a .296 average, All-Star effort. At this point Holliday replaced the then irreplaceable hitting third in the Cardinal lineup. But he also carried the tag of being the “highest paid player in Cardinal history”, which became more curse than reward in the court of public opinion. This was fueled by his pay grade was not deemed as necessary stroke of foresight, but rather being a prime reason why Pujols couldn’t stay, for financial reasons.

Holliday’s career thus far has been better than it has been bad. In St. Louis, his career numbers during the regular season have been the most consistent of any player on the team during his four-year tenure, averaging .306/23/90 split as a Cardinal. Despite the notion of not being “clutch”, he turned in a .390 average with runners in scoring position this season, which increased to .426 in same scenario, but with two outs.

Those numbers are a pretty fair regular read out of his “clutch” tendencies, as well as a showing of regular value.

However, the postseason struggles have happened and cannot be denied. A team needs its power conduit to be churning at the highest points of the year, and Holliday has let the club down in those scenarios over the past two years. In most situations, a season is not made by the moment, but the postseason is an exceptional time, and the same rules do not apply. While consistency is still not his ally this October, he has made amends in many regards by showing up when most needed. And that is not a presence that should be glazed over lightly, even if that has been the trend for many of his greatest contributions thus far.

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With Wong Promotion, Cardinals Go All In

After Thursday’s thrilling walk off win, the Cardinals continued to make the future the present, by promoting second baseman Kolten Wong from Triple-A Memphis. The latest pull from the club’s minor league talent pool is sure to spark an immediate debate about who should be in the daily starting lineup (a la Matt Adams), but what’s for certain is that the club is completely committed to putting its absolute best talent into this pennant chase much sooner than later.

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It has not been John Mozeliak’s style to pull prospects into up and to have them not contribute. But already this week, the club has promoted top pitching prospect Michael Wacha to bolster the bullpen, and has already flirted with Carlos Martinez in a similar role, and he’ll most likely return to that capacity when the rosters expand in a few weeks. On the heels of the team’s non-involvement in recent trade deadline, it has become clear that the team is going all in on using its system to add what’s needed, and will be pulling as much of its top talent as possible to the 25-man roster.

No matter how it is viewed, there are not 25 better players in the organization than Wong. The 2011 first round pick hit .303 in 412 at-bats in his first season in Triple A and made his second consecutive MLB Futures Game at the All-Star Game, all while clearly being in a holding pattern due to the success of Matt Carpenter at second base.

And while he is clearly qualified and ready to be with the Cardinals, the timing is curious for a variety of reasons, mainly because there still isn’t a clear route to him regularly contributing to the team…or is there? While Carpenter has not relented, David Freese has continued to yield more and more grasp on his everyday value to the team. In 391 plate appearances, Freese has hit six home runs on the season, which is just one more than Daniel Descalso has managed in 150 less opportunities in a utility role. Run in the fact that he is also due for an arbitration-mandated raise this winter, and it suddenly makes a lot of sense why Wong is here now.

Wong’s presence on the roster also adds a much needed boost to the depth of the team. While Adams has been a constant impact presence from the bench all year, the team has struggled to find identity and consistent impact outside of its regulars mostly. Wong will give Mike Matheny a similar flexibility that Wacha can bring to the bullpen: a flex option that can put higher level of available talent at all times.

A regular bench of Adams, Descalso, Wong, the backup catcher (Johnson or Cruz) and the returning Shane Robinson makes for much better strategic usage of the full roster throughout later games. The fact that Yadier Molina will be on a managed time schedule for the remainder of the regular season will also factor into the caliber of lineup options that are available, further the need to have as much impact possible spread around the rest of the lineup as well. The less than thrilling 7-8-9 combination of Johnson, Kozma and the pitcher spot showed that having more offense punch available is a must. And as this week’s matchups with the Pirates have proven, the entire roster maybe needed to win on a day-to-day basis, let alone series and season.

While the long-term implications of the presence of Wong on the roster are clear and unavoidable, in an immediate sense, his presence is just as strategic as it is symbolic. Time will tell, in an immediate sense, just how that strategy plays out.

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Minus Wigginton & Boggs, Cardinals Clean Out Their Closet

Give John Mozeliak credit, he isn’t shy about admitting his mistakes. In two sweeping moves on Tuesday afternoon, he rearranged the Cardinal roster by removing two of the most debated presences in the Cardinal organization, in Ty Wigginton and Mitchell Boggs. And with the two moves, the Cardinals brought a resounding end to two of their biggest annoyances of the year.

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Not much was required to add to the Cardinals after last season, as a vast majority of the roster that finished one game short of the World Series returned. And where there wasn’t carryover, there were replacements from within waiting to slide into place. The most notable external additions the team made were role players in corner infielder Wigginton and shortstop Ronny Cedeno, as well as left-handed reliever Randy Choate. Now, just half a season later, two-thirds of that trio is out of the uniform with a half of a week until the All-Star Break begins.

While Cedeno’s early struggles saw him never even make it out of the spring, Wigginton stuck with the team despite a similarly bad start. After struggling mightily in the spring, he never shook off that start, hitting only .158 through 57 at-bats that came mostly as a pinch hitter.  The reasoning of adding the 35-year old was to add a right-handed hitting presence to a fairly light hitting bench collection. But the fact that he could not perform in the role that he was his primary function (all but 14 of his at-bats came as a pinch hitter), as well as the fact he added nothing defensively, made his presence on the team a non-factor.

From the beginning, the two years and five million dollar total he was signed for was an eye brow raiser, especially for a player that hadn’t hit over .270 for four years, and was rated the worst player by win shares in baseball the previous year. In the end, the club decided that eating crow on the financial side of it wasn’t as big of a problem as carrying dead weight on the roster, and released Wigginton. In his place, veteran catcher Rob Johnson was promoted from Memphis, where he was hitting .236 with seven home runs. With the promotion of Johnson, backup catcher Tony Cruz is free to serve in the role of right-handed bench bat/utility infielder, a role that Mike Matheny wasn’t comfortable in using him in previously due to him being the only other capable catcher in case of emergency.

Cutting loses on Wigginton was a simple decision in comparison to the other move of the day, which saw the end of the turmoil filled season of Mitchell Boggs in St. Louis. The team traded the maligned reliever to the Colorado Rockies, bringing to an end his six year tenure with the club. Boggs’ implosion was swift, and seemingly unending. After opening the season has the club’s first fill-in closer, he quickly was disposed from the role after posting an ERA over nine, and ended at a gruesome 11.05 after his final outing with the club on May 30th, when he surrender a game-tying home run vs. Kansas City Royals in another late game situation. He attempted to pull it together in Memphis as a starter over the past month, but in the end, a combination of having completely lost his way and purpose in St. Louis moving ahead, as well as a quickly plummeting value on the trade market, forced Mozeliak to make what seemed like an improbable move just a few months ago.

Boggs was the best eighth inning pitcher in the National League a year ago, leading the circuit in holds with 34 and posting a 2.21 ERA in 78 games. He was selected to the US offering for the World Baseball Classic and was comfortably slid into the ninth inning role when Jason Motte’s injured elbow ended his year. Yet it became clear he wasn’t the man he previously was, and fell out of place with the club as quickly as he had risen. In return for him the club gained the Rockies international signing bonus slot, to allot towards international bonus money signings.

Often, the question is what can be added to a club around this time of the season. Yet, in many cases, less can be more. In an organization that that is brimming with young talent looking for a shot, perhaps Mozeliak’s removal of the failed experiment of Wigginton and the end of the fall from grace of Boggs, will add more to the club, than anything else could bring in.

Nothing wrong with balling up a bad plan and tossing it into the waste can. There is still plenty of time to make a good one.

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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

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

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