Cardinals minor matters – February 11

I decided to post a round-up of recent news and may append other items to this entry as the day goes on.

Kennedy second-guessing

Many fans and columnists are confused by the decision and/or the timing of the release of second baseman Adam Kennedy by the Cardinals. I am not among them.

Tony La Russa apparently wanted Kennedy gone since before the holidays as he was concerned about a potential disruption in camp, with a competition coming for the second base job. Over the winter, the organization continued to try to get some value for the player, which makes sense given they owe him $4 million on the third and final year of his current contract. But with spring training just a week away, the club finally had to cut bait. Both views seem reasonable to me.

Kennedy has a good glove, but he is not alone in that. His offense is considerably below MLB average and for that reason, I am not sad to see him go. My only wish is that the Cardinals could have gotten something from Kennedy very early in the off-season. Before Arizona signed Felipe Lopez, there were rumors they were interested in Kennedy. Had that deal been done, perhaps either Lopez or Aaron Miles would still be Cardinals.

As I said yesterday, considering where things are now, let the kids fight it out during camp and if no one emerges, make a move late in March.

Weaver hanging on

Former Cardinals pitcher Jeff Weaver signed a minor league deal to return to the Dodgers, his home in 2004 and 2005. The contract is reportedly worth $500,000 if he makes the team. The 33-year-old right-hander split his time between Triple-A clubs for Milwaukee and Cleveland last summer, posting an ERA over six.

Most fans know the story of how the Cards rescued the former Tiger and Yankee off the Angels’ scrap heap after the latter club bumped Jeff in favor of his brother Jered. While Jeff Weaver went just 5-4, 5.18 to end the 2006 season for the Cards, he came up big in the post-season, going 3-2, 2.43 and winning the final game of the World Series.

As a result, he received an offer to return to St. Louis for 2007, but instead agent Scott Boras guided Weaver to Seattle, where a large mushroom cloud was soon sighted. It doesn’t seem to me that Boras cares about the fact that the most money isn’t always the best answer.

Looper to slide with Bernie Brewer

After being seemingly everyone’s second choice all winter, former Cardinals reliever-turned-starter Braden Looper is joining the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers rotation, joining former teammate Jeff Suppan.

The deal is reportedly a most reasonable one for the club, at one year, $4.75 million with a mutual option for 2010. Looper can choose to return to free agency after this coming season, giving him a chance to get back in the market if it improves. If Milwaukee declines the 2010 option and Looper accepts, he’ll be bought out for a lower amount. Looper’s 2010 salary has not been disclosed nor whether any incentives exist in the contract.

Somewhere, likely en route to spring training, Kyle Lohse is grinning again. Here’s hoping (again, still) that Chris Carpenter is going to be ok.

Pujols still standing behind his trainer

As the Alex Rodriguez furor continues, I ran across a very small Albert Pujols news item. The St. Louis Cardinals first baseman is hosting a hitting clinic this Thursday in the Kansas City area.

The site is a place called Millhouse AEP, an athletic training center focusing on strength and conditioning. Its owner is Chris Mihlfeld, also known as Pujols’ personal trainer and a friend of the star since his time at Maple Woods Community College ten years ago.

It is great to see that Albert is still standing behind his friend, the victim of a most unfortunate and unwarranted attack on his reputation back in 2006 that also attempted to wrongly smear Pujols’ name.

The website Deadspin published and later was forced to retract an unfounded accusation that Mihlfeld supplied PEDs to former pitcher Jason Grimsley. The photo in the article and much of the bad press that followed was directed at Pujols, an entirely innocent third party, but obviously a much bigger name to drag through the mud.

And folks wonder why mainstreamers like Bob Costas come out against internet writers for lack of accountability. (OK, so Costas’ comments overall were pretty ridiculous, but reports like the Mihlfeld one from sites that feature frathouse-type humor to try to appear edgy help no one that cares about credibility.)

Nick the backstop

In case you missed it, add one more player to the round about position changes underway in Cardinals spring training camp. The Post-Dispatch reported that GM John Mozeliak has announced that outfielder Nick Stavinoha is undergoing a position move to catcher.

Joe Strauss notes that the strong and stocky-built 26-year-old was an all-state catcher in high school in Houston. However, 2002 was a long time ago and there is a huge gap between high school and the major leagues.

Yet in the outfield, Stavinoha has not been mentioned among the top tier of candidates for a major league berth in 2009. He was likely destined for a return to Memphis, where outfield at-bats will be a fought-for commodity. Though he punished the ball in Triple-A last season, Stavinoha’s 57 at-bat MLB debut yielded a very soft .193/.217/.211 line.

Flores hopes for health, humidor

Jettisoned Cards left-handed reliever Randy Flores signed a one-year, $600,000 contract to return to his 2002 club, the Colorado Rockies. Coming off shoulder surgery, it is unclear when Flores will actually be ready to pitch. He has an out in his contract that he can exercise by April 30 if he is not in the majors.

Ankiel, Boras heading toward arbitration

I thought I had covered this ad nauseum, but the Cardinals and Rick Ankiel, represented by agent Scott Boras, are meeting Thursday in Phoenix to present their cases to a three-person panel of arbiters. The subject is whether Ankiel’s 2009 salary should be $2.35 million or $3.3 million.

Expect the decision to be made public on Friday. To this point, the players and clubs are 1-1 this winter, with Tampa Bay defeating catcher Dioner Navarro while pitcher Shawn Hill won his case against the Washington Nationals.

Cards outfielder Ryan Ludwick’s hearing is this coming Tuesday, the 17th.

Update: The Post-Dispatch identified local attorney Hal Wellford as the individual assisting Assistant GM John Abbamondi in presenting the Cardinals case. Here is a link to Wellford’s resume.

Three more spring invites

The Cards have invited three more pitchers to their big league camp, according to Dustin Mattison at Left-handers Brad Furnish and Katsuhiko Maekawa plus right-hander Shaun Garceau get to experience the excitement of their first major league spring training with the Cardinals, but shouldn’t plan on staying long.

Garceau and Furnish will be Rule 5-eligible this winter if not added to the 40-man roster. With so many in a similar situation, that is far from assured. The Japanese native Maekawa is a recent signee with a checkered past, both on and off the field.

Venezuelan winter update

Over at Cardinals Best News Links, Josh Jones is continuing his Cardinals winter league recaps with the prospects that competed in Venezuelan League this winter.

Bo Hart for Valentine’s Day

Two Bo Hart references here in as many days. Let’s get camp underway!

In a February 14-themed feature, a Chicago writer recapped the former Cardinals second baseman’s 2008 season in independent ball.

2008 season summary video has posted a free three-and-a-half minute video summary of the 2008 Cardinals season. It is worth a quick watch as a refresher, though of course, the negatives are glossed over as having been injury-driven.