photo: Joe McEwing (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
The St. Louis Cardinals come to terms with seven players, hire another new bench coach and move closer to spring training. Our weekly history looks at the club’s five best first basemen ever.
Cardinals come to terms with seven arbitration-eligible players
On the deadline day for submitting salary arbitration figures, the Cardinals reached a contract agreement with seven arbitration eligible players. Two players have not yet come to terms.
The team reached an agreement with pitcher Jordan Montgomery for a one-year salary of $10 million. It was rumored that the Cardinals were interested in a long term extension with Montgomery but that was not done.
The Cardinals were also rumored to be seeking an extension with pitcher Jack Flaherty. Like Montgomery, no such deal was reached. Flaherty agreed to a one-year deal for $5.4 million, despite missing much of the 2022 season due to injury.
At Winter Warm-Up on Saturday, Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said the team was working on one-year deals only at this time but will consider extensions during spring training.
The remaining five players and their agreed to salaries are pitchers Dakota Hudson ($2.65 million) and Jordan Hicks ($1,875 million), OF Tyler O’Neill ($4.95 million), IF Tommy Edman ($4.2 million) and C Andrew Knizner ($1.1 million).
Two additional players, pitchers Genesis Cabrera and Ryan Helsley, have not yet come to terms. Cabrera struggled in 2022 and spent the last weeks of the season at Triple-A. Helsley, on the other hand, was one of the top relievers in baseball and a 2022 All-Star.
Unless Montgomery or Flaherty are signed to longer term extensions, both will be free agents at the end of the 2023 season. Adam Wainwright has already announced that 2023 will be his last season and it is the final season of Miles Mikolas’ contract. Thus, the Cardinals will be looking for between one and four starters. Left hander Steven Matz is the only one of the projected starting rotation who is signed beyond 2023.
The Cardinals had promised that payroll for the 2023 season would rise and thus far it has done so, but only by a modest amount. As of this writing, Contreras is the only addition in terms of personnel for the 2023 season. Fans will remember that star third baseman Nolan Arenado agreed not to opt out of his contract after Mozeliak reportedly assured him that efforts would be made to improve the team. Whether the modest increase in payroll and the addition of Contreras meets the promises made remains to be seen and is in the eye of the beholder.
McEwing replaces Holliday as Cardinals bench coach
In a surprise announcement, former Cardinal Matt Holliday, who had been named in November as bench coach for the 2023 season, resigned. Holliday’s resignation comes before he officially assumed the duties in Spring Training.
The reasoning behind the resignation was given as a desire to remain with his family. Holliday had stated at the time of his hiring that it was emotionally difficult for him to spend time away from his family but felt the opportunity was too good to pass up. It appears upon reflection that Holliday’s feelings on the matter underwent a change.
At the same time Holliday’s resignation was announced, the Cardinals communicated that his replacement is Joe McEwing, a Cardinal utility player from 1998-99. McEwing has spent the past 15 years coaching for the Chicago White Sox, most recently as the team’s third base coach. He was the bench coach for the White Sox from 2017-20.
In addition to McEwing, the Cardinals have also promoted Daniel Nicolaisen to third hitting coach and expanded the role of coach Packy Elkins.
More WBC additions
During Winter Warm-Up, two more Cardinals announced their plans to play in the World Baseball Classic. Ivan Herrera will catch for his native Panama and Andre Pallante will pitch for Team Italy.
Other Cardinals playing include Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Lars Nootbaar and Tommy Edman.
More are likely coming.
News and Notes from the Offseason
- Tickets for Cardinals 2023 Spring Training games have gone on sale. The first game of the Spring Training schedule is on February 25 at Roger Dean Stadium against the Washington Nationals. There are 15 games on the home schedule, with the final game to be played on March 25 against the Marlins.
Fans can buy tickets online at https://www.mlb.com/cardinals/tickets/spring-training
- Spring Training report dates have been announced. Pitchers and catchers will report to Jupiter by February 15. The report date for all other players is February 20. The first Grapefruit League game is on February 25.
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.
There are no transactions to report.
There are no new injuries to report.
The 2022-23 offseason continues. While many other teams have been active during this offseason, the Cardinals have been inactive since the signing of Willson Contreras.
The deadline for players and teams to submit salary arbitration figures has passed. The Cardinals had nine arbitration eligible players. On the deadline day, the Cardinals came to an agreement with seven of the nine. They are Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Tommy Edman, Tyler O’Neill, Jordan Hicks, and Andrew Knizner. Agreements were not reached with Genesis Cabrera and Ryan Helsley.
Cabrera and Helsley are now headed to arbitration hearings which will be scheduled in February. Both sides have submitted salary figures and the arbitrator will hold a hearing and then decide between the two figures submitted. An agreement can still be reached between the parties before the hearing takes place.
Helsley filed at $3 million; the Cardinals filed at $2.15 million. Cabrera filed at $1.15 million; the Cardinals filed at $950,000.
The next dates on the offseason list of importance are as follows:
- January 15 – The international signing period begins.
- January 24 – The 2023 inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame are announced.
- February 15 – Pitchers and catchers report to spring training.
- February 20 – All remaining position players report to spring training.
- February 25 – First game of Grapefruit League play.
- March 8-21 – World Baseball Classic
- March 30 – MLB season begins
Blast from the Past
This week’s Blast from the Past is the second installment in a series looking back on the best Cardinals players in history by position. There isn’t enough time and space to go in depth on such a long list of great Cardinals, so this series focuses on five of the best players by position in the history of the franchise. The term “best” is subjective and can encompass an endless number of factors that one would choose to determine who is indeed the best.
This week we look at the five best first baseman in franchise history based on statistical factors. For this installment, WAR is the primary factor in this determination. The following list is not a ranking but a chronological list.
Jim Bottomley – Bottomley was signed by the Cardinals in 1919 and made his debut with the Cardinals on August 18, 1922. He led baseball in hits and doubles in 1925 and led the NL in doubles and RBI in 1926. In 1928 Bottomley led the NL in triples, home runs, and RBI. He was named the NL MVP in 1928 and finished in the top 20 in voting five other times.
Bottomley was traded to the Reds in 1932 and ended his career with the St. Louis Browns in 1937. He posted a WAR of 36.5 with the Cardinals and is a Hall of Famer.
Johnny Mize – Mize played for the Cardinals for six seasons, from 1936-41. In those six seasons he led the NL in slugging and OPS three times, led the NL in triples in 1938, home runs in 1939, average in 1939, and doubles in 1941. He also led baseball in home runs in 1940.
He was traded to the New York Giants after the 1941 season. Mize finished his career in 1953 with the Yankees. In his six seasons with the Cardinals, he posted a WAR of 37.7 and later joined the Hall of Fame.
Stan Musial – Musial’s placement on this list is obvious. His career WAR of 126.8, all of which was with the Cardinals, is the highest in franchise history.
Musial was the NL MVP three times, and an All-Star in all but two of his 22 seasons in St. Louis. He led baseball in multiple statistical categories in multiple seasons.
Not all of his 22 seasons were played at first base. He played 1,890 games in the outfield, and 1,016 at first.
Keith Hernandez – Hernandez was drafted by the Cardinals in the 42nd round of the 1971 draft. He debuted on August 30, 1974.
Hernandez spent 10 seasons in a Cardinal uniform. He was named the NL MVP in 1979. In addition to his work at the plate, he was considered an above average defender at 1B. He won five of his Gold Gloves while with the Cardinals, and his sixth came in 1983 after he played the first half of the season in St. Louis.
While with the Cardinals, Hernandez led baseball in doubles and average in 1979. He led the NL in runs scored and OBP in 1980.
Hernandez was traded to the Mets on June 15, 1983. He posted a WAR of 33.9 in his 10 seasons in St. Louis. He joined the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2021.
Albert Pujols – Like Musial, Pujols’ appearance on this list need not be justified. However, Pujols amassed 83.1 WAR in his 12 seasons in St. Louis. He was named NL MVP three times, won two Gold Gloves and six Silver Slugger awards at first base. He was also named Rookie of the Year in 2001.
Pujols’ accomplishments on the field are massive. This includes being fourth all time in career home run, a feat he reached with the Cardinals in his final MLB season in 2022. He led baseball in runs scored five times. He led baseball in home runs in 2009 and in the NL in 2010.
Pujols became a free agent after the 2011 season and signed with the Los Angeles Angels. He was released by the Angels in May 2021 and played the remainder of that season with the Dodgers. The Cardinals signed him to play his final season in St. Louis in 2022. Pujols is a certain first ballot Hall of Famer in five years.
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