photo: Dexter Fowler/USA TODAY Sports Images
The St. Louis Cardinals were mostly quiet at the Winter Meetings but continue to pursue left-handed roster additions. The club reaffirmed its commitment to right-fielder Dexter Fowler. In our weekly history feature, the trade of Scott Rolen is regretted.
Cardinals mostly quiet at Winter Meetings
The 2018 MLB Winter Meetings in Las Vegas last week ended with the St. Louis Cardinals making no major additions to the roster. Prior to then, the Cardinals had made a significant trade, acquiring slugger Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks. It added an impact player to an offense starved for a middle of the order bat.
While rumors swirled about the future homes of the two top free agents in the market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the meetings were subdued for the Redbirds. As teams reduced their 40-man rosters in anticipation of the Rule 5 draft, many players were placed on waivers, and the Cardinals added pitching depth by claiming right handed pitcher Ryan Meisinger from the Baltimore Orioles.
Meisinger, 24, was drafted by the Orioles in the 11th round in 2015. He made his major league debut in June 2018 and made 18 appearances, posting an ERA of 6.43 in 21 innings pitched. Meisinger struck out 21 and walked 10.
On Tuesday, the Cardinals made a trade with the Texas Rangers, sending third baseman Patrick Wisdom to the Rangers for lefty handed utility player Drew Robinson. The 26 year old Robinson was the fourth round pick by Texas in the 2010 draft. Robinson made his major league debut in April 2017 and played 48 games that season and 47 games in 2018 for the Rangers. His slash line in 246 plate appearances with the Rangers was .204/.301/.366. Robinson hit nine home runs with 22 RBI.
Both additions are depth moves for the Cardinals. The club has indicated additional moves to come, including another left handed bench bat and one or more relievers to bolster the bullpen. The Cardinals also continue to seek a backup catcher to replace Carson Kelly, who went to Arizona in the Goldschmidt trade.
Cardinals remain committed to Fowler
As rumors swirled during last week’s Winter Meetings about the future baseball home of free agent star Bryce Harper, the Cardinals made it clear that they consider Dexter Fowler to be the starting right fielder for the 2019 season.
The 32-year old is coming off a 2018 season shortened by a foot injury that landed him on the 60 day disabled list in early August and ended his season. Fowler had his worst year at the plate of his career in 2018, slashing .180/.278/.298. The Cardinals are hoping for better from Fowler in 2019 as he has three years remaining on his contract and is owed $49.5 million.
The Cardinals want to give Fowler the opportunity to show he is better than his 2018 stats suggest, and have apparently remained outside the Bryce Harper fray. The Cardinals did not meet with Harper in Las Vegas last week, and though the team says they are monitoring Harper’s market, they also say there is a high probability the 2019 position player starters are already on the roster.
The Cardinals met with Fowler at his home in Las Vegas last week, and though Fowler initially was not going to attend the Cardinals’ annual Winter Warm-Up in January, he has reconsidered that decision and will now attend.
Whether Fowler can right his ship in 2019 remains to be seen, but the Cardinals have a reliable backup in Tyler O’Neill, and also Jose Martinez if he is not traded. Fowler appears to have recovered from his foot injury and the club has received a favorable report about Fowler’s health from head athletic trainer Adam Olson.
In Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft to close the Winter Meetings, St. Louis lost right-hander Chris Ellis in the Major League phase to the Texas Rangers, who then traded him to Kansas City. With a full roster, St. Louis was unable to make any selections.
In the minor league phase, the Cards lost State College pitcher Winston Nicacio and added pitcher John Fasola from Texas and infielder Alberto Triunfel from the Angels.
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
The Cardinals continue to seek a lefty bench bat, despite the acquisition of left handed utility player Drew Robinson in a trade with the Texas Rangers last week. A possible reunion with former Cardinal Daniel Descalso is on the Cardinals’ radar, according to USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale. Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch had previously reported that the Cardinals have had discussions with Descalso’s agent.
The Cardinals are entertaining offers for 1B/OF Jose Martinez, writes Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Given the addition of Paul Goldschmidt at first base, and a full contingent of outfielders on the roster, the Cardinals don’t see a fit for the defensively-challenged Martinez on the roster and are open to moving him for the right value and for a piece they need.
The Cardinals and Phillies are among the teams in pursuit of left-handed closer Zach Britton, Jon Heyman reports.
St. Louis has also inquired about acquiring lefty Will Smith from San Francisco, says Mark Saxon. It is unclear whether Smith is available, however.
- 12/10 The Cardinals claimed RHP Ryan Meisinger off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles
- 12/11 The Cardinals traded 3B Patrick Wisdom to the Texas Rangers for UT Drew Robinson.
- 12/14 2018 draftee RHP Griffin Roberts suspended 50 games for second positive test for a drug of abuse.
Yadier Molina underwent a minor surgical procedure last week to remove a bone spur from his left knee. Recovery is expected to last about two weeks, and the 36-year old catcher should return to normal preparation for the season by the first of the year.
The 40-man roster remains full. At this time, the Cardinals have indicated further moves will be made to include one or more relievers with a focus on left-handers, a backup catcher, and an additional left-handed hitting bench bat.
January 11, 2019 is the deadline for clubs and arbitration eligible players to exchange salary information. The Cardinals have three arbitration eligible players on the roster who have not yet come to terms – Michael Wacha, Marcell Ozuna, and Dominic Leone. Both Wacha and Ozuna are in their final year of arbitration and thus will become free agents after the 2019 season. Leone is a first year arbitration eligible player.
The annual Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up fan festival will be held on January 19-21 at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch in St. Louis. Admission tickets and autograph tickets are currently on sale.
Blast from the Past
The Trade and Acquisition series continues with a look at the one trade that President of Baseball Operations’ John Mozeliak has said he regrets making.
In an interview with Spink Award winning writer Rick Hummel in May 2014, Mozeliak said the only player he regrets trading was third baseman Scott Rolen. Mozeliak stated that the trade weakened the team and wasn’t a great baseball decision.
Rolen came to the Cardinals the same way he left, in trade. He began his major league career with the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that drafted him in the second round in 1993. Rolen debuted in August 1996 and was voted the National League Rookie of the Year in 1997. He won the first of his eight Gold Gloves in 1998. Rolen was unhappy with the Phillies and in 2002 requested a trade. There was friction between Rolen and manager Larry Bowa and Rolen felt management wasn’t trying hard enough to win.
Rolen was traded to the Cardinals on July 29, 2002, along with Doug Nickle. The Cardinals sent Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith to the Phillies. Later in 2002 the Cardinals signed Rolen to an eight year deal worth $90 million.
Rolen’s six seasons with the Cardinals included four Gold Gloves and four All-Star Game appearances, and a final slash line of .286/.370/.510. The third sacker hit 111 home runs and drove in 453. Rolen’s best season was 2004 as he, along with Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds, were nicknamed the “MV3”.
On May 10, 2005, Rolen collided with Dodgers first baseman Hee-Seop Choi. He had shoulder surgery three days later for a torn labrum and missed the rest of the 2005 season. Rolen returned to play in 2006, hitting .292 with 22 home runs and 95 RBI as the Cardinals won the World Championship.
Rolen’s shoulder issues returned in late 2007 as he was placed on the disabled list in August and had season ending surgery on September 11. That ended his tenure with the club. In January 2008, the Cardinals traded Rolen to the Toronto Blue Jays for Troy Glaus. Rolen played for 1 ½ seasons in Toronto and then was dealt in July 2009 to the Cincinnati Reds, where he concluded his career in 2012.
Late in Rolen’s time with the Cardinals, a rift developed with manager Tony La Russa. The matter became public and the two didn’t speak to each other for periods of time. Mozeliak admitted that the decision to trade Rolen was influenced by the situation between the two and not for strictly baseball reasons. Mozeliak told Hummel in that 2014 interview that he felt Rolen still had a lot of baseball left, but the situation with La Russa was out of his control.
Rolen is again on the current Hall of Fame ballot, after receiving 10.2 percent of the vote in 2018. He has also appeared on the Cardinals Hall of Fame Modern Era fan ballot in recent years, but has yet to be elected.
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