St. Louis Cardinals MLB Notebook – Week of December 7-13

image: FOX Sports Midwest

Wainwright wins Roberto Clemente Award

Long-time St. Louis Cardinals pitcher and current free agent Adam Wainwright was announced this past week as the 2020 recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award. It is given annually to the player who displays commitment to community and an understanding of the value of helping others.  Each team nominates a player in September and the winner is chosen from the 30 nominees.

Adam Wainwright

Wainwright has been nominated for this prestigious award five times, and he now joins five prior Cardinals recipients.  They are Lou Brock (1975), Ozzie Smith (1995), Albert Pujols (2008), Carlos Beltran (2013), and Yadier Molina (2018).  The Cardinals have more Clemente Award winners than any other organization.

Wainwright’s charity foundation, Big League Impact, has raised over $5.8 million since 2013.  The foundation, organized around an annual Fantasy Football competition, has built clean water systems and hospitals in Haiti, as well as a clinic in Ethiopia, among other charitable endeavors.  Big League Impact also provides food for the needy both in the US and overseas, including in St. Louis.

The 39-year old Wainwright stated that winning the Clemente Award was the greatest honor of his career.

Further information:

Adam Wainwright to Receive 2020 Roberto Clemente Award

Cardinals select LHP in Rule 5 draft

The annual Rule 5 Draft was held virtually this year on Thursday, December 10.  The draft contains a major league phase and a Triple-A phase in which teams may select unprotected eligible players from any of the minor league systems of the other 29 organizations.  Any player selected in the major league phase must be added to the new team’s 40-man roster and remain there for the entire season or be returned to their prior organization.  In the Triple-A phase of the draft, players selected are placed in the selecting team’s minor league system with no requirement for return.

This year, the Cardinals made no selections in the major league phase and lost no players, either, but did select LHP Garrett Williams from the Los Angeles Angels in the Triple-A phase.  The 24-year old lefty spent the 2019 season with the Angels Double-A affiliate in Richmond, VA.  Williams posted a record of 7-8 with an ERA of 3.60 in 110 innings pitched in 2019.

Garrett Williams

The Cardinals also lost RHPs Jordan Brink and Ronnie Williams in the Triple-A phase to the Tampa Bay Rays and the San Francisco Giants, respectively.

Much more Rule 5 information for members of The Cardinal Nation:

Cardinals Add One, Lose Two in 2020 Rule 5 Draft

Mozeliak gives the State of the Off-Season

As is tradtion during the Winter Meetings, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak fielded a series of questions from members of the media, though this time it was virtual. The primary focus as expected was the club’s plans for the remainder of the off-season. Re-signing free agents Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright are the clear priorities. Beyond that are many uncertainties.

Full details here:

John Mozeliak’s State of the Cardinals – December 9, 2020

Cardinals announce 2021 minor league affiliates

Following a major restructuring of the minor leagues by MLB that reduced the number of affiliated teams to 120, the Cardinals confirmed this past week that they will retain all four full-season affiliates in 2021.  They are the Memphis Redbirds, the Springfield Cardinals, the Palm Beach Cardinals, and the Peoria Chiefs.

There will be one difference in 2021 for the four.  While Memphis and Springfield retain their status as the organization’s Triple-A and Double-A affiliates, the Palm Beach Cardinals and the Peoria Chiefs will be swapping levels.  Peoria becomes the Cardinals High-A affiliate and Palm Beach will be the Low-A affiliate.

The Cardinals own the Springfield and Palm Beach teams and hold a minority ownership stake in the Memphis affiliate. The internal level change creates a situation where the top three affiliates are located within a few hours drive from St. Louis.

The Cardinals shed their short-season Class-A affiliate State College Spikes and their Appalachian League affiliate Johnson City Cardinals in the MLB restructuring.  The organization will retain their rookie level team in the Gulf Coast League and their two teams in the Dominican Summer League.

Trade and Acquisition Rumors

Mark Saxon of The Athletic reported that separate talks between the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina have been slow to develop.  This is especially true with respect to Wainwright, who recent said he has not had any substantial discussions with any team.  Wainwright is believed to be seeking his third consecutive one-year contract.

Yadier Molina

On the other hand, Molina is reportedly seeking a two-year deal, which Saxon says is at least one year at $10 million plus an option for 2022. Saxon also reports that the Cardinals are not rushing to sign either Molina or Wainwright and are content to wait and watch the market develop.

It has been reported that a member of the Molina camp referred to an early offer from the Cardinals as “ridiculous” and Saxon adds that Molina feels he is being lowballed by the organization.

Transactions

There are no major league transactions to report.

Injury Report

There are no new injuries to report.

Looking Ahead

Dates for key offseason events:

  • 1/15/21 Deadline for teams and arbitration eligible players to submit salary figures. The Cardinals have five arbitration eligible players, CF Harrison Bader and RHPs Jack Flaherty, John Gant, Jordan Hicks, and Alex Reyes.  All but Gant are first time arbitration eligible.  Gant is in his second year of eligibility.  Gant has already reached agreement with the Cardinals on a 2021 contract, avoiding arbitration. John Brebbia was originally in this group as well, but was instead non-tendered and remains a free agent. Hearings will occur in February for players who have not yet come to terms with their employer.
  • The annual Winter Warm-Up fan festival is going virtual for 2021. Details on the events and opportunities for autographed merchandise can be found at com/wvu.  The events will take place January 16-18, 2021.

Blast from the Past – Jose Oquendo: 1986-1990

Last week’s Blast From the Past looked at the early baseball career of Jose Oquendo, the “Secret Weapon, from his signing by the Mets at the age of 15 and concluding with the trade to St. Louis.  This week, we review the first five years of Oquendo’s Cardinals career.

Oquendo came to the club in an April 2, 1985 trade from the Mets for two players, minor leaguer John Young and Angel Salazar.  Oquendo spent the 1985 season playing with Triple-A Louisville Redbirds, where he appeared in 133 games and slashed .211/.264/.245 with one home run and 30 RBI.

Jose Oquendo

Oquendo was called up to St. Louis on April 19, 1986.  Although Jose played exclusively at shortstop up to that time, the presence of Ozzie Smith necessitated that the Cardinals try Oquendo at other positions. In his 76 games played in 1986, 29 were at shortstop, 21 were at second base and one game each at third base and left field.  He also made 30 pinch hitting appearances and three pinch running appearances.  Oquendo improved his hitting in the big leagues, slashing .297/.359/.341.

Oquendo increased his versatility in 1987, playing every position that season except catcher.  He made one emergency pitching appearance in the August 7 game against the Phillies in which the Cardinals were losing 12-4.  Jose pitched the eighth inning and gave up three earned runs.  In addition to the one pitching appearance, Oquendo played first base three times and third base eight times.  His outfield appearances increased to 46 in total, 37 of which were in right field.  He continued to receive time at both second base and shortstop as well.

Oquendo slashed .286/.408/.335 in 116 games in 1987 and reached the postseason that year for the one and only time in his career. In 42 plate appearances across the NLCS and the World Series, Jose slashed .222/.286/.306 with one home run and six RBI.

It was in 1988 that Oquendo reached the pinnacle of versatility by playing at every position on the field at least once.  Oquendo made one appearace again as a pitcher and one appearance behind the plate that season. His one pitching outing was in a 19-inning game against the Braves on May 14 in which he tossed three scoreless innings before giving up a double to Ken Griffey in the 19th inning.  Over the full season, Oquendo slashed .277/.350/.350 in 148 games.

In 1989, Oquendo become the Cardinals’ regular second baseman with 156 games played at the position, committing only five errors. He also made one appearance at first base and seven appearances at shortstop while leading the league in games played at 163. That season he slashed .291/.375/.372.

Oquendo continued as St. Louis’ starting second baseman in 1990, playing in 150 games there and  four more at shortstop.  This was Jose’s best defensive season as he set a major league record for the fewest errors by a second baseman (three) in a 150+ game season.  His performance at the plate took a hit, however, as he slashed only .252/.350/.316.

Next week, we will look to Oquendo’s final five seasons as a Cardinal player.


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