St. Louis Cardinals MLB Notebook – Week of January 25-31

photo: Adam Wainwright via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Cardinals deal for Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado

To the surprise – but delight – of St. Louis Cardinals fans, media reports over the weekend indicate the Cardinals had reached a deal with the Colorado Rockies to acquire third baseman Nolan Arenado and cash in exchange for multiple St. Louis players and prospects. National reporter Ken Rosenthal broke the story.

Nolan Arenado (Allan Henry/Imagn)

The complicated trade, which is pending approval from MLB and the MLBPA, will not be official until the beginning of the week at the earliest.  The Cardinals have long coveted the eight-time Gold Glove Award-winning third baseman, as rumors of a trade first swirled in 2020 but had seemingly died out.

The trade reportedly includes $50 million in cash moving from the Rockies to the Cardinals and a salary deferral from Arenado.  The 29-year old has roughly $199 million remaining on his eight-year $260 million contract signed with Colorado in 2019.  The deal includes a full no-trade clause, which Arenado has already agreed to waive, according to sources including Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch. Also rumored to be included is the addition of another year at the end of the contract for $15 million.

The players going the other way have not been specified officially but are expected to be among a list that includes LHP Austin Gomber and RHPs Jake Woodford and Angel Rondon, as well as a prospect list which may include OF Jhon Torres and 1B Luken Baker.

None of the Cardinals top nine prospects are expected to be a part of the deal, per The Cardinal Nation’s 2021 rankings.  This may be because Arenado’s contract includes an opt out clause after the 2021 season, which should he exercise, would reduce the value of the deal to the Cardinals to a one-year rental.  Also reportedly in the trade terms is a second opt out clause to be added after the 2022 season and Arenado’s retention of full no-trade protection.

Some have viewed a trade of Arenado by Colorado as inevitable because of public tensions that have   surfaced between the third baseman and Rockies GM Jeff Bridich.  Arenado reportedly stated that Bridich was “very disrespectful”.  Arenado was also believed to be unhappy with the Rockies because he felt there was no push to win.

The deal is seen as a way to reduce the Rockies payroll and make room for Colorado to sign All-Star shortstop Trevor Story to a contract extension.  Arenado is said to be thrilled with the trade and has long expressed a wish to play in St. Louis.  He is close friends with Cardinals 1B Paul Goldschmidt and also has a close relationship with former St. Louis outfielder Matt Holliday.

For further information

Cardinals and Rockies Agree on Nolan Arenado Trade

Adam Wainwright returns on one-year deal

After a long offseason of rumors of the return of RHP Adam Wainwright, the deal is finally done.  On Friday, the Cardinals announced they had signed Wainwright to a one-year contract reported to be worth $8 million.  It was initially reported to include appearance incentives but that report proved to be erroneous.  The deal does include a no-trade clause and about $775K in potential award bonuses.

Adam Wainwright (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

The agreement was long in coming and fraught with rumors of offers by other teams, including the Padres most recently.  Wainwright made no denial of the fact that his preference was to return to St. Louis, other offers notwithstanding.  Wainwright told the media that he in fact received higher value offers from other teams but chose to return to the Cardinals instead.

Despite belief by some that the 39-year old pitcher was “washed up”, Wainwright defied expectations by posting good numbers in both 2019 and 2020.  The right-hander tossed two shutouts in 2020 and had an ERA of 3.15 for the season.

The 2021 season will be Wainwright’s 16th season as a Cardinal.

For further information

Wainwright Comes to Terms with Cardinals on 2021 Contract

Molina expected to re-sign with St. Louis

On the heels of the signing of Wainwright to a one-year contract comes word to expect his battery mate, free agent C Yadier Molina, to do the same thing.  This has been predicted by multiple outlets, including Goold and MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi.

Yadier Molina (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Molina is currently in Mexico playing for the Puerto Rican team in the Caribbean Series.  The round robin series began on Sunday with PR playing the Dominican Republic team which includes St. Louis pitcher Carlos Martinez. Molina has been playing for the PR team as the designated hitter.  The series is set to conclude on Saturday, February 6.

The contract offer is expected to be accepted by Molina on his return from Mexico.  The catcher, along with Wainwright, has reportedly been pursued by the Cardinals throughout the offseason, though initial reports were that the negotiations with Molina were not going well.  That seems to have changed, perhaps because of the return of Wainwright, who has been seen as a package deal for return along with Molina.

Cardinals fans’ hopes for a Molina return were brightened on Thursday by a social media post by Molina of a picture of he and Wainwright with the caption, “Hermanos” which means “brothers” in Spanish.  This was posted the day before the deal with Wainwright was announced.  Also a picture posted over the weekend of Wainwright wearing a catcher’s mask during the zoom press conference of his signing added to the suspense of a return of Molina.

The deal is expected to be for one year, but an amount has not been reported.

Trade and Acquisition Rumors

Kolten Wong (Jasen Vinlove/Imagn)

Reports this past week by Goold and Morosi indicate that long time Cardinal and free agent catcher Yadier Molina is expected to sign with the Cardinals soon.  Goold reports that the Cardinals expect to complete a one year deal with Molina when he returns from playing in the Caribbean Series in Mexico.  Molina has been playing for his brother’s Puerto Rico team in that series as the designated hitter.  Morosi tweeted similar news on Friday.  The Caribbean Series is expected to conclude on Feb. 6.

A possible reunion with free agent Kolten Wong appears more remote.  Wong’s 2021 option was declined by the Cardinals in November, sending the second baseman into free agency.  Though Morosi has reported the Cardinals’ continuing interest in Wong, Goold has reported the Cardinals have not been actively pursuing a reunion.  Wong has had interest from multiple teams which has increased since several notable infielders such as D.J. LeMahieu and Tommy La Stella have signed with other teams.

Transactions

  • 1/29 Cardinals sign free agent RHP Adam Wainwright to one-year contract.

Injury Report

There are no new injuries to report.

Looking Ahead

Jack Flaherty (Jasen Vinlove/Imagn)

The month of February is notable for two distinct baseball events, the start of spring training and arbitration hearings.  One of those things is certain to occur, but the other is still to be determined.

The Cardinals’ remaining unsigned arbitration eligible player, RHP Jack Flaherty, is scheduled for an arbitration hearing in February, specific date and time to be announced.  While it is still possible an agreement between the Cardinals and Flaherty can be reached, it is the stated policy of the team to proceed to hearing if an agreement isn’t reached by the deadline for submitting salary numbers, which came and went on January 15.  Flaherty is requesting $3.9 million, while the Cardinals submitted a number of $3 million.  An arbitration panel must choose between those two numbers.

The second February event, the opening of spring training, is far less certain at this time.  If this were a normal year, pitchers and catchers would report on February 17.  Due to the continued Covid-19 pandemic, this is not a normal year.

MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) are in the midst of negotiating when and how spring training, as well as the regular season, will begin.  On Sunday, it was reported that MLB had made a proposal to the MLBPA on Friday for a 154-game season and a one-month delayed start.  In this proposal, spring training would not start until March 22 and the regular season Opening Day would be delayed until April 28.  The proposal also includes full season pay for players (though reportedly pro-rated) and an expanded postseason.

The Union has not formally responded to the proposal, but is expected to do so on Monday.  Some media outlets have reported that the Union is expected to reject the proposal on several grounds.  One is that expanded playoffs are seen as a benefit for owners with little to no benefit for players.  The idea is that expanded playoffs disincentivize owners to put together a winning team.  Teams would then be less inclined to sign high priced free agents thus depressing free agent salaries.

From there, it is expected that negotiations will continue during the week.

Blast from the Past – Ozzie Smith:  1982-1986

This week’s Blast continues with the series on Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith.  The prior installment ended with the trade of Smith from the San Diego Padres to the Cardinals in 1981.  This week, we review the first five seasons of Smith’s Cardinals career.

Garry Templeton and Ozzie Smith (Getty Images)

Smith was traded to the Cardinals on December 10, 1981 as part of a six-player swap, which was followed by a period of uncertainty until Smith was convinced by Whitey Herzog to report.  At the time it was thought the Padres got the better end of the deal with fellow shortstop Garry Templeton, a .288 hitter the previous season.  Smith, on the other hand, had hit just .222 for the 1981 Padres.  Smith was unequivocably the much better fielder, his major strength.

Ozzie debuted with St. Louis on April 6, 1982 against the Houston Astros.  Smith was in the starting lineup at shortstop, batting eighth.  He went 2-for-5 with two RBI.  Both hits were singles to left field.

Smith finished the 1982 regular season with a slash line of .248/.339/.314, but stood out offensively in the postseason.  In his 13 plate appearances in the NLCS against the Braves, Ozzie hit .556 with an OPS of 1.171.  He did not hit well in the World Series against the Brewers, slashing only .208/.296/.208 in 27 PAs, but the Cardinals took the Series in seven games.

His 1982 season included an All-Star berth and his third Gold Glove Award.  He also finished 13th in the MVP voting.

Smith had a lackluster 1983 season, as did the Cardinals, who finished in fourth place in the NL East with a record of 79-83.  Smith’s slash line that season was .243/.321/.335.  Smith again was selected to the All-Star game and was awarded his fourth consecutive Gold Glove.

Ozzie’s offense gradually improved over the next few years.  In 1984 he hit .257/.347/.337 and his stellar defense continued with his fourth consecutive All-Star Game nod and fifth consecutive Gold Glove. The team finished third in the NL East with a winning 84-78 record.

The Cardinals returned to the postseason in 1985.  Smith slashed an improved .276/.355/.361 in the regular season, but really stood out in the 1985 NLCS against the Dodgers.  The Cardinals won 101 games that season and Smith slugged .435/.500/.696 in 27 plate appearances in the NLCS.

In Game 5, Ozzie hit his only postseason home run, a ninth inning solo shot off Tom Niedenfuer that prompted the “Go Crazy” call by Cardinals Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck.  The Cardinals advanced to the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, which ended in the stunning defeat keyed by umpire Don Denkinger in Game 6.  The Cardinals lost the Series in Game 7, but the Game 6 missed call was the Siren’s Song.

The Cardinals fell back to a losing record in 1986, but Smith’s offense continued to improve.  He hit .280/.376/.333 in 609 plate appearances, a season that included his sixth consecutive All-Star election and his seventh consecutive Gold Glove.

We continue next week with Smith’s next five seasons beginning with his best offensive year of his career and his third trip to the postseason.


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