Mar 24, 2013, 8:43 AM EST
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The St. Louis Cardinals.
The Big Question: Can the Cards keep rolling?
The Cardinals have made the playoffs nine times since the start of the 2000 season and they have reached the National League Championship Series seven times in that span — securing three National League pennants and two World Series titles. And there is no end in sight for this run of success.
Yadier Molina is the best defensive catcher in baseball and has suddenly become a real offensive threat. Matt Holliday has hit .308/.389/.528 in 502 games since joining the Cardinals in a summer 2009 trade. Allen Craig is emerging as an elite slugger and Carlos Beltran had 32 home runs and 97 RBI in 2012.
And we’ve only scratched the surface on this club’s arsenal of heavy weaponry. Jon Jay (4.1) ranked just behind Josh Hamilton (4.4) and Adam Jones (4.6) on the center-field fWAR leaderboard last season. David Freese won the World Series MVP in 2011 then went on to post career-highs in home runs (20), RBI (79) and OPS (.839) in 2012. Matt Carpenter, who has made an incredibly smooth transition into the starting second base role this spring, batted .293/.372/.467 in 340 plate appearances as a utilityman last summer.
Albert Pujols is entering his second year in Anaheim and ace right-hander Chris Carpenter won’t ever pitch again, but the Cardinals organization is a well-oiled machine, and it’s greased up nicely for the 2013 season.
What Else Is Going On?
- The rotation is missing Carpenter, but he made only three regular-season starts last year anyway. Adam Wainwright is two years removed from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery and Jaime Garcia has experienced no shoulder trouble in camp. Jake Westbrook had a 3.97 ERA in 174 2/3 innings last season and Lance Lynn posted a 3.78 ERA and 180/64 K/BB ratio in 176 frames. The final spot will either go to Joe Kelly, a solid sinkerballer, or Shelby Miller, one of the game’s top pitching prospects.
- The bullpen took a hit this month when closer Jason Motte was diagnosed with a mild right elbow strain, but it’s not a long-term concern at this point and there’s enough high quality depth to keep things ticking in his absence. Mitchell Boggs, who registered a 2.21 ERA and 1.05 WHIP across 78 relief appearances last season, will fill in at closer. Setting Boggs up will be young fireballer Trevor Rosenthal, and behind him you’ll find a solid group of middle relievers and left-handed specialists. Kelly will presumably join the bullpen in a long relief role if he loses out to Miller in the race for the fifth rotation spot.
- Rafael Furcal tried to rehab a torn ligament in his elbow this winter and it did not work out. He needs Tommy John surgery and will not appear in a game this season. Taking his place at shortstop will be Pete Kozma, who owns a nice-looking .303/.373/.506 batting line in 104 major-league plate appearances but a .236/.308/.344 batting line in 2,752 minor-league plate appearances. It’s highly likely that he will be exposed early on. Look for the Cardinals to launch a shortstop hunt by the end of June.
- The Cardinals’ farm system is widely considered to be the best in baseball, and it’s about ready to spit out some potential game-changers. Oscar Taveras, a 20-year-old Dominican outfielder, hit .321/.380/.572 with 23 homers, 37 doubles and 94 RBI in 124 games last season at Double-A Springfield. Michael Wacha, the No. 19 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft, owns a 0.50 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and 59/6 K/BB ratio in 35 2/3 total spring and minor league innings. Kolten Wong should develop into a solid everyday second baseman and Carlos Martinez is a hard-throwing 21-year-old righty with great upside. Matt Adams had 18 homers and 50 RBI in 67 games last summer at Triple-A Memphis and will open the 2013 season on the Cardinals’ 25-man roster. And don’t forget the aforementioned Miller and Rosenthal.
Prediction: Second place in the National League Central, winners of a Wild Card spot.
Dec 9, 2013, 1:40 PM EST
From this afternoon’s SportsDash show, live from the Winter Meetings. Well, it was live at the time. Now it’s not live. You get the idea:
Dec 9, 2013, 1:28 PM EST
The Phillies’ Domonic Brown had a breakthrough season at age 25, finishing tied for fourth in the NL with 27 homers and appearing in the All-Star Game. That would seem to make him a centerpiece player, right? Sources: Phillies actively shopping OF Domonic Brown. Looking for controllable starting pitching in return. Idea is to sell…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:20 PM EST
Magglio Ordonez ran for mayor of Sotillo, Venezuela … and he won. And here are some interesting details from the Associated Press: Ordonez’s victory in the city of Sotillo in eastern Venezuela was announced by President Nicolas Maduro at a rally Sunday for pro-government candidates who won the majority of 335 races nationwide. The socialist…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:53 PM EST
According to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, free agent Jeff Francouer recently had LASIK surgery and has decided to go to a lighter bat in an attempt to salvage his career. The soon-to-be 30-year-old Francoeur finished last season out of the league after being let go by the Giants in late August. On the heels of a…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:40 PM EST
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times wrote a fascinating article about the Mariners’ dysfunctional front office, featuring vicious quotes from former manager Eric Wedge and former assistant to the general manager Tony Blengino. And now general manager Jack Zduriencik has issued a statement in response. It’s too long to reprint in its entirety–you can get…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:16 PM EST
Along the same lines as David Price‘s tweet about female drivers right before Thanksgiving, here’s Logan Morrison just now: I dont think Rachel ray is attractive. Then she started cooking, got slightly attractive. she stopped cooking. she stopped being attractive — Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins) December 9, 2013 Sigh. (Last year Morrison tweeted criticizing mothers for…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:04 PM EST
You won’t be shocked to hear that baseball’s union leaders, past and present, issued statements late this morning condemning the Veteran’s Committee for not electing Marvin Miller. First up, current MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark: “Words cannot adequately describe the level of disappointment and disbelief I felt when learning that once again the Hall of…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:58 AM EST
Roy Halladay‘s shoulder let him down in the end, but not until after one of the best 10-year runs in memory. From 2002-2011, Halladay went 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA and 1,699 strikeouts in 2,194 2/3 innings. He went to eight All-Star Games, won two Cy Young Awards and finished second twice more. During that…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:33 AM EST
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Dodgers have contacted the Rays to discuss a potential David Price trade. But don’t get too excited, as Hernandez says the Dodgers “don’t plan to aggressively pursue Price” because they don’t want to completely deplete their farm system. Still, you can’t count the Dodgers out…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:08 AM EST
Three years ago Roy Halladay was arguably the best pitcher in the National League, going 19-6 with a 2.36 ERA while finishing runner-up in the Cy Young voting to Clayton Kershaw after winning the award the previous season. And now, as Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly tweeted, Halladay is retiring at age 36 after struggling…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:03 AM EST
I think Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox are no-brainer Hall of Famers. Congrats to them and to the Committee for voting them in. I think that the rest of the Hall of Fame ballot contained mostly borderline selections. I’d vote for Ted Simmons. I’d consider Steinbrenner for historic reasons. But I shed…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:47 AM EST
Jorge Cantu, who played eight seasons in the majors, has signed a one-year deal with the Doosan Bears of the Korea Baseball Organization. According to the Yonhap News Agency he’ll earn $250,000 up front, plus another $50,000 in potential incentives, which is about the middle ground between what he’d earn at Triple-A in America and…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:20 AM EST
This should super-charge the Matt Kemp trade speculation: Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart, told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that he’d “be surprised” if the outfielder isn’t traded by the Dodgers. “I haven’t heard a player’s name floated around like that and something not happen,” Stewart noted, adding that “Matt wants to be a…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:14 AM EST
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — For the first time in a long time we have living, breathing inductees for the Hall of Fame. The Veteran’s Committee has elected Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. They will be inducted next summer in Cooperstown. La Russa – unanimously elected by the sixteen member Veteran’s Committee…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:28 AM EST
Yesterday we learned that Orel Hershisher is leaving ESPN to take a job broadcasting Dodgers games. Because, for some reason, ESPN thinks that a three-man booth is good for baseball (it isn’t) they felt obligated to fill Hershiser’s spot. And because, for some reason, ESPN thinks Curt Schilling is someone people want to listen to…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:19 AM EST
Fox’s Ken Rosenthal reports that ”teams are pushing Chicago to consider” trading Chris Sale. Intriguing, but it seems to me unlikely. Mostly because I have found it useful in life to go back to the idea that if people keep telling you that you should do something you weren’t already considering, it’s more in their best interests…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:59 AM EST
Tim McCarver retired as Fox’s leading analyst after the World Series. But he’s not dropping the mic just yet: Fox Sports Midwest is about to hire him to do a limited number of Cardinals games next season. The idea is for him to do 20-25 games, with opportunities coming as a result of an expected reduction…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:56 AM EST
The Hall of Fame will gain a few members later this morning as the Veteran’s Committee will vote on inductions this morning. The official announcement will take place at 10AM. The nominees: Dave Concepcion Bobby Cox Steve Garvey Tommy John Tony La Russa Billy Martin Marvin Miller Dave Parker Dan Quisenberry Ted Simmons George Steinbrenner…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:40 AM EST
Munson. Martin. Mariano. Mattingly. Mandela. Wait, what? During a triumphant visit by Nelson Mandela to New York in June 1990, shortly after he had been released from a South African prison, one of his most memorable stops was a rally and concert at Yankee Stadium, where he put on a team cap and jacket and proclaimed, “I am…
Dec 8, 2013, 10:50 PM EST
Though Chase Headley‘s name has been found in trade rumors every now and then, you can expect him to stay in San Diego for the time being, writes Bill Shaikin for the L.A. Times. Headley is eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time and is expected to get a bump over last year’s…
- Roy Halladay is retiring 44
- Tony La Russa Bobby Cox, Joe Torre all unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame 32
- Tony Blengino says recent report on Seattle front office is “just the tip of the iceberg” 50
- Rakuten Golden Eagles appear likely to allow Masahiro Tanaka’s departure to MLB 46
- 2013 Winter Meetings Preview 23
- Robinson Cano agrees to $240 million deal with Mariners (260)
- Yankees agree to seven-year, $153M contract with free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (160)
- Report: Mariners willing to offer Robinson Cano a 10-year, $240 million deal (143)
- Report: Yankees have agreed to a three-year deal with Carlos Beltran (125)
- Brett Gardner is drawing “significant” trade interest (112)