Ben Frederickson Live from the Winter Meetings

Ben Frederickson Live from the Winter Meetings

Bring your Cardinals and Hot Stove League questions, plus any questions about STL sports, and talk to Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson in a live chat from Las Vegas starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday.




    Greetings from Las Vegas. Thanks for stopping by a special-edition Winter Meetings chat. We'll likely stick to mostly Cardinals chatter here today compared to the general sports chat on Wednesday. Lots to discuss on the baseball front. Fire away.
    Are the Cards out on Miller and Britton? thought I heard that on the radio today and I think that would be a little silly if so. I love Britton and could be really good in a Stadium that's not Yankee stadium or Camden Yards..
    Not sure where you heard that, but the answer is no. There seems to be a bit of a standoff at the moment between teams and proven free-agent relievers. Part of that could be the proven free-agent relievers who flopped last season. The Holland burn is still on the Cardinals' mind, and they were not the only ones. More proven free-agent relievers fizzled than fired on all cylinders. There is a sense that once one goes, the market will start to move. There is risk -- on both sides -- of being the first to jump. The Cardinals need a better bullpen. Have to have a better bullpen. They also need improved left-handed relief. Have to have it. You can't be serious about those needs and be out on both Britton and Miller. The Cardinals get queasy when it comes to considering more than two years for a reliever of this type, but as Mozeliak said last night ,you are going to eventually pay market price if you want to be in the market. This market is still being decided. Personally, I like Britton over Miller. I'm not opposed to both either.
    Trading for Goldy is great. But...playing O'neill and Fowler in right field is not going to make this team any better, With other salaries coming off the books in the next year, two years, the Cards can well afford Harper and have solid right fielder for years to come. With Ozuna throwing rainbows for another year and Bader's bat a question mark, we are realy in the same boat as last year. Heck, there is no reason to believe that Goldy will come back after this year anyway
    Lots to hit on here.
    1. Trading for Paul Goldschmidt is great. He's a great player. He's an annual MVP candidate. I think the Harper lust has overshadowed how good he is, and that's a shame, and I say that as someone who has pulled and campaigned for the Cardinals to sign Harper.
    2. Playing O'Neill and Fowler in right field might not make this team better. But it might. Saying that definitively today is impossible. That's not being an apologist. It's just fact.
    3. Of course the Cardinals can afford Harper. They can afford any player. Full stop. Doesn't mean they will. A 10-year contract of that magnitude for a player they are unfamiliar with gives them significant pause. If the market changes, maybe they revisit that interest. But I have to think someone will be willing to get desperate for Harper, and the Cardinals have decided they're not going to do that.
    4. The Cardinals' future has never been this uncertain. That also offers some flexibility. They could move to extend Goldschmidt and/or Ozuna. They could go after free-agent Arenado or Rendon. Flexibility is not a bad thing. The Yankees might wish they had a little more now looking down the barrel of the Stanton contract. Buzz here is they are not thrilled with their one-year return there.
    Hey, Ben. I sure hope the Cardinals are quietly posturing about this. Last year Dexter Fowler at the plate was unwatchable. Sunk cost unwatchable. If they really are gambling the next several years on the fact that he might raise his average (let’s say a lot, to .240), I suspect many Cardinals fans will exercise their right not to watch, period. Thank you.
    He was, and it should be said clearly, one of the worst players in MLB last season.
    Factor in his contract and no-trade clause, and it looked even worse.
    Factor in the injuries (back-to-back seasons with foot problems) and the decline in speed (for a player whose speed is a big part of his game) and there are some real reasons for concern here.
    The Cardinals have more knowledge than we do about Fowler's recovery, his mentality, his mind set.
    But there's a lot of hope cooked into this.
    Another thing: If we know anything about Fowler by now, it's that he pays attention to what is said about him by the fans and by the team. I'm not saying if this is right or wrong. Each guy handles it differently. With that in mind, the Cardinals have nothing to lose by making Fowler feel good and valued and supported. If he stinks in spring, that tune could change. That tune could even change before, though the Cardinals seem set in this plan. Actions always speak louder than words. Keep that in mind.
    The Cardinals have nothing to lose by pumping up Dex -- other than getting ripped apart on Twitter.
    They don't care about that.
     
    I understand they would rather trade for players, the fan base has a feeling that ownership and front office won't go after the big name free agents. Why is that? We all feel like we are missing a chance to get Harper. How do we get them to change this view and do what they talked about and go all in for 2019?
    I think this is more of an example of the ownership and front office simply not seeing as much value in a prominent free agent as the rest of us.
    Stanton was basically a free agent last season. The Cardinals struck a deal to take on his massive contract. Stanton said no. Happened one year ago today.
    Whether that's better or worse can be debated.
    The Cardinals are always going to look at very long, very expensive deals with caution.
    If they did it with Albert, a player they knew better than any free agent they will ever pursue, then they are probably not going to change that thinking.
    Harper seems, to me, like the best reason to change it.
    At least one Cardinals official thinks Machado, whom the Cardinals have showed zero interest in, might be a better long-term bet.
    So, opinions vary.
    There's also this part, that never gets brought up here: Harper gets to pick where he goes. Hopefully we find our more later about what his priorities were, but if the Cardinals know they don't have a good chance, it would not make much sense to give public chase. They did that with Stanton. Knew the odds. Went anyway. It didn't work. Some have criticized them for that approach.
     
     
     
     
     
    I realize there is lots of competition for couple of big LH relievers and it will not be easy for MO. I know he just does not go after a player at any cost like the way NY, BOS and other big deep pockets do. MO has indicated he is looking at Britton and Miller. My question is why not try to get aggressive for a change and make an offer that they can not refuse !! Offer the closer role . Past FA signing have not turned out well, but I like to see Britton signing . I think signing of Goldy will help trying to get some guys coming here. Your thoughts please .
    Mozeliak hasn't indicated he's looking at anyone.
    He flat out refuses to answer questions that can have him linked to free agents, from Francisco Pena to Bryce Harper.
    His reason is it's against the FA rules and monitored by the players' association.
    Why he feels this way and Yankees GM Brian Cashman talks freely about his meetings with agents of big-name FAs, I don't know. That's a big mystery for me.
    Spending big on free-agent relievers on the wrong side of 30 is scary for every team. There's a reason Britton and Miller have not been snapped up. Teams don't want to be the the one that overpaid. Agents don't want to be the one who got their guy a below-market deal.
    I think the Cardinals could very well wind up with one of the guys you mentioned.
    I found it fascinating that the Cardinals finally admitted that they made a mistake not pursuing Scherzer in Goold's recent article. I think that Bryce Harper is the same kind of once a decade opportunity that Max Scherzer was - in fact, arguably he’s less of a risk! My read on the Cardinals in the Mo era is that they always fill their hole...but they never show the killer instinct to make that boundary pushing move that makes them a super team. The perfect example was 2014 - the Cardinals made a great trade for Jason Heyward, and it made them contenders - but they passed on Scherzer, who would have made them a juggernaut. Now we’ve made a really smart trade for Goldy and we're definitely contenders - but with Harper we'd be competitive with the Red Sox and Astros. If we don't sign Harper, I will look back on this offseason the same way I do Sherzer's offseason - as a massive missed opportunity. Do you think my comparison of this offseason with Scherzer's here is fair? (I’m asking for your perspective, not the Cardinals’ perspective, just to clarify)
    That was a pretty significant quote, no?
    And don't overlook where it came from: Bill DeWitt III.
    For the first time I can remember, this offseason Mozeliak has made remarks about hearing from his boss, chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., about not being able to close the deal on the top-flight free-agents (I'll include Stanton here) they have pursued, sometimes to their benefit in the long run.
    Maybe that's part of the Cardinals doing their best to be out of the Harper and Machado spotlight?
    I think your assessment is fair. The Cardinals' sustained success model rarely shifts into go-for-the-jugular mode, especially during the winter.
    A question for you as a reporter: If you could rub a genie bottle and choose any active MLB player for the Cardinals to acquire (reality aside, on the market this year or not) based on who you think would be the most fun to interview, who would it be?
    Harper.
    I've been pretty clear about that the entire time.
    Is Pena the most likely backup catcher at this point or do you think the Cardinals look elsewhere?
  • Ideally they would like the backup catcher to hit left-handed, but this might be the hardest position to sell to free agents. Backups want to play. Molina never rests. A Pena return is not out of the realm of possibility. Likely, the Cardinals will have to settle for a backup who is happy to have a job, period. If something happens to Molina, they might have to go short-term solution route until Andrew Knizner is ready.
  • Any word on a back up catcher? Looks like Yadi won't be ready until May.
    Wrong. Molina should be ready to roll for spring training.
    It was reported that an owner was making the trip to Vegas to meet Harper face to face. Any idea which owner that is?
    Yeah, about that. How is it that a person can report an owner is coming, but not report who that owner is? It's just agent spin. Embarrassing. No, I don't know.
    OK … So the Cardinals are committed to Dexter Fowler's success in RF … for now … how short a rope do you think this is … or does it drag through the season because, like Cecil, they're on the hook for too much lucre
    Thank you, Pete. THIS IS THE REAL QUESTION. If Fowler stinks in spring training, does manager Mike Shildt say, enough. There could be an interesting dynamic between Shildt and the FO here if this does not work. At what point does he push back on what the FO wants to work? Will he? I'm about the only one, I think, who does not understand the rush to deal Jose Martinez for anything other than a really nice return. With Goldschmidt in front of him and Harrison Bader to his right, he would be better protected than ever before. I'd much rather have him in my lineup unless Fowler flashes during spring. Another thing: As adamant as Mo was about optimism toward Fowler, he did concede he will be moving down in the order until he climbs his way up. I don't think Shildt bats Fowler second, is what I'm saying. Those projected lineups are off, in my opinion.
    Do you have any new info on how Jose Martinez’s market is developing?
    Nothing yet. The Cardinals are making it known, clearly, that he is available. Multiple times.
    A lot of rule change discussions in the MLB right now (from pace of play to banning the shift) are all ultimately in service of trying to inject more ACTION into the game - and one of the key sources of action in baseball is baserunners. I think a lot of Cardinals fans in particular would agree that the stolen base is one of the more exciting plays in the game. What rule changes or game tweaks could be made to significantly increase the prominence of the stolen base in the modern game? I think that the stolen base is a very exciting baseball play that continues to get suppressed, and I'm interested to know what dials and levers would need to be manipulated in the game to change that. (One idea - what about a pickoff limit of one per at bat or two per inning?)
  • The rules you mentioned would help that initiative.
    This might surprise some of those who disagree with me about bringing the DH to the NL, but I'm not in favor of these types of tweaks.
    I think the DH should be adopted by the NL because the league, bizarrely, plays by two different sets of rules. Tha'ts wild, when you actually think about it. And the DH is not going away. AL teams have a clear advantage because they can sign good hitters through bad contract years and not worry about it as much, because they can move the sluggers to the DH spot. It's unfair to NL teams, perhaps more now than ever before.
    But I digress...
    Steals have decreased because some teams see them as less valuable and some players see them as not worth the risks. Defenses have also evolved to be better at presenting them. That's what happens. The game evolves.
    It will evolve to combat the shift as well.
    Leave it alone, and let it evolve.
    But for the love of pine tar, fix the DH system.
  • How do you view Wainwright's role this season? Does he come out of the bullpen and transition to a starter of there is an injury? Or is he locked in as a starter from day one?
    He is the definition of not locked in.
    That's why the contract he got has incentives for starts and relief appearances.
    See what he can do. See what others can do. Go from there.  It's not the definite answer fans want, but it really is how the Cardinals are examining things at this point.
    If he's healthy and effective, the smart bet would be on the rotation.
    That's where he wants to be.
    Most likely headline in 2020?
    Goldschmidt signs a 5 year extension
    MLS team approved for St. Louis
    Blues Husso proves he's the franchise goalie the Blues have been searching for
    Mizzou favorites to win SEC East
    XFL looking like major success in St. Louis?
    I'll rank in my order of most likely:
     
    MLS
    Goldy
    Husso
    XFL
    Mizzou (Georgia exists, you know)
    Are tired of hearing about Harper yet?!?!? I understand the commitment issues but there is surely some sort of upgrade over Fowler out there to make this team better?
    No, I get it.
    Passion is a good thing.
    There very well might be upgrades over Fowler currently on this team: Jose Martinez and Tyler O'Neill are two.
    The Cardinals don't lack for options in right field. They lack certainty. What they don't need is more bodies. Michael Brantley, perhaps the top corner outfieldre on the free-agent market, has some question marks. Injury question marks. And he's 31. Sound familiar? 
    This list of Cardinals’ 2019 dollar inflation adjusted payrolls was posted by Craig Edwards:
    Cardinals Rolling 5-Year Average ($M)
    2004 $195 M
    2005 $199
    2006 $196
    2007 $195
    2008 $192
    2009 $184
    2010 $175
    2011 $175
    2012 $177
    2013 $177
    2014 $177
    2015 $175
    2016 $173
    2017 $167
    2018 $165
    When you adjust for inflation, you can actually see that the Cardinals carried a juggernaut level payroll during the MV3 years, but payroll has trended downwards ever since Walt Jockety was replaced. This seems like some evidence in support of those who are frustrated about the Cardinals going the extra mile (I’m not saying you’re in opposition to that argument). Thoughts?
    I did see the tweet, and regularly read Craig's work.
    I'm not sure where he got these numbers, and would like to know more about how he adjusted them for inflation. Is this salary for opening-day, end-of-season, 40-man, etc? Do these numbers include tax spent on international signings? Do they include dollars spent on development? The Cardinals, for example, are working on a venture they hope is the next frontier in developing pitchers down in Florida.They signed enough players to create a second Dominican Summer League team, and all of the housing/etc costs that come with that.
    Details matter when determining this stuff.
    But, let's go big picture. Yes. Cardinals could afford spend more on brand-name star players. Lord knows that's true. They have the cash, the prospects, the appealing TV deal, the attendance to buy whatever they want.
    They can afford to make any move they want.
    They do spend, just rarely as much in the way fans prefer during hot-stove season.
    The Cardinals say they want to be top-10 in revenue and top-10 in payroll. They could be riskier. But at this point it's banging a head against the wall when you expect them to be.
     
    I know you must be tired of the Harper talk, and the Cardinals are almost certainly not going to get him, but this is why they should. They do a fantastic job of developing prospects based on where they draft. Unlike most teams, they should never really have to pay top dollar for the 3-5 spots in their rotation, for a defense first CF, 2B, utility infielder, or most of their bullpen. They can develop all those complimentary pieces (see Ponce, Gomber, Gant, Bader, Wong etc etc). The one thing they cannot develop based on where they draft is a star in his prime. That is the only thing, minus a possible pen arm or two, that they have to pay top dollar for. Their ability to develop those other pieces gives them the flexibility to sign a star because they don’t have to pay 10mm/yr for a 4th starter. The frustration is that they are close, and the great job they do developing complementary pieces gives them the flexibility to get what they need. What are your thoughts?
  • I agree with a lot of what you say.
    Read the column linked below.
    That said, I never thought the Cardinals would get both Harper and Goldschmidt.
    That is unlike them.
    It would be fun, for sure.
    But I try to operate in reality, and this would be a departure from the Cardinals' reality.
    Goldschmidt felt like the move the Cardinals' make if they know they are not going to go after -- or have a real chance -- at landing Harper.
    Time remains for them to change my mind, but I would not hold your breath.
    That said, they got a very good player in Goldschmidt, and delayed their big questions for 2020. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

    BenFred: Harper would make the Cardinals must-see TV

    stltoday.comThe team has the money to afford the star player who's still young and would be a perfect fit as a lefthanded hitter
    I know you must be sick of fielding Harper questions, but can you tell me why the cards should go after harper? Don't feel like scrolling
    Just read this. And read it knowing they traded for Goldschmidt; I wrote this beforehand. And when you are reading it, ask if the appeal of Harper is worth the staggering amount of years and cash he wants, now that Goldschmidt is a Cardinal. Opinions vary. 

    BenFred: Harper would make the Cardinals must-see TV

    stltoday.comThe team has the money to afford the star player who's still young and would be a perfect fit as a lefthanded hitter
    In your opinion how good of a chance do you think the Cardinals have locking up Goldschmidt longterm and do you think that is their main objective for beyond 2019?
    I think they have a decent chance.
    I think he's going to like it here a lot.
    I also think the best way to recruit him is to win.
    He wants to win a World Series. He wants to feel that the place he signs with can do that before he's done.
    Houston has a hometown attraction. The Astros have more recent postseason success.And the Astros can offer a DH spot as he ages. (See what I meant about the DH being unfair to the NL?)
    The Cardinals could have a tough time beating out the Astros, but they more teams they beat in 2019 will help their argument.
    Another reason the Cardinals should be aggressive in creating a dominant bullpen. That seems to be their only area for big improvements if they are going to give Fowler another shot.
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