Twelve years ago this evening, Busch Stadium II got a stay of execution. It happened late in the evening, and in downtown Houston. The Houston Astros were about to clinch the National League pennant and zoom off to the first World Series in Texas history. Albert Pujols delayed that. For a series that Cardinals didn't win -- heck, it didn't even last more than one more game -- Pujols' home run off of Brad Lidge in Game 5 of the NLCS is still considered one of the great October moments in Cardinals history. That has to be partially because it meant one ... more ... chance ... to ... say ... goodbye ... to ... Busch.
Pujols' homer assured there would be a Game 6 in downtown St. Louis, and that fans would get at least one more evening at the old ballpark.
Houston won Game 6 a few days later. Clinched the pennant. Advanced to the 2005 World Series. And before leaving the ballpark that night I walked around and around and around and around it, writing down all of the messages that had been scrawled on walls and put on pillars and just anywhere people could. I still remember all of those love letters people wrote on the walls of Busch II, and many of them only really had a chance to exist because of Pujols' homer. That swing did more than win a game.
Enough prelude ... Welcome back to the weekly Cardinals' chat. After a week or so away to reboot, refresh, and absolutely reset, I'm back at the laptop. Bopped over to Brooklyn on Monday to take part in a project I hope to tell you about down the road, and I appreciate your patience as we bumped the chat back a day to accommodate that quick run to New York. I've had a chance to catch up on some reading from my colleagues this morning and I'm going to be doing some reporting through the course of this chat. Per usual. Got some things to catch up on. Care to tag along? Away we go.
Sure is. Third base is a position that DeJong could handle and could call home for awhile. He has experience at third, short, and second base, and he played a handful of other positions in college. He's a ... fielder, to put it simply. Reports on his ability to handle third were positive. He had the arm strength -- and that has improved with his shift to shortstop and the work that he's done at that position. He's got the instincts and familiarity with third to make that move easy. At second, one of the things he had to improve on was the turn, the pivot. And that's not unusual. He had to get in a position where he wasn't exposing himself to injury or the runner. I know that's less of a concern with new rules around second, but it is valuable and essential footwork when it comes to getting off a clean, accurate throw. We saw DeJong improve on that as well. He has the ability to be average or above at each of the positions, especially the two on the left side of the infield.
The Cardinals were encouraged by the conversation they had with Nicasio and Nicasio's reps toward the end of the season. Nicasio did not rule out the possibility that he would sign before free agency opens, though the Cardinals were content that they at least got "a head start" on conversations that would gain momentum when the market did open. It didn't seem like there was a lot of conversation between the two parties in the week immediately after the season, which could be read as an understanding that Nicasio will go to market.
Within a month, if they haven't had happened already, there will be discussions between the Cardinals and Rosenthal's agent, Scott Boras, about a two-year deal that is heavily built around incentives for the 2019 season. That's one idea being floated as a possibility.
Indeed they do. They need a starting pitcher who can provide some consistency to the rotation -- a constant. They need that valuable piece that cranks out the quality starts and gives the bullpen a breather every five days, and is just going to crank out the quality. I know I'm not alone in seeing this need.
There is, yes. And there is actually a way for us to figure out what that percentage is. I think I've walked people through this in the chat before, but it may have been on a podcast. So, forgive me if I'm repeating myself. But here's the way it will work: The Cardinals will run their evaluations of Stanton and determine the value they expect to get from his production in the coming years. I have been told by one executive with the Cardinals that they may even have to fold some of that cost into the early years of the contract in order to set the out-years (those final two, three years of the deal) aside as years when production is lagniappe -- extra, not expected.
Once the Cardinals have a sense on what that production is worth to them, then they will look for the Marlins to close that gap in order to make it worth the prospects the Cardinals would have to give up. So, let's say the Cardinals feel they'll get $225 million in value from Stanton, then they'll want the Marlins to pick up AT LEAST the gap and then even more to improve the prospects coming in return.
I know that in past chats I've talked a lot about control years, and how valuable they are. Well, one of the reasons why is because in six years of control vs. one year of control the team is going to get more production, more value from that control in terms of on-field production. How the Cardinals measure that and how they lineup with the other team is how deals are made. If the Cardinals believe the Marlins want, say, 14 years of control that will net them $183 million in production (I'm making up numbers here for the ssake of the example) then you can see how the Cardinals would look to make a deal where they get the greater value of production in exchange for the lesser value.
Hope that helps.
Yep. And also adjustment to the pro game, and also the fact that he was pushed as a starter, finding the edges of his production that he has to sharpen to be successful at the higher levels. Those numbers will improve with experience, with quality players behind him, and, if needed, with a turn in the bullpen.
There can be. No reason there shouldn't be.
If Nicasio is signed, you'll have to pay close attention to the semantics or the caveats. What the Cardinals are going to offer -- and what they're going to say -- is an opportunity to be the closer, or to be part of the ninth-inning answer for the team. If they go the route of signing Nicasio and at least one other setup man, they're going to throw arms at the ninth and see who sticks there with success. That will be their plan, and that's how they'll position it. No there won't be a closer to start the season. There will be a competition, and we'll hear all about the competition and the value of the competition and how competitive spring training will be and that out of that competition, competition, competition will emerge a closer.
I was not. Mostly because I'm not sure how else they would have done that, and I think a puppet would have looked very awkward.
This approach is definitely in play for the Cardinals. It's one of the reasons why they've been connected to Josh Donaldson, in reporting by The Post-Dispatch and elsewhere. Donaldson has one year remaining on his contract and that would offer the Cardinals to bridge the need now to the Terabithia of talent that arrives in the free-agent market a year from now. In other words, they would kick the can down the road and address the same need with newly available options. That's not ideal, but it is possible.
Let's also be clear that it's not just the fanbase "clamoring" for the big bat. The Cardinals have been aware of that need going back at least a year when they considered going after a second free agent after signing Dexter Fowler. They thought about adding that thumper then and would have -- if they found the price right for the move they wanted to make. They were aware of the need. They hoped that one of the bats they had would emerge to fill that opening. Didn't happen.
Sure, the DH coming to NL would make a deal like that far, far, far, more palatable. All of a sudden, the Cardinals would have a position for him to play in the latter years of the deal or even throughout the deal to improve his health. Scuttlebutt? Only different ways to phrase the momentum we've been tracking in the chats and at Bird Lands for years. When Major League Baseball split its 30 teams evenly, 15 and 15, and invited perpetual interleague play onto the schedule that paved the way for the DH to happen. More owners were discussing it than ever before about two years ago, according to MLB and union officials. Executives on both sides of the CBA told me that they expected it to be discussed -- and that there was more momentum for that conversation than at any other point. Surprisingly, that never gain traction in the most recent CBA.
Tracy Ringolsby had a fascinating story about expansion to 32 teams -- something Manfred wants to do -- and the radical realignment that could bring to the game. Yes, it would go back to 16 and 16 in each league, but in Ringolsby's model you'd have an NBA-like schedule: everyone plays everyone. That would be a second doorway toward a DH for baseball, especially because the radical realignment would be by geography, pooling Chicago teams and LA teams and Missouri teams, and not break along the traditional league faultlines. When that happens, the DH is inevitable.
I have heard nothing that would lead me to believe that kind of trade is being discussed or is even possible at this time. It has the feel of pure speculation. Wil Myers would be an interesting addition and certainly would give the Cardinals an answer at an opening they have. No doubt. Alone? He's not the headliner that would delight the masses. And reviews of how he'd fit with the Cardinals are split when it comes to the scouts/folks I've talked to about him, going back to last winter meetings. The question would be is he on the rise, is he going to surge when freed from San Diego, is he the kind of hitter who can carry a lineup, not just be featured in it. He would improve the Cardinals for sure. He wouldn't fix them, not alone.
Absolutely. Archer. Stroman. For sure, those are starters they'd have conversations about. Haven't heard anything that would lead me to believe they're going to be in play for Darvish. Granted that view is based on reporting that was conducted back around the trade deadline. The feel is that Darvish's market is going to go beyond the Cardinals' interest, and that they can look toward a different shelf in the pitchers aisle. There are plenty of starters and late-inning relievers available this winter, and if you can come up with a list of those names a good bet that at least 2/3 of them will be discussed at length by the Cardinals and a good many of them will be pursued to some degree or another by the Cardinals.
I don't even think the list is that long when it comes to true "untouchables." There's no Eliot Ness, man. There's always a deal that will pry a player free, even an "untouchable" one. There are unlikely to be traded, and that list is longer and includes DeJong, Molina, to name a few.
There are many who agree with you.
I was given a week off, to unplug. I'm not going to apologize for needing it.
Perhaps you could give me a hint as to what you want here. There's a reason why names are being widely discussed -- they're actually of interest to the Cardinals. There's a reason why some names are not being widely discussed -- they aren't of interest to the Cardinals or the Cardinals, notoriously tightlipped about everything from trade interests to even simple transactions, have kept their interest from public eye, so far. It's a safe bet that if a player is a hitter, a closer/late-inning reliever, or a starting pitcher outside of the five-year commitment zone, that the Cardinals have had/will have discussions about him. They are not in a position to be choosy with their evaluations or selective with their pursuits. They're going to go a lot of different directions. They're going to talk about Holland, absolutely, and see about Reed and may even explore what Davis is going to want from the market. They're going to consider Anthony Swarzak, who I guess could be viewed as a name not being bandied about all that much but a talent that could help the Cardinals bullpen. A Pat Neshek reunion will at least be discussed. And so on. The Cardinals are going to enter into the bidding for Japanese closer Yoshihisa Hirano,and they feel they have a good situation to sell to him as he makes the jump from Orix to MLB. We could be here a long time if we go name by name through the many names they'll explore this winter.
Two things are in play here. One, Machado is older and his contract will be paying him as he enters and goes through his peak years. Two, and this one is something that should not be discounted, teams are always willing to take on their own contracts because it's a decision THEY MADE, a contract THEY WROTE. By contrast, they don't want to take on another team's contract that is widely viewed as too much or a mistake or too cumbersome. Let that team deal with its mistake. That's the baseball way.