It's almost a new year around here. Today -- chat. Tomorrow -- Jupiter Landing. Wednesday -- let the coverage commence. Check StlToday.com throughout the week here as Rick Hummel and I report to Cardinals spring training and begin the coverage online, in the paper, and anywhere else we can find to provide you content. Yes, that means weekly chats. Yes, that means podcasts. Yes, that means ... well, we're getting outfitted for BlueTooth right now so that you just see what we see ... Or something like that. Glad to be back at the keyboard and the typing won't stop until the season does.
You've got questions. I've got words. Let's see if they match. Away we go.
Good morning to you, Bruce.
Thursday. And good question.
Huh? I may miss deadline a lot, but I'm golden when it comes to starting the chat on time. We'll have lunch together. Pull up a chair.
The Cardinals wouldn't sign any of those players for three years, not from what I can tell. Perhaps the most likely of the group in this scenario would be Arrieta. Though if we're talking two years and a option then perhaps Lynn and Arrieta would have an appeal. The term you describe does not fit the Cardinals' current view of where they're getting pitching from, and relying on the young pitchers to provide it.
I am puzzled by this reaction. Edward Mujica signed a minor-league deal that DOES NOT include an invitation to major-league spring training. Do you think the Cardinals are counting on him for the big-league bullpen? If so, why wouldn't they bring him to major-league spring training -- it starts earlier, it actually includes, you know, major-leaguers, and involves the major-league coaching staff helping to making the decision on the roster. Now, an NRI could come later in spring. But this isn't a move for the big-league bullpen. Not today. And the only reason you know about it is because he's a former All-Star closer.
I'm not buying. I have coffee.
Nick Castellanos has at least been explored by the Cardinals, and one of the executives said if there was a middle-order hitter possibly available they had some discussion about it -- and that would fit Abreu. With Castellanos there is plenty of appeal when you look at the position he plays, the offensive upside, and the control on his contract/value on his contract. He's not the whiz defensively at third, however, and the Cardinals are going to compare the guy they could get (in this case Castellanos) against the guy that they do have (Gyorko, Jedd). Just take a look at their stat lines, per Baseball-Reference.com, from the previous season, and yes take into account that Castellanos is four years younger:
.272/.341/.472, .813 OPS, 3.6 WAR, plus-16 DRS at 3B
.272/..320/.490, .811 OPS, 0.7 WAR, minus-14 DRS at 3B
This is not true. No mandate like that has been given. Cardinals have a lower payroll as of now than they had last year -- while revenues all around them and for them continue to rise. But $130 million has not been the "budgeted" payroll for several years now. They can afford more than that. Your premise is false.
The Solo trailer was interested. Watched it few time. Thrilled to see Lando again. Hesitant to see what it means for the movies that they are replacing iconic characters, but I'm open-minded. Here is the revelation I've had about all this: In the new Skywalker Saga trilogy they have slowly killed off the icons. Han went in Force Awakens, Leia seemed to go in Last Jedi until the Carrie Poppins moment, and Luke vanishes at the end (spoiler). Clearly we are being set up for the demise in Episode IX of a fan favorite, and it all begins with the origin story coming in Solo. Yep, that's right, to conclude that saga we're going to see the end of ...
The Millennium Falcon.
The foreshadowing is so clear. You read it hear first.
As to the tipping point for this free-agent stuff. It's really a mess. It's become this staring contest and there is no hint that either side is going to blink. They've just been spitting soundbites at each other here, recently. What is clear is that some of the teams waiting to hear on Darvish are also positioned to pivot to Lance Lynn or Jake Arrieta. The Milwaukee Brewers are an example here. They don't want to make a move on one of them without first hearing from their first choice. Then, when that happens, they'll rush to their No. 2 choice. Lynn is in play for the Brewers. So, you could see a run on those three in that order. What's less clear is the KC Crew -- Moustakas and Hosmer. If they have the deals they are said to have on the table, then goodness, say, yes. They're not getting better. There is a real sense here that a message is being sent -- on both sides.
Right now they are, at best, the second wild card in National League -- and they need a lot to go right to be that second wild card. We'll see how they look in March. We'll see how their pitching comes together and how it compares to others in the division. Maybe a lot will go right for them in the coming two months and April will arrive sunnier. But as of today, I'm not sure they've take advantage of the winter to close the gap in the division and betting on everything to go right is a bold bet, and rare that it works out.
You touched on it. A pitcher who is prepping to be a starter does focus on endurance and physical conditioning for a heavy workload. The pitcher also gets in the rhythm during spring training of the five-day regimen. That will mean a readiness to throw more pitchers earlier. That will be longer bullpens when the bullpens start. That will mean focusing on numerous pitches, not just the best pitches or two that will get him through. You'll see a lot of this come to fruition in spring training as starters throw to hits -- and they go up/downs, meaning they'll throw 20 or so pitches, sit while a reliever handles 20 or so pitches, and then return to the mound for a second "inning" of work. The reliever will just move on. Of course, some of the workouts are different, too. You see more running, stamina work for the starters.
The transition is rather easy. They just shorten their schedule. Instead of throwing that between-start bullpen or that second inning off the mound in bullpens, they're throwing in games. That kind of thing. It's far easier to shrink to fit for a relief role than to stretch for a starter, especially as the season gets older.
I will be there. And I will seek out a hamburger, you bet. Seeing as how trips to the Twin Cities are rare, I have a list of things that I have to do. Visit the Mary Tyler Moore statue and toss my hat in the hair, for example. Breakfast at Hell's Kitchen.
Thanks. Was I really gone this long?
It's not just one reason. It's more a swirl of them, an alloy of them, a perfect storm of some of the following:
-- As teams continue to be run like hedge funds, all of the front offices see the game the same way. That is more the case this year than it ever has been as a few of the old-school teams have fully embraced the analytics of the day. That means that teams see players through the same prism of numbers. They have the same reluctance to go long term on pitchers, and they are seeking the best value not the best player. That's key.
-- Next year's class is far, far better. Eyes are peeled for future free agents.
-- There are a handful of teams that are tanking. They are not in play for free agents because they don't want to spend, they don't want to win, and there is increasing incentive not to do so. With those teams not in the market, then the market is constrained and gives more power to the teams that are interested. Supply overwhelms demand. Econ 101.
-- A few big-spenders are trying to avoid the luxury tax and that has limited the bidding on some obvious players that would be fits for them because they have the pocketbooks to swing around. The penalty for going over the luxury tax is no longer just cash, and that brings us to another reason ...
-- Prospects and draft picks are overvalued. There's no other way to put it. And there's not one reason why this has happened. Players are getting to the majors younger and the years of control are more important for teams. That's fair. But what has also happened is teams are always banking on the future, future, future and this way they get a cost-effective player -- and a fungible one, too. If a prospect doesn't work out, the cost has been minimal and guess what? Another one is on the way if you keep your draft picks. If a $100-million contract doesn't work out, guess what? Albatross.
A starter. It would be a rotating starter. The team would use it for the starter the day after he pitches or the day before. That's how they would play the 26th man -- so that they could use that spot for an active reliever, or an active bench player.
They are counting on it. But, almost every contender is.
I am pro-puns. I'm a registered Punocrat. Big fan of puns. I'm on the record, spinning my fondness for puns. I say, make a play on words.