Cardinals chat with Derrick Goold

Cardinals chat with Derrick Goold

Bring your Cardinals questions and comments, and talk to Post-Dispatch baseball writer Derrick Goold at 10 a.m. Monday in a live chat.

    Good morning. Thought we would get this chat going a little early today for a number of reasons. There's no time like the present. Plus, we'll go till 3 p.m. St. Louis time or thereabouts because shortly after that I have to -- how do they say in the radio biz? -- go on assignment. That's code for I have to pick up some dad duties. There are already about 50 questions in the hopper and the chat isn't even 120 seconds old. So, enough prelude. Let's put on some fire-resistant wool and head into the fracas.
    Who would you be most reticent to trade away: Harison Bader, Lane Thomas, or Randy Arozarena?
    Lane Thomas, candidly. And I could be way off on this. I recognize that. But the ability to play a premium position and the upside of damage is intriguing. It's a good question because this is the one the Cardinals are likely going to be faced with at some point. They've somewhat already cast their vote. The Cardinals are, as of now, counting Harrison Bader as their starting center fielder for 2020. They like his speed. He does have elite defense. And there's going to be focus for him on his offensive approach this winter that will be worth tracking, as he's introduced to it and how the Cardinals ask him to work on it. When the Cardinals look at their outfield right now -- today, this moment -- they see Bader in center, Fowler in one of the corners, and then the other position is there for the taking by one of the young people. It's why there's a real sense in the industry that they won't turn down a conversation about an OF trade.
    Mike Leake was successfully moved because he wanted to have his spring training be in Arizona, and Seattle offered that. Are there any similar factors that you are aware of that would incline Dexter Fowler to accept a trade?
    None that he's mentioned or that people close to him have offered when asked, no.
    Thank you for your chat.
    What kind of analytics lead to trading Oscar Mercado for basically nothing?. How could a top eight rookie of the year vote Getter be so underestimated?. Isn’t that their job? it’s not like Tommy Pham who was under performing at the time With a history of degenerative eye condition.
    It's good question. And this was not just an analytics move. Will you allow me to explain the Cardinals thinking on this without assuming that it is also my opinion? Thanks.
     
    Let's get in the wayback machine and take a trip back to the moment in time. The Cardinals were rapidly approaching a logjam of outfielders -- not in the system (that's not an issue) but for the 40-man roster. To avoid losing Mercado in the Rule 5 draft they had to protect him. Same with a handful of outfielders, like O'Neill at the time and this newcomer Lane Thomas. Thomas had been acquired from Toronto for international spending money. It wasn't a sexy trade by any imagination. But there was Thomas leading the Cardinals' minor-league affiliates in homers and playing the same position as it seemed everybody else did. At one point the Cardinals had Bader, Thomas, Mercado, Arozarena, Mercado, and a handful of other part-time center fielders playing center field. They also want to clear room for Dylan Carlson to get some experience in CF.
     
    So all of that was going on, the real pressure of the Rule 5 deadline was going to smack them in the face, and they were going to lose one of the outfielders for nothing if they didn't make a move. And! And! And! You might notice there were a lot of righthanded hitters in that group. 
     
    It has been explained to me multiples times that they had to choose between Thomas and Mercado for that spot. That's where they were. Thomas or Mercado. We can look at their stats at the time, if you want to see some of the analytics behind it. About the moment of the trade, here were their stats:
     
    Mercado, AAA: .285/.351/.408, .759 OPS, 64 Ks/382 ABs, 100 games.
    Thomas, AA: .260/.337/.487, .824 OPS, 101 Ks/384 ABs, 100 games.
     
    With Mercado moving on to Cleveland, that freed up playing time at Triple-A for Thomas, and here is what he did with it ... .275/.321/.496 with a .818 OPS and 33 Ks in 131 ABs. He hit for more power than Mercado. Now, for me, what's missing from this equation is Mercado's willingness to steal, and his ability to steal, and how that doesn't who up in the slugging percentage or OPS but is truly another 90 feet that should. Let's look at what that would do to narrow the difference between the two in those 100 games at the different levels.
     
    Mercado in 100 games for Memphis had 156 total bases, 36 walks, and 31 steals in 39 attempts for a total of 223 90-feet whatever we want to calls these.
     
    Thomas in 100 games for Springfield had 187 total bases, 43 walks, and 13 steals for a total of 243 90-feet lengths.
     
    There's a gap there.
     
    The final piece of this long explanation was what the Cardinals could get in return. It was important to them to get some lefthanded hitting outfielders in the organization and in to turn Mercado into two outfielders they didn't have to protect for a few years. That was critical to navigating around a clogged 40-man roster. They got that in Jhon Torres. A young outfielder, who was a highly regarded prospect in the Cardinals' rankings entering last year, and he was years, years away from having to be protected. Still doesn't have to go on the 40-man this season. Torres is 19. He's a tall, strapping, 19 year old. And, at 19, he hit .286/.391/.527 for a .918 OPS for Johnson City. He closed the season with a .324 average in his final 10 games for the JC-Cards and in that stretch he had 12 hits and seven strikeouts. There's still time to figure out what he is as a prospect, and that, in the end, was the purpose of the trade, too. To kick the can down the road with another outfielder and choosing to give Thomas the spot on the 40-man and not Mercado. QED.
    Do you get the sense that the public views the Astros events of cheating as "worse" than the Cardinals? One was a lone-wolf employee(granted, federal crime violated) and the other was a more systematic, group-think, front-office dictated move? I believe Chris Correa was onto to something. Thanks, DG.
    I get the sense that the baseball world at large and fans are starting to realize why the Post-Dispatch covered the hacking schedule the way that we did -- regularly pointing out why Correa did what he did, how it was illegal, and what court documents showed that he found there. You can go back a few years before the hacking scandal broke to a question I asked Luhnow about the similarities between Ground Control and the Cardinals' Red Bird Dog. I presented them to him, and he dismissed them and said that the Astros started from "scratch." Those were words, and they were printed in the paper. Court documents later revealed some of the overlaps. The Cardinals elected not to pursue any complaint with Major League Baseball. That's somewhat because they want to get the whole thing over with and move on and protect the brand. That's also because it wasn't clear how they could prove it with fruit from a poisonous tree.
    Thanks as always for taking the time to do these chats, Derrick. I have a big-picture question about the state of labor relations in the game. Do you get the sense there's been any shift on either the part of ownership or the players since last spring? After a rush of activity (including Waino hinting toward a strike), it seems like things have been quiet. Is this because that energy has been focused on negotiations? Or, has it turned into a cold war that may turn hot with a work stoppage after 2021?
    I don't think the rhetoric has cooled at all. Just recently there was a skirmish when the Braves' general manager Alex Anthopoulus said something that, to me, was innocent, and the union clapped back with a vague acknowledgement that its eyes were peeled for any whiff of collusion. That's the word both sides are dancing around, but both sides want to say. Anthopoulus merely said that at this time of year had he had made his calls to all of the teams to see what they were doing trade wise, what they wanted to do free agent-wise and then get a sense of where the Braves could make some matches -- or have some competition. This is not unusual. Every team does this. An example would be the Cardinals going to, say, the White Sox about a trade and the White Sox saying that, no, they're more likely to find their outfielder via the free agent market than to talk to the Cardinals about one of their outfielders for trade. That's it. They speak in general teams. If they're coordinating how they might both bid on Ozuna, then they're not advertising it. And they're likely not sharing that info -- because why? That wouldn't be wise. The union argued that Antopoulus' comments implied teams were coordinating their pursuits of free agents. That's a no-no. But it's weird because Boras reps so many clients this winter, and you think he's not going to use info he gets from shopping around Cole to get a better deal for Strasburg? Goodness, me, of course he is!
     
    In short, both sides are looking for slights. Their hackles are up. And we're in for a doozy when it comes to the verbal jabs and rhetorical haymakers that are coming our way as negotiations continue. Heck, this spring, baseball can impose the three-batter minimum for relievers on the union, and the union can do nothing. Baseball can say it wants an automated strike zone for 2020, the union can say no, and then, by rule, the commissioner can impose it unilaterally for 2021 if he wants to. That's his power.
     
    We're going to have some turbulence before there's a new CBA, but both sides recognize how much money is at stake and an agreement will be born from that tension.
    Are Lane Thomas and Dylan Carlson are just as good as advertised ? Are they both best prospects since passing of Taveras ? Thank You
    Dylan Carlson is the best hitting prospect the Cardinals have had since Oscar Taveras. Full stop. Carlson has the ability to be a No. 2 hitter on a contending team at some point in the near future, and that is the same kind of heady expectations that were there for Taveras, who was a natural hitter with power upside. Carlson is a different hitter, but has the same kind of ascendant talent.
     
    Thomas is a prospect along the lines of which you've see from other Cardinals outfield prospects. He belongs in that group that has in the past included Bader and Mercado and going back a few Jon Jay and the like. If we're drawing a spectrum of recent outfield prospects you'd have Taveras to one extreme, Carlson nearby, Colby Rasmus somewhat after him, then the Craig/Pham grouping, and then the class of Jay, Bader, Thomas, O'Neill, Arozarena and onto Williams, then Garcia, Gant, etc. Make sense? 
    Good morning Derrick! Good piece on Reds. I've been fascinated with Kyle Boddy and Driveline since Reading "MVP Machine" last spring. Do you think the Reds will actually make an effort to sign Castellanos / Ozuna or do you see them going for lower hanging fruit like they did with Puig last year?
    They are poised to make a real offer for Ozuna or Castellanos, and don't for a moment think that Ozuna isn't intrigued by taking aim at those dimensions at Great American Small Park and his defense would be aided by the left field dimensions, too.
    Baseball wonders how to deal with the increasing loss of fan interest. In my opinion, one of several major factors in this is fan perception that their club has the resources to field a better team, but choose not to do so in order to increase profits. Do the people who run these teams realize this and just want to hype interest to offset it, or are they unaware?
    I think this is a fascinating topic, and you've put the question well -- because that perception does exist, and rightly so in some markets. They're aware, but how do you get them the message? It's not on Twitter. That's for sure. Not when, say, the Cardinals are still selling 3.4 million in tickets. And not when teams are still getting $1 billion rights fees. What you're talking about is a real, real, real issue for the perception of the game, but the owners and the game have firewalled themselves from it being a real, real, real, issue for the finances of the game. That has to change to get their attention. Is that empty seats? Maybe, but not when there are full cable fees. Is that the cord-clipping that we see? Maybe. But not when they bundle it into a streaming service and get your annual fee for watching a sports channel on your tablet. And so on. Tanking is a real issue because, as Scott Boras as rightly pointed out, it has incentives, and he's mostly talking about draft picks and int'l spending. I would argue that there is also a financial component to it because with some rights fees those monies are going to come rolling in regardless of the ratings, regardless of the quality of team, and whether there are butts in seats or not. Take a look around the NFL. I will add, however, that some of the coverage of what teams are worth does not do this perception any favors because those are routinely wrong. That's it. It might help for baseball to have a little transparency, as the NHL did, so that there's not this notion that voodoo estimates cooked up without actual info are any sort of representation on what franchises are worth.
  • Simce it’s such a great thing, Maybe we should put Steve Stegner back in charge of Saint Louis County in the Interest of continuity?
    Um, see, Stenger is serving jail time -- 46 months, right? -- for corruption. That is not the same as continuity. They start with the same letter and then veer wildly from there. I don't see what that has to do with a Cardinals chat at all.
    Good Morning, Derrick. With the unofficial evidence mounting that perhaps the Astros were stealing signs as far back as 2017, are the Cardinals at all worried about Jeff Albert's involvement, or how that affected his job performance? From what I've read, the Astros batter's were able to know when a breaking ball or off-speed pitch was headed their way, and could adjust accordingly. I think the 2019 Cards are proof that they did not have the same advanced notice, but could that explain why they were so bad compared to the Astros when it comes to breaking balls? Thanks as always for the great work you do covering the Cards!
    Jeff Albert was not in the majors in 2017 with the Houston Astros. He was in the system. He was part of the minor-league hitting coordination team. He reached the majors as part of the hitting group in 2018. That was when the Astros were alleged to have taken pictures of the opposing dugouts. A year later there was discussion of them whistling to pass along signs they've stolen. Asked in spring training about the allegations against Houston and the dugout stuff, Albert didn't have much to say, adding he wasn't involved. That's the timeline. If it spreads out, if it starts seeping into all areas of the Astros and all recent seasons, then the questions change.
    Since the Cards were willing to spend 17.8 million on Ozuna before he declined QO, it is safe to assume they will add 17.8 million in payroll to improve the club or will ownership just pocket the savings, seems to me they have holes to fill that require capital
    It is not safe to assume that, no. That doesn't mean ownership is going to "just pocket the savings." They do have holes. They should spend to fill those holes. There's more flexibility in the payroll today than they had before Ozuna rejected the QO. But to connect those does is not safe to assume at all.
    The Red Sox are in such a payroll crunch that there are rumors swirling around Mookie Betts...not ideal for them. David Price is one of their biggest contracts, and by all accounts, could be a change of scenery candidate. Could a bad contract swap of Price for Dexter Fowler (provided he'd be interested) between the Cardinals and Red Sox be worked out that would save the Red Sox enough money to keep their core together next year, while letting the Cardinals free up an OF spot for other free agent or internal options?
    If the Red Sox are trying to reduce payroll it makes sense to trade David Price, and then to hook in some young, controlled player to make that happen (Benintendi?). It does not make sense for them to acquire another high-priced outfielder in the same deal because that is counterproductive to what they want to do. This deal does not make sense on the Red Sox side at all, nor on Fowler's side, and not really on the Cardinals side either. Fowler has two years, $29 million remaining on his contract. Price has three years, $96 million on his deal. Let's say they split the difference and Price comes with cash, then the Sox would be saving a grand total of $60ish million. No small sum, for sure. But the Cardinals would be taking on additional, unplanned spending of $30ish million, and in the coming season -- with the other needs the Cardinals have -- that could push them closer to the luxury tax than DeWitt has said he wants to go. I get the sense this is going to be the trade suggestion that comes up again and again and again in the chat this winter until it doesn't happen, and then it will come up for why it doesn't happen. Help me out by sorting through the above issues, balancing the scales, and then we can see if there's a way that it works. And we haven't even gotten to the point to figure out why Fowler would accept such a grade at all.
    If the Astros are reprimanded by MLB for the cheating issue that faces them, what kind of penalty do you think will be levied?
  • The commissioner has wide power to impose penalties, as the Cardinals learned when it came to the hacking scandal. There aren't many limits. So you're talking a lot like what the Cardinals faced. Financial penalties. Draft picks stripped. Draft picks awarded to other teams. Anything would be on the table. The Astros wanted the Cardinals hit and hit hard, so there's not going to be a lot of teams rallying to defend Houston.
    I read recently that a number of minor league affiliates, including Johnson City, are in danger of losing their MLB affiliation to be put in a "dream league". Some think that two-thirds of those teams would fold without the affiliation. I agree that the minor leagues need to be revised to improve conditions for the players but I don't get why MLB would jeopardize some franchises. What gives?
    Nothing good gives, that's what gives. The New York Times this past week provided a list of 42 teams that would be downsized by the current plan for the minor-league system. That list includes two Cardinals' affiliates -- Johnson City and State College. That's not great. And the "Dream League" concept appears flawed, too, because it doesn't provide any identity for the players or the affiliates that would be involved. Basically, Major League Baseball is going to advertise how it's raising salaries for minor-league players -- and conveniently ignore that they are doing so by reducing the work force. Classic. The cost could be massive for the next generation of fans. One of the best things about baseball and the reason IT REMAINS the pastime for the country is because it's always available. Cannot say that about any other sport, really. Soccer perhaps. But definitely not the behemoth football. There are long stretches when it's not around. There are wide swatches of the country where professional football does not exist. Major League Baseball used to have that in the Mountain Time Zone. There wasn't a team there. I've told this story many times before. It was the Time Zone Baseball Forgot -- but really it was the Time Zone that Major League Baseball Forgot. We had minor-league teams. A fan like me grew to adore the game because of the Denver Bears and the Denver Zephyrs. My mother recently found some photos of me as a youth and in one I'm lounging by a tree in my Boy Scout uniform wearing a Denver Bears hat. That was my team, my first team. They became the Zephyrs a year or so later, and that was the first baseball team I got to know, to cheer, to recognize, to collect autographs. Baseball has this strong grassroots appeal because what's the farthest drive to find a game? I'd like to know. But in this proposal Tennessee alone would lose what six, seven teams? What would be the farthest drive then? I guess MLB is betting people will take that spending and put it into subscriptions to watch their MLB team from afar. Color me skeptical. I bet baseball loses a lot of romance by pulling out of historical minor-league markets and that has value.
    We always talk about teams having money to spend but that usually seems to be based on what we know about their gross revenues. How much money do teams like the Cardinals actually make bottom line? Sure we have a window into their team payroll but what about all the other expenses they incur like front office staff, stadiums, minor leagues etc. are their financial statements public?
    With the exception of the Atlanta Braves, this information is not public, and that's one of the things that the teams have going for them. Sure, rights fees are. And we know that the Cardinals start with that baseline of averaging about $80m in rights fees over the next 13 years. So there you have a start. You're right to include all of those other expenses, though and they've become more and more in recent years. I know there are fans that have been clamoring for the Cardinals to do more with tech and do more with analytics and really broaden that staff. They have. The analytics group got off the ground with a $2m investment and that was more than 15 years ago. It's cost has skyrocketed -- and part of that is keeping talent. The Cardinals nearly lost farm director George LaRocque to Arizona and had to give him a raise and a four-year contract to keep him. That's a cost. Pitching coaches are making more than ever and the Cardinals have one of the highest-paid pitching coaches in the game. Not too long, a member of the Cardinals' exec staff told me that they are having to increase the salary of minor-league coordinators and coaches too because there's such competition now for the services of modern, advanced coaching. Makes sense. So we have seen in the past decade a significant increase in the costs for a team beyond the payroll. Whether that's infrastructure -- or, say, the Cardinals paying for two Dominican Summer League teams when other clubs have one -- or coaching. That doesn't change the fact that there is a ton of revenue coming into the game and teams can afford to make moves, too. It does however give you a backdrop when it comes to the Cardinals suggesting that last year's payroll nudged over their planned budget (for the entirety of baseball operations) and they don't have to get close to the luxury tax.
    Of Lindor, Betts, and Bryant/Contreras who do you see as the most likely to be traded (if any) this offseason? Bonus points for predicting a landing spot.
    That ain't my bag. Predicts, like rumors, are worth less than the pixels that they take to write unless they are grounded in some reporting, some actual first-hand knowledge. Willson Contreras? Here's some actual first-hand understanding from reporting on that notion: Highly unlikely to be traded at this point. More rumor than reality. Lindor is at least a reality, something Cleveland would explore. Hard to see now how they get the return to make it worth the while, but at least there's a reality to there being talks. The return would be enormous, and the one team that used to do that has a new GM.
    Derrick, can you shed some light on the money that the organization received through the TV contract? Is it going straight to the baseball operations, building that is going on outside the stadium, etc.? I was under the impression this would be a big boost in player contracts, free agents, etc. Thanks.
    Candidly, it has been -- but maybe not at the rate advertised, and certainly not at the rate it could have given some of the things they tried to pull off. Let's just run the numbers on what has happened since the Cardinals got the new TV deal. I'll link to the original story on the new deal that appeared at StlToday.com, and I'm starting to think we should re-run every few months just to be sure. The Cardinals' $1.2-billion agreement with Fox Sports Midwest -- as of right now, that's what it is tracking toward; could go -- will give them an average rights fee of about $80 million from year to year. Now, it's fractured into escalators. The biggest leap was from 2017 to 2018, the first year of the deal, and the Cardinals jumped from $35 million in 2017 in rights fees to $55 million for 2018. The rise has been smaller, steadier since then, and the Cardinals are into the $60s now with $70s in the near future, based on inflation. The payroll, after an initial step back, has reflected some of that growth. These are the rough numbers, so they're give or take 3 million or so to give you an idea:
     
    2017, they were around $150m opening day, $180m for 40-man roster (that included some contracts for players elsewhere, etc.)
    2018, they were around $159m opening day, but scaled back to $175m 40-man
    2019, they were $165m for opening day, and they'll come in around $180m-$184m for the 40-man roster when the bonuses and everything are incldued.
     
    In 2020, they already have $150 million committed to 11 players. So even to fill out the 26-man opening day roster at the minimum you're talking about a $159 million payroll for the opening day roster. The 40-man roster is expected to be again in the $180-184 range. And, again, those don't take into account the raises the Cardinals have igven coaches, have given the front office in recent years, have used to expand the employment in the front office, and also pay off Matheny's contract. And whatever the hitting coaches were making that have been let go in recent years.
     
    Asked about the step back right as the Cardinals' rights fees lurched forward, and the team will point to deals that didn't happen -- Heyward, Price, and Stanton, all of which ownership insisted it wanted, could stomach because of the fees on the horizon. Now, they have that deal in Goldschmidt and his salary is almost going to double in his new deal from 2019 to 2020.
     
    If I had a bit more time -- and maybe someone is far nibbler with the math than I am while also hosting the chat -- but we can map the function of payroll to rights fees increase and see how they map. I'll do this later, just in case. But as of right now, the Cardinals saw a 4 percent increase in their total roster payroll from 2018 to 2019, and that appears slightly less than the increase they're getting in rights fees. 
    I have decided to write a capital R in the upper corner of plays that are review. I circle that R when the call has been overturned. And I note in the column on the far edge of my scoreshoot any other details that I want to keep about the play. I'll find one of my scoresheets here and show you what I mean, about the column, and I'll try to find one that has a review on it. One second.
    As a life-long Cardinals fan living in Washington, DC, I still love to score games in my scorebook at Nats Park and Camden Yards. I'd like to know what YOU write in your scorebook when a play is reviewed. I'm not too keen on all the reviews anyway, but they sure mess up my scorebook, as well!
    An example of my R-scoring for the replay -- this comes from the 19-inning game in Arizona and as you can see there was an overturn of a call using Replay for Goldschmidt.
     
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