STL sports chat with Ben Frederickson

STL sports chat with Ben Frederickson

Bring your Cardinals, Blues and St. Louis sports questions, and talk to Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson in a live chat from MLB's winter meetings starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

    Hello, everyone. Coming to you LIVE from Winter Meetings here in San Diego. Sorry for the delay -- had a direction-challenged Uber driver. Let's dive in. Fire away.
    If the Cardinals are going to impose an internal roster spending limit below the luxury tax threshold, they need to open up their financials and show us they are too poor to do more. Otherwise, it’s just a confirmation that they do the minimum necessary to maintain attendance and have NO intent to put the best possible team on the field.
    We're doing this again? The Cardinals don't say their goal is to field baseball's best team every year. Their goal is to win the division every year, get into the postseason every year, and hope that a team that can do that can go on to win the whole dang thing. That's the model. Sustained success. Not jeopardizing a long run of winning for one all-in World Series spike here and there. They have watched teams that take the all-in approach to one or a few seasons miss. They have watched teams that sneak in win it all. The model won't be changing under this ownership model. It does sound, at least somewhat, like the payroll chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said he did not see increasing is a bit more flexible than he made it sound, at least according  to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, though DeWitt is the one who must sign off on raising the level. Don't hold your breath on getting full access to the books.
    Attending a Cardinals game is a fun social event, but I encourage fans to find a way to enjoy an occasional game without adding much to team revenue. Eat before you go, buy tix on the secondary market, bring your own refreshments. Only reduction of revenue from the fan base will motivate this organization to improve. They won’t do it otherwise.
    Interesting approach. If a fan is that upset about the team's offseason actions, or lack thereof, why would the fan go to games in the first place? Fans not coming to games and not buying tickets would send a bigger message than not buying a hot dog or beer. And to be clear, I'm not advocating for that. It's up to you all if you choose to go or not. I just know I see a lot of calls in the chat for skipping games, then I see a lot of people at the ballpark.
    Obviously, every World Series win is special, but I contend that as great as the 2006 win may have been that it has set this organization back substantially. The ‘06 win instilled the misguided thought that as long as you make the playoffs, you have as good a chance as any other team to win the WS. No, the best team in the Playoffs still is most likely to win the WS. Can’t imagine a scenario where that’s ever the Cardinals with the current front office crew.
    The Nationals just won the World Series as a wild-card team.
    The best team in the playoffs can be any team.
    That's the point.
    I want to be clear here. I think the Cardinals are taking a massive risk if they enter this season without any additions to the lineup. Letting Marcell Ozuna go and opening themselves up to a lack of protection for Paull Goldschmidt is the kind of risk they should be scrambling to avoid.
    And I don't think they can or should trust Carlos Martinez to be a reliable starter without hard evidence he can be, because this starting pitching market is moving and you don't want to wish you would have acted sooner.
    I can think these things and also remember that the Cardinals' idea of the postseason is more realistic than you think, with an example of it just playing out this past season.
    Do you feel a fresh gust of wind coming from the Winter Meetings right now?
  • More like a blast of steam.
    Pitching prices have moved to the " puke point " for Mo/Girsch. Now what? On another note, here's what I don't understand, if we have all these great young outfielders, but they can't make it on the lineup card, why would FO assume that some other team wants them?? Packaging 2 OF's for 1 who can play above average for 150 games is a deal I don't see happening. There's Charity out there for sure, but she's a dancer...
    The Cardinals have to decide if they can afford to wait before getting some innings insurance for the rotation, preferably some left-handed innings insurance. I asked yesterday where Austin Gomber fit into that equation, and Mozeliak said Gomber has had a healthy and normal offseason. He also said the same was true of Gomber last year, before he got hurt. He mentioned that some more certainty could be desired there. Pitchers are moving. Scott Boras, agent of Dallas Keuchel, talks here today. I bet he sees a fit for the southpaw in St. Louis.
     
    As for the outfielders, don't assume the guys who have not played much for St. Louis would not become everyday players elsewhere. That has already happened with Oscar Mercado and others. The perfect scenario would be if the Cardinals could find a team that needed young, cost-controlled  RH-hitting outfielders with upside, with a good MLB outfielder they were willing to move for cost-cutting, rebuilding, or other reasons. Remember: Not every team is trying to win now.
     
    I believe Cards attendance peaked at 3.6 mil last season and will begin a period of at least slight decline as fan apathy builds across baseball. And yes, that includes St Louis, go back and see the empty seats in the playoffs, unheard of before. Obviously, the front office doesn’t believe this by pushing an off-season on hope and optimism. Thoughts?
    No need to go back. I was there! Saw those empty seats. We asked about them. Cardinals have pushed back repeatedly about the topic of a growing divide between the team and its fans. Also worth considering the crummy start times of those postseason games. That was part of it, but I don't think it was all of it. I was in Washington, where the start times were better,sure, but the energy was better, too. Fans were rocking. Fans were also starving for their first real run of postseason success. There was a newness to it. I know there are some who got turned off by the Cardinals offense last season, but I know the attendance was still very strong on the season, and that there are also fans -- ones who rarely appear here but do attend games -- who appreciated that a team with a bad offense did everything else really, really well. Many teams -- at least the ones that are not tanking -- are worried about attendance. I don't think the Cardinals are one of them.
    Ben, talking hot stove Cardinals baseball is what the chats are all about, and something that I did regularly the past several years with Aaron Borchelt when he came back to his alma mater at Lutheran South to announce our basketball games. We will miss him greatly. And we cannot thank you enough for the wonderful article you wrote this past weekend about him to show people the great example that he set with his service to others. Here's my hope that the Cards win it all this year in his memory. Thanks again.
    Thanks for that, Mark.
    I always enjoyed my chats with Aaron.
    He would have been all over this Mizzou coaching search and today's introductory press conference of Eli Drinkwitz as well.
    The article was, to be honest, kind of a bit of closure for me.
    I'm really glad you and others enjoyed it. 
    Thanks.
    Anything new on the Astros situation? Any legs to the concerns of the stunning increase in spin rate for pitchers who join their team?
    I was hoping Manfred would drop the hammer here at Winter Meetings to make a statement, but if he hasn't done it yet, I'm not sure he will.
    The league initially hoped its investigation would be wrapped up by the start of this event. That might have been premature.
    We were just talking about the potential Astros Effect here yesterday.
    I would not sign a single Astros free agent until the details of this investigation are sorted out. Pitchers. Hitters. Anything.
    If you do, and the player doesn't perform as well, you would be wondering what you didn't know.
    This is what Manfred meant when he said this deals with the integrity of the game.
    So many things are affected.
    It was really wild to hear former Cardinals first baseman and now Yankees slugger Luke Voit share on a recent podcast with Tim McKernan that players were just waiting for the Astros to be cracked down upon by the league.
    If a team is so willing to bend and break the rules so boldly, what else is that team willing to do? How could you not let that keep you away from those Houston free-agents for a while?
  • Redbirds still need a lefthanded power bat. Was Moose ever on the radar - and who remains as potential targets?
    Moustakas signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Reds, becoming their biggest free-agent signing in club history.
    He wasn't on the Cardinals radar like that.
    That was pretty significant -- and risky -- commitment to a guy who went back-to-back single year contracts last season.
    When the Cardinals fully committed to Matt Carpenter's bounce-back as the third-base starter, something Mozeliak doubled down on yesterday, Moustakas became a longshot for the Cardinals.
     
    Everyone is talking about the left-handed bat, but I'll play my usual Debbie Downer role.
    Does anyone remember the last time the Cardinals said they wanted a left-handed bat? It turned out to be Drew Robinson. You might not even remember Drew Robinson. He was the guy they picked up in trade for Patrick Wisdom. He was supposed to be a versatile bench guy with a left-handed pop. He was outperformed by Yairo Munoz, and then he got hurt.
     
    Mozeliak did not say yesterday that the team has to add anything. He mentioned "opportunities that we can have a better understanding of", reminded that the finish line is not Thursday and also said this: "We are probably internally a little more bullish on what we are seeing than how other people are looking at it."
     
    I said going in that this was likely going to be a quiet Winter Meetings for the Cardinals. I still feel that way.
     
     
     
    I keep seeing the Cards are in on Bumgardner, but if he is seeking $100 over 5 or more years, doesn't this seem like a another bad contract that will hurt the team later?
    Yes, that would seem to be another contract that could have the chance to handcuff the Cardinals, something they have too many of at the moment already.  Here's a MadBum question that few mention: Why are the Giants letting him walk with nothing more than a qualifying offer they knew would be rejected? Why should a team who does not know him like the Giants know him jump at the chance to pay him what the Giants didn't even consider? I just think you can get 30-year-old Madison Bumgarner performance on much less limiting contract, even if the name is not as known.
    How surprised are you that Mizzou hired a head coach with only one year of experience coaching division 1 football?
    I'm less surprised by the hire than the salary. $4 million is substantial for such a short track record as a head coach. $4 million is what Lane Kiffin is making, more or less, at Ole Miss. Drinkwitz is a name football minds like a lot. He knows offense. No doubt there. However, his one season as a head coach he won with players he had not recruited. There's just a lot of unknown, and a lot of money. I think Mizzou had to pay more because of the Arkansas opening -- Drinkwitz was also tied to that job -- and because of the instability that showed when Sterk had his initial list of names rejected by the curators. Mizzou is attempting to do a bit of damage control on that, and I don't blame it. I'm also not buying it. Drinkwitz was not on the initial list the curators kicked back. So, he was not the first choice. I'm sure he had questions about the friction between the curators and Sterk, and I'm sure $4 million and a sign of support by the curators -- some came to see him -- helped ease his mind. Drinkwitz probably won't sell a ton of season tickets because of his press conference, but he could be a great hire. He could also be in over his head. Impossible to know with just one year of head coaching another coach's players at App State under his belt.
    Any traction to the rumors about Mad Bam
    The Cardinals like the pitcher. I don't think they will like the price.
    Front office made a mistake with Carp,so he gets off to his usual slow slow start to the season,when do they say opps,and go another direction.Not only offensively,but his arm is shot also.Anyone notice the Cards took off when Edmunds started playing......Kinda like Fowler,have to play there mistakes and the big contracts.Comment?
  • People will not like this answer.
    That the Cardinals are so willing to shrug off Carpenter's lost 2019 should give you a good hint as to their patience level if he starts slow again.
    They are going to be more patient than the rest of us.
    The Cardinals have labeled Carpenter's slide an "outlier"  even though it dates back to September of 2018.
    Factoring into this hope is their belief in him -- he's a longtime, beloved player to the organization along with Molina and Wainwright -- and the contract extension they handed him, something they certainly would not do over again if they could go back in time, he's going to have to really be bad (again) for the Cardinals to turn the page next season.
    Fowler's contract and Carpenter's extension were the two we wondered if the Cardinals might try to find a way to offload, even if expensive, this offseason. A popular notion was they would pick one to move on from. That was wrong. They seem, as of today, quite committed to both.
    Any chance the Cardinals try to trade for Matthew Boyd, Caleb Smith or Robbie Ray?
    Proven left-handed starters who can handle a good amount of innings should all be considered of potential interest to the Cardinals. Free agent and trades. That was pretty clear from Mozeliak's comments yesterday. I don't know that it's southpaw or bust, but Mozeliak did mention it as a "tie-breaker" considering the right-handed lean of the rotation as is.
    Since we shouldn't expect anything to materialize during these winter meetings, and knowing that you cannot divulge any specifics that you may know of, can you provide specific positions(LF, RF, SP, RP etc.) that you know the Cardinals have investigated
    Dallas Keuchel was a potential fit for the Cardinals last season and could be again.
    P-D colleague Derrick Goold, who is not one who just throws names out there, mentioned Nomar Mazara of the Texas Rangers as a name to know. The southpaw swinger is good for 20 homers a year but has never posted an OPS of .800 or above.
    A lot of chatters are asking about Joc Pederson of the Dodgers. Nice power (36 homers last season) with a career-high OPS (.876) in a 2019 season that included a career-high at-bats (450). That's a good sign. Here's a concerning one. Joc slashed just .224/.240/.265 against left-handed pitching last season. He mashes righties and shrivels against lefties, so much so he had just 50 plate appearances against LHP last season.
    Mozelaik said he's not interested in a platoon fit, so that would seem to suggest against Pederson -- unless Cardinals are OK with those bad splits.
    With the Cardinals prefering a wait-and-see approach, I'm not sure how they find and land an outfielder that they feel better about than their long list of internal options at the position.
    At the end-of-season presser, Mozeliak kind of pushed back against the notion of trading some of his young outfielders because he said that was, in part, what 2020 was about -- sorting through these guys to find out who is the future.
    He said Monday that some might have to be traded before their future is known, a bit of an altered stance. I do wonder, still, if there's a name and trade partner out there that makes them decide to pull that trigger.
     
    Congratulations to Ted Simmons, the honor is way past due...Ben, who would you have batting 4th assuming the position players don't change from the current roster?
    Amen.
    It was really, really cool to see Simmons celebrate here Monday.
    His family was thrilled. He was so happy and generous with his time. Everyone I talked with who listened to his comments were moved by them.
    He was grace in a uniform and hat.
     
    I guess it would be Goldschmidt for cleanup?
    There are not any easy answers right now.
    And yes, that's a problem.
    How Goldschmidt will be protected or left exposed in a lineup that lacks Ozuna is a big story line moving forward -- unless the Cardinals add some proven offense.
    A lot of hope -- that Carpenter bounces back, that Goldschmidt improves with less proven protection in the lineup, that Paul DeJong and others take steps forward -- baked into the current situation.
    What exactly do the Cardinals envision as John Gant's most likely role for 2020?
    Competing for a spot in the bullpen.
    Had an All-Star-like first half, but the bottom dropped out.
    Worth seeing if he can rebound and sustain -- or get the best out of him before it happens again.
     
    It's not that I'm not open to seeing what Lane Thomas can do, but it's hard to hear them promote him this offseason when they wouldn't let him play when the need was there in CF last year. And it's sure easy for them to spread optimism now when fans didn't get a long enough look at him to form an impression. Was that their goal?
  • I hear you. There has been much optimism sold about the young guns, but where was that optimism when certain returning outfielders struggled at the major league level last season? I get that they will be a year older now, but you're right to point to a bit of a public-relations pivot. It's very hard at times to get a feel for how Mozeliak would rank the up and coming outfielders not named Carlson. A trade would force him to decide.
    What do you make of the Petro to Toronto trade rumors?
    I don't know why a defending champion team that is still very much in a championship window, and has made moves that act upon that window, would trade the first captain to win a Stanley Cup.  Especially when he is playing this well. Doesn't add up to me. Same reason I don't think Blues GM Doug Armstrong will trade Jake Allen -- unless he gets a desperate deal that upgrades the current team after another team's goalie gets hurt.
    Joc Pederson seems very acquire-able, hits lefty, good be a platooned, this seems a no brainer, what’s the holdup
    DG asked Mozeliak specifically if he was looking at platoon LH-hitting outfielder types, and he said he would prefer more of an everyday option. I'm not sure you want Pederson every day considering his concerning splits. Do like his power though. Cardinals lost more than they seem willing to admit in Ozuna -- if he does take a deal elsewhere, which is still the expectation.
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