Monday Morning GM: And Now Pitching…

After a rough start last week against the Orioles (1-2), the Cardinals played much better against the Giants (2-1). And like the previous week, the team was very inconsistent. The bad series against the O’s was pretty weird; the team out scored Baltimore 15-9, but the losses were 1 and 2 runs, while blowing out the win by 9. The Giants were out scored 21-15, but it was all or nothing in those games; an 8-2 loss in game one, then 4-0 and 15-6 victories.

Rather then rehashing the same problems again (Albert Pujols vs righties, Corey Dickerson, Paul DeJong – more on him in the news section though – Tyler O’Neill), let’s have a little fun. Pujols proved some versatility after 20 years in the game – he pitched an inning in Sunday’s blowout against the Giants. The Cardinals and the Giants had fun with it.

Adam Wainwright, who started the game and became half of the winningest SP/C battery in baseball history with Yadier Molina, tweeted his teammate.

Giants Manager Gabe Kapler told the media after the game “I thought it was just great theater. Obviously, their fans loved it, and I’m sure their dugout was hanging on every pitch. We all had a lot of fun with it. It was the right time to kind of let go of the negative outcomes of the game and get involved in the fun of it. … You get to create a memory for people and I’m sure Albert is never going to forget that. Our hitters are never going to forget it. They got to face Albert Pujols on the mound.”

Pujols gave up 4 runs on 3 hits (2 of which were homers) and a walk; not a strong showing, but he never let the game get away from him. He also moved into second place onto the list of most homers hit by a player with at least 1.0 innings pitched with the feat. The corpse of Babe Ruth probably doesn’t need to worry though.

This Week
The Cardinals have full week with 4 games at the Mets and 3 at the Pirates. The Mets are playing really well right now, so this will be a test for the team; they are 1-2 against them this season. The Pirates, coming off a win with no hits on Sunday, are 2-1 versus the Cardinals this season.

Cardinals News
There really wasn’t much bigger news then DeJong being optioned to minors last week. DeJong has struggled now for 2 seasons and something had to be done. It was surprising in as much that the Cardinals have a history of stashing struggling players on the end of the bench rather then demoting and/or releasing them. Look at Dickerson right now. It’s also surprising that they still had the ability to option him; DeJong had 4.127 years of MLB service time with options remaining. MLB rules are players with 5 years or more of service time cannot be optioned without passing through waivers and the player accepting the assignment. There is still hope that DeJong can turn things around, but his batting profile (high K%, low BB%) isn’t one of long term success.

There are people talking about trading him; I’m willing to guess that there aren’t many teams clamoring for a career .237 hitter that strikes out 25% of the team and has been on a downward spiral for a few years. The only trade possibility would be to take on a bad contract, and that wouldn’t help this team.

It was a weird off-season, so reporting this now seems even more weird: the Cardinals defeated Tyler O’Neill in their arbitration hearing on Wednesday and will pay the outfielder $3.4M. O’Neill was seeking $4.15M in his first year of arbitration. O’Neill admitted last week that he was ready to get past the hearing, but it wasn’t a reason he’s started slow this season. We’ll see if that’s true; if his production goes back to normal, you’d have to assume it was on his mind during games.

Wainwright (Covid) and Drew VerHagen (hip) both came off the IL over the weekend. Jake Woodford and Packy Naughton, who filled in for Wainwright, were both optioned to Memphis. Woodford hasn’t seen much time this year, which is a shame since he’s the best option to fill in for the rotation.

And to end the news on a down note, Alex Reyes‘ return from an shoulder injury has hit a snag; the pitcher’s throwing program has been shut down. Reyes has already had an MRI done and the team is seeking a second opinion; don’t expect him back any time soon. This is another disappointing hit for the apparently doomed former prospect.

Cardinal Rumors
Jim Bowden made waves with Cardinals fans last week when he suggested the team could be in on Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox (this was before the DeJong demotion). While Bogaerts does have a few years left on his contract, but he also has an opt out clause for after the season that he’s very likely to use. The Red Sox will be asking for a lot for Bogaerts, as in Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker, or Matthew Liberatore as a starting point. The Cardinals are likely to pass on that, even with him waiving the opt out or signing an extension; they haven’t really dealt any big prospects outside of Sandy Alcantara, and he was borderline top 10 in the system when they dealt him.

And while Bowden did report he could be available, Bogaerts stated to the media that’s he’s open to an in-season extension with the team; originally, he said he wouldn’t negotiate past spring training. I’m guessing since the potential trade reports have come out, he’s more willing to talk with Boston.

Former Cardinals
Here’s a rundown on former Cardinals.

  • Chris Ellis (RHP, Orioles) was on here a few weeks ago, as the Orioles placed him on the 15-day IL and announced his season was over. They officially moved him to the 60-day IL this week to clear out a roster spot.
  • Jose Godoy (C, Twins) has been optioned to the minors…again. It appears he’s a permanent fixture on their Triple A shuttle, at least until they use his option 5 times.
  • Kevin Herget (RHP, Free Agent) signed a minor league deal with the Rays; he spent the last few seasons in the Guardian’s organization.
  • Ildemaro Vargas (IF, Cubs) had his contract purchased by the Cubs; the infielder re-signed on a minor league deal with the Cubs after he was out-righted off the roster after 2021.
  • Luke Voit (1B, Padres) returned from the IL; the first baseman returned from a bicep tendon injury. He’s primarily been a DH for the Padres this season, and not an entirely good one (.143/315/.167 in 54 plate appearances).

Long-Term Options at Shortstop
It’s obvious that DeJong isn’t the option at shortstop for the Cardinals, but is there something in the system?

Tommy Edman is the fan favorite. I’m still convinced that he’s an everyday player. His numbers last season started to decrease as the season went on; coincidently, it’s the first full MLB season he’s had (a partial rookie season and a Covid impacted system). Maybe he was tired; maybe he becomes over-exposed the more he plays (a la Jon Jay). Either way, he’s a guy that would benefit a day or 2 off during the week. Pairing him with Edmundo Sosa would be the best short term option. You could also mix Brandon Donovan in too; all 3 are not regulars but good support options.

Looking a little more long term, at Memphis you have Kramer Robertson and Evan Mendoza; neither has MLB experience and neither have been considered real prospects. Delvin Perez is at Springfield, but the former first rounder hasn’t fully come around with the bat. His best season was probably 2021, his first season in Springfield. Unfortunately, he’s regressed this season to .198 batting average. Masyn Winn is at Peoria and he’s probably the heir apparent; he’s having a great season, but is only 19 and probably won’t be ready until 2024.

If the team wants to hit the free agent market after the season, the top option is Trea Turner; he’s as good as any option that was available this past off-season, if not better. Bogaerts and Carlos Correa both have opt outs and could be available, while Tim Anderson has an option with the White Sox. You then drop to Dansby Swanson and Didi Gregorius as the best available guys. Gregorius might be the only option, as the others listed will command a multi-year deal and the Cardinals won’t want to block Winn at this point.

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