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A recap of St. Louis Cardinals-related news from the period of November 30-December 6, 2015

Four Cardinals became former Cardinals this past week, while a new Cardinal was acquired. Four arbitration eligible Cardinals were tendered contracts for the 2016 season, and one member of the 2015 starting rotation seeks his fortunes with the Chicago Cubs.

Cruz traded

The 2016 contract tender deadline for arbitration eligible players on Dec. 2 brought changes to the look of the St. Louis Cardinals roster.  Three Cardinals will not be returning. Tony Cruz, the backup to catcher Yadier Molina for the past four seasons, was traded before the tender deadline to the Kansas City Royals for minor league infielder Jose Martinez.  Cruz had a career major league slash line of .220/.262/.310 in 633 PAs, and is expected to be the reserve behind Royals backstop Salvador Perez.

Pena signed

To replace Cruz, the Cardinals signed free agent catcher Brayan Pena.  The 33 year-old Pena spent the last two seasons with National League Central rival the Cincinnati Reds, playing both behind the dish and at first base.  Pena had a 2015 slash line of .273/.334/.324 and shared catching duties with rookie catcher Tucker Barnhart following the season-ending injury to starting catcher Devin Mesoraco.

Bourjos claimed

Two other arbitration eligible Cardinals are moving on for the 2016 season.  Outfielder Peter Bourjos was claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies, and was signed to a one year, $2 million dollar contract within hours of the announcement of the claim.   The Phillies had the worst record in both leagues in 2015, which put them first in line to make the waiver claim. 

Bourjos came to the Cardinals in a trade with the Angels in 2013, for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas, a trade which also brought the Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk.  Bourjos underperformed with the bat early in 2014 and lost his starting job to the better hitting Jon Jay.  Bourjos subsequently was relegated to a fifth outfielder role behind Grichuk and Jay, and later also to Memphis outfielder Tommy Pham, who was brought up to the Cardinals in the second half of the 2015 season. 

Bourjos joins a Phillies club with much less outfield depth, and will likely see more playing time than he did with the Cardinals, though whether his status will be as a starting outfielder or a reserve outfielder is unclear.

Cishek non-tendered

In addition to Bourjos, reliever Steve Cishek is moving on.  Cishek was not tendered a contract by the Cardinals by the deadline and has now become a free agent.  Cishek was acquired prior to the trade deadline in July from the Miami Marlins in exchange for minor league relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough.  Cichek pitched 23 1/3 innings in relief for the Cardinals, primarily as a setup man, and had an ERA of 2.31.  Cishek had mixed results as a reliever with the Cardinals; even though his ERA was excellent, Cishek walked a high five batters per nine innings in his short time with the Cardinals.  Cishek is now a free agent, and can sign with any other MLB team for the 2016 season.

Second suspension ends Stanley’s time with Cards

The Cardinals also cut ties with minor league catcher Cody Stanley by not tendering him a contract for next season.  Stanley had a cup of coffee with the Cardinals in 2015, but was suspended for 80 games under MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement for a second positive test for PEDs.  The 26 year-old is now a free agent but still has to complete his suspension.

Four Cardinals returning

The Cardinals did tender contracts for the 2016 season to outfielder/first baseman Brandon Moss, first baseman Matt Adams and relievers Seth Maness and Trevor Rosenthal.  Both Moss and Adams should see playing time at first in 2016, barring the acquisition of another player at the position, and Moss could also see some time in the outfield, depending on how the outfield depth looks when the 2016 season starts.  Rosenthal has been the closer for the Cardinals for the past two seasons and is expected to continue in that role.  Maness has been primarily a setup man for Rosenthal.

Lackey the Cub

Former Cardinals’ starting pitcher and free agent John Lackey signed a two year contract, reportedly worth $32 million dollars, with the Chicago Cubs.  Lackey came to the Cardinals in a 2014 mid-season trade with the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly.  Lackey pitched 218 regular season innings and 10 1/3 postseason innings for the Cardinals in 2015.  Lackey had a 13-10 record and a 2.77 ERA in 2015.  Lackey was the winning pitcher in the Cardinals’ only postseason victory in 2015, Game 1 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. 

Given Lackey’s success as a Cardinal and the poor performances of Craig and Kelly with the Red Sox, both of whom were sent down to the Red Sox Triple-A Club in 2015, the trade is considered a huge win for the Cardinals.  The Cardinals made Lackey a qualifying offer at the end of 2015, which he declined. That brought them a supplemental first round draft pick in 2016, while the Cubs forfeit their first-rounder. Though rumor had it that the Cardinals were making an effort to re-sign Lackey, if so, that effort was unsuccessful and Lackey is now with the Cubs for the next two seasons.

Kozma in pinstripes

Former Cardinals’ infielder Pete Kozma signed a minor league deal this past week with the New York Yankees.  Kozma was the first round draft pick of the Cardinals in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.  Kozma possesses an above average glove, but has been a lackluster offensive performer in the majors  In 689 major league plate appearances with the Cardinals in five full or partial seasons, Kozma slashed .222/.288/.293.

Matheny honored

In non-roster news, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was among 11 honorees at the annual Musial Awards in St. Louis. Matheny was honored for his book, The Matheny Manifesto, in which Matheny gives advice and instruction to parents of kids involved in youth sports. 

The Musial Awards, named after Cardinal legend Stan Musial, have been an annual event since 2012.  The awards will be aired on KSDK-TV in St. Louis on December 16 at 7 pm CST, with an encore airing on Christmas Day, December 25, at noon CST.

Trade and Acquisition Rumors

It was reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that the Cardinals were runners-up in the bid for the services of pitcher David Price.  Price signed with the Boston Red Sox on November 30 for seven years, $217 million dollars, a record deal for a pitcher at the time, until it was surpassed in average annual value (AAV) by Zack Greinke in a six year, $206 million dollar deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks several days later.  It is unknown what the Cardinals offer to Price entailed, though it is believed to have been in the neighborhood of $190 million dollars.

Derrick Goold, Cardinals’ beat writer for the Post-Dispatch, reports that the Cardinals have “looked at” pitcher Mike Leake and discussed pitcher Jeff Samardzija  in their efforts to obtain starting pitching to replace injured Lance Lynn in the rotation.  Samardzjia is now off the board, having signed a five year, $90 million dollar deal with the San Francisco Giants this past week.  Leake is still available, though the extent of the Cardinals’ interest in him is unknown.

Transactions

The St. Louis Cardinals signed free agent C Brayan Pena.

The St. Louis Cardinals traded C Tony Cruz to the Kansas City Royals for SS Jose Martinez.

C Cody Stanley elected free agency.

RHP Steve Cishek elected free agency.

The Philadelphia Phillies claimed CF Peter Bourjos off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Injury Report

There is no new injury news to report.

Looking Ahead

The Winter Meetings are scheduled to begin on Monday, December 7 in Nashville, TN.  The Cardinals are expected to be major players in trades and acquisitions during the meetings, which last four days and are a significant hub of offseason activity for major league clubs. 

The Cardinals are seeking a starting pitcher and a bat, and are continuing their effort to re-sign outfielder Jason Heyward, whose market has been slow to develop.  Look for the Cardinals to make moves to improve the roster during the meetings, as they are reported to be ready to take “an aggressive approach” there. The Cardinals are looking to both the free agent and market and the trade market in their efforts to improve the club.

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