Cardinals conduct 2016 season self-analysis
General Manager John Mozeliak and Manager Mike Matheny met with the media this past Wednesday for the annual end of season press conference. In the presser, a self-analysis of what went wrong in the 2016 season as well as a discussion of what improvements will be sought in the offseason, was revealed to the media in attendance. The Cardinals fell one game short of a spot in the postseason and seek to address those areas that contributed to the postseason miss for the first time since 2010.
Mozeliak emphasized improving the defense and increasing athleticism in the form of speed and improved base running skills as the priorities. The Cardinals as a team ranked 26th out of 30 clubs in Defensive Runs Above Average, and dead last in base running per Fangraphs’ BsR stat. Mozeliak stated that the Cardinals’ attempts at aggressiveness on the bases turned into recklessness and the defensive miscues stressed a mostly ground ball pitching staff.
Mozeliak indicated the possibility of a “healthy turnover” of the 2016 roster in the offseason to address the needed improvements. The free agent market in the 2016-17 offseason is quite thin; therefore the trade market will likely be the area of most concentration. Subtractions from the major league roster in trades to address the needs may be necessary, according to Mozeliak.
The Cardinals GM addressed the outfield, specifically center field, as a particular area of concentration for a defensive upgrade. Upgrading center field would allow Randal Grichuk to move to left field, thereby upgrading two positions. Right field is set with Stephen Piscotty, and with Matt Holliday’s option to be declined, left field is open for Grichuk to assume should an upgrade for center be found.
Mozeliak also stressed finding a permanent position for Matt Carpenter and prioritizing playing time for Kolten Wong at second base, who profiles as an above average defender at that position. Carpenter, who has played three positions, third base, second base, and first base, profiles as a below average defender at both third and second. That leaves first base as a likely landing spot for Carpenter, although that would depend on what offseason moves are made and how all the remaining pieces fit.
Aledmys Diaz appears set at shortstop. Third base could be manned by either Jhonny Peralta or Jedd Gyorko, the latter who could also receive some playing time at second base.
Decisions looming on several players
The Cardinals have several decisions to make in the coming weeks regarding the return or not of several players from the 2016 roster for the 2017 season. The Cardinals hold team options on three players, outfielder Matt Holliday, and pitchers Jaime Garcia and Jordan Walden. Also to be considered is the future of free agent Brandon Moss; the Cardinals will need to decide whether to try to re-sign him, or if they let him go to free agency, whether to tender him a Qualifying Offer.
The Cardinals have already indicated they are not likely to exercise Holliday’s option. The Cardinals could consider making Holliday a reduced offer to return in some capacity, probably as a bench player, but that possibility has not been indicated to be on the table at this point.
Jordan Walden, acquired by the Cardinals in the Jason Heyward trade with the Braves, has spent the vast majority of his two-year contract on the disabled list. Given the uncertainties of Walden’s health, it is highly unlikely the Cardinals will exercise their 2017 option on his services.
As for Jaime Garcia, the exercising of his option is the impending decision to be made at the present time. The option is for $12 million or a $500,000 buyout and must be exercised within five days of the end of the World Series. Garcia did not finish on a good note, with a six game stretch at the end of the season during which he fought his mechanics, and had to be pulled from games early, which taxed the bullpen.
The Cardinals have the following returning choices for the rotation in 2017: Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake, Alex Reyes, Michael Wacha and Luke Weaver. Lance Lynn should be back after missing the 2016 season with Tommy John surgery and will also be solidly in the mix. Moreover, the Cardinals have other alternatives in 40-man roster pitchers Marco Gonzales and Tim Cooney, both returning after spending the 2016 season on the disabled list, and Tyler Lyons, who pitched out of the bullpen in 2016 until ending his season on the disabled list with a knee injury. Lyons is out of options and will have to be returned to the roster if no other disposition is made.
Given the Cardinals’ rotation depth, it is unclear whether the team will pick up Garcia’s option. Picking up the option could be beneficial to the Cardinals in bolstering the pitching depth, as well as making Garcia a potential trade chip.
Changes in field staff possible
Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold has reported that the Cardinals intend to review the makeup of the coaching staff in the coming week. Jose Oquendo, who spent the entire 2016 season rehabbing from knee surgery, will likely not return as the third base coach, but will instead continue instructing young players in Florida. What that means for the 2017 coaching staff is yet to be determined.
At the top of the list with respect to field staff is the contract status of Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Matheny has one more year remaining on the contract extension he signed in 2013. General Manager John Mozeliak confirmed to the media that he expects to have discussions with Matheny this offseason on a new contract. No other details concerning when such discussions will take place and the length of any possible extension were revealed.
Mozeliak told the media no decisions have yet been made on the makeup of Matheny’s coaching staff, but he expects those decisions to be finalized within the coming week.
Matheny’s coaching staff consists of bench coach David Bell, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, hitting coaches John Mabry and Derrick May, first base coach Bill Mueller, and third base coach Chris Maloney, who took over in the absence of Oquendo. Also on the coaching staff are bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley and bullpen catcher Jamie Pogue.
Decision on hacking investigation expected
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters this past week that a decision on penalties for the Cardinals in the hacking investigation will be forthcoming this offseason. Manfred stated the investigation took longer than planned but that they are in the process of wrapping it up shortly.
The Cardinals will likely face financial penalties at the very least as a result of former scouting director Chris Correa’s illegal intrusion into the database of the Houston Astros over a several year period. Correa is serving four years in federal prison for his criminal actions, and while MLB had hoped for Correa’s cooperation in its investigation, there has been no indication that such cooperation was granted. Manfred indicated the investigation was slowed by waiting for information from federal prosecutors, which apparently was long in coming.
Despite the length and difficulty of the investigation, Manfred fully expects a resolution during the offseason, though no firm date for such resolution has been given. In addition to likely financial penalties, the Commissioner has some latitude in fashioning other penalties as well.
Throughout the investigation, there has been no indication that any other member of the Cardinals front office, other than Correa, has been linked to the illegal intrusions.
Former Cardinals McGwire and Clark considered for Hall of Fame
It was announced this past week that 10 individuals have been named to the Today’s Game Era ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame, to be voted on in December. Former Cardinals player and coach Mark McGwire and former Cardinal Will Clark were among the 10 placed on the ballot.
The ten include, in addition to McGwire and Clark, former players Harold Baines, Albert Belle, and Orel Hershisher. Executives John Schuerholz, Bud Selig, and George Steinbrenner, and former managers Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella round out the 10 nominees.
The vote will take place on December 5th by the 16-member Game Era Committee, and any nominee receiving 75 percent of the votes will be inducted into the Hall of Fame - along with those on the current ballot as selected by the eligible voters of the BBWAA.
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.
In paper transactions, the Cardinals recalled C Michael Ohlman, OF Anthony Garcia, and P Marco Gonzales and Tim Cooney from the Memphis Redbirds. The four were the only members of the 40-man roster not already with St. Louis as the season came to a close.
There is no injury news to report.
Decisions on coaching staff for the 2017 season will likely be made in the coming weeks. No other roster transactions are expected to occur until after the end of the World Series in November.
Decisions to be made in November include whether to pick up the options on Matt Holliday, Jaime Garcia, and Jordan Walden. The options on Holliday and Walden will likely be declined. Also to be determined within five days of the end of the World Series is whether to extend a qualifying offer to free agent Brandon Moss.
Additionally, decisions on arbitration eligible players will need to be made by December 2. The Cardinals’arbitration eligible players are Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist and Michael Wacha.
The Winter Meetings are scheduled for December 5-8 in Washington, D.C.
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