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Cardinals Inventory, Review, Possibilities Before Winter Meetings, December 5-8, 2016

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
No postseason for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016 - a wake-up call for GM John Mozeliak and Manager Mike Matheny.

St. Louis Cardinals organization find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Free time on their hands in October, for team General Manager John Mozeliak and Manager Mike Matheny with falling one game short for the 2016 postseason. Mozeliak has not been in this position since the days of Manager Tony LaRussa in 2010. Which I feel the need to remind LaRussa fans, we closed that season 86-76/42-39 at home and 34-47 on the road. In 2016, also, 86-76/38-43 at home and 48-33 on the road. Many Cardinals fans have blamed Matheny for this season. It's baseball and down season's happen to the best of managers. This is Matheny's first season, since being signed as manager in 2012, the Cardinals have not been in the playoffs.  

Mozeliak, Matheny and coaching staff 'taking inventory':

Arbitration-eligible (AE): RHP Trevor Rosenthal, 1B Matt Adams, RHP Seth Maness, RHP Carlos Martinez, LHP Kevin Siegrist, RHP Michael Wacha

Save Adams (2nd Yr AE), in my opinion, the rest of the "AE" listed will return with the team. Very possibly an extension will be offered to starter Carlos Martinez. Both sides are agreeable for future talks. This would be his first year (2017) as arbitration eligible. An extension contract would be a minimum for 5 yrs/$ ??? MM. Market bargain basement deal, I feel, should be at least $35 MM. Rosenthal, did not receive an extension last season, even with 45-48 saves in 2014-2015 respectively. He was signed for 1 yr/$5.6 MM for his first arbitration eligible season. Now AE in 2017, year #2, with his struggles in 2016; and, on the DL for a shoulder issue, I presume the Cardinals will offer matched deal for his 2017 season. Along with Martinez, Maness, Siegrist and Wacha enter their first year of AE in 2017. Surprisingly to me, because seems like Michael Wacha has been with the organization far longer. With a recurrence of his rare shoulder strain of 2014, which placed him on the DL most of that season; only to be relived in 2016, the Cardinals do expect him back as a starter. However, I believe his 2017 will be a one year deal to see AE again in 2018. I look for Maness and Siegrist to, also, sign a one year contract. Maness will return to the 2017 Spring training after his 2016 season-ending elbow surgery. Siegrist spent time on the DL this season. No arm issues in 2016, but diagnosised with mononucleosis. However, he had been sidelined in the past for forearm issues during the very late portion of the 2015 season.     

Free agents: 1B/OF Brandon Moss, RHP Jerome Williams

Brandon Moss, came to the Cardinals at the 2015 trade deadline from the Cleveland Indians. Working to get timing and strength back from his hip surgery the season prior, his impact was lacking. However, his versatility at first base and in the outfield was a plus. He was signed for a 1 yr/$8.250 MM through 2016. He was cleared in the 2015 offseason for full workouts, which specifically working to regain his leg strength brought his timing at the plate back in perspective. Moss did have 28 HR/67 RBI/19-2B/2-3B on 93 hits/413 AB along with 141 SO for his .225 BA/.484 SLG. However, recorded a .300 OBP/.784 OPS. Just prior to the All Star break,  July 5, 2016, he was placed on the 15-Day DL (sprained right ankle), holding .256 BA. When he returned, August 2, he brought a hot bat with him with a slash line, .272/.310/.553/.863 for the month. What appeared to be a strong rebound, left as quickly as it was found. In September, he logged a .084/.163/.193/.356. In October, he rebounded; but, with only two games left in the season to make a decisive return, with a .250 BA/.333 OBP/.375 SLG/.708 OPS. Do players have slumps, yes they do. However, everyone looking for the Cardinals to be in postseason seemed to rest all the weight on Moss's shoulders being 9-91 at-bats. Sorry folks, but one player does not make or break a teams season record. 

But, now, what does the future hold for the 33 year old. He has indicated he would like to stay with the Cardinals. Will they approach the one year qualifying offer, $16.7 MM for 2017? That would double his salary of last season. Should he decline and take his chances in the free agency market, the Cardinals would gain a first round draft pick - should he go to a team that is required to give up that pick to sign him. Or, will they offer him a two year deal to keep his versatility with the team; and, I feel, a bat that poses a threat at the plate. 

In my opinion, the Cardinals let Williams walk. The 34 year old was signed to a minor league contract with the Cardinals Memphis Triple-A system. He was called up to join the team, July 30, and placed in the bullpen. With his 10 years in the majors, I'm sure he was able to share valuable information with the younger pitchers. Experience brings insight, for sure. However, pitching 17.1 innings, allowing 4 HR/11 ER and 22 runs scored on his watch, his healthy 5.71 ERA will be allowed to find a new home in free agency.

Options to consider: OF Matt Holliday, LHP Jaime Garcia, RHP Jordan Walden

Is was announced that the Cardinals organization would not pickup the $17 MM option for LF Matt Holliday in 2017. He made a grand statement, being activated from the DL (fractured thumb) to suit up with the team during their last series this season against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He slugged out his first career pinch hitter home run (Game One); and, single RBI (Game Two). He made a field appearance in Game Three to say good-bye to Cardinals fans. A final good-bye? On a long shot, as the 36 year old Holliday feels he still has at least two more good years in him, a lesser contract could be on the table for two more seasons. $17 MM for the two? As much as many would like to see Holliday back, I have a feeling he will sign with an American League team as a designated hitter. With back-to-back seasons dealing with injury, (2015-quad strain, 2016-right thumb), I'm not sure the Cardinals want to take a chance for two more seasons. He turns 37 this coming January. 

Jaime Garcia, injury ridden throughout his career, second to 2016, the last he played in 32 games was in 2011 in which he made a full 32 starts. This past season he started in 30 games, 10-13/4.67 ERA/171.2 IP. In 2015, hampered by a hamstring injury which placed him on the 15-Day DL, he made 20 games starts, 10-6/2.43 ERA with 129.2 IP; and, the Cardinals did exercise his option, $11.5 MM, for 2016. Now, they are faced with making the decision for 2017/$12 MM option; or, buyout of $500,000. Interesting to note, regarding his last start against the Cincinnati Reds. He threw 1 IP for 2 HR/2 ER, which at the time I thought a bit odd to have him retired from the mound. Fans had witnessed many a game where runs were given up early by our starters. 

Per ESPN Player Profile: "Spin: Brandon Phillips stole third base off Garcia, who didn't appear to look him back at all, and that may have been the real reason why Garcia wasn't even allowed back for the second inning -- after all, he threw just 21 pitches and worse first innings have been endured. Garcia hasn't won a game since Aug. 16; in eight starts since, he has a 7.36 ERA, 1.64 WHIP and 0-5 record. His season will all but certainly end with a 4.67 ERA in 32 starts, the worst mark of his career as a regular starter."

Do the Cardinals pickup his 2017 option, then trade him off? A package with Matt Adams; along with J Garcia? I don't see a whole lot of value coming back; but, I'm not in the drivers seat. Or, is J Garcia allowed to walk, as he is a free agent in 2017. 

Third on the list, pitcher Jordan Walden, 2017 option $5.250 M, with $250,000 buyout. He was a part of the trade package with RF Jason Heyward from the Atlanta Braves. Cardinals have only seen a very small sampling from the six year veteran. In 2015, he pitched in April making 12 relief appearances, 10.1 IP/1 ER/4-BB/12 SO for a 0.87 ERA. Impressive and exciting to watch this gem that had been added to our bullpen. However, his career came to a halt with rotor-cup issues, no surgery to date; but, even with rehab assignments, the injury has not allowed his return. A few times that were hopeful, were dashed only to find he has a tear of the lat muscle of the shoulder. Still rehab was prescribed. Now, we look to 2017. Will he be ready for Spring training? It was thought to be in 2016, but trying to reach his velocity, which had been clocked in the past close to three figures, only aggravated his situation. Career: 3.00 ERA/266 SO. 

CARDINALS BEHIND THE MOUND

There are more considerations to be discussed and evaluations made. For one, reportedly moving CF Randal Grichuk (Pre-Arb) to left field and searching for a centerfielder with an arm and a bat. They look to keep Stephen Piscotty (Pre-Arb) in rightfield. Infield, with the versatility of Matt Carpenter, 1B, 2B, 3B; Jedd Gyorko, 2B and 3B, along with Jhonny Peralta, 3B, Kolton Wong 2B, the Cardinals have options should Brandon Moss return; and/or, if 1B Matt Adams is kept on the payroll. Utility infielder Greg Garcia, 2B-SS-3B, will come off the bench. Well, in my plan. Aledmys Diaz, shortstop, has earned his position and will be Cardinals everyday player in 2017. His international contract has him locked in through 2017, being paid $2.5 MM for next season. Pitching will be a key for 2017. The Cardinals look to regain the strength of rotation they saw in 2015; along, with an encouraging offense in 2016 to be stronger in 2017. It's a must. They were major contributors to the 2016 baffling home stand record. 

For more about the Cardinals rotation, feel free to check out my blog: "Cardinals 2016 Home Record Still Baffles All ~ Pitching May Very Well Be A Clue

For now ~ the press conference a few days ago with Cardinals GM John Mozeliak and Manager Mike Matheny.

The MLB Winter Meetings are scheduled for December 5-8, this year, near Washington D.C. "The Winter Meetings are an annual event, held each December, in which representatives of all 30 Major League Baseball teams and their 160 minor league baseball affiliates convene for four days to discuss league business and conduct off-season trades and transactions. Attendees include league executives, team owners, general managers, team scouts, visitors from baseball-playing countries, trade show exhibitors, and people seeking employment with minor league organizations. The Rule 5 Draft, in which minor league players who are not on a team's 40-man roster can be drafted by a major league team, is held on the last day of the meetings." (Wikipedia.com)

Of course, nothing of significance will even begin to be considered until five days after the final game of the 2016 World Series - by any team. Hints to what may lay ahead will surface regarding the Cardinals. I'm just waiting; and anticipating, for the 'new and improved' 2017 season and beyond for my St. Louis Cardinals. And, per Jenifer Langosch, MLB.com, an in-depth look of the Cardinals review and thoughts for the upcoming season. 

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