Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak addressed reporters on the field at Busch Stadium on Tuesday prior to his team’s game against the Astros. He declined to give any kind of percentage guess as to his club’s chances of getting a deal done by Sunday afternoon, but he did offer a few insights into where the Redbirds stand five days before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The Cards have made it clear all along that pitching is their priority, without specifying what sort of pitching. Mozeliak said Tuesday that things may be narrowing a bit in that regard.
“We’re still exploring both [starters and relievers],” he said. “But when it comes down to it, I think the reliever market’s got more opportunities.”
He also acknowledged that left-handed relief is one specific area where St. Louis could upgrade, but warned reporters not to “overweight” that need.
As for money, the Cardinals certainly aren’t looking to take on extra payroll, but they’re in a position where they could. It’s something of a sliding scale, where the better the prospects a team gives up, the less money it may have to take on. But if it comes to it, and the Cardinals need to add to their payroll, they could.
“There’s a spectrum of things that are occurring, and that’s some of the equation,” Mozeliak said.
That could, conceivably, even include adding to the 2012 payroll, though that’s much more complicated than 2011, given the uncertainty surrounding Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter among others.
The Cardinals also have five starters (Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, Kyle McClellan and Adam Wainwright) under team control or under contract for 2012, plus the potential to bring back Carpenter. Still, Mozeliak said that doesn’t necessarily preclude them adding a starting pitcher who is under contract for ’12 — but reason dictates that it’s hard to envision that happening.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took a decidedly relaxed approach on Wednesday when asked about potential moves his club might make. With the non-waiver Trade Deadline 11 days away, La Russa was asked whether his team needed an injection of talent to make it to the postseason.
In some past years, La Russa has stumped for an addition to his team. On Wednesday, however, he acknowledged the difficulty of acquiring desirable players.
“All we need is the best effort,” he said. “And if nothing transpires, then win with what you have.
“Try. If there’s one guy you identify, I guarantee you there’s a half a dozen clubs going after him. … As long as they try, if they don’t do anything, then things could work out and we could win with this club.”
As for specific areas of addition, one that continues to draw attention is right-handed relief. La Russa acknowledged Wednesday that Eduardo Sanchez’s return from a shoulder injury is uncertain, but said that won’t necessarily affect the club’s approach.
“We’ve had [Lance] Lynn come up here, that wasn’t in the mix,” he said. “It’s what’s out there, what you realistically can get. Because there’s a lot of teams looking. I don’t know that you can send out your perfect list and expect it to get filled.”
The Cardinals have been repeatedly linked in trade speculation with the Padres, among other clubs. San Diego could move closer Heath Bell or top setup man Mike Adams.
Heath Bell has no illusions. He’s fully aware of the probability that he’s going to be traded between now and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. And he’s perfectly willing to discuss it — at length and in detail.
On Monday, at his media availability session prior to Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Bell fielded a variety of questions about what he would prefer when and if the time comes that he’s playing somewhere other than San Diego. Bell can be a free agent after the 2011 season.
Asked whether it’s a problem if a team acquires him to be a setup man:
“If a club wants me to close, I’ll do the best I can. If a club wants me to be the eighth-inning guy, I’ll bust my butt to do the eighth inning. I don’t have a problem. As a free [agent], I definitely want to close. But for the last two, three months of the year? I’m good. I’ll set up. Because I think I’ve showed everybody than I can close. I don’t think I’m going to worry about this offseason whether they want me to close or set up. But I definitely want to close next year. But if I’ve got to set up this year, it’s OK.”
Asked whether it matters which league he goes to:
“No. I like the National League because I know everybody. But then I look at the American League, and they don’t really know me. I don’t think in the Major Leagues you trick anybody or you fool anybody, because everybody kind of knows everything. But the American League hitters haven’t really seen me, but then again I haven’t seen them. It’s going to be interesting. If I get traded to the East or the Central of the National League, those guys don’t see me all the time and now they will. So I’ll be more familiar with them. If I get traded to the American League, I’ve got a lot of homework to do. But they also have a lot of homework to do.”
And asked whether it’s just the slightest bit strange to be answering so many questions like this, so matter-of-factly, when he’s still a member of the Padres:
“I’m actually glad I’m answering it now and not like once every day for the next two weeks. Because in San Diego we’ve got like two or three guys [covering the team every day]. And they’ll come up to me every few days and just say, ‘Hey, have you heard anything?’ ‘Nah, I haven’t heard anything.’ ‘All right, cool.’ So they won’t write anything.”
Both the Cardinals and Jaime Garcia are refusing to confirm or deny reports that club and player are on the verge of agreeing to a four-year contract extension through 2015.
An employee of KTRS radio, which is partly owned by the club, posted Thursday on his personal Twitter page that Garcia and the club have reached agreement on a four-year deal worth a guaranteed $27.5 million with options for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The station has subsequently distanced itself from the tweet.
General manager John Mozeliak and Garcia both addressed reporters on Thursday afternoon. Neither would even confirm that discussions are ongoing.
“I can tell you that any contract discussions that we have with any player will be done privately, and when we have an announcement, we’ll have an announcement,” Mozeliak said.
Garcia echoed that sentiment, saying, “I’m focused on pitching right now. It feels like it’s a little more private. If there’s something going on, you guys will know when it’s time to talk about it.”
Such a deal would cover Garcia’s three years of arbitration eligibility, during which time he would have been under team control, as well as what would have been the first year he could have been a free agent. The option years would cover what potentially would be his second and third years of free-agent eligibility.
Garcia, who turns 25 on Friday, is in his second full year in the Cardinals’ starting rotation. He’s 8-3 this year with a 3.23 ERA, 95 strikeouts and 30 walks in 111 1/3 innings. For his career, he’s 22-12 with a 3.07 ERA, 235 strikeouts and 102 walks in 290 2/3 innings.
The left-hander was a 22nd-round pick in the 2005 Draft. He finished third behind Buster Posey and Jason Heyward in balloting for the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year award.
The Cardinals will be making an announcement on Ryan Franklin’s status within the hour. One way or another, he is being removed from the active roster. Manager Tony La Russa said that the club expects to have someone in Baltimore to take Franklin’s roster spot for Thursday’s game.
A source familiar with the situation indicated that Franklin will be released, but the club has yet to confirm that.
The club is holding a meeting to discuss other matters at 4:45 pm ET, and at that time, players will also be notified of Franklin’s status.
We’ll know a good deal more perhaps even within half an hour, but for now the status of Ryan Franklin remains somewhat up in the air for the Cardinals. He turned in another rough outing on Tuesday night, the fourth straight in which he’s allowed at least one home run. That run follows the first really encouraging stretch all year from the Cards’ former closer, in which he pitched eight strong innings over five games.
Following Tuesday night’s game, the three primary decision-makers for Cardinals’ pitching matters all made somewhat cryptic comments about Franklin’s future with the club, all of them suggesting that some kind of change could well come before the team leaves Baltimore on Thursday night.
Manager Tony La Russa referred to potential “creative” solutions. Pitching coach Dave Duncan expressed sympathy for the veteran right-hander but also acknowledged that some adjustment could be made soon. And general manager John Mozeliak even broached the possibility that some sort of physical malady may be bothering Franklin, while saying that some sort of roster adjustment could come today, tomorrow… or not at all.
The situation is complicated not only by Franklin’s four strong seasons in St. Louis prior to 2011, but the high regard in which he is held in the clubhouse. However, with the season halfway over, it gets tougher and tougher for the Cardinals to carry a pitcher struggling so mightily.
Another issue is a relative dearth of options. The Cardinals could recall Bryan Augenstein from Triple-A Memphis, or take another shot with Maikel Cleto, but aside from that they don’t have many pitching alternatives.
Stay tuned, because this is most definitely a developing situation. Resolution may not come Tuesday afternoon, but it’s not likely to linger all week.