The first full day of the MLB Winter Meetings took place Monday in the Washington D.C. area. For the Cardinals, the day brought plenty of smoke without any fire. Here is the rundown of some relevant notes from the day as the Cardinals look to fill out their roster:
Is Kolten Wong on the trade block?
While the Cardinals have openly announced their desire to improve defensively, a report surfaced late Monday indicated the team could be shopping Kolten Wong, likely the club's best defensive infielder.
John Perrotto of FanRag Sports sent social media into a tizzy with his tweet – which misspelled the name of the Cardinals' 26 year-old second baseman – that Wong plus prospects could possibly net centerfielder Lorenzo Cain and closer Wade Davis from the Royals. Whether it would be a sensible move for the Cardinals depends on the package of prospects involved. Because Cain and Davis have only one year remaining on their respective contracts before free agency, each additional prospect St. Louis surrenders in such a deal would represent a massively lopsided trade in terms of years of team control.
Offering outfield prospect Harrison Bader or pitchers like Luke Weaver and Austin Gomber for short-term assets – albeit, former All-Stars in Cain and Davis – would be a costly exchange for John Mozeliak, who is notoriously cognizant of years of control when negotiating trades.
Mozeliak open to an outfield platoon?
After Mozeliak’s briefing with the media contingent present at the Winter Meetings Monday afternoon, reports surfaced that he was open to a platoon as the solution for the Cardinals' outfield needs.
Some took this to mean Mozeliak is hedging with his previous intention to significantly enhance the roster with an elite centerfielder. Mozeliak would be content with an acquisition of Jarrod Dyson – whose name was connected to the Cardinals Monday – or someone of his ilk, thereafter ceasing additional upgrades to the Cardinals outfield. But that’s not the only way to read into this news.
Another read: Because Mozeliak has found trade demands from opposing general managers to be especially steep for premium outfielders – those in the Charlie Blackmon, Lorenzo Cain, Adam Eaton, A.J. Pollock category – he could approach the Cardinals hole in the outfield more creatively.
Cards GM John Mozeliak said team has considered platoon solution for center field, which could be where interest in Jarrod Dyson comes in— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) December 5, 2016
If Dyson, a free agent after the 2017 season, would come at a drastically reduced cost in players and prospects, the Cardinals could conceivably trade for him and still sign a free agent outfielder. Perhaps a flier on a lower-cost free agent than Dexter Fowler – like Carlos Gomez – would be more attractive if all the eggs weren’t in that basket; if Gomez flames out, there’s Dyson as a legitimate fallback.
Cardinals fans were mostly disappointed the search for an outfielder had reportedly stooped to Dyson, whose 299 at-bats in 2016 were a career high. Though the 32 year-old possesses skills the Cardinals lack – speed, effective base running, great defense – Dyson's .678 career-OPS as the most substantive offensive upgrade in a winter that has already seen 60 home runs and 167 runs batted in walk out the door (Brandon Moss, Matt Holliday, Jeremy Hazelbaker) would be troubling.
If Mozeliak’s definition of platoon is genuinely to ride left-handed batting Jarrod Dyson alongside apparent Mike Matheny doghouse tenant Tommy Pham, it would be a stumper. Unless that frees the Cardinals to pursue an offensive upgrade elsewhere on the roster, perhaps in the form of Justin Turner as the third baseman. That only works if they can shed the Jhonny Peralta contract, and doing so to replace him with Turner may not be viewed as a savvy allocation of resources if the team believes Peralta will bounce back in 2017.
Monday introduced more questions than answers as the realistic possibilities for the Cardinals outfield continue to increase.
Cardinals want Carson Kelly playing everyday
According to a tweet by Derrick Goold Monday afternoon, the Cardinals are in the market for a backup catcher this winter. After the plug was officially pulled on the Brayan Pena experiment with his unconditional release last week, fans began to mentally insert top catching prospect Carson Kelly into the void. However, it seems the Cardinals would still prefer Kelly have the benefit of everyday playing time as he progresses toward eventual franchise catcher status.
#Cardinals are in the market for a backup catcher so Carson Kelly can start regularly at Memphis. Eric Fryer is a free agent. Just saying.— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) December 5, 2016
Wellington Castillo is available after being non-tendered by the Diamondbacks. Based on his .264/.322/.423 slash line in 457 plate appearances in 2016, Castillo may be destined to sign elsewhere in a starting role. If St. Louis could convince him to take a reduced role on a contending team, however, Castillo would represent the kind of backup Pena was supposed to: a capable batsman and defender equipped to handle an increased role if something were to happen to Yadier Molina
As Goold points out, Eric Fryer would be an option for the Cardinals, both cheaper and therefore more realistic with Kelly on the horizon. Fryer performed well in his stint with St. Louis this past season before the Pirates claimed him off waivers following Pena’s brief return to the active roster.
Kelly’s day is coming soon, but barring a change of course from the team, he will begin 2017 in Memphis. Depending on where the Cardinals go with the backup job, Kelly could leap into the starting role at the big leagues if Molina should miss any time in the upcoming season.
Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.