While the Cardinals’ stated plan is to replenish their needs at the big-league level with homegrown and cost-effective talent, the club acknowledges that in the coming years merely keeping its core together will be costly.
Ownership expects the payroll to rise accordingly.
“I do think our payroll will go up in the next couple years. I do,” chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said Sunday during the club’s 17th annual Winter Warm-Up. “To maintain the club that we have and do what we think we need to do there is a good chance. Now, you don’t just want to raise it to raise it. We will have flexibility to do that if we see opportunities to spend the money wisely.”
In the immediate future are the planned negotiations with pitcher Adam Wainwright on a long-term extension. DeWitt reaffirmed the club’s hope to sign Wainwright, who is entering the final year of his contract. A new deal would vault Wainwright into the higher-levels of average salary. Yadier Molina, who signed an extension last year, is due for a raise from $7 million last year to $14 million this year. The cost of the Cardinals’ bullpen is likely to double once deals are completed with closer Jason Motte and lefty Marc Rzepczynski. And on the horizon for next winter are eight arbitration-eligible players and rising salaries for Allen Craig, whose full-season production hints at All-Star quality.
The Cardinals had payroll near $115 million last season and expect about the same for this season with the increase. More than $20 million has been lopped off with the departures of free agents Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman.
“There always seems to be holes that pop up that you need to fill,” DeWitt said. “We’re positioned to fill them.”
He outlined how he and general manager John Mozeliak discuss their “player resources” and their “cash resources.” DeWitt said his preference is not to spend “player resources,” such as the prospects the team plans to lean on in the near future. The Cardinals expect prospects like pitcher Trevor Rosenthal, second baseman Kolten Wong and outfielder Oscar Taveras to make impacts at the major-league level while still in the cost-controlled phase of their careers.
DeWitt left open the possibility that the increase in payroll might be necessary to address a need from outside the organization. The club does not have an heir apparent at shortstop and it has explored the future market for that position. The Cardinals have, in the past, shown a willingness to take on salary in order to make a deal work with a team that has a star with a burdensome contract.
“I think it could (be),” DeWitt said. “I think we’re pretty deep kind of across the board (in the minors). Middle infield – we’ve got kids coming there. But if the right opportunity presents itself, picking up payroll to add, we would look at that.”
MILLER’S WEIGHTY BET
A year ago, pitcher Shelby Miller arrived at Warm-Up and spring training noticeably slimmer, so much so the Cardinals expressed concern he had given up strength as a result of a new diet and workout plan. Miller has added weight this winter and Sunday connected his lighter build with his first-half struggles.
“I didn’t get told that I needed to put on weight. I knew myself that I needed to,” Miller said. “I was in great shape last year. I was trying to have a beach body, I guess. I don’t know what I was thinking. … I know the light body doesn’t really work out for me now, so we’re going to stay away from that.”
Miller reported to spring training at 204 pounds last season. The last time he stepped on a scale this month he weighed 223. He is trying to win a bet with Wainwright, he said.
The two pitchers, who struck up a text-messaging connection before Miller arrived in the majors last September, set out to push each other to maintain their weight for the offseason. Miller said Wainwright has the edge right now as he’s already surpassed his goal of 235 pounds. He has 4 inches on Miller.
Miller, the team’s top pitching prospect, will come to spring training as one of the four pitchers auditioning for a spot in the rotation. He pitched six shutout innings against Cincinnati in his only big-league start last year.
“My goal this year is just to start in St. Louis,” Miller said. “I know there is a lot of competition. I know there is all the talent in the world on the team. There are a lot of young arms and the bullpen is probably set, too. Will I be disappointed if I don’t start there? Yeah. I’d rather be a bullpen pitcher in the big leagues then starting in Triple-A.”
SWAGERTY IS ‘FULL GO’
Righty Jordan Swagerty met with the team’s medical staff on Sunday to gauge the recovery of his elbow from surgery and get the final clearance for a normal approach to spring training. Swagerty, a highly regarded relief prospect, came to spring training last year with a chance to impress the big-league coaching staff but left after two throwing workouts to have Tommy John surgery. Swagerty spent the entire 2012 season recovering from the reconstruction.
Swagerty, who had a 1.83 ERA in 93 2/3 innings in 2011, completed his rehab last week with two 60-pitch workouts from the mound. He mixed in breaking pitches and sought to test his rebuilt elbow.
“The arm is back to going again. It’s full-go now,” said Swagerty, 23, who split his last season between starting and relieving. “I have no idea what (role) they have in store for me. I like to do both. I’ve got a little bit of a closer mentality, I always say.”
Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay confirmed that he was approached by Spain’s national team about playing for it in the World Baseball Classic. Jay said he doesn’t qualify, however, because his Spanish ancestors are too far back in the family tree. … Top prospect Taveras did not appear as scheduled at the Warm-Up, nor did he attend the Baseball Writers Dinner to receive the organization’s player of the year award. Taveras notified the club through his agent that he wouldn’t be attending. The Cardinals had sold about 400 $10 tickets for his autograph and those had to be refunded. … Rosenthal, who spent the winter working out with Chris Carpenter in St. Louis, lived at Jake Westbrook’s house in the offseason.