The Best Podcast in the Minors, the weekly show produced for StlPinchHits.com, invited Post-Dispatch baseball writer Derrick Goold to talk about the minors, review the season, and discuss development within the Cardinals system. In other words: Crossover podcast!
Check out the highlights from Derrick Goold’s Cardinals chat with readers. The full transcript of the chat can be found here.
Q: Cody Bellinger is now a free agent and the report is he’s looking for a one year “prove it” deal. Do you see the cardinals as a fit and would we have any interest? I can see it if we move an outfielder as part of a trade for a catcher, but if not it’s hard to add yet another non-everyday player to a crowded outfield mix that could use some certainty.
A: The Cardinals are a fit. They know it. They'll make the call. They're expected to at least check out to see what level of interest Bellinger has him them. There are a few ties that could help them. First, Turner Ward was Bellinger's hitting coach when Bellinger won the rookie of the year award in the NL and took early flight in his career. Second, Matt Holliday and Bellinger share an agent -- though it's unclear if the tie is more than that. Third, Bellinger has had some teammates with close ties to the Cardinals, from Freese to Pujols in recent years, and there could be something said for the change of scenery promised.
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What I don't yet know is the Cardinals' stomach for a one-year deal. There is no such thing as a bad one-year deal, but for the Cardinals would that be delaying the need by a year without the guarantee of filling it in 2023. If Bellinger rebounds, that's smashing for the Cardinals' wishes in 2023, but it leaves them stuck for 2024 as he zooms off to a larger deal. If Bellinger struggles, his trend line continues at the current rate, then the Cardinals spent on 2023 and are no better off, except for having again delayed the same search for a bat till the next offseason. A deal that gives Bellinger a chance to bounce back is appealing for him. A deal that gives the team that invested money, time in that bounce back a chance to benefit from it for another year -- that makes a lot of sense, especially when you're talking about the dollars involved.
This is a bit like the Greg Holland situation the Cardinals had. Same agent, too.
Q: I’ve been a Cards fan since the early 80’s. They have a history of good defensive catchers all through the years. Porter, Pena, Pagnozzi, Matheny and obviously Molina. All team leaders. Is Contreras capable of being that guy or closer to a Ted Simmons? Here to hit.
A: Contreras would be an offense-first catcher. Capable of playing the position, and expected to be far above average at the plate, not behind it.
Q: I know that the Goldschmidt, Arenado, and Holliday trades were steals for Mo but they also worked out because he was targeting elite proven talent. The Fowler, Leake, Matz (to date) deals were veteran "upside" signings. Mo is not good at identifying veteran upside, full stop. Schwarber being the most recent example. So maybe he should focus on his strength as an executive which is identifying and acquiring high end players. Stop looking for veteran diamonds in the rough because he keeps signing cubic zirconia.
A: My opinion: This has nothing to do with upside.
Now to some reporting ... It's all about value. Maybe that's what you mean. But the Cardinals have spent money shopping in that mid-tier of free agents, and all of those are examples. I don't think the Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler on the "upside," and they had to outbid other teams for him, adding a year to the deal just to get him in place. They signed him to be what he was for the Cubs, and they even acknowledged within the framework of the contract that he might move to the corner outfield positions during the life of the deal. That's not a bet on upside. That's the cost of signing a free agent.
Similarly with Cecil. That was a deal to jump ahead of other suitors -- Cubs, for example -- and betting that he would continue to do what he did. Leake -- well, the Cardinals liked the idea of what he brought to getting grounders with the defense they thought they had. They didn't have that defense. He wasn't a fit. Not ideal. Costly move.
If you want to criticize the approach to free agency -- and there is ample reason to do so -- start with the Cardinals' conservative process when it comes to reaching. They've made bids for Price and Heyward that stand out, and they did out-offer for Fowler. They have also shied from making big spending moves like Scherzer or, thus far, any of the available shortstops. I don't see Schwarber as the example here. They knew his "upside," they also knew his cost, and they just didn't want to sign him. That wasn't a mistake in scouting or evaluation. That was a choice in cost.
Q: Hey DG: I’m intrigued by the new scheduling format, and interested in your thoughts about how it might affect the MLB landscape. It seems that weaker divisions (sorry NL and AL centrals) may be even worse record-wise than in previous years - fewer games against lower-echelon teams, while teams like Baltimore will benefit most with fewer games against NYY, BOS, and TOR.
A: To me, the schedule is set up to aid teams like Colorado and Arizona as much as anyone. It's going to delete games against the Dodgers, Padres, and Giants from their schedule, and introduce games vs. the AL Central into the mix, yearly. I'm going to run the numbers at some point, but at first blush, it looks like they're going to get the benefit of facing more games against markets their size (spending their size) and not have to tussle with the monsters of the NL West.
Let's do some quick scribbling to see how close this sense is.
The Rockies will go from 57 games against LA, SD, and SF to 39.
That leaves 18 games. That will be replaced by AL teams. Lets see how many AL teams compare with those three NL West teams, and if it fills the 18 games.
That's 15, and that's being generous. Really, it's nine. When it comes to spending and market size and all of that, it's nine. So, they're getting a rebate of nine games and then get to face Cleveland, Minnesota, Kansas City, and Oakland ... That's a good trade.
For the Cardinals, I doubt it changes much, honestly. They won't get to beat up on the Reds and Pirates as much, but instead they'll draw some of the dregs of the AL to compensate.
Q: Derrick, can you please explain the rationale behind signing at placing Jose Fermin on the 40-man roster?
A: The Cardinals lacked depth at Class AAA Memphis in the middle infield. They knew that Delvin Perez was leaving the team as a free agent. They know that Masyn Winn is set to be the priority shortstop at that level. Beyond that ... They did not have the answers on the roster, on the depth chart, and they wanted to bring in someone who could play multiple positions, like second base and third base. Maybe he has upside. What they know he has are options and the ability to play multiple positions reliably, and he can fill in the Kramer Robertson role, or serve in the Edmundo Sosa role at Triple-A Memphis. See where it takes him.
They made the trade so that they didn't have to bid on him as a free agent. They wanted him specifically, and felt like they could jump the line for his rights.
Q: I see a lot of Bellinger support out there. Maybe I'm wrong but shouldn't the Cards be focused on getting their own pair (O'Neill & Carlson) of "get right" outfielders before bringing another "project" bat into the outfield? Of course, Bellinger did have an awesome 2019 and we know how much weight this club likes to put on performances from 2019...even if the player has fallen off a cliff every year since then.
A: They can multitask! Your point is valid, but however talent arrives or surfaces or reboots or revives or blossoms or shows up as a complete and utter surprise -- the better. The more the better, from the team and fan perspective.
Q: Paul Goldschmidt is my favorite Cardinal on the team and is now an MVP who is building a strong resume for the HoF. All that said, he only has 2 more years on his current contract with St Louis and will be 37 at its end. Is it too early to start looking for our future 1B? Should we go after a top 1B prospect? Potentially sign Josh Bell or equivalent talent as a DH/backup 1B?
A: A couple of thoughts:
1) It’s not too early to discuss an extension with Goldschmidt, if the Cardinals want to go that route in spring training. They don't need to, maybe they wait a year, but that conversation will happen at some point.
2) It’s not too early to see how Jordan Walker's future is at 1B, when it's not the place that Goldschmidt plays anymore. The depth chart is set that way.