QUESTION: Will Cards make a Goldy-type move this offseason?
GOOLD: The Cardinals will be looking for that kind of conversation, whether it's with Boston (aim high, Tiger) or Seattle (always ready to deal) or somewhere else that we don't yet know, but will reveal itself once the offseason really begins.
As they have each of the past few seasons, the Cardinals want to see if there are answers for their offense via trade, and then look at the free-agent pitchers. This is a good group of starters and the Cardinals can likely get a deal to their liking at some point on a free-agent starter.
Goldy-level? Well, not likely that a six-time All-Star is on the move, but it's early. The Cardinals will look at packaging some outfielders they have in a deal for offense.
QUESTION: What big free agent is attainable for the Cardinals this offseason?
GOOLD: There are many. I guess it would depend on what you consider "big." Would Dallas Keuchel count? He's available. Would Mike Moustakas be big? He could be a free agent. Anthony Rendon (above, in NLCS vs. the Cardinals) is one of the best all-around players in the National League, just behind Nolan Arenado at third base for me. He's available, he would be big, and he'll go for big dollars, probably bigger dollars than the Cardinals want to spend.
MLB Trade Rumors has a complete running list of free agents and it's updated regularly as players opt out of their deals and so on.
QUESTION: Is "Mad Bum" an offseason target for John Mozeliak?
GOOLD: Madison Bumgarner is lefthanded. He's a starter. He's on the list. The Cardinals will of course have a conversation with his agent -- maybe even in person at the GM meetings -- and get a sense for what Bumgarner wants in free agency, and whether that's Atlanta or San Francisco or somewhere else or nowhere else, whether that's two years or three years or five years.
He's not atop the list for some of those reasons, but the Cardinals will want to have that discussion with his agent to determine if there's a reason for further talks.
QUESTION: Do you see the Cards pursuing guys like Castellanos, Donaldson and/or Moustakos this offseason?
GOOLD: Cardinals didn't go after Castellanos last winter because they didn't know where he would play defensively for them, or whether he could play a demanding position defensively. Did his time with the Cubs change that? Nope, not as much as an opening in left field would. He'd be someone they'll explore for that reason.
Moustakas? Yes. Moustakas is going to come up a lot with the Cardinals this winter. Brace yourself. Donaldson would drop down to third if I'm listing these players in order of the likelihood of the Cardinals' pursuit.
QUESTION: Would the Rockies entertain a trade for Arenado or is he the cornerstone for their team? If they did, would the Cards take on a contract like that?
GOOLD: The Cardinals have shown a willingness to take on a contract like that for a player who wasn't as well-rounded as Arenado, and that's the power hitter Stanton. So, we do have some evidence of the Cardinals' stomach for a deal. Ownership wanted that to happen, said they could accept slightly more than $250 million to make it possible. The front office was reluctant, but pressed on and completed a deal with Miami that Stanton rejected.
As far as the Colorado Rockies -- it doesn't take a brain surgeon to notice that they took a step back this season. Most disappointing team in baseball, I'd say, but I'm just another selfish baseball writer who has never done anything with his life, ask around. (OK, OK, I'll stop -- it's not like their GM reads this chat anyway.) Moving on from Arenado at this point would be a breach of an agreement that would be hard to see a team come back from. It would strike me as the last act of a front office or owner on the way out. Hard to get the faith back. Down the road? Maybe. But one year in? Yikes.
QUESTION: Could Jose Martinez play LF every day, at least adequately?
GOOLD: This question will be swirling around Busch Stadium as November approaches. It's going to have to be discussed, and the answer is ... probably. My sense is that the Cardinals are going to use left field as the catch-all. Perhaps they'll set Martinez as the bar -- and they'll look at options that would be greater than him in left field. If Ozuna returns on the one-year deal, the qualifying offer, then there's the player greater than Martinez in left field. If there's a trade for a player then he should be better than Martinez in left field.
If the Cardinals add a right fielder, then is Fowler greater than Martinez in left field? That seems like a smart control group for the Cardinals as they go into the offseason and consider how to make two positions, third and left, part of an upgrade offensively.
QUESTION: Do you think Wainwright returns for another season, or does he hang them up on a high note?
GOOLD: Honestly, I don't have a feel for this today. I've talked to Wainwright a lot this season about his plans and how he sees it and whether how well he pitched could change that, and he's purposefully shut out those ideas. Coming into this season, he sure seemed resolved to go 2019 and then retire, pitch on his terms and then leave on them, too.
The Cardinals want to have a talk with him about coming back. Mozeliak this past weekend on KMOX articulated that thought by saying he was eager to get the phone call from Wainwright so they could talk. But, again, I don't know what Wainwright would have to hear to come back, or what he has left to prove, or if he just wants to be a part of where he thinks this team is going. All of those things seem just as possible as him calling it a career and getting a start on a post-baseball career that is going to help many, many, many people.
Follow-up: Incredibly impressed with Waino's postseason -- don't see why the Cards do not bring him back, assuming he wants to.
GOOLD: If it were only up to the team and he'd come back on the same deal, the Cardinals would deliver that contract in person and have him back.
GOOLD: Hicks is expected back around the All-Star break. That's the timetable, but it's subject to change based on his spring training and how he moves step by step through the recovery process. Someone will have emerged by then, and I wouldn't discount Ryan Helsley as that someone. Sleeper midseason pick would be Alex Reyes.
Obviously, Carlos Martinez's health is the other major factor. He wants to start. The Cardinals are paying him to start. They want him to embrace the commitment to getting himself ready to start and staying true to a starter's schedule between starts to remain in the rotation. Can't predict at this point whether that will happen.
QUESTION: The Cards seem to have enough in-house SP prospects and need someone on the back end of the bullpen to replace C-Mart and stand in for Hicks. Do you think they would invest in Will Smith this winter, who is also a lefty and could be moved to a set-up role?
GOOLD: Yes, but with a caveat. They've had interest in the past. And here's the caveat: I would like to add though that the Cardinals may not go aggressively after a lefthanded pitcher right away because they have Miller, Webb, Cabrera (above), and have paid Cecil through next season. That's a fine group to open the spring with and then adjust on the go. They've spent a lot on lefty relief in the past few years and they can always find a reliever later should the group not produce during spring training, or injuries sap them of some depth.
QUESTION: Do the Cardinals operate in the offseason with plans to have Dylan Carlson in their outfield?
GOOLD: That is definitely on their mind, yes. They'd like to have Carlson come to spring training with a chance to win a job in the majors. They want that opening there -- and if it's for opening day, then bully for him, but if it's in June or July, they want to be ready to accommodate his arrival with playing time.
Follow-up: With Carlson, are we looking at someone really special -- or another outfielder in a long line of the likes of Piscotty, Grichuk, Pham, O’Neill?
GOOLD: Dylan Carlson is the best hitting prospect I've seen or heard about from scouts outside the organization since Oscar Taveras. The description I've been given that resonates with me is this: He will be able to hit second for a contender. That's high praise.
QUESTION: Will outfielder Justin Williams factor into the roster plans for next year?
GOOLD: Interesting question. He had a good season, especially coming from behind as he did after fracturing his hand in an incident with a TV. The Cardinals needed to see that and they were encouraged by his year. That seems to cement his place on the 40-man roster, and the Cardinals see him as a lefthanded-hitting option that could give them needed depth and allow them to trade from the righthanded-hitting stockpile of outfielders they have. That's what he does most of all. Frees up other outfielders to be traded without leaving them lacking in depth.
He belongs in the conversation for the competition the Cardinals want to create for spring training with Bader, Arozarena, Thomas and Carlson likely all getting looks in center and Williams having to hit his way into the mix.
Follow-up: Was the lack of Tyler O'Neill playing time in September just a side effect of a stable lineup or more of where he stands with the organization?
GOOLD: More about the lineup and his lack of at-bats due to injury to change their look of him as a pinch-hitter. Ravelo got those chances. Arozarena's ability to play center and be a speedster on the bases also helped get him on the roster. O'Neill just spent some important time on the IL and when he returned the ABs weren't there.
Photo: Justin Williams in his first major-league at-bat, with the Tampa Bay Rays in July 2018. (AP Photo)
QUESTION: I have doubts about Nolan Gorman and his ability to make contact enough to be an elite player in the big leagues. Maybe more like the average-to-slightly-above-average prospects the Cards already have. He could also turn into a Zack Cox or Brett Wallace -- third basemen who were first-round picks and went bust. What does the front office think about him? Would they try to capitalize on his prospect status in a trade?
GOOLD: I have never heard those names uttered in the same sentence until now, sorry. I don't even see the similarities. Brett Wallace was a polished hitter coming out of college that had power as a question. Cox was similar. The question in both cases was whether they would hit for enough power to make the corner a fit, whether that corner was first base or third base. Here's Nolan Gorman -- the opposite. He has power. The question is whether he will consistently make contact and how he'll advance from level to level with that contact and power.
If they trade Gorman, it will be in part because of his "status" as a prospect and also because they have depth of prospects at his position, not because they are wary of his upside. They aren't. The comparison here is not one I ever expected, honestly.
. . . Gorman is young and has to throw himself into the demands of pro ball. That's an important part of this coming year. As every player learns, talent gets you so far -- and then it takes adjustment and work ethic and whatever is that last bit for a player to ascend. That comes with experience, and this next year is the year for him to slingshot into view of the majors.
QUESTION: Cardinals need a better backup at shortstop. Paul DeJong was overplayed this year. Will there be any attempt to fix this?
GOOLD: There must be. Cardinals need to give a clear answer on whether they think Tommy Edman can be that player or Yairo Munoz will be played like that player -- or they have to go outside and find that answer.
QUESTION: Will the Cardinals need to swap less-desirable contracts this off season with another team to free up roster spots and/or money?
GOOLD: I have no clue. If you're using coded language to ask about Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter then just come right out and say it. Both players have a no-trade clause. Fowler signed a contract that included one. Carpenter is about to have one when the season ends. So they have control.
A conversation with Fowler is definitely likely, as that's something that the Cardinals would go to him with first, just out of respect for the veteran. There is no indication from Carpenter that he would entertain or seek a trade. If the Rangers are interested, does that change things? Well, we can dream up scenarios galore where a no-trade clause would be dropped.
Let's try to stay within the realm of reality and "a swap of less desirable contracts" would be counter productive for the Cardinals. They'd rather divest themselves of a contract they no longer want and then have the choice of how they spend the money, not take on some other team's mistake. Look at the Mike Leake trade as an example, as a precedent.
Follow-up: Who will be on trade block this winter?
GOOLD: Depends on what they're getting in return. Cardinals don't want to trade the obvious candidates, Flaherty and Carlson and Wong and DeJong, and the players with no-trade clauses have all kinds of control in this regard.
QUESTION: Can this team be taught how to hit off-speed pitching better by next season?
GOOLD: Yes. That will be the goal. They've got to pull opponents back over the plate and not be behind in the count so much. The third-most plate appearances in the NL with two strikes. Lots of time behind in the count. Lots of time letting the pitcher dictate the at-bat. Lots of time allowing the pitcher to get away with off-speed pitches. Lots of time having to make contact outside of the strike zone.
Follow-up: Will the Cardinals alter their approach -- based on the frequency of the shifts used against them -- and focus on hitting to the opposite field more in 2020?
GOOLD: No more so than they tried do so this year. Some of that is how they're pitched, too. Some of the Cardinals got pull-happy because of how they were attacked, not just because of the approach being presented to them.
QUESTION: With regard to Carpenter, do many players ever recover from a slow bat?
GOOLD: How do we measure slow bat? With they eye test? Then we're likely to get as many opinions as eyes we ask. So, let's go to exit velocity as our metric. Using data from Baseball Savant, we can see how there are players who pick up exit velocity from one season to next, and they do so even as they age, or from year to year in their 30s.
Jay Bruce had an avg exit velocity of 88.4 mph in 2018, and that was back to 90.0 mph on average in 2019. Hunter Pence's avg exit velocity dropped to 88.0 mph in 2018, and it was all the way up to 91.4 mph in 2019. Didi Gregorious, a pending free agent FWIW, went from 86.5 mph avg to 88.2 mph from 2018 to 2019. There could be many reasons for this, of course. I'd start with health. But also changes to approach, changes at the plate, changes to what they do -- any and all of those things could contribute. Josh Donaldson had a 92.9 avg exit velocity this season, up from 90.2 last season.
Dexter Fowler was just about the same, 85.2 mph in 2018 to 85.3 this season.
Let me tell you about a third baseman of note: He had a 87.4 mph avg exit velocity this season. That ranked 303rd, according to Baseball Savant. (Minimum 50 balls in play.) And that was up from 85.8 mph in 2018 ... which was down from 87.1 in 2017. In 2016, he was at 89.3. So there has been some year to year fluctuation in his avg exit velocity -- the metric we've agreed is a measure of fast bat or slow bat -- and you can see that he can gain when healthy or when productive, and slip when not.
That third baseman with those averages is not Matt Carpenter.
COMMENT: I think the greatest Cardinal victory this year was Ryan Helsley raising awareness about the Braves' "chop" and making them rethink it. I hope they do away with it and good for him in speaking out.
GOOLD: I think it took a lot of courage for Helsley to be as candid as he was. When I went up to talk to him, right outside the Cardinals' dugout, I made the decision that no matter what he said, I was going to write the story. If he said he was ambivalent, I would print that. If he said he didn't mind it, I would print that. He was honest. He told me he went and did some research on its origin and had some thoughtful, specific, pointed comments.
As a rookie, he could have easily deflected the question -- and there are other organizations where that would have happened, that's what rookies are taught to do. But, nope, here was Helsley, a young make with a strong, honest, and researched opinion. I cannot tell you how impressive it was in the moment, let alone in print. And then to talk to the Braves officials about how it caught their attention, too. Impressive indeed.
QUESTION: A year ago, the chatter was about the "Win This Year” approach that stemmed from both comments and contracts. What sort of “actions speak louder than words” messages should we expect this offseason?
GOOLD: Haven't heard it yet. But I do know that there is some frustration radiating from Busch Stadium that the team won the division, got back to the postseason, and all of the attention -- right or wrong or whatever -- is on low TV ratings, poor offense, and problems, problems, problems.
So, we'll probably get an earful of that at some point, you and I.
Photo: Against a backdrop of empty seats in a Wednesday afternoon game at Busch Stadium, reliever Andrew Miller pitches against the Washington Nationals on Sept. 18. Photo by David Carson, email@example.com