QUESTION: Do you see the Cardinals bringing back Molina and Wainwright for another year?
GOOLD: Both players have expressed an interest in returning for 2021 to the Cardinals. The Cardinals don't have any plans to explore that at the moment because they do not know what the payroll situation will be like for 2021 until there is a better handle on what revenue will be for 2020.
It's possible that a lost year in 2020 means a smaller payroll and the Cardinals won't make offers to them. That is possible. That is something you should see as a reality.
QUESTION: With all the safety protocols, does it actually make sense for baseball to return? It might make be better to take a loss this year than lose what makes baseball fun.
GOOLD: That has to be discussed, absolutely. And it's a question that I've asked multiple people in the podcast over the past month, month and a half. At what point is it not baseball anymore? At what point is this game that will be played under these parameters not worth the risk?
I've been candid about struggling to see how baseball returns to an empty ballpark. Part of what makes baseball baseball is the crowd, the community it invites. It's a sustained-tension sport, and without that buzz in the ballpark what's the competition going to be like?
You ask a fair question, an important question. And the answers I get range all over the spectrum. People want the game back, period. Fans want the game back on their terms, period. Owners and players want the game back because it's their life, their livelihoods, and a zero-revenue season is not doing either of them any good.
But at what point does the return of the game not outweigh the risks of that return? I worry that the true answer is only when there's an outbreak of the virus within the game.
COMMENT: You're a 24-year-old pitcher entering his last year before salary arbitration. You expect to compete for the Cy Young award. You've made it clear that you do not believe you are being paid commensurate to your value. You're close to your family and they reside in one of the hardest-hit areas of the country. What are the upsides, besides $250,000-$300,000, to risking your health and treating your biggest asset (right arm) in a completely new way? Would sitting out a season, spending time with your family and preserving your health really not be an attractive option?
GOOLD: This is not a rhetorical question for Jack Flaherty.
It's a reality.
In the story I just posted for STLtoday.com, I mention that one of the things that has to be part of the plan -- must, must, must, must be part of the plan -- is an agreed-upon policy for players who choose not to play because of their health and their family.
Baseball cannot condemn a player for that choice.
Photo: Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty hugs his mother, Eileen, in Atlanta after winning the deciding game of the 2019 NLDS. (Post-Dispatch photo by Robert Cohen)
QUESTION: If Jordan Hicks is regularly throwing "bullpen" sessions at home, does that mean he could be ready to close games in July? Or will the Cards go for low-stress situations first and slowly build him up?
GOOLD: The plan was to have him slowly return to the closer role -- leverage spots early in the game, planned outings, protective workload, all of it. The conservative aspects of it are still in play as far as when he's used and how often he's used and stuff, but the roles -- well, those are all up in the air.
Hicks should be available to the Cardinals in mid-July, third week of July, and his role will grow from there. Here's betting the Cardinals and other teams go with a closer by committee just because of how condensed the schedule is likely to be.
Follow-up: Hicks is a diabetic, so is there any additional concern for him, given that diabetes is a complicating factor with COVID-19?
GOOLD: Jordan Hicks has Type 1 Diabetes, and he is in a risk group for COVID-19. The Cardinals' protocols would have to reflect his presence on the team, and you could see them ratcheted up as a result of that.
I spoke to him about this, and he said that he would be taking added precaution as a result -- and he even made sure to be standing 6 feet away from me as he said this, saying that he was serious. And he has remained as much.
QUESTION: If a 2020 season happens, it will be a sprint as opposed to a marathon. The Cardinals traditional approach has been to build for the marathon. Is the front office and coaching staff able/willing to make that pivot? If so, what are the most important adjustments they need to make?
GOOLD: They are, yes. And actually they've had success doing this. The Cardinals under Mike Shildt have each made their most significant, successful runs in the second half of the season. In August 2018, after Shildt took over, the Cardinals went from a meandering team to a contending one. In 2019, they had a similar surge when they played with urgency and pulled away for the division title. This kind of season would just have them do it from the start.
What will be key is how impatient they are with a lack of performance. They have the depth to move through pitching quickly. Less clear is what happens if the offense struggles — and so do the alternatives. There won't be much margin for error for the offense.
To a long-winded question about reasons for the push to implement a universal designated hitter, Goold replied:
One of the major arguments for the universal DH is the added hitter in the lineup means an added job for a hitter, and also an alternative spot for a position player so that they can get what Tony La Russa used to call a half day.
That's a driving factor here, not the game plan or the expanded rosters. It's the perceived salary that a DH receives (check, for the union) and the chance to have a place for, say, Paul DeJong to play seven days a week and not have all seven of those days be at shortstop (check, for the union).
It's a big chip when it comes to the game that offers more earning potential and some semblance of a break for players -- two things that are near the crux of their discussions at this point.
I get what fans are saying about the strategy and the game situations, but those are not the driving reasons for the universal DH. It's always about a negotiating chip for the collective bargaining agreement.
QUESTION: If universal DH is implemented for 2020 season, who are the best DH candidates for the Cards? Also, what are you hearing about roster size, and day-of-game roster size, if MLB goes to a healthy-scratch approach.
GOOLD: For the Cardinals, it sure seems like the best DH options are going to be the players who aren't in left field -- say, like Tommy Edman (above), or on the days he doesn't start, a Tyler O'Neill. It would also make sense for Brad Miller to get some looks at DH.
It's most likely going to be a committee, because as mentioned in the previous question the universal DH for the Cardinals is going to be a chance to get Goldschmidt a game away from first base, DeJong a game away from shortstop, and for Matt Carpenter to yield to Miller or Edman at third base.
It's entirely possible that Shildt will go a seven-day stretch with five different DHs. Could easily see that. Heck, A super defense in the OF for some games with Thomas in there, and then you'd have Fowler or O'Neill at DH.
There continues to be momentum for larger rosters and the healthy-scratch notion written about years ago in the Post-Dispatch. The added 26th man was a step toward that this season. The coronavirus response plan will be another step. And it could look like you suggest.
More likely, it's going to be teams designating three, four starters for a series and not being able to sub in for a starter the day after he pitches. That's what it would look like, say, in a regular season. This would not be a regular season, of course.
QUESTION: Are there free agents still available who because of the shortened season and expanded rosters would be more likely to land a job? Any the Cardinals might look at?
GOOLD: Yasiel Puig is out there, ready to DH. I don't see the Cardinals making a play for any of the names that stand out now -- but that will change as the rosters start to shake and change and adjust in those weeks of spring training. The Cardinals will take stock of their pitching depth and likely look to some of the options for relief that may shake loose. That's their style of move. We'll have to see what the health looks like, too.
Puig will be an interesting signing for a team, for sure. Imagine if he returns to the Reds and how that lineup would look ...
QUESTION: If the season is canceled, how does that affect the Cards' payroll going forward?
GOOLD: It is expected to shrink and would only shrink more. The Cardinals continue to hinge their payroll on ticket sales -- and, yes, the growing rights fees paid by Fox Sports Midwest as part of that $1.25-billion deal -- but without those things, with no revenue from those streams, there is going to a pinch somewhere.
They'll likely have at least one fewer minor-league affiliate to run. That means one fewer staff to populate. Teams around baseball expect cutbacks -- in staff, in spending, and yes in payroll. So a lost season would be a deeper cut.
QUESTION: Do you see teams dumping players if the season opens up, to help their payroll situation? Do the Cardinals have anyone they could move?
GOOLD: Indeed. I imagine there will be a few teams that attempt to dump salaries -- but not in the way you describe. In the way that a team thinks it cannot contend, so why hold on to a player who will be a free agent in the fall, or one who will be arbitration-eligible in the fall and due a raise because 2019 is a platform year. Those players are likely to be moved. Not the ones who have the high salaries and production that doesn't match.
The Cardinals don't really have a player in that situation, not with arbitration. The closest would be Kolten Wong -- but he will be a free agent and the market will determine his salary, a market that will also shift and sink as a result of this. Arbitration may not. That will have some teams running away from the third-year eligible arbitration players.
QUESTION: What cuts are coming to the Cardinals' minor league system?
GOOLD: The Cardinals expect to lose their Johnson City affiliate. It is also possible that the State College affiliate changes, or is lost. The Cardinals have the following minor-league affiliates right now:
Memphis (AAA), Springfield (AA), Palm Beach (High-A), Peoria (Low-A), State College (short-season A), Johnson City (short-season A), Gulf Coast League Cardinals (rookie A)
Dominican Summer League Club A, Dominican Summer League Club B
The Cardinals own the three lowest levels and they own Springfield. They no longer own Memphis, as they once did, but do have business/licensing stakes and agreements with Memphis and Johnson City.
The shutdown of the 2020 season is going to lead to some teams in the minors vanishing because they will go out of business. Simple as that. Restructuring will be forced upon the minors, and the affiliates the Cardinals keep/have at the end of it will depend somewhat on what subsidies they provide and what leagues are open to them. If a league shuts down, the Cardinals won't have that affiliate, obviously.
Photo: AutoZone Park, home of the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. (Post-Dispatch photo by Chris Lee)
QUESTION: If there are games at Busch without fans, won’t that lead to people crowding around the stadium to look in, as well as bringing their own 12-packs and binoculars to the upper levels of nearby parking garages? It seems to me every plan has pitfalls.
GOOLD: These are fair questions, and crowd control outside the ballpark will have to be enforced based on the policies of the city and the state and the team at that point. The Cardinals have invested millions in security around the ballpark, and they would have to take an active part in separating or moving crowds, especially if the gatherings are so large that they violate MLB or the city policies.
I guess the question becomes would you rather watch the game on TV or through a sliver of an entry of the ballpark or the distant binocs of the parking garage. Wouldn't you rather see the game? Each person would have to decide that, but the policies and laws of the city would also direct the reaction.
Follow-up: Do the Cardinals plan on opening up the seats on the roof at Ballpark Village for games?
GOOLD: For games? No fans means no fans. This idea has not come up in any of the conversations I've had, and that's largely because it's not about how close the fans are to the field, it's how close the fans are to each other. And what is governing that is the social distancing and crowd-size rules of the city and county.
If they could put fans in those stands, then why not put them in the upper-deck at a similar distance -- heck, even more of a distance because of the vast vacant sections.
Photo: Fans watch Game 3 of the 2013 World Series at Busch Stadium from the Stadium East garage. (Post-Dispatch photo by Laurie Skrivan)
QUESTION: Do you think this year's events will affect some of the struggling teams? Do you see any teams getting more leverage to move, like Tampa? Do you see any who might not survive it if this lasts into next year? Some of these teams don't have deep pockets -- how long would a wealthy owner want to pay out of pocket?
GOOLD: The ramifications of this year could be industry-changing. Absolutely. There are teams that will be in financial trouble -- and the league (other owners) will have to bail them out. It's entirely possible that coming out of this there's more and more and more talk about expansion, just to get the cash infusion from expansion fees. The owners could use that to support some of the teams that are struggling at the end of this.
A real question is what the Cubs look like after this -- what with the launch of their new network coinciding with zero games, a hotel that is empty beside the ballpark, and all of the work to revitalize the area and change the area around the ballpark. Those loans must be paid, right?
And they're not alone. You mention Tampa. Oakland is also in a bind. The league has deep pockets. And those will be explored to save some of the teams, or at least support them in the short-term.
QUESTION: Would the 5-round MLB draft be more beneficial to the Cardinals (relative to other teams), as undrafted players can all effectively just pick any team to sign with for the $20K bonus? Would the Cardinals be more effective than other teams in selling their player development system for the players who would still elect to go pro?
GOOLD: I'm skeptical. It seems like this draft is going to favor the teams with the more favorable popularity, geography, and maybe even the holes in their system. The Cardinals are going to be hurt by a few of those elements -- including their location and the depth in their system.
You don't have to look further than the chat to see some of the Cardinals' reputations for cost control and conservatism. How does that trickle into the consideration? Agents will have it in mind. Agents/advisers will also have it mind for how and where the player fits into the organization, the depth at the position, the need for the future, and so on.
One of the strengths of the Cardinals' drafts has been their ability to find talent down ballot, lower in the draft, and then develop it -- because they have the control via the draft. I don't think we could suggest that Matt Carpenter, if he had a choice, would have signed with the Cardinals for a puny bonus, or that Albert Pujols would have, or that Trevor Rosenthal would have been ... But they were all drafted late by the Cardinals and the Cardinals had their rights and that's what happened.
I would welcome a discussion on how this draft plays into the Cardinals' hands. I'm not so sure ...
Photos of recent key draft picks (from left): Third baseman Nolan Gorman, outfielder Dylan Carlson, pitcher Zack Thompson. (Post-Dispatch photos by Laurie Skrivan)
QUESTION: How much money do the players stand to lose with the revenue sharing vs. being paid based on contract and games played? And why does sharing portend a salary cap?
GOOLD: Doing the precise math on it would be tricky because we're operating without the most important part of it -- the size of the pie. There has been some suggestion from MLB that owners would lose 70 percent of their revenue because they would sell zero tickets to a season without fans. Do you want to take them at their word -- just for the use of this example? We could soften it a bit and go with an even 50 percent.
Right now, players are paid per game. Period. That is true in 2019 and that was true in 2010 and it's now true in 2020 -- based on the agreement from March.
If MLB plays a 82-game season (one that, by one day, would be half of the original schedule), then a player is looking at a 50-percent pay cut. A player who makes $10-million for 2020, would thus make $5 million for 2020.
It's possible that if the ticket revenue is, again, say 50 percent of the revenue, then the player is looking at another cut of that much, or slightly less. Now all of sudden, a player who expected to make $10 million in 2020 is making 70-75 less while playing 50 percent as much. That's a hard ask, especially when owners are asking the players to share in the risk of limited revenue after years of not allowing them to benefit from rising revenue.
How is this a salary cap? It is, period. If a team is told that players receive 50 percent of the revenue at minimum, there is no reason for teams to offer them more. They're not charities. They're hurting for revenue, too. And so while it's not a salary cap in name, it will be one in practice. And players know that.
QUESTION: Your thoughts on the comments made by Blake Snell? ("I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK?”) Is it a bad look for the players to argue for higher pay with revenues down so severely and so many other MLB employees much more dependent on their incomes completely out of work?
GOOLD: I appreciate that Blake Snell (above, during an appearance at Busch Stadium) was honest with his feelings and that his thoughts were injected into the conversation. This is important: The players have already agreed to a pay cut. Period. They did that in March. I get that people want to frame this as players asking for more money, but they aren't arguing that they should get their full salary. They're saying that the owners shouldn't ask them to further restrict their earnings (share in the losses) and not also extend them the same chance over the years to share a larger portion of the wins. Snell put that in good context.
The risk for the players is their health, their careers. The risk for the owners is their businesses. That ledger has to be balanced, and there is a price tag for it.
I get what you're saying. I can empathize with people who have a career related to baseball -- and have taken pay cuts as a result of no baseball. But I don't begrudge a player pointing out the risk they're being asked to take by playing and their right to make what's already been agreed upon.
I am surprised that workers -- like the ones you describe -- tend to take the owners side and not that of the labor force. That has always been a weird twist to me. Maybe owners are better at messaging.
Breaking news from Derrick Goold during Monday's chat:
Haven't shared this publicly yet, just with some friends and one social media site because I thought the STLtoday.com chat would be a good place to reveal it for the first time -- before putting it on Twitter or Instagram and the like.
I am extremely honored that TOPPS baseball cards has included a card of me in the 2020 Allen & Ginter set. Spent some time this past week signing stacks of the mini cards -- some of which, I believe, will be randomly inserted in packs when they're released this summer. I got my first look at the card when I opened the box to sign them. It was surreal.
I'm flattered, still unsure that it's real, and I hope it maybe brings attention to the importance of CPR training and the things I learned while being a Boy Scout and have continued to learn as a baseball writer. I cannot thank the people at TOPPS and the friends and colleagues who nominated me enough.
Follow-up: It appears you practiced that signature a few times! It’s both legible and flowing.
GOOLD: Adam Wainwright told a story many years ago about being told by a veteran player to have a legible signature. I have a friend who also is a connoisseur of autographs and talks about being unable to read the swirls and scribbles years later -- years after you've forgotten who signed it. So a few years ago, I tightened it up a bit, made it clearer. I don't get much practice, save for signing letters and checks, I guess.