QUESTION: Why are the Cardinals standing pat? Are there certain players they should be looking at?
GOOLD: They are wading through the market just like every team. Their plan is not to stand pat. Their preference is to make a move or several at some point. The offseason isn't really revving into gear, and really won't until after Thanksgiving. That's become the norm. Teams spend the past few weeks trying to make trades and explore deals in regards to clearing spots on the 40-man roster or trading prospects before they have to protect them in the Rule 5 draft. Better to get a return now than wait and lose them for little later.
So, that's been the big focus. Now there's the holiday. And then there's the ramp up to the winter meetings. Major League Baseball wants more action at the winter meetings. They need Boras to comply. Good luck with that.
The Cardinals are not in a position where they are chasing a move. I hear that over and over -- from other teams, from agents, and from the Cardinals themselves. They're lurking. They're waiting. Or, as one agent said, they want to see what falls in their lap, and given the amount of pitchers available this winter, they might be right to do that.
QUESTION: The topic of fan (consumer) satisfaction with the Cardinals' plan and their product comes up often. Instead of making blind denials and offering quotes about tickets sold, would a legitimate scientific polling of the customers be useful for the team? If it actually showed a growing fissure with the fan base, would that impact this organization's decisions?
GOOLD: Absolutely. And I would welcome such a thing because right now what we have is completely inadequate data. We have the vocal minority on Twitter taking up all the oxygen. We have the team pushing back with the ticket sales and the TV ratings. And yet somewhere in the middle is probably the truth.
And maybe we saw some of that during the playoffs. I cannot stress enough how different the vibe was in D.C. compared to St. Louis. It is the first NLCS that I've covered that I recall there being a feeling of a distinct and wide enthusiasm gap.
It was shocking. D.C. was rocking. St. Louis was — not.
Some of that is on the Cardinals for the game experience, not just the team. Modernizing the ballpark experience and doing some of the things many of us get to see roaming around the leagues would enliven the atmosphere, for sure. Granted, Anibal Sanchez deserves a lot of credit for quieting the crowd at Busch.
Still, the difference should be noted — anecdotally. What you suggest would be even stronger because it would give us clear data on if that exists, and as a data-driven organization the Cardinals would certainly take note, in the same way they did a few years ago to notice that in a pennant race, their no-shows spiked. That bothered them.
Photo: Empty seats remained in the upper sections of the left field stands during Game 2 of the NLCS between the Cardinals and Nationals at Busch Stadium. Photo by David Carson, email@example.com
COMMENT: Could the so-called apathy from the fan base have to do with the quality of players on the field? I've been a fan a long time, but sure miss the days of Albert, Edmonds, and Rolen. Yes, Goldy is a start. but, Fowler, Wong, Ozuna, DeJong, etc. just aren't that level. The organization puts Carpenter in the same category with Molina and Wainwright as Cardinal greats, but he's just OK, not one of the greats.
GOOLD: I guess. Paul Goldschmidt is one of the best all-around players in the game. Jack Flaherty is one of the best pitchers in the National League. Period. Jordan Hicks does what no one else in the game does.
I think there's something deeper here. There's probably something to your point, what when Paul DeJong can spend half a season doing things at shortstop that only Trevor Story does and yet for some reason I get emails suggesting Story is an MVP candidate and DeJong is a DFA candidate.
Something is out of joint, and it will take someone smarter than me to figure it out. I don't get it.
QUESTION: You've noted that acquiring a pitcher with a higher reliable floor than Carlos Martinez could be a key move to make this team better. We all know the pitchers the Cardinals WON'T get (Cole, Strasburg), so what pitchers on the market fit that description?
GOOLD: There are tons. That's the beauty of this market. Wheeler would fit that description. Bumgarner might, depending on who you ask. I think you could make a good argument that Keuchel does, that Kluber (above) is worth a look, and that even acquiring a Porcello, or some of the other pitchers looking for bounce-back deals would make sense.
Follow-up: You've often said the Cardinals excel when built for run prevention. In that spirit, what do you think of pursuing Noah Syndergaard? Rumors always surround him, and the Cardinals have pieces that could be attractive to the Mets. Syndergaard would thrive here with our infield defense.
GOOLD: Agreed. But, haven't heard anything that strongly connects the Cardinals to having interest, not since -- when was it?-- they circled around that possibility a year ago. There are avenues for this conversation, however, given the Cardinals and Mets chats at the deadline about Wheeler, the Mets' interest in the Cardinals' outfielders, the possible move of Bader to the Mets, and then the Cardinals outfitting that deal with the centerpiece and the prospects to at least make it a conversation.
There are the makings of a conversation. I just haven't heard of any movement, traction, attempt -- not that I can verify and report.
COMMENT: The Cards need one more starter via free agency — maybe Dallas Keuchel — and then they should explore trading Carlos Martinez for a LH-hitting outfielder. It's too risky expecting the current outfield to produce the needed offense.
GOOLD: If they could pull that off, that might make them better. They wouldn't have a clear closer at that point. There's no harm in keeping Martinez, because just any old lefthanded hitter won't help them. An impact one would, and there's not one leaping off the page at this point that the Cardinals could get for Martinez.
I don't see the OF situation as risky for a contender as I do see the rotation in need of a sturdy starter if they're going to retain their stance atop the division.
QUESTION: Are the Cardinals seriously looking to re-sign Marcell Ozuna, or planning to replace him from inside the organization?
GOOLD: They're open to re-signing Ozuna. I wouldn't call them aggressive at this point. They're more on the outside of those talks, looking in, watching them move, and knowing that the agent will come back to them for a final offer if necessary.
The Reds appear more aggressive at this point, and the Cardinals would be happy to get the draft pick.
They have advertised how they're comfortable sticking with what they have in the outfield, but they're looking at other options, via trade. Maybe a free agent here or there.
QUESTION: Curious as to how Bader, J-Mart, O'Neill, Thomas and Arozarena fit into the OF dynamic next season. Especially with Carlson looming. Does the FO expect to fill Ozuna's stats in the aggregate with the above mentioned? How do you see that playing out if you were to guess?
GOOLD: Aggregate is the fall-back plan. This is how the Cardinals outlined it for me a few weeks ago: They see Fowler and Bader as the incumbents. They need improved performance from both, and they recognize that.
That leaves LF open, and the Cardinals are betting that from their mix of outfielders they can have an .800-.850 OPS emerge -- either from one player or from the group as a whole. It's a big bet considering how soft the offense was this past season. But that's what they're thinking. It worked for them on the pitching front this past season -- from quantity they produced quality, even though they never once paid for certainty.
There is one hitch in their plan. The numbers might favor them if they're trying to take five or six and put them into one spot. It's gets problematic when they try to put four or five into two outfield spots, and expect that great return. That's why an addition from the outside is still in play.
QUESTION: Who's the best fit for a trade to the Cardinals: Starling Marte (above), David Peralta, Lourdes Gurriel, Joc Pederson?
GOOLD: Of that group? I'd go Marte for sure, because he's the right blend of actually available and actually of interest and actually plays a position well of use. The others -- not so sure.
Lourdes Gurriel is interesting, for sure. Saw him as a young man in Cuba many years ago, and the Cardinals scouted the family and had some interest in him -- though not nearly as much as they had in Robert or Victor Victor Mesa. I'm a little skeptical of why the Jays would want to make that trade, and what they would ask in return as far as a starting pitcher goes.
Joc Pederson would be fine. Fine. Just fine. Again, pretty sure the Cardinals could aim higher, and even if they didn't they'd have to take into account how the Dodgers used Pederson and the importance of having a complement for him.
Peralta? Haven't heard much there. He's a former Cardinal. A reunion would be a fun story to write -- leaves a pitcher, returns as their option in the outfield. Just don't get the sense that's one I should be preparing to write about.
QUESTION: Regarding the Cards 2020 bench, my crystal ball shows me J. Martinez, Knizner, Edman, Sosa (above) and the odd man out after the spring training outfield free-or-all. I could live with that quintet. What say ye?
GOOLD: I like that you have Edmundo Sosa on there. That would be huge for the Cardinals if they can get him on there and use him every so often. Good winter for him so far, based on what scouts/coaches are saying. He can play shortstop, and if they'll use him, they can give DeJong some welcome days off. Even more if Edman has spot duties as the lefthanded hitter there like, say, Aaron Miles did more than a decade ago.
I'll offer one thought on this: Don't put Knizner in ink as Molina's backup. The Cardinals remain in contact with Matt Wieters about a reunion, and the Cardinals are OK with Knizner spending time this season at Class AAA to specifically work on his play behind the plate. They see his bat as ready for the main stage, but there's a sense that he could benefit from innings, innings, innings behind the plate and not sitting, sitting, sitting watching innings in the majors.
QUESTION: Do the Cardinals view Arozarena's season as a fluke? Merit-based evaluation would seem to play him over others that have never had years like his.
GOOLD: They do not. He has hit at every level. The only question they have is how his game will translate when the speed of play escalates and the number of quality strikes he sees increases by a bunch. They need to see how that style of game translates.
There is no one that I've spoke to in the Cardinals organization that doubts (a) Arozarena's performance in the minors; or (b) his ability to play in some role. I don't know where this perception is coming from. It's curious.
Follow-up: Arozarena's 2019 season must be viewed with the knowledge of a .404 BABIP and the AAA Happy Fun Ball. I still don't think he projects to anything more than an avergae hitter. But, he's fun to watch.
GOOLD: Those are factors. But he's had a high OBP and ability to hit at every level. Like I said, the question is how all of it translates to a greater speed of the game (some of those balls he's hit are going to be outs with better fielders, no surprise) and the increase in strikes (he's not going to wait out some pitchers who throw quality strikes and get those walks).
He's a good player. I'm not sure how else to say it. He's a good player. He's a legit prospect. He's a good player. He's just like any other good player prospect -- he's got to show how it translates to the majors. Some do. Some don't.
QUESTION: Since Tommy Edman had 35 extra-base hits in essentially half a season while Goldy had 60 and Ozuna 53 in a full season, why wouldn’t Edman profile as a high average option with pop who could bat 3rd while Goldy slides to cleanup?
GOOLD: Because one season is a good start, not a finished product. That would be one reason. At some point you do have to look at the player's body of work as well, and while Edman had a rip-roaring season as a rookie for sure, he doesn't have the career that Goldschmidt has, or that Matt Carpenter has, for that matter.
He's trending up for sure, but I'd be real hesitant to say you definitively know him as a player just yet.
Follow-up: Who would you consider to be the 3-4-5 batters in the lineup?
GOOLD: As of today? Goodness.
How about: 3. Goldschmidt. 4. Carpenter. 5. DeJong.
The Cardinals have some lineup work to do, because it's just not clear at all.
Follow-up: Could we see a scenario where the Cardinals acquire a player who hits 3rd, moving Goldschmidt to the clean-up spot? Or is Goldschmidt's name written in pen for the 3 hole?
GOOLD: The middle of the order is open for rearrangement. That's largely because the Cardinals don't have a surefire cleanup hitter at the moment. That said, it's more likely that Goldschmidt moves up in the order than down because they'll want to maximize his plate appearances, not take from them.
QUESTION: So Carpenter said last spring that "he sees himself more as that .300 hitter, closer to .300," and then he spent the year trying to pull the outside pitch, resulting in 500 weak grounders to the second baseman playing in short left-center in the shift. Does he see anything wrong with that picture?
GOOLD: We were watching a different guy at times, it seems. For most of the year, I saw a Carpenter who was trying to access the other part of the field, trying to drive that ball to left field, and find that alley out there to doubles that he once took advantage of. There were times when he was pitched in a way that made it impossible. Take a look at the approach pitchers had with him -- and the flares to left field that he did with some pitches. That's a hitter looking to use the other field, but not driving the ball to the other field.
Follow-up: Has anyone noticed that Carp is much more erect in his stance than earlier in his career? Swinging like a twisted pretzel. Not using legs as much.
GOOLD: Lots of people have. It's one reason why he's been asked a lot about the strain on his back, and whether or not he's compensating for a physical limitation or a physical ailment -- or that his body has shifted itself to avoid injury. That's been something he's been asked a lot of about, and just would rather not discuss, and he insists it's not the case. But the root of those questions are the look of his swing, his stance.
COMMENT: Hoping the Cardinals do not repeat the mistake they made in extending Carpenter by doing the same for Yadi Molina. Can't see him sticking around as a backup. Love the guy, but maybe it's time to move on?
GOOLD: Ownership is going to want to sign Molina, keep him, and make sure that he doesn't play anywhere else, if possible. He's viewed as a legacy player, and they do value that. It could be tricky. But if they sign him, then it's up to Shildt to gain his trust and sell him on whatever role is best for the team -- not just a reflection of his inevitable contract.
Wouldn't put it past Shildt to pull it off, candidly. He starts with trust. That's a good place.
QUESTION: It's understandable that people are high on Wong: His best overall season. Better average, better baserunning, Gold Glove. But, is that kind of season worth keeping (because it wasn't elite production) or is now the time to capitalize and trade him? At least the money saved could bring help somewhere else in the lineup. Plus, Edman fits in nicely as a cheaper replacement who produced well, if not better.
There isn't a return he would bring that would be worth trading an elite defensive second baseman who might be a top-order hitter for the team with plus speed, improving OBP, and maybe even, you know, score 90 runs or so ahead of the middle of the order. I understand getting "creative" to help the Cardinals, but trading the best all-around player from the previous season does not seem like it would help. That's just me.
QUESTION: Max Scherzer and David Price are names that often get thrown around as "misses" by the Cardinals' front office. But in looking at the current MLB prospect rankings, how big of a miss was not stepping up for Cuban outfielder Luis Robert -- based on overall investment, which was minimal compared to a Scherzer/Price?
GOOLD: How big of a miss? Less than Scherzer. More than Price. That's it.
The Cardinals are not thrilled that they missed on Robert, not at all. They didn't engage in Scherzer. They thought they signed Price, and then heard that Boston was going to trump anything they offered.
So, the frustration is perhaps highest when it comes to Robert. Keep in mind the commitment that required went beyond the bonus total. They would have had to pay the dollar-for-dollar tax on the overage, as the White Sox did.
QUESTION: I know Mo gets a lot of credit for his contributions to the organization as a whole, and in no way am I in a position to question those, but aside from promoting Shildt, what would you say are his three key successes in terms of personnel on the current 40-man roster?
GOOLD: Paul Goldschmidt ... Adam Wainwright ... Kolten Wong ... People in the chat really, really, really seem to like Tommy Edman ... Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas ... Yadier Molina.
Those are some players that Mozeliak has had direct influence on acquiring. Molina was a draft pick back when 'Mo' was involved. Mikolas was championed by scouts and a special adviser to Mozeliak, who did the deal. Flaherty and Hudson are two examples of the pitching profile that Mozeliak championed back when the Cardinals and Luhnow were trying to figure out how to find better players, develop better pitchers, and increase velocity in the organization through draft picks (think Kelly, Ottavino, Rosenthal, Maness, and onward). Do I need to explain the others?
I get the criticism. What I don't get is the evidence you use. There's an argument for you to make, there's evidence for you to use -- but why you've chosen this question as some kind of launch pad, I'll never know.
To a comment about the Cardinals receiving "nothing in return" for Randal Grichuk and how such deals are dragging down the franchise, Goold replied:
What the Cardinals really should be worried about is how much regression they've seen from their acquisitions. When was the last time they got a player in and that player performed ... better, performed up to expectations? Mikolas is one, for sure. Goldschmidt probably will be. Ozuna wasn't. Cecil wasn't. Fowler hasn't been. Miller could still be. Leone wasn't. O'Neill hasn't yet been.
This is a huge concern. The regression of acquisitions is the bigger story.
Follow-up: What is your theory into tho regression of Cardinals acquisitions? Coaching, environment, other?
GOOLD: All of the above. Approach. Don't discount the ballpark, either. But, yes, the Cardinals have had difficulty in recent seasons getting better, more, the same from acquisitions. We're going to see that start to change because so much of it started about two, 2½ years ago, and that's when we really saw the downturn. Ozuna being the most recent one that stood out, with Miller an example that some might give, or Goldschmidt, but neither really fits the standout examples that we've seen like Cecil, Fowler, etc.
The front office has fixated on the coaching/managing aspect of it, and they brought it up as a concern when they fired Matheny, for example. Too many steps back.
QUESTION: Jake Woodford had a solid year last year, and many thought he would be brought up in September. We're still scratching our heads as to why not. Will he get a shot at making the team in 2020?
GOOLD: It helps that he's on the 40-man. That was the biggest thing holding him back this past season -- that pesky 40-man roster. To protect him from the Rule 5 draft, the Cardinals had to add him this past winter.
Why not do it in September? Fair point. They elected to not add to his innings and, the bigger part, they gave that spot on the roster to Mike Mayers as a power reliever. That was their choice as far as use and what would help the team more. Woodford would get experience by being around, but there weren't many innings available for him, and the Cardinals wanted to use the roster spot for someone who would help -- or who had a clear role for Mike Shildt and Mike Maddux.
Now Woodford is on. Woodford will be part of the competition in spring training to position himself as the de facto No. 6 starter. He'll get big-league innings in Florida. He'll even probably get a start or two in Grapefruit League play. He has fans in the organization, in high places, and that will help.
QUESTION: Reports seem to vary about Nolan Gorman's ability to stay at 3B defensively long-term. It's too early to tell, but what's your sense of where he'll play?
GOOLD: I don't have a certainty, only the information that he improved this year, and because he's improved at third he has the chance to stay there. Other prospects with the bat at that position stalled at Class AA. They struggled there with the speed of the game. He has done things at third and made strides at third that suggest he'll be able continue to progress at the position at the coming level.
Follow-up: Where do the Cardinals project Elehuris Montero's long-term positional home to be? With Gorman on his heels, is he likely to move off 3B?
GOOLD: Third base is where they expect Montero to be. And let the chips fall where production and need takes them.