For the first time in his career, Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal has enough service time to negotiate a contract based on his performance as much as his games in the majors.
That meant a raise.
It did not lead to security.
Rosenthal met with the media Monday afternoon at the team's annual Winter Warm-Up and said that he did not know of any conversation for a multi-year deal. Rosenthal and the Cardinals, urged by arbitration, agreed to a one-year, $5.6-million contract this past week. The team retains control of its closer through the 2018 season, and without an extension has essentially agreed to go year-to-year through the arbitration process.
"As far as contractual, multi-year type things, I guess we haven’t had any talks," Rosenthal said. "I don’t know what they’re thinking, what we’re thinking. I don’t know how any of that looks because I haven’t gone through it. Going through the arbitration process was pretty good. Smooth. I’m happy with how it ended up."
Rosenthal set a club record with 48 saves this past season, and he had 93 saves total since taking over the closer's role full-time at the start of 2014.
Most players earn arbitration rights after their third season in the majors.
The Cardinals have avoided longterm commitments to closers since Jason Isringhausen, entering only into a two-year deal with Jason Motte to buy him out of arbitration and give the team some security in that role. Motte missed one of the years of that contract recovering from elbow surgery. The volatility of the role contributes to the Cardinals' approach as well. The team has utilized Edward Mujica and Fernando Salas in the closer role on playoff teams, only to see each fade and then give way to another arm.
Motte's multi-year deal came in his second year of arbitration.
That would be next year for Rosenthal.
The Cardinals would prefer to enter into a multi-year deal with a player before he reaches free agency if they can include a free agent year. Players and agents appear less and less interested in doing that, especially with the riches of free agency not available. Lance Lynn and the Cardinals agreed to an extension a year ago that only included his arbitration years. He will miss the second of a three-year deal recovering from elbow surgery.
That's the risk. The team gets the certainty of cost but has to offer security regardless of health in the coming years.
"Looking at it from the outside in, I’m still under the team control (and) basically going to be here for the next three years unless they decide otherwise," Rosenthal said. "I’m confident in that. Very pleased to have that opportunity."
-- Derrick Goold
Wong's ambition pleases Matheny
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny welcomed Kolten Wong's bid to become the team's new lead-off hitter.
If Wong can excel in that offensive role, it would allow Matt Carpenter to move into the middle of the batting order.
"I love it," Matheny said during his media session at the Winter Warm-Up. "I'm challenging these guys all the time, 'What is that you want to do? What's the player you want to be? And get a real good idea of what that looks like and then help us try to figure out how to help you.'
"Try to put those goals and aspirations together and realize that we're going put this puzzle together the best that we can. But if we know that is something you believe you can do for this team to help us, how would we not be better? These guys are so highly motivated, so highly talented, how can we better utilize what they bring to the table.
"And then they're able to go and make radical transformations to the way they go about their game. I think Carp is a great example of that, a guy who redefined himself as a hitter last year and the kind of guy that I think is serving as a great example for how our players can make those adjustments depending to what the need of the team is. We have some very selfless players that are willing to do what they need to do.
"For me to hear that from Kolten is just kind of him looking at the landscape of our club and thinking how can I jump into this and help us more. He thinks being at the top of the order could allow us freedom to do other things. I'm excited to watch what he does. So now we go and compete."
Told that Wong hoped to get leadoff repetitions during spring training, Matheny smiled.
"Did he tell us who's batting second and third and . . .?" Matheny said, drawing chuckles from the assembled media corps.
Obviously it's too soon for Matheny and his coaches to mull possible batting orders. First, they need to see where are their hitters are heading into exhibition play, then they need to assess them in game action.
"So we take what we've got, we've got a guy that is motivated to do something a little different, and we continue to build on that, we keep asking questions," Matheny said.
"There will be opportunities that come up all time, especially in spring training, where we have guys bouncing in and out of the lineup all the time. There will be opportunities for Kolten.
"But, once again, we have to keep looking at what's best for our club and not try to draw it all up."
-- Jeff Gordon
Videos from Day 3 at Warm-Up
Another parade of Cardinals came through the media car wash on Monday, and The Post-Dispatch, with our trusty iPhones, were able to capture snippets from several of the interviews. You can find those on the write fielder channel at YouTube or just by following these links:
-- Derrick Goold
Leake eager to settle in
Cardinals pitcher Mike Leake earned a healthy respect for the Cardinals during his time with the Cincinnati Reds.
"I always thought we were chasing the Cardinals. I never thought that we were being the team chased, except for maybe 2010, maybe '12 a little bit too," he said during his media session at the Winter Warm-Up. "I always saw the Cardinals as the main threat of the division."
So they always impressed him as a team he would enjoy playing for some day.
"Watching the last 5 1/2 years is kind of what sold me on wanting to come here," said Leake said. "Seeing the team being ready to play every time we played them. It looked like they were ready to go every time. I couldn't say the same about every team. This team, to me, is a special team and a team everybody should want to play for."
But what's it like to actually play with the Cardinals? That is what Leake is eager to discover after arriving with a five-year, $80 million free agent deal.
"Going to a new team and having to meet new guys, is something you try to guestimate what guys are going to be like," he said. "Ultimately you just have to be yourself and interact."
The assimilation will start during spring training, but Leake won't really know how he fits in until the real games start.
"Most of the bonding comes in the locker room," Leake said. "You don't get time with the players until you're on the road in season. I'm curious to see what this clubhouse is like and how they mesh and interact with each other.
"It seems like it is a pretty jovial group. I look forward to it."
And speaking of that, he knows that Adam Wainwright is quite proud of his offensive ability.
"I'm excited to hit again. Hopefully I can teach Adam a few things about hitting," Leake said with a laugh.
-- Jeff Gordon
Martinez's evolution continues
Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez was proud to go solo during his media session at the Winter Warm-Up Monday morning, taking and answering questions in English.
Bilingual shortstop Jhonny Peralta stood ready to jump in as his translator, but Martinez never had to go to the bullpen.
"You, I try every day to learn a couple of words," he said. "That's why I'm here right now. I just try to speak a lot with my teammates, with Mike (Matheny) and everybody. Just try to learn some words every day."
Martinez's 2015 season ended early due to shoulder soreness, so he spent the offseason at the team's Jupiter, Fla., complex rebuilding his strength.
"It's getting better," Martinez said. "I think I have like 90 percent of my arm. I will be better in spring training.
"I'll be ready for the season."
Martinez threw 179 2/3 innings last season after throwing just 99 2/3 in 2014 for the Cardinals and Memphis Redbirds as a starter and reliever. Last year he opened in the big league rotation.
"It was hard for me because I never threw too many innings," Martinez said.
Sure enough, shoulder soreness kept him out of postseason play last fall. "I wanted to compete in the playoffs to help the Cardinals," he said. "It was really hard for me."
He is eager to try against with a revamped starting rotation.
"We know we have a good staff," Martinez said. "We have a good team right now. You just go to compete. We are the Cardinals. I'm a believer in all my teammates. We can get into the championship."
Siegrist turns the page on playoff loss
Cardinals reliever Kevin Siegrist hasn't dwell on his playoff struggling against the Chicago Cubs -- allowing a homer in Game 3 of the NLDS and two homers in Game 4.
"I thought about it for a little bit," Siegrist said during his media session at the Winter Warm-up. "I feel stuff like that will make you better. There is always something you can work on to get better. You hate to have that happen to you. But, it is what it is and you can always learn from it.
"So I intend to do that."
So what went wrong?
"Personally, I just feel like that day was not my day," he said. "That's pretty much it. Gave up two home runs."
Siegrist feels strong heading into spring training with past arm issues behind him.
"I felt fine physically throughout the year," he said. "The difference between this year and last year is that I had to feel how my arm coming off that injury two years ago.
"This year I can work on more of my pitches and refine those. It's coming along."
With so many veterans gone from the bullpen, who will keep the sheep, er, relievers in line?
"I think Rosie (Trevor Rosenthal) is going to try, but no one will let that happen," Siegrist quipped.
-- Jeff Gordon
Gyorko says power is his game
New Cardinals infielder Jedd Gyorko plays three positions and his lifetime big-league batting average is just .236, which is 102 points shy of what he has hit against the Cardinals in his career.
But the foregoing points are not what define the righthanded-hitting Gyrko. He is that rare power-hitting middle infielder, averaging better than 16 homers per season (49 total) for his first three years in the majors with San Diego.
To the notion that he has more power than most infielders who primarily are second baseman, Gyorko said, "I guess you can let the numbers do the talking. I think that (power) part of the game is what I need to make a difference. You've got to have something that changes the game and that's the element I can bring."
__ Rick Hummel
La Russa says D-backs are prepping for long haul
Cardinals Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, now running the Arizona Diamondbacks' baseball operations, said the off-season acquisitions of pitchers Zack Greinke (free agency) and Shelby Miller (trade) do not just signify that the Diamondbacks are trying to win the National League Western Division title in 2016. "We're going for it for the next four or five years," La Russa said. "Our club is really young."
La Russa noted that the D-backs needed two more starting pitchers, plus a reliever because "in this division, if you don't have starting pitching, you're not going very far."
But now that most of the off-season dust has settled, La Russa said, "We're going to able to compete with anybody."
As for his former team, La Russa said he again would be on hand for the home opener on April 11 against Milwaukee. His Diamondbacks open their season at home the week before that but La Russa said that even if there was a conflict, he would choose to take part in the Cardinals' ceremonies.
"My obligation to the Cardinals and that red jacket. . . if we open the same day, they're going to play the (Arizona) game without me."
Then, jokingly, La Russa said, "From what I hear from the manager and the coaches they can hear me yelling from upstairs in the (press) box. They'll be thankful that I'll miss."
Winter Warm-Up Links:
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