NEW YORK • Less than a week after the draft, the Cardinals have agreements in place with their top three picks after moving aggressively to lure high school shortstop Oscar Mercado into professional baseball.
The Cardinals plan to finalize contracts with their first three picks when the players visit St. Louis early next week for physicals.
Gonzaga lefty Marco Gonzales, the 19th overall pick, said he planned to be in St. Louis on Tuesday. He agreed to a $1.85 million bonus, and the Cardinals agreed with New Jersey high school lefty Rob Kaminsky, the 28th overall pick, on a $1.78 million bonus. Both of those signings will be at or below the slot price suggested by Major League Baseball. The Cardinals went over the slot to land Mercado. The 18-year-old infielder from Gaither High in Tampa had a commitment to Florida State and the Cardinals offered him $1.5 million to go pro. According to Baseball America, that is $528,600 over the slot price for the 57th overall pick.
The slot prices are assigned by the commissioner’s office, and they are used to determine each individual team’s bonus cap. Pending physicals, the Cardinals have committed $5.1 million of their $6.9 million purse to the first three picks. The Cardinals have seven of their top 11 picks – all of whom count against the cap – signed or under agreement.
General manager John Mozeliak said the team is willing to pay a penalty tax by going no more than 5 percent over the cap.
This is the second consecutive year that the Cardinals have gone beyond slot to sign a second-round player. High school third baseman Carson Kelly, the 89th overall pick in 2012, received a $1.6 million bonus, the highest of any player in the second round.
The Cardinals announced signed contracts with six draft picks Wednesday. They are: high school pitcher Ian McKinney (fifth round), Maryland pitcher Jimmy Reed (sixth round), high school shortstop Chris Rivera (seventh round), Cedar Valley outfielder Devante Lacy (24th round), Evangel pitcher Blake McKnight (38th round) and Kean University pitcher Kevin Herget (39th round).
MATHENY ON BEANBALLS
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny watched the brawl that raged between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks on Tuesday night and said he has seen different philosophies this season from teams when it comes to the beanballs that spawned the fighting between two NL West teams. The Cardinals have, since Tony La Russa was manager, stressed the importance when hitting an opposing player of aiming below the shoulders to avoid the dangerous head shot.
“I think there are different philosophies on different clubs,” Matheny said. “There is a club that we’ve faced a number of times this year that they keep emphasizing they want the catcher standing up behind the guy (aiming) inside. That stuff drives me crazy. I don’t think there’s any room for it. I really don’t. Have we missed up high? Yeah. I’m going to tell you once again we’ve got men out there who are going to make mistakes. The ball is going to take off. But as far as a team philosophy? No way. I don’t think it’s right.”
Matheny did not identify the team he referenced that has its catchers stand up to offer the pitcher a target. A member of the Cardinals said it is the rival Chicago Cubs who do.
Matheny said he has expressed his abhorrence for that practice with the opposing dugout and when asked if his complaints were received well, he said, “Nope.”
“The only time I’ve had problems this year is when I’ve seen catchers being very deliberate coming up and in and never never did that in my career. I’ve never once asked our guys to do that. I never will. Coming inside is one thing. I just don’t think there’s room in the game for messing around with guys’ heads.”
MOVE LOOMS FOR A ROOKIE
Cardinals officials said they have not made a decision on how to reshuffle the rotation with Jake Westbrook’s return Friday night to face Miami. Matheny acknowledged that Sunday’s start against the Marlins is unassigned. It would be Michael Wacha’s turn in the rotation. Tyler Lyons is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today at Citi Field, and that would put his between-start schedule on target with a Sunday start. Either one of the rookies could return to the Class AAA Memphis rotation to make room for Westbrook or move to the bullpen with another roster move afoot.
“Still a decision to be made,” Matheny said. “It’s great to get them here and this is as good a place to learn as any. We also realize there are opportunities for them still to go and improve if we send them back. It’s a win all the way across.”
Allen Craig, who crashed into the right-field wall making a tumbling catch Tuesday night at Citi Field, remained sore but in the lineup Wednesday. Craig left Tuesday’s win in the late innings with a sensation he likened to “whiplash.” … Adam Wainwright’s first strike out in his start today – weather permitting – will be the 1,000th of his career. Severe thunderstorms however are forecast for the New York area all day. … Fernando Salas (shoulder) has progressed on a throwing program that could have him back on the mound when the Cardinals return from this road trip.