JUPITER, Fla. — Righthander Jack Flaherty’s relationship with the Cardinals front office has been marginal enough that he has had his contract renewed twice and gone to an arbitration hearing once in the past three years, plus recently offering a different interpretation of his troublesome shoulder than did president of baseball operations John Mozeliak.
So it seemed somewhat surprising that Flaherty was the first of seven arbitration eligible Cardinals to agree to terms Tuesday, signing a one-year, $5 million contract after he had made $3.9 million via arbitration last season when he was 9-2 in a campaign shortened twice by injuries.
“It’s good to be done with it. Move on. Go on with the season,” said Flaherty, who won’t start the season with the Cardinals because of his shoulder issue.
But while Flaherty did not file for arbitration this year, Gold Glove outfielders Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader did file and regular outfielder Dylan Carlson had his contract renewed. Bader filed at $4.8 million, and the Cardinals filed at $4.2 million. O’Neill filed at $4.15 million, while the Cardinals filed at $3.4 million. Both players likely will go to hearings.
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Since the hearings will be held during the season, the players will be paid at the level where the club’s offer is until they ether win their cases or settle somewhere in the middle. But a settlement isn’t likely to happen as the Cardinals in recent years have adopted a “file and trial” approach to arbitration filings.
Jordan Hicks, who has missed much time in the past two seasons with elbow problems, agreed to a $937,500 contract, according to a source. And Tuesday’s starter, Dakota Hudson, who was out almost all last season after Tommy John elbow surgery, agreed to a reported $1.05 million deal as a first-year arbitration eligible player.
Relievers Alex Reyes and Giovanny Gallegos, who divided the closer’s duties last season, also agreed on one-year deals and avoided arbitration. Reyes’ deal is $2.85 million, and Gallegos’ is $2.41 million.
The pre-arbitration players agreeing to terms were Genesis Cabrera, Brendan Donovan, Tommy Edman, Junior Fernandez, Ryan Helsley, Ivan Herrera, Andrew Knizner, Lars Nootbaar, Johan Oviedo, Freddy Pacheco, Johan Quezada, Angel Rondón, Ali Sanchez, Edmundo Sosa, Brandon Waddell, Jake Walsh, Kodi Whitley, Jake Woodford, Juan Yepez and T.J. Zeuch.
Later in the afternoon, the Cardinals optioned Waddell to Memphis and re-assigned infielders Jordan Walker, Luken Baker and Delvin Perez, pitcher Trent Baker and catcher Pedro Pages to minor league camp, leaving 55 players in camp.
Hudson wants to be a ‘Clydesdale’
Hudson, in his first start of the spring, tossed two scoreless innings, allowing one hit in a 4-3 win over the Miami Marlins.
It was his first spring start since 2020. It was the fourth successive exhibition victory for the Cardinals.
“I’m trying … to get everything cleaned up, so when I do step on the big stage at Busch, I’ll be ready for big league games and be more consistent,” said Hudson
“If you’re talking about the difference between an average pitcher and one of the elites, that extra out per game adds up at the end of the year. I’m looking to carry a heavy workload, make sure I’m pulling my weight. That way, we have a better chance of being fresh and ready to go in the postseason.”
That said, Hudson offered a little local color, stating that he wanted to be “more of a Clydesdale than a purebred.”
His contract was settled while he was coming in off the field. “I felt like the organization treated me with great respect and we were able to get something done. I’m glad it’s over with,” said Hudson.
After Woodford succeeded Hudson with two scoreless innings, dancing around two singles in the fourth, Oviedo, gradually re-establishing himself, had two perfect innings, followed by one for lefthander Waddell before Zack Thompson ran into trouble in the eighth, dropping a throw at first base and allowing three runs.
Manager Oliver Marmol said Thompson had to “do a better job of filling up the zone. He’s got good enough stuff, that’s for sure.”
Arenado airs one out
After knocking a two-run double in his first home exhibition game, third baseman Nolan Arenado launched a two-run homer in the fourth inning Tuesday.
“He’s never satisfied with where he is,” said Marmol. “He’s always looking for ways to improve. That’s the sign of a great player. You don’t have to motivate those guys. They motivate themselves and they have higher expectation for themselves than you can place on them.”
Donovan shows versatility — and power
Donovan played left field, his third position of the spring, after also appearing at third base and right field. His fifth-inning solo homer to the opposite field in left, aided a bit by the wind, was the game-winning run.
“Gamer. Absolute baseball player,” said Marmol.
“He’s just a baseball rat. Offensively he uses the whole field. Defensively he can play anywhere. (You can) throw him in the outfield (and) we’re seeing that. Anywhere in the infield. So I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen.”
The 25-year-old Donovan, who came onto the radar last season when he played at Classes A, AA and AAA in the system and then starred in the Arizona Fall League, has four gloves in his locker, including a first baseman’s mitt, and he often carries three of them with him to the dugout.
“I’m just trying to help out any way I can,” said the lefthanded hitter who was born in Wurzburg, Germany but lives in Alabama.
Hearing that his manager had raved about him, Donovan said, “For him to say that is just a big boost in confidence.”
Wainwright in line for opening day
Veteran Adam Wainwright, who will pitch on Wednesday at West Palm Beach in a rematch with Houston’s Justin Verlander, next will pitch five days later on Monday and five days after that on Saturday, April 2. Five days after that is April 7 in St. Louis.
“Does that line up for our opening day?” Marmol said, coyly.
“The math lines up for if that needs to be our option … we’re able to do it,” Marmol said.
McLaughlin on the scene
For the first time since he called the final spring game in March, 2020 before COVID-19 changed our world, Cardinals telecaster Dan McLaughlin was on site for a road game — and enjoying seeing what he wants to see rather than having to depend on what he would get in a studio.
“It makes it a lot easier,” said McLaughlin.