Hot topics from Hall of Fame baseball writer Rick Hummel's chat with Post-Dispatch subscribers.
DEADLINE DATE FOR STARTING UP?
COMMENT: Time is wasting. Seems like MLB needs to pick an option for playing and get on with it.
COMMISH: There's plenty of time yet if the season is extended through October, with postseason to take place in November.
My drop-dead dates are camps have to open by mid-July and real games by Aug. 1. You still could get in 100 games (with a sprinkling of doubleheaders) if you played a three-month season extending through October. You shouldn't have too many rainouts, for instance.
BUT . . . NEITHER START-UP PLAN WORKS
QUESTION: Which do you think is the more plausible idea for bringing back baseball this summer: the Arizona plan or the Grapefruit/Cactus plan?
COMMISH: Both seem fairly implausible, at least from the players' standpoints. The thought of being quarantined in hotels and ballparks for four months or so does not ring a pleasant chord with those who have families.
But if the owners and players agree on playing a season in one state or both states, I would prefer the Grapefruit-Cactus League plan because of my familiarity with Florida and the Cardinals would prefer that, too, because quite a few of their players have residences there. I know some of the venues in Florida are farther apart than they are in Arizona, but any place can be reached in four hours or so by bus or car, and you wouldn't have to make more than one or two of those trips across the state if you played a block of games at, say, Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field.
The logistics of having all 30 teams play in Arizona seem staggering, when you try to figure out, for television purposes, starting times for all the games, keeping in mind that half the teams are in the Eastern time zone. And, rest assured, that whenever the season starts, it is being done almost entirely for television.
In a perfect world, I'd like to see the teams wait until they could play in front of fans, preferably at their home stadia, but that may not be happening this year unless everyone sits six feet apart from the next person. And probably not even then, either.
OUTSIDE OPINIONS OF CARDS' FARM SYSTEM?
QUESTION: Beyond local viewpoints, what's are some opinions of the Cardinals' farm system around baseball? Pitching-rich? Pitching overrated? No power bats? Or short on offense overall? Deep/not deep in prospects overall?
COMMISH: The Cardinals' system seems, at the top, to be heavily stocked with hard-throwing pitchers, even after some have had to be traded in recent years to get Ozuna and then Goldschmidt. I do not think there is a lot of power in the system.
Overall, I'm not hearing that it's overly deep, although there seems a good quartet or even quintet of third basemen that could reach the majors someday, even if it's at some other position.
WHICH PROSPECTS JOIN AN EXPANDED ROSTER?
QUESTION: Say MLB goes to 30 players per team for a shortened season. Who would be your extra four Cards players?
COMMISH: Especially if there was no minor-league season, I would add Dylan Carlson. I would also add outfielder Justin Williams (above, with Mike Shildt), who is a lefthanded hitter, of which the club doesn't have many.
Alex Reyes and Genesis Cabrera would be the first two pitchers I would bring back from the minors because of their stuff and their ability to both start and relieve.
WHAT'S THE PLAN FOR MINOR LEAGUERS?
QUESTION: Do the Cardinals have a plan for continuing the development of their minor leaguers if there is no minor-league season? Let's say MLB decides to have games played in Florida with no fans in the stands, then where do minor leaguers go train? Jupiter wouldn't be practical. Would they emphasize them playing in winter leagues?
COMMISH: The minor-league issue seems much thornier than that of the majors. While there is a strong sense that some sort of the big-league season will take place, there is much less of a feeling that there will be minor-league seasons. I'm sure teams are wrestling with the possibilities, but I would think there would be a heavy dose of instructional-league stuff in both Florida and Arizona this fall and maybe more players, if eligible, will be sent to the winter leagues.
Big-league rosters will be expanded if play commences and more would-be minor leaguers will be able to play, but the majority of minor leaguers may have to be on their own.
A ROLE FOR RAVELO?
QUESTION: When/if games start and rosters are expanded, is Ravelo the most logical DH?
COMMISH: Rangel Ravelo also could see time at first base if Paul Goldschmidt has any more trouble with his elbow, which flared up twice this spring. Goldschmidt then could be the DH.
That role, if it is going to be a staple of baseball in 2020, is likely to move around from day to day with expanded rosters.
HUDSON AS A TRADE CHIP?
COMMENT: We've seen more than one article which identified Dakota Hudson as a player who could be traded for a big bat. I hope "Mo" does not do that. Hudson has the tools to be special if he can control his walks.
COMMISH: If the Cardinals were to try to acquire a power hitter in a trade, Hudson is an attractive chip because he is a proven starting pitcher and he doesn't make much money yet.
The Cardinals like having him, too, though, and hope they have enough offensive punch in house. That remains to be seen.
HINDSIGHT ON THE TAMPA BAY TRADE
QUESTION: I'm a Jose Martinez fan, but that trade has the potential to turn out to be a steal for the Cardinals. Do you think Liberatore is likely to become a major factor for the Cardinals in the next few years? Did the Rays really need OF depth that badly?
COMMISH: Yes, Randy Arozarena was an important part of the trade with Tampa Bay because the Rays had traded Tommy Pham to San Diego. Martinez probably won't play too much outfield for Tampa Bay but he could be a DH on many days. Martinez will be missed in the clubhouse during the season because of his daily energy — if there is a season.
As for Matt Liberatore, the Cardinals really needed lefthanded starting depth and, as a former No. 1 draft pick, he is expected to provide that, along with Zack Thompson, who was the Cardinals' top draft pick last year.
RETIREMENTS COMING SOON?
QUESTION: It will be an abbreviated season at best and possibly no season at all. What's your opinion as to whether the likes of Waino, Yadi and Albert retire after this season (however it plays out).
COMMISH: Of the three you mention, I would think Waino would be the most likely to retire.
Molina still burns to play another year or two, which would help his Hall of Fame chances as he moves up the ladder in catching longevity and all-time statistics.
Pujols still has another year to go at large money with the Angels, so he won't be retiring.
CALLING OUT CECIL
COMMENT: Yes, some players will be injured when training starts up again. And we can be sure that Brett Cecil, having probably healed from his hammy injury, will be among the walking wounded for something else. He's probably healed from his hamstring injury at Spring Training I, although he did say he had a personal problem that kept him from getting treatment.
COMMISH: Brett Cecil really does want to pitch for the Cardinals this season and is quite aware he has been paid a lot for a little. On the fourth year of a four-year deal, this is his last chance and maybe the Cardinals will have room for him.
He probably would have a better chance of making somebody else's club, though, if he showed well enough in the re-start of spring training.
BIG MONEY IN FREE AGENCY A THING OF THE PAST?
QUESTION: How will this pandemic affect free agents for the next couple years? For players like Fowler, could this be their last hurrah, or do you see them getting maybe more of an incentive-type contract from teams after they reach free agency?
COMMISH: I wouldn't be surprised if there were more incentive-laden contracts to prospective free agents because the big money isn't likely to be there yet this next offseason, with revenues to be down drastically. In Dexter Fowler's case, though, he still is signed for next year.
We're all sort of throwing darts at the wall here but it seems impossible that there would be very many big-money deals for a while.
Do you think that the Cards will now just avoid pursuing players with big contracts and just stick with their youngsters, like Gorman, Liberatore, etc.?
COMMISH: The Cardinals may not be the only team swimming in this water. The players who already have their long-term deals, however long they are, should thank their lucky stars that they have them.
MURPHY'S LAW AND OZUNA
COMMENT: Looks like Murphy’s Law applies to Ozuna. He should have taken the multi-year deal from Cincy. He might have a hard time getting a multi-year deal in 2021, although he won’t have the QO attached.
COMMISH: It is going to be hard for many players to get big-money deals for next year. I believe there still could be an ample number of games played for teams to evaluate prospective free agents but no matter how well they play, that staggering money isn't going to be there. And perhaps not for a long time.
Yes, Ozuna might have been wiser to take a multi-year deal when he had it, but who could have foreseen this current state of affairs?
JUST SAY 'NO' TO GAMES IN EMPTY BALLPARKS
COMMENT: Ownership should have a responsibility to try to salvage what they can of games at home ballparks — not just for the 25 ballplayers, but the hundreds of other employees who work each game. It seems absurd to play games off-site with no fans, if we can wait a while longer and play at home.
COMMISH: It would be my absolute first choice for a team to play as many games as it can where it's supposed to play them, so fans can observe first-hand and where stadium workers can work. If it were only a while longer to wait, I would be all for it.
But I'm afraid it will not be a "while longer." I can't imagine, for instance, games being played any time soon in New York or Chicago. And the California governor said he didn't anticipate any games of any sport being played in front of fans in his state.
SETTING RECORDS IN A SHORTENED SEASON
QUESTION: With a shortened season, any records go out the window? What if a pitcher (like Flaherty) has a record-low ERA but only over 100 innings?
COMMISH: No records are going to matter in a severely-shortened season. Most everything will have an asterisk attached. Individual-game records, of course, still will matter but cumulative numbers you might as well throw away.
WHERE COMMISH DRAWS THE LINE ON RESTARTING THE SEASON
QUESTION: If the season starts Aug. 1, does it make sense to have 80 doubleheaders of 7 innings each, and if tied after 9 innings call it a tie. Use 2 points for a win 1 for a tie. 32-33 player rosters to manage that. Wouldn't something like that hugely favor the Cards with their pitching depth?
COMMISH: I don't want to see baseball standings turn into hockey standings. No ties. No points for ties.
You would need only 10 to 12 doubleheaders to get to 100 games if the season starts on Aug. 1. At first, I wasn't for seven-inning doubleheaders but I am if the games are played consecutively rather than day-night affairs. Give the fans something. The Cardinals' pitching depth will be a factor in 26-man or 30-man-plus rosters. Their offense has been -- and will be -- their concern.
Follow-up: If there are so many changes to baseball that it seems a different game, I would prefer to cancel the season. Also, the players and umps are susceptible because social distancing is impossible.
COMMISH: I, too, don't want to see a season if there are too many changes. Presumably, there would be considerable testing for coronavirus so that a home-plate umpire breathing on catchers' necks for three hours does not become an issue nor does the constant spitting by players, etc., whether it's tobacco or chaw or seeds or just flat-out expectoration.
WAIT — IT'S NOT AN OFFICIAL CHAT WITHOUT ARENADO RUMORS!
QUESTION: New rumors circulating that the Cardinals had an Arenado deal with Colorado 90 percent done before the lockdown. Fact or fiction?
COMMISH: How could we have a chat without an Arenado rumor?! This makes 47 weeks in succession, or something like that.
Follow-up: Would the Cards still try to get Arenado in the offseason?
COMMISH: The Cardinals still will covet Arenado but his pricetag of $32 or $33 million a year will be even higher with teams' revenues down. There would have to be a creative financial deal made.
Follow-up: Given your insight on teams being reluctant to or unable to sign big money FA contracts, that would seem to indicate that Arenado is unlikely to opt out after next season.
COMMISH: Yes, Arenado's options to make the same type of money might be more limited in the free-agent arena. If he wanted to go somewhere sooner than later, he would have to force a trade. And that won't be easy either.