QUESTION: USA Today baseball writer Bob Nightengale said on 101 ESPN that he spoke with Nolan Arenado, and Arenado said he thought he would be traded at the deadline. Nightengale thought Arenado was “high” on the Cardinals because of their winning tradition. Should the Cards inquire again with the Rockies?
BENFRED: No surprises there. Stars who are publicly feuding with their general manager tend to get traded sooner or later.
That Arenado would be open to playing in St. Louis, compared to Colorado, should not be much of a surprise, either. He wants to contend and win big. The Cardinals tend to be in the mix, annually. Plus, Arenado is close with Matt Holliday, who has been one of the Cardinals' biggest advocates to current players who are considering the team in free agency.
The fit is there. It's always been there. The price will be the hard part. And Matt Carpenter's performance might have an objection. It would make a ton of sense for the Cardinals to see how Carpenter/Edman perform, then revisit the Arenado situation as the trade deadline nears.
The price could go down a bit by then. The need could be more obvious. The situation in Colorado could be more inflamed.
If you're talking about pulling off the trade now, I don't see it. We don't even have an answer from the league on if trades are allowed during this shutdown. The union and commissioner's office have to figure that out. I hope they are, because we might see some interesting moves if teams got to start wheeling and dealing after 30 days of spring training to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.
QUESTION: A follow-up on the Nolan Arenado question. Say he is traded next winter and he has only one year left before his opt-out. How would that change the Cards’ calculations on him? Would they take a chance they could convince him to stay or insist he waive the opt-out? If the Cards could get him for the price of one year (and not give up top prospects) and then convince him to stay, that would be ideal, right?
BENFRED: The Cardinals have insisted they will only build a trade package around what they know they can get in return, not what they hope they will be able to get in return, like an extension agreement from a rental.
The question would then become would the Rockies treat Arenado like a rental in a trade? Probably not, right?
That's why Arenado agreeing to drop his opt-out would probably make things more likely, whether he's being traded to the Cardinals or elsewhere.
Again, I'm not sure why he would be willing to drop the opt-out if he feels he can make more money and pick his best place to win a championship by reaching true free agency.
COMMENT: Not sure what the problem is with the Cards keeping Dylan Carlson in AAA for a bit to gain another year of control over him. Kris Bryant lost his service-time case, so a precedent has been set. I think they would be stupid not to do it. The guy will likely be in the Cards OF mix for years to come, anyway. What’s the problem?
BENFRED: The Cardinals seem to share your opinion.
Perhaps Carlson is called up after the service-time waiting game is satisfied, and becomes a difference-maker for this season and years to come, and everyone is happy.
Another possibility? Carlson is called up after the service-time loophole is satisfied, and he becomes a difference-maker for a team that . . . misses the postseason by a few games.
That would leave the Cardinals to answer the question of if they fielded their best possible team from day one — and if they prioritized service time over wins.
Another thing to consider: What if Carlson, like Kris Bryant, becomes miffed that a team that touted an internal competition slow-played one of the best candidates who spent the spring suggesting he belongs in St. Louis? There's a reason Bryant and the Cubs have clashed as he's gained more leverage. There's a reason he's became the Cubs’ players’ union rep.
For years, teams have told us these things just disappear in the long run.
They don't. Not now.
Flaherty and the contract renewals could become another example.
QUESTION: With the halt of NHL games, do you think the Blues will try and enter into serious negotiations with Alex Pietrangelo?
BENFRED: I imagine, right now, the Blues are more concerned — as is every team — with figuring out when the season will come back, if it will come back, and how to best prepare its players for the return if there is one. The team is also concerned about, you know, health. Already, a team employee's family member has been diagnosed with coronavirus. It's shortsighted to think this won't become a bigger problem for the team, for all teams, for all of us.
So, I would be surprised if hammering out the Petro extension was front of mind for anyone involved at the moment. The Blues are not the only team that is going to lose money because of the pandemic. Every team will. If the season doesn't come back, the entire league will face a decreased salary cap, meaning all teams have less cash to throw around. Players' values are going to shrink before their eyes.
I've said it before, but I'll say it again here. I don't think the Blues let Petro get away without a very compelling offer that makes him think long and hard about staying in St. Louis to build upon the legacy he has here.
QUESTION: Is it time to consider the cancellation of the rest of the NHL season, including the playoffs, is a real possibility?
BENFRED: I hope this is not the case, but it would probably be wise for fans to at least mentally prepare for this option.
I would not expect that kind of announcement soon, and it doesn't need to happen right away. The league has time to see how this plays out a little bit longer.
To me, commissioner Gary Bettman's recent comments sounded like he was preparing us for the potential of a skipped postseason. That's how I read his emphasis on not messing up the following year's schedule, and not changing the postseason format to something that felt like cheapening the path to the Stanley Cup.
The big thing to keep in mind is the postseason purse. Players and owners split that pretty evenly, so both sides will be pushing to play the postseason, somehow, someway.
It might be different if one side got a lot of the dough compared to the other. It's pretty even in hockey, and it's a lot.
That money is going to be hard to pass up, so both sides will push hard for some sort of postseason.
BENFRED: The counter argument would say those same people in London could use the work, but I get your point and agree.
Baseball has been a follower in every phase of this, so I'm not surprised to see its decision-makers dragging their feet again here.
They can afford to change plans late in the game, but it's not fair of baseball to expect its fans to do the same.
I'm hearing from folks who are worried about cancelling flights and hotels. It's an added stress that is just not necessary at this time — and under the current financial pressures — when the end outcome is very predictable. The Olympics have been postponed. They start later than this series, and in a country that has fewer confirmed coronavirus cases than the United States and the United Kingdom.
I asked Rob Manfred and Bill DeWitt Jr. to confirm the postponement of the series before we all left Jupiter. Neither would.
QUESTION: What are the odds MLB cancels the entire 2020 season?
BENFRED: It’s possible, I suppose, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Here's my big, bad, hopefully false fear: That the tension between the owners and the players that existed before this coronavirus stress was introduced results in hostile negotiations about how to bring baseball back in a shortened format, and that the strike we all feared starts early.
I hope it goes the opposite way, that the two sides realize they are both better off when the games are played.
QUESTION: How concerned are the Cardinals about this delay stunting the development of some of the top young prospects? For example, it looked liked Nolan Gorman (above) was progressing and now he’s sitting. Could we see this break have some greater long-term side effects?
BENFRED: Every team and every player is dealing with the same thing. The Cardinals sent their guys home with instructions on things to work on. They're trying to make the best out of it. I don't see this stunting a prospect's long-term development.
The biggest concern is pitchers. They are so schedule-oriented, that it's somewhat risky for them to drastically change that schedule.
I think we will see a lot of arm injuries when baseball comes back.
QUESTION: Who has been better so far: Travis Ford at SLU, or Cuonzo Martin at Mizzou?
BENFRED: The popular vote will say Ford, but let's take a closer look.
Ford was 52-50 after three seasons at SLU.
Martin is 50-46 after three seasons at MU.
Ford got better every year, which is encouraging, and he has had better bang for his buck in recruiting.
Martin, unlike Ford, has shown his teams can jump up and knock off Top-25 teams.
Both have been to one NCAA tournament, then lost the first game.
Both have had head-scratching bad losses, though Mizzou more than SLU.
The Billikens have a conference tournament championship in their bag.
One program (SLU) is benefiting from a positive, optimistic buzz more than the other (Mizzou), and that seems to have a lot to do with each fan base's expectations.
The linear growth of SLU bodes well, while a step back from Mizzou after the first season creates frustration.
People also forget the headaches Ford had to weather early in his tenure, when off-the-court problems generated a lot of stress for the program and the school.
People also seem to forget Ford has been at SLU a year longer than Martin has been at Mizzou. It's not really fair to compare three years to four. But if you do that comparison, and consider the current trend lines, the answer would be Ford.
QUESTION: Do you see Mizzou basketball coach Cuonzo Martin being retained if the team has another .500 season?
BENFRED: I don't see Mizzou AD Jim Sterk handing Cuonzo Martin $6 million to walk away after the upcoming season, and that's the buyout he would be owed if that decision was made at that time. Sterk hired Martin. He has lots of reasons, not just the buyout, to want to see this through.
Kim Anderson got three years as the Tigers became one of the least competitive Power 5 teams in the nation. Martin just finished his third season, and has one NCAA Tournament appearance in the bag, along with 23 more wins than KA had during his three-year span. No, Martin was not hired to simply be better than KA. But when you're digging Mizzou hoops out of the hole it was in, it's going to take some time. There are going to be steps forward and steps back.
Martin got a long-term commitment. I don't see that disappearing after year four.
QUESTION: What’s your prediction for Mizzou football in its first season under Eli Drinkwitz?
BENFRED: I'd like to find out if there will be a college football season first. It sounds like some, notably Mack Brown, are starting to wonder about that.
I'm at .500 for Drinkwitz's debut until I find out more.
We don't know about QB, or any key position at the moment.
He's reorganizing the depth chart, and he should.
Too much unknown to have much of an opinion at the moment.
I will say this: I've said the coronavirus pause helps the Cardinals, because of how this is going to endanger pitchers across the league, and because the Cardinals' strength is pitching, both how they coach them and how many they have. Depth matters now more than ever.
On the flip side, I think the coronavirus pause hurts Mizzou football, because of the newness of Drinkwitz. It's not his fault. But he's trying to introduce his systems, and he can't be around his players. Teams that already knew what they were doing under previously established coaches are going to have an edge this fall, if there are games.
QUESTION: Could the Cards benefit from adding Ben Zobrist or Yasiel Puig? I wish the team made more splashes in free agency.
BENFRED: The Cardinals are in a jam today because they paid for free agents who were not all that much better than what they already had in house.
Dexter Fowler is the best example. Looking back, the Cardinals probably had outfield options in the system that were as good, if not better than what Fowler has provided. That’s only become more clear over the length of the contract. It does seem the Cardinals have learned from this a bit.
Why add Zobrist when Tommy Edman needs more, not fewer reps?
Why add Puig (above) when Dylan Carlson exists?
The Cardinals, more than any other team, should target free-agency for the kind of players they can't draft or develop, or specific needs that lack depth in their system.
Puig and Zobrist don't represent either of those categories, just name recognition, which has not been all that kind to the Cardinals as of late.
QUESTION: Any reaction from the Taylor family regarding the new deal for the MLS stadium? Curious as to how they've had to adjust their proposal based on the new financial reality.
BENFRED: The MLS4TheLou ownership group has been pretty quiet. I'm using my persuasive powers to try to get an update of sorts. We'll see how that goes.
It's a great question: How does this shutdown affect soccer plans?
If you were specifically referencing the difference between the money requested and received from the state in terms of the tax credits, it's important to remember there are two rounds of that request. There was a $15 million ask for 2020, and there was a $15 million ask for 2021.
The state agreed to about $6 million in 2020. We haven't yet heard about the 2021 request, or if it could grow because of the amount not granted for 2020.
We don't yet know if there will be noticeable changes to the project because of the difference in state money requested and provided.
Photo: (Left to right) Allie Kindle Hogan, Jo Ann Taylor Kindle, Andy Taylor, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Lee Broughton, Chrissy Taylor Broughton and Carolyn Kindle Betz, after a celebration with St. Louis soccer fans at Urban Chestnut Grove Brewery on Aug. 20. (Post-Dispatch photo by David Carson)