Cardinals plans evolved with signing of Willson Contreras

Check out the highlights from Derrick Goold’s Cardinals chat with readers. The full transcript of the chat can be found here.

Q: At the beginning of the offseason, the Cardinals said they wanted a catcher and a bat, and that those two were not a “two-for-one” acquisition. It seems like that’s changed since Contreras? Or are they still looking for another bat as stated at the beginning of the offseason.

A: It definitely changed. Or, they would say, it evolved. Part of that is because the trade talks did not go the direction the Cardinals expected, not with the asking price for the targeted catchers. The Cardinals had a scenario where they get the catcher they wanted and then pursued another bat (ie, Dansby Swanson or another unidentified option). They also had the scenario that played out — they got the free-agent catcher at the price they wanted, they could handle without giving up any prospects, and that catcher also was the top offensive player at his position available. It one possible thread for them to follow, and it’s the one that happened and became more palatable, more intriguing, really, after that Nov. 30 meeting.

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When they started the offseason they did not yet have that meeting, and so things change, their views evolve, their knowledge of the trade market grows, and the move arrives.

Q: Who will pay the price when we are inevitably bounced from the playoffs in the first round? Just the fans again or will the front office finally be held accountable for trying to just win a horrible division?

A: The media. Have you seen Twitter? Purchase stock in aspirin.

Let me see if I can parse this question.

Do you mean who will get fired? Is that what you’re asking? Mozeliak is entering the final year of his contract. His brain trust recently got multi-year extensions from the Cardinals, and the ownership does not want them going anywhere unless it’s for a promotion.

The price the fans pay is definitely there on the ticket, and as consumers they can withhold paying that price if they do not like the product on the field. If you feel the Cardinals are in breach of the brand that they are selling you, then you as a consumer have the right to not support them, however you chose to do that. I get it. That’s hard when it’s a sports team and not a business or restaurant that has wronged you in some way. But that is your right. And I say this knowing that if there are fewer fans of the team there is likely fewer readers of the coverage. Hey, that’s another example, if you don’t like the coverage of your team you’re unlikely to subscribe or you’ll look for another outlet that has the coverage you prefer.

It’s up to me and my colleagues to earn your subscription or we’ll “pay” for not doing so.

It’s up to the Cardinals to earn your spending on their product.

And, yes, the division is not great. And we’ve said many times the Cardinals need to aim higher, especially now, with all the spending in the NL and the new playoff format.

Q: I’m guessing the Cards go into trade mode now, are the Marlins with their pitchers the most likely trade partner? And what trades do you think they could do?

A: Pablo Lopez is the Marlins pitcher that the Cardinals could explore. They have shown interest in him in the past. He’d be a good fit for them. Miami has expressed the openness to talk about trading him. There’s a match there. And only there.

Q: What are the odds of the Cardinals hanging onto the Rule 5 draft picks (major and minor leaguers) and what about the pitcher in low A they were exposing, Inohan Paniagua?

A: So, let’s start here: the minor league picks are Cardinals for good, as long as the team wants them. They won’t be offered back. That phase is different than the major-league Rule 5 draft, and it means that the Cardinals have their rights, and if they make a move with them, it will be moving on from that player, not moving them back to their original team. That’s all. Those players are Cardinals without strings attached.

The right-hander the Cardinals picked up in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft does come with a lot of strings attached. He must remain on the active roster or major-league injured list for the season for the Cardinals to wrest his rights from the Yankees. If at any point the Cardinals suggest he won’t make the team out of spring training or they want to demote him during the season, they must first offer him back to the Yankees who are the only team that can then put him in the minors without losing him to another team. Got it? Until the Yankees give up his rights, they are the only team that can option him to the minors.

Does Wilking Rodriguez have the stuff to make the Cardinals out of spring?

It’s possible. He throws 100. He throws strikes. He’s got an above average cutter that he also can throw for a strike, and that unnerves hitters at the levels where he’s dominated. How does it play at a higher level? The Cardinals want to see for themselves with the chance of keeping him. They thought they found a gem during the season and tried to acquire him but his team in Mexico resisted. The Yankees made a deal with the player directly and signed him the day after the season ended. But they left him unprotected. The Cardinals took their chance. Another team in the room lauded the pick, said Rodriguez had the best stuff, best advanced stuff available in the Rule 5 draft. He was on his way to contributing to the Yankees back in 2015 when he was suspended 80 games for a positive PED test. That derailed his advancement, he went to independent ball, and now has his best chance in a long time to be in the majors — the roster rules give him a head start. Does he make the most of it with his performance? He may never have a better chance of being in the majors.

Q: You mentioned AAA arms looking for a chance to start in the majors, but didn’t mention Connor Thomas. After his AFL success, is he not in the mix for a long look?

A: I’m not sure he’ll get a chance to start, but he’ll get a long, long, long, long, long look to have some role in the bullpen for the Cardinals right from the start of 2023.

Q: Any particular reason the Cardinals decided to set up Contreras contract for only $10 million this year? Just flexibility?

A: Payroll flexibility, yep. It allows them to have some more room to spend on the 2023 roster and then, as the contracts expire from the 2023, up goes Contreras’ salary and up goes the payroll.

Q: Would Noah Syndergaard be a fit within the “no big splash” parameters you’re reporting? I’ve always been intrigued to see how he’d perform with a defense like the Cardinals’ behind him. And with him being removed another year from Tommy John, there’s always the hope that he can really catch a second wind, like Lance Lynn did.

A: He would, yes. He would have last year, too. To be fair, the “big splash” comment was made to KMOX/1120 AM over the weekend. That is their interview, Mike Claiborne’s question, and the answer he got. I have not looked into the nuances of what was meant by that comment. So, the reporting I’m provided, the information here, is from asking around and pursuing threads before and after and not in relation to that comment.

Q: Another winter meeting brought with it more examples of reporters jumping the gun on signings that ended up being inaccurate. I’ve heard you state before that the PD requires multiple sources before it publishes a report. Do you think that Twitter/Social media creates too much pressure to be first possibly at the expense of being correct? Seems others would be better off following the PD’s example.

A: Yes. And I empathize with the baseball reporters who are under that pressure from their superiors or in order to keep their roles. Some are under enormous pressure to produce those scoops. Beat writers like me are under pressure to stay ahead of those tweets — report what the team is about to do, what they are looking to do, and then when it happens be able to point back to the coverage that gave the reader a sense of the movement toward that goal.

I hope we did that at the winter meetings, gave a full scope of what the Cardinals were trying to do, and then Wednesday night on STLToday and in Thursday’s paper on your porch have that they were moving on with talks for Contreras hours before news broke that they had a deal.

I also feel for readers who have to decide without getting the full information what pundits are saying for entertainment and what writers are reporting is going to happen.

Pundits predicted the Cardinals would get one of the top shortstops.

Reporting showed they weren’t making a play for one of the top shortstops.

One was fun for fans, entertaining, and it was great conversation, and it did make for a great bit of content about what the Cardinals could/should do. Reporting is grounded in what they will do. And that had to be rooted in what could be proved, what could be sourced, what that writer — or me, heck — could be accountable for. If I was wrong, I lose credibility and perhaps more. It’s a competitive business. Baseball writing jobs are rare, especially when it comes to covering a team for a fan base like the Cardinals with the history the coverage in St. Louis has. If others in different media positions are wrong, hey, it was all in fun, it was a thought exercise, it was just to get you thinking.

I wish we, included me, did a better job of explaining that all to readers/fans/watchers. Media literacy is important.

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