- Cardinals righty Miles Mikolas “will be pushed back just a little bit” from his first outing of the spring, manager Mike Shildt told reporters (including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Mikolas was scheduled to pitch during a simulated game on Monday, after throwing some live batting practice to teammates last week. “For now it’s caution,” Shildt said, and a team official told Goold that there is “very low” concern about Mikolas for the time being, yet any sort of setback has to considered notable considering that Mikolas missed the entire 2020 season. The right-hander ultimately decided to undergo surgery last August to fix a damaged right flexor tendon, after getting PRP injections both after the 2019 season and in February 2020, and then trying to work through the injury during both the shutdown and in Summer Camp. The Cards were already planning to bring Mikolas along rather slowly in order to build up his readiness for the start of the season, and it remains to be seen if this latest issue could delay his recovery plan.
Teams in need of a left-handed hitting outfielder might want to check in with the Yankees about the availability of Mike Tauchman. Though the Yankees have four years of control remaining, there may simply not be room for him on the opening day roster, writes the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. It’s not just the addition of Brett Gardner that could push Tauchman out of the picture, though that doesn’t help Tauchman’s case. He’s competing with Jay Bruce and Derek Dietrich for that fifth outfielder role, and that veteran pair both bring the ability to play first base as well. That’s not on Tauchman’s resume. After a surprising .277/.361/.504 line over 296 plate appearances in 2019 turned the 30-year-old into a valuable member of the Yankee reserves, the power dissipated in 2020. His bat slipped from 28 percent better than average to 22 percent below by measure of wRC+. Mike Ford’s playing time could also be at risk, but the backup first baseman has two option years remaining, whereas Tauchman would have to pass through waivers.
- Matt Carpenter is not conceding his spot in the everyday lineup just yet, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Carpenter won’t take many at-bats from Paul Goldschmidt or Nolan Arenado at the corners, and he’s competing with popular upstart Tommy Edman at the keystone, though Edman can play the outfield, too. Had the universal DH made its way to the league this season, Carpenter likely would have lined up for many of those at-bats. As is, he’ll be hard-pressed to beat out Edman at second, even if defense wasn’t a consideration. After being a 133 wRC+ hitter from 2012 to 2018, Carpenter fell to 95 wRC+ and 84 wRC+ the past two seasons. His batted ball profile has generally paralleled that trajectory, with exit velocity and hard hit percentage down in 2019 and 2020 from where he’d been previously.
- The Diamondbacks are promoting a new assistant general manager, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter). Mike Fitzgerald was previously the analytics director, and he now joins Amiel Sawdaye as assistant GMs under Executive VP and GM Mike Hazen. Ross Seaton has also been promoted to director of pitching.
Major League Baseball announced last Friday that just 13 of the 4,336 tests performed during the first wave of Spring Training intake testing revealed positive Covid-19 results: nine players and four staff members spread across 11 big league teams. The broad-reaching hope, of course, is that the league and players will be able to navigate a full slate of games as successfully or more successfully than they did during last year’s 60-game sprint. A few updates of note on players who are or were delayed in their arrival to camp…
- Reigning American League MVP Jose Abreu will be away from the White Sox for the time being due to a positive Covid-19 test, the team announced Wednesday. GM Rick Hahn told Daryl Van-Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times and other reporters that Abreu is asymptomatic and “believes he contracted a mild case of the disease in January, which is reinforced by the presence of COVID antibodies in additional testing.” Abreu is expected to join the White Sox “in the not-too-distant future,” Hahn added. The 34-year-old Abreu posted a monstrous .317/.370/.611 slash with 19 home runs and 15 doubles while appearing in all 60 games during 2020’s shortened schedule.
- Cardinals lefty Andrew Miller detailed his own recent bout with Covid-19 to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Miller wasn’t one of the 13 positive tests for the league, as he tested positive 10 days prior to the date on which Cardinals pitchers and catchers were set to report. His arrival was then further delayed by a few days, in accordance with league protocols. The 35-year-old quarantined in his house’s guest room, away from his wife and children, thankfully dealing with only mild symptoms (namely a loss of smell). Miller did acknowledge that he’s dealing with some fatigue now, though he believes it is “basically from being shut down” while isolating in that bedroom. “I thought I did a pretty good job of protecting myself,” said Miller. “The vaccine is right around the corner but I didn’t quite make it there.”
January 15 was the deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to officially submit salary figures for the 2021, and by the time the day was done, only 13 players didn’t reach agreement on a contract. The majority of teams now adhere to the “file or trial” strategy, meaning that no further negotiations on a one-year deal will take place between the arbitration deadline and a hearing with an arbiter, which theoretically puts pressure on players to get a deal done if they are wary about taking their case to a third party.
“File and trial” tactics didn’t stop the Astros and Carlos Correa from agreeing to a one-year deal for just the 2021 season, which is also Correa’s last year before gaining free agent eligibility. We also saw three multi-year deals reached, all from the greater Los Angeles area — the Dodgers reached two-year deals with Walker Buehler and Austin Barnes, while the Angels inked a two-year pact with Shohei Ohtani.
This left nine unresolved cases that went all the way to a hearing (held over Zoom) between an arbiter, the player, his representative(s), and front office personnel arguing the team’s side. The teams won five of the nine hearings, continuing the very narrow edge teams have held over players in arb cases in recent years — over the last 99 arbitration hearings, teams hold a 51-48 record over players.
For the full list of every salary for every arbitration-eligible player this offseason, check out the MLB Trade Rumors Arb Tracker. Sticking to the 13 players with unresolved cases from January 15, here’s the rundown…
Avoided Arbitration, One-Year Contract
- Carlos Correa, Astros: One year, $11.7MM (Correa filed for a $12.5MM salary, Astros filed for $9.75MM)
Avoided Arbitration, Multi-Year Contract
- Shohei Ohtani, Angels: Two years, $8.5MM (Ohtani filed for $3.3MM, Angels filed for $2.5MM)
- Walker Buehler, Dodgers: Two years, $8MM (Buehler filed for $4.15MM, Dodgers filed for $3.3MM)
- Austin Barnes, Dodgers: Two years, $4.3MM (Barnes filed for $2MM, Dodgers filed for $1.5MM)
Arbitration Hearings, Won By Player
- Ian Happ, Cubs: $4.1MM (Cubs filed for $3.25MM).
- Jack Flaherty, Cardinals: $3.9MM (Cardinals filed for $3MM)
- Mike Soroka, Braves: $2.8MM (Braves filed for $2.1MM)
- Ji-Man Choi, Rays: $2.45MM (Rays filed for $1.85MM)
Arbitration Hearings, Won By Team
- Matt Carpenter will not be spending time in the outfield this season, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told Jeff Jones of the Belleville News (Twitter link) and other reports. Now that Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt are entrenched at Carpenter’s usual corner infield positions, there has been some speculation that the Cardinals could look for other ways to get his bat in the lineup. Since the outfield is a non-starter for Carpenter and NL teams won’t have a designated hitter spot, this leaves either a second base platoon with Tommy Edman or bench duty for the 35-year-old Carpenter. The three-time All-Star has seen a steep decline at the plate over the past two seasons, and 2021 looms as Carpenter’s final year in St. Louis — the Cardinals have an $18.5MM club option for 2022 that seems almost sure to be bought out unless Carpenter has a major rebound.
Mets ace Jacob deGrom likes the idea of spending his entire career with the Mets, per Mike Puma of the New York Post. Said the ace, “One thing I think that is really cool is whenever somebody spends their entire career with one team. You don’t see it happen a whole lot anymore, so it’s definitely something I have thought about and I guess we just have to see when that time comes.” DeGrom has an opt out after the 2022 season, which he could attempt to leverage into long-term security in New York. Otherwise, the Mets holds a $32.5MM team option for 2024, which would be deGrom’s age-36 season. Elsewhere in the National League…
- The Nationals hope Joe Ross can unequivocally seize the fifth starter’s spot in their rotation, but manager Dave Martinez and pitching coach Jim Hickey are hesitant to declare the spot his after Ross sat out 2020, per Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post (via Twitter). Erick Fedde and Austin Voth could get into the starting mix if Ross isn’t quite ready to take a full workload from the jump. There’s no indication that the plans have changed much, however, as the Nats still plan on staying in-house to fill that role.
- J.A. Happ tested positive for coronavirus upon his intake with the Twins, per the Athletic’s Dan Hayes (via Twitter). Happ is asymptomatic for now. Assuming he remains that way, Happ should still be ready in time for the start of the season. The Twins signed Happ to an $8MM deal in January, and the Twins expect him to hold down a spot in the middle of their rotation.
- Dakota Hudson is at the Cardinals spring camp site in Jupiter, FL and ahead of schedule in his return from Tommy John surgery, per Zachary Silver of MLB.com (via Twitter). Hudson is scheduled to begin playing catch on March 15th. He is still more likely than not to miss the 2021 season after undergoing surgery late in September.
Jake Odorizzi is the top name left from MLBTR’s Top 50 free agent rankings, and it’s still not clear which (if any) team will meet the right-hander’s reported multi-year asking price. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes in his latest Q&A with readers that the Cardinals’ interest in Odorizzi is legitimate but not aggressive. Goold likens the Cards’ interest to their interest in Kyle Lohse more than a decade ago, when Lohse signed a one-year deal during Spring Training 2008 at a much lower rate than he’d initially sought in free agency. Of course, other teams would surely jump into the mix were Odorizzi to eventually settle for a one-year pact, and there’s no indication yet he plans to do so.
- The Cardinals have signed outfielder Matt Szczur to a minor league deal that contains an invite to their big league Spring Training camp, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reports (via Twitter). Szczur hit .231/.312/.355 over 667 plate appearances with the Cubs and Padres from 2014-18 but he hasn’t since returned to the majors. The 31-year-old signed minor league contracts with the Diamondbacks prior to the 2019 season and the Phillies prior to 2020, with Philadelphia releasing Szczur back in June.
Right-hander Jack Flaherty has won his arbitration hearing with the Cardinals, FanSided’s Robert Murray reports (Twitter link). Flaherty will receive the $3.9MM salary he was seeking in 2021, as opposed to the $3MM offered by St. Louis.
It’s a very nice result for Flaherty in his first year of arbitration eligibility, and it lines him up for significantly higher escalating salaries over his next two arb years. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected Flaherty for a salary in the range of $2.2MM to $3MM, and while the Cardinals were even on the higher end of that projection, the arbiter ruled in Flaherty’s favor.
Flaherty was excellent in his first two full big league seasons, finishing fifth in NL Rookie Of The Year voting in 2018 and then fourth in NL Cy Young voting in 2019. By that standard, 2020 was a down year since Flaherty posted a 4.91 ERA and 9.4BB%, but many of his underlying metrics were still strong — a 28.8 K%, a 3.89 SIERA, and an above-average job at limiting hard contact. Of course, 2020 was such an odd season that it’s hard to make any real conclusions about Flaherty’s performance, particularly given how the Cardinals had even more of a difficult time than most teams given their widespread COVID-19 outbreak and the heavy schedule full of make-up games down the stretch.
As noted by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, this marks the Cardinals’ first defeat in an arbitration hearing since back in 1994 (against former All-Star Gregg Jefferies). “The current front office and ownership group had never lost an arbitration, and they once went more than 15 years without one,” Goold wrote.
The Cardinals have acquired catcher Ali Sanchez from the Mets in exchange for cash, per a club announcement. New York had designated Sanchez for assignment this week after adding Jonathan Villar on a big league deal. The Cardinals are now up to 39 players on their 40-man roster.
Sanchez, 24, made his MLB debut with the Mets in 2020, though he only tallied 10 plate appearances, going 1-for-9 in that time. He’s regarded as an above-average defensive catcher with solid bat-to-ball skills but minimal power. He split the 2019 season between Double-A and Triple-A, batting a combined .261/.326/.322 with a homer and 17 doubles. That production closely mirrors his tepid .259/.317/.331 slash in parts of six minor league seasons, though it should be noted that Sanchez has only fanned in 14.2 percent of his 1484 minor league plate appearances.
Sanchez threw out 44 percent of attempted base thieves against him in his last minor league season (2019) and boasts an even better 46 percent mark in his minor league career. He’s a potential backup option for Yadier Molina if the Cards want to give Andrew Knizner regular at-bats in Triple-A rather than have him sit on the big league bench and start once per week or so.