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Cardinals land 2 arms from Jays for Grichuk

St. Louis acquires Leone, who enjoyed breakout '17, and RHP prospect Greene
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Days after publicly expressing his disappointment in the prospect of entering Spring Training as the Cardinals' fourth outfielder, Randal Grichuk is on the move.

St. Louis dealt Grichuk to the Blue Jays on Friday in exchange for right-handed pitchers Dominic Leone and Conner Greene. Leone, 26, gives the Cardinals another reliever for their retooled bullpen. Greene, who rose to Double-A last season, ranked 11th on the Blue Jays' Top 30 Prospects list, according to MLB Pipeline.

ST. LOUIS -- Days after publicly expressing his disappointment in the prospect of entering Spring Training as the Cardinals' fourth outfielder, Randal Grichuk is on the move.

St. Louis dealt Grichuk to the Blue Jays on Friday in exchange for right-handed pitchers Dominic Leone and Conner Greene. Leone, 26, gives the Cardinals another reliever for their retooled bullpen. Greene, who rose to Double-A last season, ranked 11th on the Blue Jays' Top 30 Prospects list, according to MLB Pipeline.

The trade furthers the Cardinals' efforts to eliminate the outfield logjam that became more complicated with the addition of right fielder Marcell Ozuna last month. The Cardinals have now dealt three outfielders -- Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Magneuris Sierra -- from their 40-man roster since the season ended.

Had they not gotten their desired return, the Cardinals were prepared to keep Grichuk as depth behind starting outfielders Tommy Pham, Dexter Fowler and Ozuna. But with Jose Martinez likely to make the Opening Day roster, and prospects Harrison Bader, Tyler O'Neill and Oscar Mercado capable of playing all three outfield positions, Grichuk's presence wasn't a necessity.

What was pressing, however, was to further reinforce a bullpen that lost four key members -- Trevor Rosenthal, Seung Hwan Oh, Zach Duke and Juan Nicasio -- this offseason. Before Friday, the Cardinals' only addition to the 'pen had been Luke Gregerson, who is currently in line to open the season as the club's closer.

Video: BAL@TOR: Leone fans Trumbo for his first MLB save

If Leone can build upon his breakout season from 2017, he could slot into a late-inning role with the Cardinals. Leone ranked 12th among qualifying American League relievers with a 2.56 ERA last season and struck out 81 in 70 1/3 innings.

Leone had success against both right-handed (.211 average) and left-handed (.183) batters while posting a 1.05 WHIP and registering 11 holds. Leone stranded 78 percent of inherited runners, the 13th-highest percentage among AL relievers.

Leone made his Major League debut with the Mariners in 2014 and also spent time with the D-backs. The Cardinals will have him under team control for another four seasons.

Video: TB@TOR: Leone gets out of a bases-loaded jam

Greene, 22, had been methodically climbing through Toronto's system since signing as a seventh-round pick out of high school in 2013. The right-hander reached Double-A last year and finished 5-10 with a 5.29 ERA in 26 games (25 starts). He struck out 92 and walked 83 over 132 2/3 innings.

According to MLB Pipeline's scouting report, Greene features a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, as well as an above-average changeup. He is also developing a slider and curveball, both of which scouts believe will improve once he finds a more consistent release point.

Video: Top Prospects: Conner Greene, RHP, Cardinals

As for Grichuk, he departs St. Louis four years after the Cardinals acquired him in a four-player swap with the Angels. He debuted in 2014 and opened the next two years as a starting outfielder and cleanup hitter. But the potential that had long intrigued the Cardinals never developed into consistent production.

Grichuk was shuttled to the Minors each of the last two seasons when his confidence waned and his swing got out of whack. Along the way, he lost his starting job with the big league club. During his time with the Cards, Grichuk hit .249/.297/.488 with a .785 OPS. His 63 home runs since 2015 rank second-most on the team (Matt Carpenter, 72).

With the additions of Leone and Greene, the Cardinals' 40-man roster is once again full. This marks the second trade the Cardinals have made with the Blue Jays this winter. In December, the Cardinals dealt away shortstop Aledmys Diaz for Minor League outfielder J.B. Woodman.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

St. Louis Cardinals, Conner Greene, Randal Grichuk, Dominic Leone

Busy Yadi returns to PR to continue relief effort

Molina dedicating time, money to native island in wake of Hurricane Maria among numerous offseason initiatives
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Having already spent two weeks going door-to-door to deliver food and water to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico last October, Yadier Molina is headed back to his homeland on Friday to continue assisting with relief efforts.

Molina is providing assistance through his personal foundation and has raised more than $180,000 for Puerto Rican aid through a Go Fund Me page that was set up by his wife in September. Donations, Molina said, are still welcome and needed for an island that will be recovering for many more months.

ST. LOUIS -- Having already spent two weeks going door-to-door to deliver food and water to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico last October, Yadier Molina is headed back to his homeland on Friday to continue assisting with relief efforts.

Molina is providing assistance through his personal foundation and has raised more than $180,000 for Puerto Rican aid through a Go Fund Me page that was set up by his wife in September. Donations, Molina said, are still welcome and needed for an island that will be recovering for many more months.

"The power is still out in some areas, but we're doing a lot better," Molina said. "We're slowly getting back."

This trip, however, is just another in a series of initiatives through which Molina has given back to various communities this offseason.

His work started in Puerto Rico when he arrived two days after the conclusion of the Cardinals' season. He supplemented that aid with a December Home Run Derby and Celebrity Softball Game that raised more than $200,000 for hurricane victims. Over 20,000 fans came to the event, which featured several current and former Major League players.

But his efforts have spanned other areas, too. After insisting to teammate Jose Martinez that he would come visit him in Venezuela, Molina took a trip to the politically unstable country so that he could work with aspiring Major Leaguers. Over three days, he provided instruction and advice to young players who are hoping to one day catch the eye of a big league scout.

"A lot of Venezuelans, they don't want to go to Venezuela right now," Martinez said. "And for him to come, it was pretty special because it shows you that you cannot forget where you come from. It [provided] life for the people."

"I just tried to go there and help any way I could," added Molina. "I had fun with the kids and tried to teach them. It was a good experience for me. I'm glad that I did go. Those kids love baseball. They're passionate about it."

Video: Yadi delivers water and supplies to Puerto Rico

Molina also found time this offseason to try his hand at managing, as he guided the Puerto Rican U-23 National Team to a 6-3 record and third-place finish in the Pan American U-23 Baseball Championships. In doing so, the team qualified for the U-23 Baseball World Cup, which will be held in October.

Molina enlisted his brother, Jose, and long-time Cardinals coach Jose Oquendo to serve on his coaching staff. Cardinals prospects Delvin Perez and Yariel Gonzalez played on the squad.

"It was fun," Molina said of that experience. "It was hard, too, to please 22 guys. But at the same time, I learned a lot. You have to learn to do different stuff than when you were a player."

Video: Molina explains Cardinals' tradition to young players

Molina added that it was "too early to decide" whether he would like to pursue a managerial career after he's done playing. The veteran catcher plans to retire after the 2020 season. As the longest-tenured player in the organization, Molina was also recently enlisted to speak to a group of Cardinals Minor League players at the club's January instructional league camp. There, he spoke about his experience as a Cardinal, what it means to play for such a storied organization and provided tips on how to make the most of one's abilities.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

St. Louis Cardinals, Yadier Molina

Cardinals' Kelly rated No. 2 catching prospect

Youngster on track to open season as Molina's backup
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- While Yadier Molina begins a three-year countdown to retirement this year, Carson Kelly sits patiently behind him, still waiting for his turn.

Opportunity is about the only thing slowing Kelly these days, as he once again ranks among the top catching prospects in baseball. A year after topping MLB Pipeline's positional list, Kelly enters 2018 second, behind only Indians catcher Francisco Mejia.

ST. LOUIS -- While Yadier Molina begins a three-year countdown to retirement this year, Carson Kelly sits patiently behind him, still waiting for his turn.

Opportunity is about the only thing slowing Kelly these days, as he once again ranks among the top catching prospects in baseball. A year after topping MLB Pipeline's positional list, Kelly enters 2018 second, behind only Indians catcher Francisco Mejia.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Kiebert Ruiz (Dodgers), Sean Murphy (A's), Jake Rogers (Tigers), Jorge Alfaro (Phillies), Chance Sisco (Orioles), Danny Jansen (Blue Jays), Zack Collins (White Sox) and Victor Caratini (Cubs) round out the top 10.

Kelly, who made his Major League debut in 2016, joined the Cardinals for the final two months off the '17 season. He served as Molina's backup and logged 14 starts, 162 innings and 75 plate appearances. The limited exposure hindered Kelly's ability to find much offensive traction, and he finished the year with a .174/.240/.217 slash line. He's still looking for his first big league home run.

"It's a learning experience," Kelly said. "It was different for me [playing part time], but I think what I experienced [last] year is really going to help me coming into next year. I made a lot of adjustments this offseason with my workouts and my approach at the plate and catching and everything. A little bit more power. More power and more consistency. With maybe not getting at-bats every single day, it's going to be an adjustment. Being very consistent and simple with my approach and my swing is going to help me out in the long run."

Video: STL@CHC: Kelly drives in two on first hit of season

One of two catchers currently on the Cardinals' 40-man roster, Kelly is projected to open the season with St. Louis. Playing time will again be sporadic, as the Cardinals do not anticipate reducing Molina's workload significantly this year. Molina has started at least 128 games behind the plate in eight of the past nine seasons.

However, at some point over the next three years, the Cardinals will begin to focus more on the future. That will mean more on-field exposure for the 23-year-old Kelly. That's why the Cardinals have been intent on holding on to the young catcher despite widespread trade interest.

For now, Kelly said he hopes to soak up whatever he can while working behind arguably the best catcher of this generation, and he's adjusted his preparation to match his current role.

"It's being ready when the opportunity presents itself," Kelly said. "Who knows what is going to happen in the future? I think this offseason, simplifying a lot of my game and my workouts and putting myself in the city here has opened up a lot of doors for me. I think I'm going to be in a great spot come Spring Training."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

St. Louis Cardinals, Carson Kelly

Cards consider moving Carp out of top spot

Fowler could return to leadoff, followed by Pham, Carpenter, Ozuna
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Without putting anything in ink for 2018, manager Mike Matheny hinted this week that the Cardinals are leaning toward a lineup configuration that does not feature Matt Carpenter up top.

Matheny has toyed with batting order possibilities since the Cardinals acquired outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins last month. The club seems content to plug Ozuna into the cleanup spot -- which is where he hit most often in 2017 -- but ordering the three hitters ahead of him has prompted a bit more debate.

ST. LOUIS -- Without putting anything in ink for 2018, manager Mike Matheny hinted this week that the Cardinals are leaning toward a lineup configuration that does not feature Matt Carpenter up top.

Matheny has toyed with batting order possibilities since the Cardinals acquired outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins last month. The club seems content to plug Ozuna into the cleanup spot -- which is where he hit most often in 2017 -- but ordering the three hitters ahead of him has prompted a bit more debate.

The club has established leadoff hitters in Carpenter and Dexter Fowler, two of 15 Major Leaguers with an average on-base percentage of at least .371 since 2012. Fowler's arrival last season prompted the Cardinals to try Carpenter as a No. 3 hitter, but the team abandoned that alignment two months into the season after both Fowler and Carpenter got off to slow starts.

Video: Matheny eager to pencil Ozuna into Cardinals' lineup

Now, the Cardinals seem ready to give it another go, with Tommy Pham likely to slot in between Fowler and Carpenter.

"People still don't believe me," Carpenter said. "They think I'm knocking on Mike's door every single day begging to hit leadoff, and I'm just not. I end up there every year because that's just kind of how the chips fall. And I've had a long conversation this offseason about this: I think that this year, more than ever, we've got a lot of guys who can do that and do that well. And I think you're maybe going to see a new face there."

But why tweak the part of the lineup that fit nicely into place after Carpenter returned to the leadoff spot last year?

Though there's no explanation for the difference in results, Carpenter has routinely performed best when batting first. Last season, Carpenter was hitting .209/.341/.396 when the Cardinals decided to move him up in the order. He went on to bat .268/.418/.497 from the leadoff spot.

The move sparked improved production from Fowler, too, who set career highs in slugging percentage (.488) and home runs (18) in 2017.

Video: STL@CIN: Fowler belts a two-run dinger in the 3rd

"A lot of times -- and Mike can vouch for me because we've had these conversations -- but a lot of the times when I'm hitting third or hitting second and it's not going as well as I want, I can feel myself turning the corner," Carpenter said. "It's like the natural flows of a season -- you go up, you go down, you have highs, you have lows. Well, I felt myself on some of these lows and felt like I was trending in the right direction, and it just so happens that that day he's made the move and I'm back in the leadoff spot, I take off. A lot of that is circumstantial. A lot of it just happens. So I don't buy into, 'He doesn't hit as well in these other positions.' I just don't think I've had enough opportunity in those spots to really truthfully be able to give a good explanation for it."

Carpenter is eager to debunk the theory that he can't hit as well elsewhere in the order, and the Cardinals do see value in splitting up a string of right-handed batters, which is what they'd have if Carpenter hit first.

Only two of the club's projected starting position players -- Carpenter and Kolten Wong -- hit exclusively from the left side, and Wong is likely to open the year batting eighth in the order.

"As you draw up a perfect lineup, which we all do, you'd like to see Carp really be able to fall into that middle of the order a little bit more," Matheny said. "Carp provides that flexibility. You have a guy that can hit first, that can hit third, that can hit anywhere in the lineup. Versatility, you can't have enough of it this time of year."

Carpenter's versatility will extend to the defensive side, too, as the club has told him to prepare for work at first, second and third base this spring.

"I'll do," he said, "whatever is asked of me."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler

'Respect the ranks': Yadi responds to Contreras

Cardinals' veteran catcher posts photo of All-Star trio from 2016
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina appears to be taking exception to recent comments from Cubs catcher Willson Contreras about how he plans to be a better backstop than perennial All-Stars Molina and Buster Posey.

"In my mind, I want to be the best catcher in the game for a long time -- like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey," Contreras told the Chicago Sun-Times at the Cubs Convention over the weekend. "I used to watch a lot of those guys, but now I'm watching myself because I know that I'm going to be better than them. That's my plan. That's my [mindset]."

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina appears to be taking exception to recent comments from Cubs catcher Willson Contreras about how he plans to be a better backstop than perennial All-Stars Molina and Buster Posey.

"In my mind, I want to be the best catcher in the game for a long time -- like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey," Contreras told the Chicago Sun-Times at the Cubs Convention over the weekend. "I used to watch a lot of those guys, but now I'm watching myself because I know that I'm going to be better than them. That's my plan. That's my [mindset]."

That sentiment made it back to Molina, who reacted on Instagram by posting a photo of himself alongside Posey and Salvador Perez from the 2016 All-Star Game. Below it, he wrote: "Respeten los rangos NOVATOS!! aqui con los q si han probao que son los duros!!"

That loosely translates to "respect the ranks" of those who have already proven themselves.

A few hours later, Contreras sent out a series of three tweets in which to clarify what he believed to be a misinterpretation of his original comments.

"Many people have misinterpreted what was said during a recent interview," Contreras said. "I see no wrong in taking the best players as personal goals and exceedance [sic]. What player doesn't want to be the best at their position? I know I am lacking in many years of experience and only time will tell.

"In my mind I aim to be the best and like I mentioned during the interview, I have enormous respect for these players," he said. "I honor and learn so much very [sic] time I play against Molina and Posey. I simply used them as examples of achievement in my professional career.

"To use the best players as a model or standard and want to exceed them, I don't believe is any disrespect simply motivation and inspiration. Have a great night. God bless you all."

Tweet from @WContreras40: Many people have misinterpreted what was said during a recent interview, I see no wrong in taking the best players as personal goals and exceedance. What player doesn���t want to be the best at their position? I know I am lacking many years of experience and only time will tell.

This is not the first time that Molina has used Instagram to express his displeasure. Last summer, he took to the social media site to correct manager Mike Matheny's assertion that Molina was tired.

Video: Molina plans to retire after three-year deal is up

Contreras, who made his Major League debut in 2016, should have at least three more years to go head-to-head in the National League Central against Molina -- who plans to retire after the 2020 season. Contreras has yet to make an All-Star roster, while Molina has been on eight in his 14-year career.

The Cubs and Cardinals will meet for the first time this season on April 16 at Wrigley Field.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Yadier Molina

Cards excited to get Reyes back on mound

After missing '17, prospect is No. 7 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 RHPs
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Though the Cardinals continue to canvass the free-agent and trade markets for a potential pitching boost, they repeatedly come back to what they already have. And that begins with Alex Reyes.

Ranked as the top pitching prospect in baseball one year ago, Reyes never had the opportunity to validate the hype. Before he could throw his first bullpen session of Spring Training, Reyes found himself seeking an explanation for the sudden pain in his elbow. A few days later, he was undergoing surgery.

ST. LOUIS -- Though the Cardinals continue to canvass the free-agent and trade markets for a potential pitching boost, they repeatedly come back to what they already have. And that begins with Alex Reyes.

Ranked as the top pitching prospect in baseball one year ago, Reyes never had the opportunity to validate the hype. Before he could throw his first bullpen session of Spring Training, Reyes found himself seeking an explanation for the sudden pain in his elbow. A few days later, he was undergoing surgery.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

The procedure cost Reyes the entire 2017 season, but it did little to dampen the long-term expectations for a 23-year-old right-hander who the Cardinals foresee as a future ace. While there is uncertainty about how he'll pitch immediately upon coming back from Tommy John surgery, Reyes dropped only a few spots in MLB Pipeline's new prospect rankings.

He'll enter 2018 ranked as the No. 7 right-handed pitching prospect in the game. Two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who was aggressively courted across baseball before signing with the Angels in December, tops the list. Also slotting in ahead of Reyes is Forrest Whitley (Astros), Michael Kopech (White Sox), Brent Honeywell (Rays), Walker Buehler (Dodgers) and Mitch Keller (Pirates). Hunter Greene (Reds), Triston McKenzie (Indians) and Sixto Sanchez (Phillies) round out the Top 10.

Some of Reyes' teammates would argue that such a ranking is selling the potential National League Rookie of the Year Award contender short.

"When I look back at all the trade negotiations and all the stuff I was reading about and hearing about, I was just thinking, 'Please don't trade Alex Reyes,'" veteran starter Adam Wainwright said. "Man, that guy can be a superstar in this game. I think he's got humongous talent. I think he can be one of the best pitchers in the game."

Video: Top Prospects: Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals

Reyes still has some rehab work to complete before he can work toward such standing. He's returning to Florida this week to start throwing off the mound. By next week, Reyes hopes to be facing hitters. The Cardinals will be cautious with his workload during Spring Training and have set May 1 as a soft target for his return.

When he's ready, Reyes is likely to jump right back to the Majors, which is where he ended his 2016 season. And though the Cardinals see him a starter for the long-term, Reyes is likely to log some of his first innings of '18 in the bullpen. That will allow the club to monitor his workload.

From there, his fit will be determined by need.

"My arm feels good. My body is feeling great," Reyes said. "I feel like I learned a lot throughout this [last] year being able to watch, read hitters, read approaches. And just being able to dissect video was something I was able to learn this year. Once I get the ball, we will see where it goes from there."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to her podcast.

 

St. Louis Cardinals, Alex Reyes

Yadi planning to retire after 2020 season

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Catcher Yadier Molina said on Monday that he plans to play out his current contract with the Cardinals and then call it a career.

"Three more years," Molina said bluntly. "That's it."

ST. LOUIS -- Catcher Yadier Molina said on Monday that he plans to play out his current contract with the Cardinals and then call it a career.

"Three more years," Molina said bluntly. "That's it."

The tone was more definitive than it had been previously for the 35-year-old catcher, who is about to enter his 15th Major League season. He is entering the first season of a three-year, $60 million extension he signed last April. When Molina was asked then how long he intended to play, he responded with a caveat.

"Four years," he said. "For now."

Video: MLB Tonight: Yadier's plan to retire after 2020

In setting 2020 as an endpoint to a career that could culminate with induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Molina also adds to the organizational urgency of getting back into the postseason. Though the club expects its young talent to help ensure sustained success, the Cardinals can also see a changing of the guard coming.

Veteran starter Adam Wainwright, the second-longest-tenured player on the team behind Molina, is entering the final year of his contract. He said on Sunday that he'll wait until after the 2018 season to evaluate his future. Wainwright and Molina have started more games as batterymates than any tandem in franchise history.

As for Molina, he's already built a distinguished resume that includes two World Series rings, eight Gold Glove Awards and eight All-Star appearances. He's been a model of durability and has started at least 128 games behind the plate in eight of the past nine seasons.

Video: Molina updates ongoing aid efforts in Puerto Rico

Molina has no plans to reduce that workload in 2018.

"Thank God my body feels fine," Molina said. "I have no problems with it. Hopefully, I keep that for three more years."

Separate of any personal goals he still hopes to accomplish in that time, Molina has set his sights on one other objective before retirement arrives.

"I can't wait to grab that [World Series] trophy in November or October," he said. "Three more championships."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to her podcast.

 

St. Louis Cardinals, Yadier Molina

DeWitt: Cards likely done making 'major' moves

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Describing the Cardinals' 2018 roster as "strong" and "improved," principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. suggested on Monday that the organization has wrapped up the bulk of its winter work.

"I don't really anticipate a major move between now and Spring Training," DeWitt said. "I think [president of baseball operations John Mozeliak] and [general manager Michael] Girsch did a good job of targeting certain players and getting things accomplished."

ST. LOUIS -- Describing the Cardinals' 2018 roster as "strong" and "improved," principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. suggested on Monday that the organization has wrapped up the bulk of its winter work.

"I don't really anticipate a major move between now and Spring Training," DeWitt said. "I think [president of baseball operations John Mozeliak] and [general manager Michael] Girsch did a good job of targeting certain players and getting things accomplished."

The comments, coupled with those Mozeliak made over the weekend during his Winter Warm-Up appearance, come after weeks of speculation that the Cardinals could still pounce in what has been a slow-to-develop free-agent market. Corner infielders Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas remain unsigned. So are numerous starting pitchers, including Jake Arrieta and established closer Greg Holland.

DeWitt did not speak specifically about Holland, but did offer insight into how the Cardinals view the investment required to sign a free-agent closer.

"Closers are not guarantees," DeWitt said. "It's a hard job. You go over the history of closers, and it's not particularly guaranteed that you're going to get longevity.

"It's a value proposition. Is that player going to be an effective closer for us, and, if so, for how long? And what is your level of certainty there? And are you willing to give up resources -- whether it's players or dollars -- to make that bet. There is always risk. High risk in many cases."

Video: Ozuna looking forward to playing with Cardinals

Mark Melancon, who signed a four-year, $62 million contract to close for the Giants, is the most recent example of such volatility. Of course, there are examples to the contrary, too. In the first-year of his long-term deal, Kenley Jansen outperformed his $10 million salary. He finished fifth in the National League Cy Young Award vote.

DeWitt also reaffirmed the club's hesitancy to give away premium prospects in order to trade for a player who is one year away from free agency. That would be the case in a pursuit of Josh Donaldson or Manny Machado.

"Do you give up a big part of your future to have a one-year run?" DeWitt said. "That's never been a goal that I would have or our organization has had. We want to be competitive every year and have a shot to get into October."

If the Cardinals are indeed done with their offseason transactions, they will enter Spring Training having made three key additions. Marcell Ozuna fits as the impact bat the club desired. Miles Mikolas will fill the rotation vacancy. And Luke Gregerson will get the first crack as closer.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to her podcast.

 

St. Louis Cardinals

Confident Pham targets 30-30 season in '18

Cardinals outfielder says he 'could be a really special player'
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Ever since hearing that those who write down their goals are 30 percent more likely to achieve them, Tommy Pham has been deliberate about transferring his intentions onto paper. He has no interest in keeping them a secret, either.

Speaking on the second day of Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up, Pham outlined the goals he has already set for the coming season. He wants to play 150 games and elevate his game defensively by improving his speed. Pham also sees a 30-30 season -- something never before accomplished by a Cardinal -- in his future.

ST. LOUIS -- Ever since hearing that those who write down their goals are 30 percent more likely to achieve them, Tommy Pham has been deliberate about transferring his intentions onto paper. He has no interest in keeping them a secret, either.

Speaking on the second day of Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up, Pham outlined the goals he has already set for the coming season. He wants to play 150 games and elevate his game defensively by improving his speed. Pham also sees a 30-30 season -- something never before accomplished by a Cardinal -- in his future.

With 23 homers and 25 stolen bases in 128 games last year, Pham has already distinguished himself as one of six players in franchise history to reach the 20=20 benchmark.

"I want to contribute in all aspects of the game," Pham said. "The game is valuing the overall player who can contribute in all aspects of the game. People only look at hitting, [but] you still have to play defense and you have to run the bases. … I believe that I could be a really special player, and all I've got to do, I just need time to show it."

Video: Pham dynamic threat in Cardinals lineup in 2017

The candidness with which Pham spoke about his expectations should come as no surprise. He's not one to hide behind clichés or sugarcoat his thoughts. Nor has Pham felt the need to pad his Major League service time before making his voice heard in the clubhouse.

"Last year, Tommy stood up in the middle of the clubhouse one time and started yelling at folks, and guys were looking at me like, 'Are you going to do something to stop him?'" Adam Wainwright said. "And I was like, 'Man, absolutely not. I love that about this guy.' He brings an attitude to our team that we need."

Though Pham has been in the Cardinals' organization longer than any player except Wainwright and Yadier Molina, this will be the first time he'll enter Spring Training with a certain spot on the Major League roster. The only other time he made the club's Opening Day roster was in 2016, and Pham landed on the disabled list on the second day of the season.

Now, Pham is taking over as the team's starting center fielder and will likely hit second or third in a lineup that will be deeper with the addition of outfielder Marcell Ozuna. He's preparing for the opportunity by taking a deeper dive into sabermetrics and focusing on speed work this offseason.

Video: Pham, Ozuna to anchor Cardinals' 2018 lineup

"That guy means business," Luke Weaver said. "There's no [other] way to put it. The way he dresses, the way he talks, the way he walks. I mean, it's Tommy Pham. Yadi [Molina] is the godfather, but Pham is going to closely follow that down the road."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to her podcast.

 

St. Louis Cardinals, Tommy Pham

Ozuna enjoys first interaction with Cards fans

Martinez gets more reps at first base; Weaver adds weight during offseason
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- For Marcell Ozuna, Sunday was a day of first impressions. A first-time participant in the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up event, Ozuna got an intimate introduction to the fan base. Fans, in turn, were greeted by Ozuna's glowing smile.

Ozuna's reaction to it all?

ST. LOUIS -- For Marcell Ozuna, Sunday was a day of first impressions. A first-time participant in the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up event, Ozuna got an intimate introduction to the fan base. Fans, in turn, were greeted by Ozuna's glowing smile.

Ozuna's reaction to it all?

"I say, 'Thank God for bringing me here," Ozuna said after wrapping up his autograph session. "Most important for me [is] to be happy, to have fun, to enjoy [the fans] and to have them enjoy me. That makes me feel great."

• Pham targets 30/30 season in 2018

The reaction wasn't all that different a month ago when Ozuna learned that the Cardinals had acquired him in a five-player trade with the Marlins. In that moment, there was a sense of relief, too.

"The first thing I heard [was] they were going to trade me to the Oakland A's," Ozuna recalled. "I said, 'God, please, leave me over here.' Then I heard they traded me to the Cardinals, and I said, 'OK, thanks.'"

First things first

Though a hamstring injury cut short his time in the Venezuelan Winter League, Jose Martinez did use his 15-game stint to continue his work at first base. Martinez made 29 starts there for the Cardinals last season and is likely to open this year as Matt Carpenter's backup at the position.

"I think, right now, I'm feeling 100 percent better [at first base] than last year," Martinez said. "I met with guys who helped me with that position. … There's more to come. I think I have to put some more work, but I feel a little confidence in it."

Video: STL@SF: Martinez lays out to make a tough stop

He'll continue that coursework in Jupiter, Fla., well before position players are required to report to Spring Training. There, Martinez knows he'll find another teacher -- returning infield coach Jose Oquendo -- eager to assist.

"I know he's waiting for me," Martinez said with a laugh. "There's going to be a lot of sweat."

Packing on the pounds

Early this offseason, Luke Weaver sat down with a nutritionist to create a meal plan that would help him add weight to his lanky frame. The solution? Consume about 5,000 calories per day.

It's been such a task that Weaver noted how eating "just didn't become fun anymore." But the work (if it can be called such) has paid off. Weaver, who is listed at 170 pounds on the Cardinals' roster, estimates that he's added 10-15 pounds.

"I'm like eating six pieces of bread and six eggs and, you know, two cups of nuts, and, I mean, it's just a bunch of stuff," Weaver said. "I'm always full. I don't even taste things anymore. If it doesn't taste good, I don't notice."

Video: STL@CIN: Weaver fans seven en route to his 7th win

There is, of course, a purpose behind the pounds. Weaver, who is expected to open the season in the Cardinals' rotation, hopes the added weight can enhance his durability. He's also complemented the diet change with an increase in strength work.

"I've never tested those waters before, but I feel like I'm in some of the best shape," Weaver said. "[I'm] much stronger, quicker. I'm just excited, and I think that's the main thing I took into this offseason."

Worth noting

• In addition to assisting with hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, catcher Yadier Molina took time this offseason to travel to Venezuela, where he provided catching instruction to aspiring big league players.

"A lot of Venezuelans, they don't want to go to Venezuela right now," said Martinez, who helped facilitate the visit. "And for him to come, it was pretty special, because it shows that you cannot forget where you come from."

• Left-hander Tyler Lyons reported to Winter Warm-Up this year as a new father. He and his wife welcomed a daughter, Savannah, into the world on Nov. 30, 2017.

• With Oquendo returning to the Major League staff, shortstop Paul DeJong will be giving back No. 11. DeJong plans to wear No. 12 this season.

Video: DeJong stops by Bloomington on Cardinals Caravan

• Patrick Wisdom acknowledged that there were mixed emotions upon not being picked in the Rule 5 Draft. He likely would have had a better chance to crack an Opening Day roster had another club selected him, and there is still some lingering frustration from being passed over for a promotion last season after hitting 31 homers in Triple-A.

"But, what can you do?" Wisdom said. "You just have to go out and keep playing and continue to get better."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to her podcast.

 

St. Louis Cardinals, Jose Martinez, Marcell Ozuna, Luke Weaver

Wainwright's confidence high despite struggles

Veteran right-hander says he's still competing to be among baseball's best
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Setbacks and struggles over the last two seasons appear to have done nothing to alter Adam Wainwright's expectations for himself.

While some are questioning his fit in the rotation and others jumping to conclusions about his future, Wainwright has zeroed in on the now. That means refraining from reflecting on the past and refusing to predict the future. The uncertainty that others may obsess about is out of sight and out of mind.

ST. LOUIS -- Setbacks and struggles over the last two seasons appear to have done nothing to alter Adam Wainwright's expectations for himself.

While some are questioning his fit in the rotation and others jumping to conclusions about his future, Wainwright has zeroed in on the now. That means refraining from reflecting on the past and refusing to predict the future. The uncertainty that others may obsess about is out of sight and out of mind.

"I just can't think that way," Wainwright said. "It doesn't do me any good to think that I'm fighting for a rotation spot. In my mind, I'm fighting to be the No. 1 pitcher in the game still. That's what I want to be. That's how I want to think of myself and my talent and my abilities.

"Now, I know that I have some things to prove because last year didn't go well, and I was injured during the second half of that year. [It] was ugly. I understand that. I get a lot of it. I also know that proving other people wrong is not as important as proving to myself that I can still be great."

Video: Adam Wainwright's Karaoke Challenge

From the outside, Wainwright may not get the benefit of the doubt that he once did because of how difficult the last two seasons have been. His 4.81 ERA since the start of 2016 ranks 59th among the 61 Major League starters with at least 300 innings pitched. During that stretch, Wainwright posted a 1.44 WHIP and has turned in just 26 quality starts in 56 appearances.

He's also dealt with injury, most recently to his right elbow. Offseason surgery went well, Wainwright said, and his rehab work continues without a hitch. But he hasn't yet tracked his velocity or tested his pitches against hitters. Both will be key indicators of whether there's another surge in performance looming.

"I'm just not ready to be mediocre again. I want to be great again," Wainwright said. "When I go out there and play catch every day, I made a pact with myself before I was a rookie, that I was going to play catch like it was the last day of the World Series, last pitch of the World Series, every time, and that is what I've continued to do."

Wainwright will turn 37 in August and his current contract will expire two months later. It will be then -- and not any earlier -- when Wainwright says he'll ponder what may be next.

"Listen, I can't be living in the past. I can't be living in the future anymore," he said. "Where I have to be is in the now, and I've got to get the most out of where I'm at right now, and we'll see what happens."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to her podcast.

 

St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright

Cardinals confident Gregerson can close

Prospect Reyes progressing after Tommy John surgery
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Though more experienced closers remain available on both the free-agent and trade markets, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, speaking on the first day of the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up, expressed confidence in one the club already has: Luke Gregerson.

It may not be the splashy sign that most expected when the Cardinals stated their intentions to address a ninth-inning void this offseason, but to this point, it's the move they've made. Signed last month to a two-year, $11 million contract, Gregerson last closed regularly for the Astros in 2016. He lost the job two months into the season, one year after tallying 31 saves.

ST. LOUIS -- Though more experienced closers remain available on both the free-agent and trade markets, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, speaking on the first day of the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up, expressed confidence in one the club already has: Luke Gregerson.

It may not be the splashy sign that most expected when the Cardinals stated their intentions to address a ninth-inning void this offseason, but to this point, it's the move they've made. Signed last month to a two-year, $11 million contract, Gregerson last closed regularly for the Astros in 2016. He lost the job two months into the season, one year after tallying 31 saves.

Mozeliak went on to assert that, should Gregerson not seize another opportunity to close now, the club has sufficient protection behind him.

"I do think, when you look at our bullpen, there's going to be opportunities to see people take on more responsibility or more roles," Mozeliak said. "There's no doubt last year was a disappointment, when you think about the blown saves, close games lost. But we also feel like this year, we have a group of guys that are ready to take that next step up. In terms of who it looks like, it might be faceless today, but I feel like by the time we leave Jupiter [Fla.], we'll have a pretty good idea of what those roles look like."

Video: Gregerson to join St. Louis' bullpen in 2018

And then there's the Alex Reyes factor.

Reyes, who estimated that he's dropped 10-15 pounds since last season, has so far avoided any setbacks in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals have set a soft target of May 1 for his return, and when he does, his fit is likely to be in the bullpen.

That will not only give the Cardinals better control over Reyes' workload, but it would also inject a power arm into the 'pen. And the Cards have already begun to envision how the No. 1 prospect's presence could change the look of the ninth.

"I would love to pitch as a starter, reliever, whatever it is," Reyes said on Saturday. "I'm here to help. Whatever they throw at me, I'm willing to take forward."

Video: Top Prospects: Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals

Reyes plans to be back in Florida next week, and he'll begin throwing bullpen sessions when he gets there. He hopes to progress to sessions of live batting practice -- where Reyes will be able to see how hitters react to his pitches -- about a week after that.

"I want to show up to Spring Training," Reyes said, "and show what I have."

As for the Cardinals, what they have now is potential in Reyes, past performance in Gregerson and a collection of other late-innings arms who could challenge for the chance to get closing opportunities if Plans B or beyond are needed. There's still the chance, too, that the Cards change course and pounce to add another option before the start of the season.

One name struck from that possible shopping list on Saturday was Addison Reed, whose two-year agreement with the Twins began trickling out on social media moments after Mozeliak wrapped up a Q&A session with fans.

"I've heard a lot of people write and speculate, 'Are you done? What's next?'" Mozeliak said. "The approach has always been for us, if there's something we can do to improve, we're going to look at that or explore that. I think most importantly, when you look at where our club is today, we certainly feel like we're better off than we were when the season ended. We are very excited about the club we have assembled."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

St. Louis Cardinals, Luke Gregerson, Alex Reyes

Wong: Missile false alarm a 'surreal moment'

Cardinals second baseman 'freaking out' while in contact with family in Hawaii
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Second baseman Kolten Wong was eating breakfast and scrolling through social media in St. Louis on Saturday morning when he spotted the news. Back home in Hawaii, his family and friends were receiving alerts that a ballistic missile was headed toward the island. "This is not a drill," it read.

"I was freaking out; absolutely freaking out," said Wong, a native of Hilo. "It was just a surreal moment."

ST. LOUIS -- Second baseman Kolten Wong was eating breakfast and scrolling through social media in St. Louis on Saturday morning when he spotted the news. Back home in Hawaii, his family and friends were receiving alerts that a ballistic missile was headed toward the island. "