Inbox: Walden on track for regular spring

Fans ask about reliever's health, Rosenthal's contract, future at catcher

January 27th, 2016

ST. LOUIS -- With the Hot Stove season cooling and the Cardinals' report date for pitchers and catchers just three weeks away, it seems like a good time to tackle another batch of your questions.

I plucked some questions off Twitter; others were emailed to me. Just remember to kindly submit your name and hometown along with your question no matter how you choose to submit one.

The reports the Cardinals have received on Walden have all been positive, and the expectation is that he'll be on the same pitching program as all other relievers this spring. But there remains an element of uncertainty about whether his shoulder can remain sound for a full season. The Cardinals have acknowledged as much, and that's what led them to sign a pair of veteran relievers -- Jonathan Broxton and Seung Hwan Oh -- this winter. The club felt it needed the additional coverage. Read into that as you wish.

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No, I don't. I believe general manager John Mozeliak is genuine when he says he plans to give Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty the chance to be everyday players. While Gonzalez would offer a middle-of-the-order bat that you could argue the Cards still need, he's under contract for just two more seasons and would cost a load of talent to acquire. The Cards don't necessarily have the depth to start trading away talent, so my guess is they'll gamble with what they've already got.

As of now, no, there have been no such discussions and none are planned. Rosenthal, as a first-year arbitration-eligible player, recently agreed to a $5.6 million contract for 2016. While he seemed a candidate for extension talks -- something that would bring both Rosenthal and the Cardinals some level of cost certainty -- Mozeliak said he preferred not to discuss any longer deal at this point. The hesitancy seemed more to do with timing than interest, so you can't rule out the possibility the two sides will meet at the negotiating table during the season.

Barring injury, the Cardinals should have sufficient catching coverage through 2017. That's when Brayan Pena's contract runs out, and it will mark the final guaranteed year in Molina's current deal. The team does hold a 2018 option that would cover Molina's age-35 season as well. But while there may not be an immediate backstop need, this idea of grooming the club's next catcher is going to be a talking point for the next few years. It could be Carson Kelly, the converted catcher who won a Minor League Gold Glove in 2015. Or it may require another Draft commitment by the organization.

I'd put Tuivailala on my list of breakout candidates for the Cards in 2016, as I do think he'll play a big role in the bullpen at some point. It's hard to see that coming on Opening Day, however, only because of the numbers game. If everyone is healthy, the Cards already have six of their seven relief spots filled with Rosenthal, Walden, Kevin Siegrist, Broxton, Seth Maness and Oh. They'll likely fill the other with someone who can handle a long-relief role. Matthew Bowman, Tyler Lyons, Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales would be candidates there. Tuivailala could slide in if there's an injury, but he's also a strong candidate to open the season as a closer in Memphis.