Offseason activity arrives before Winter Meetings
Current, former managers steal spotlight as Cardinals stay relatively silent
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It should be no surprise that the Cardinals' front office came and went from central Florida having stirred up little attention at this year's Winter Meetings. Such is the advantageous position the Cardinals could take after addressing their most glaring holes well before baseball's annual gathering.
The Cardinals' decisions to act quickly in adding a shortstop and improving their outfield defense allowed them the luxury of showing up in Lake Buena Vista with a limited to-do list. It wasn't a vacation for general manager John Mozeliak, but it was hardly reminiscent of his Winter Meetings experience two years ago when held hostage by Albert Pujols negotiations.
This was a week mostly for discussion and information gathering. As a result, the biggest Cardinals-related news had to do with issues entirely unrelated to the roster.
On Monday, the organization took time to recognize former manager Tony La Russa, who was unanimously voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. La Russa, along with Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, will be enshrined in Cooperstown next July.
Then the focus turned to manager Mike Matheny's continued crusade to abolish home-plate collisions. After giving an impassioned presentation about the effect concussions had on his life, Matheny was pleased to watch the Playing Rules Committee vote to ban the play. Matheny has made himself a face for this issue.
Here is a recap of the Cardinals' other activity in Florida:
Deals done: The Cardinals' lone signing came Wednesday when they inked right-hander Angel Castro to a one-year deal. Though Castro has been added to the team's 40-man roster, he is not projected to compete for a Major League roster spot this spring. The Cardinals targeted the 31-year-old right-hander as a fit for their Triple-A Memphis rotation.
The organization's other offseason deals were completed before the Winter Meetings. Last month, the Cardinals made a free-agent splash by signing shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53-million deal. A four-player trade with the Angels netted the Cardinals center fielder Peter Bourjos and Minor Leaguer Randal Grichuk.
Rule 5 Draft activity: The Cardinals did not make a selection in the Major League portion of the Draft, nor did they lose any of their eligible players who had been left off the team's 40-man roster. The Cardinals added shortstop Greg Miclat (Texas) and first baseman Jesus Ustariz (Detroit) in the Triple-A portion. In the same phase, they lost right-hander Kevin Thomas (Twins), shortstop Jake Lemmerman (Padres) and left-hander Hector Hernandez (D-backs).
Goals accomplished: Mozeliak's week was dominated by discussion, not deals. He did use his time at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort to meet with a handful of agents representing right-handed-hitting middle infielders. The intent was to explain what sort of role the Cardinals would be offering and to gauge player interest. The organization has also considered filling this void via trade, but such discussions did not gain momentum this week.
Unfinished business: Though the Cardinals have done most of their dealing already, the club is still expected to add a middle infielder. Because the organization is not promising a starting job, the free-agent infielders that they have reached out to are currently canvassing the market to see what other options are available. As a result, the Cardinals may have to wait for additional market clarity before actually making this fill. In adding a right-handed-hitting infielder, the Cardinals would give themselves protection in case Kolten Wong struggles as the team's second baseman.
On the coaching side, the Cardinals are still in the process of finalizing a contract agreement that would bring David Bell in as the team's new assistant hitting coach. That official announcement is expected in the coming days.
Bottom line: "I think we used our time wisely down here. We met with a lot of different agents, talked with a lot of different teams. Obviously, there is no traction. It doesn't mean we're not done still working on our roster. We felt pretty comfortable where we were coming into this, but we still wanted to see if there were some opportunities. They just didn't come to fruition. -- Mozeliak