Monthly Archives: February 2011

Pop goes the elbow (and the season…and maybe more).

Breaking News from Spring Training: St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak today announced that Adam Wainwright has been sent back to St. Louis for evaluation after feeling a pop in his elbow while throwing a pitch yesterday.

Mozeliak characterized the situation as “not encouraging.”

And the Cards now have a really big problem on their hands.

Injuries happen, we all know that. Kevin Millwood is still a free agent, Ian Snell is still in the Cards’ camp, Kyle McClellan has been groomed to be a possible starter for the last couple seasons, and Lance Lynn has looked close to ready in AAA for a while now. So the team has options to explore to make them competitive for 2011…though everyone knows none of those pitchers can fill Wainwright’s shoes on the mound.

adam-wainwright_1.jpgBut this is potentially a franchise-changer going forward. First, if Wainwright needs Tommy John surgery, he is done for this year and some of 2012. But the options on his contract that became guaranteed when he finished in the Top 5 in the Cy Young race in 2010 and 2011 are now not guaranteed because a clause in those options says they only kick in if he does not finish 2011 on the disabled list. It now looks all but inevitable that Wainwright WILL be on the DL for the whole year. So do the Cards pick up those options? Do they decline them and try to extend him while his stock is diminished, like they did with Chris Carpenter? Or will Wainwright also be a free agent in the 2011/2012 offseason?

Speaking of free agents, how will this affect the Albert Pujols contract situation? The Cards may find themselves in comlpete franchise overhaul because of this. It would likely make the team fall completely out of contention in the revamped NL Central for 2011. With that in mind, the Cards could conceivably ask Pujols to re-visit his stance on promising to veto any trade. This is also Chris Carpenter’s final guaranteed year; could he be on the trading block?

Imagine the St. Louis Cardinals losing Pujols, Carpenter, Wainwright, and Jim Edmonds all in the same season. A month ago that seemed like a crazy, never-in-a-million-years thought. But today I’m not so optimistic. 

He is still a Cardinal…

            As the world already knows, Albert Pujols did not sign a contract extension with the St. Louis Cardinals by the deadline he and his agent imposed. Amazingly enough, the sun still rose this morning.

 

            Many in Cardinal Nation were taking sides long before yesterday; the passing of the deadline with no deal added fuel to that fire. Some are again calling ownership cheap while others seem to think Pujols is money-hungry. And as paranoid or untrue as those accusations may be, they aren’t going away for the majority anytime soon.

 


Pujols.jpg           
I, however, am not worried…especially after Pujols’ arrival at Spring Training and media interview today.

 

            Last weekend I wrote about the media and the “work” they did leading up to Pujols’ deadline. I will admit I have no proof of anything…but when Pujols says they’re all “way off” when talking about the number of years and dollars being reported, I believe him. And not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I’m glad I was right. The so-called reporting over the last few weeks was nothing more than speculation, and the mini-hysteria it caused was unnecessary. While it’s true that Pujols didn’t sign, no one–and I mean NO ONE–outside of Albert, his agent Dan Lozano, and a very small handful of people in the Cards’ front office know for certain why. No one really knows how far apart the team and the player are.

 

Now I get that Pujols would not offer anything today we didn’t already know either. Sure he is trying to say all the right things, but what reason would he have to lie? If the offer was low-ball and Pujols felt insulted, I have a feeling he would just shut up about it. I don’t think he would be as happy and jovial today; he may not show anger outwardly but he’s no actor. He reiterated that he wants to be a Cardinal for life. He wants to win, and he wants to win here. He does not sound like he is hell-bent on leaving St. Louis for free agency.

 

            So the next question becomes: what will it take to sign Pujols to an extension, and when will it happen? Yesterday Bill Dewitt and John Mozeliak said they are always open for business if Pujols and his agent want to talk; Pujols and Lozano say they will not reopen talks until after the conclusion of the Cards’ 2011 season. This will be on the minds of Cardinals fans and the fans of teams perceived to have the resources to sign Pujols should he actually hit free agency. But that can’t start until five days after the end of the World Series. Even if the Cards and Pujols’ representation maintain radio silence until the season ends, they’ll have a lot of exclusive negotiation time. And no one has ever said that if Pujols does hit free agency he wouldn’t take any potential offers back to the Cards and say, “Can you match this?” Again,pujols_spring_training.jpg we just don’t know…and when you don’t know something, anything is possible.

 

            The drama is over for now. Pitchers and catchers have been working out for some time, and the mandatory reporting date for the rest of the team is Saturday. Most of the players are already in camp. So what Pujols isn’t signed for the next 8-10 years; he is still a Cardinal this year. It’s time to play ball. Nothing else matters.

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