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UCB Project: Playing Pepper

Posted on March 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM
Filed Under: Playing Pepper | St. Louis Cardinals | United Cardinal Bloggers
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper. 

St. Louis Cardinals 
88-74, second in the NL Central and second NL Wild Card, lost in NLCS 

Wait a second, what's going on here?  Playing Pepper isn't about the Cardinals.  Besides, Milwaukee is up next anyway.  We're not anywhere close to the S teams!

Very good, astute and loyal reader.  Give yourself a gold star.  In fact, I never have done a Cardinals version of the Playing Pepper series, but when it came to my turn to end the annual United Cardinal Blogger roundtable, I thought I'd shake things up and ask some Pepper-ish questions to the UCB faithful.

So who jumped into this?  Only.....

Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants, @dsolzman
Kevin Reynolds, Cards 'N Stuff, @deckacards
Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba, @RetroSimba
Tom Knuppel, CardinalsGM, @cardinalsgm
Wes Keene, Keene On MLB, @KeeneMLB
Spencer Hendricks, StanGraphs, @shendricks221
"Pip" Philip, Fungoes, @fungoes
Christine Coleman, Aaron Miles' Fastball, @CColeman802
and, in a late entry, Dathan Brooks, Cards Tied For First, @dathan7

Yeah, pretty awesome, right?  So hang on through the break and find out when Waino signs and what people are the most interested in watching this coming season.

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C70: Where and when will Adam Wainwright sign his next contract and, for extra credit, for how much/long?

RR: I'm not a psychic. I don't have the answers. It will be as a Cardinal, I would hope. 

CF: He will be signed very soon I believe, probably before opening day. 

CNS: I'll bite. I think the feel of the talks between Waino and Mo has the feel of talks that could meet somewhere in the middle. I think Wainwright signs by Opening Day for the 5 years he wants with a year or two of team options with an AAV of around $21-$22 million. 

I70: I'm going out on a limb and saying the contract is done by March 15. It will be four years with some vesting options based on health. $24mil annual value. 

RS: Adam Wainwright re-signs with the Cardinals on the morning of the home opener this year for 4 years and $75 million. 

CFCL: The pessimist in me says he signs with the Yankees this offseason for 5 years/$125 million. The optimist says he signs with the Cardinals for 4 years/$102 million on March 28th. 

CGM: Wainwright contract will sign on Opening Day morning.... 

BCR: Cardinals...4 years, $80M at ASB 

KOM: Wainwright will end up getting signed by the Cards. I suspect he'll get a 4 year deal. I'm hopeful that we still see that before the season starts. I just don't see the Cards letting a known quantity like him go. You can only have so many younger inexperienced pitchers that you depend on day in, and day out. 

OOC: I strongly believe that Adam Wainwright will sign a contract extension just before the All Star Game break. He will be 11-4 at that point, eliminating any question that he has recovered from his elbow surgery. He will get a 5yr/$120M deal with options for a 6th and 7th year. That is in the Felix Hernandez territory and will be seen as a good deal for both the team and Wainwright. 

F: Before opening day, five years for $90 million. 

CSP: Just this past week, I said I think that Waino's negotiations would stretch into the season, but I've had a bit of change of heart. It seems like the Cardinals have gotten more aggressive in a resolution, and Wainwright intent seems set, it's just about meet terms now. I think they find a common ground, and it looks like six years/$121M (Club option on year six).

AMFC: If I'm being honest, I could see it going either way. Whenever I think "oh, Mo would never let him walk -- Wainwright's too valuable," I just have to think of December 2011. But to give a concrete answer, I'll take the sunshine-and-puppies route and say he'll sign an extension within the next three weeks (so before Opening Day).

AMFT: I am hopeful Adam's 5-year contract is all tucked away nice and neat by Opening Day.  It seems they're getting closer to that magic number in the middle.

CTF: I'd guess it's at least as good as Weaver's, and it wouldn't surprise me to see one more lucrative. It could be 9-figure deal, if it's long enough (5 + an option or two). I'd expect it to be wrapped up by the All-Star break, if it's going to happen in St. Louis.

All right, my turn, though if I'd remembered I had to answer them, I might have made them easier.  The latest news from Jupiter makes me think that there may be some progress and I believe both sides are motivated to get it done before the season starts.  I'll say the weekend before the season starts, Waino inks a four year deal with a vesting option for year five if he reaches a reasonable level of innings in year four.  Counting the option year, let's say $105 million.

C70: Who gets the fifth starter slot, Shelby Miller or Joe Kelly, and what happens to the loser?

RR: Shelby Miller. I see Kelly being the long reliever until something happens with Lance Lynn

CF: I think Kelly gets it although I hope its Miller. A lot could factor on today's start for Miller. I think the loser goes to Memphis although I think the loser should stay up and pitch out of the pen. 

CNS: I've written and podcasted since before the start of camp that the 5th spot will go to Miller if he's healthy. Rosenthal was too dominant out of the 'pen last year, and skipping AAA put him in a relative - only relative - experience hole compared to Kelly and Miller. Kelly is too valuable as a swing man - long relief, spot start here and there if needed - out of the MLB level 'pen. And putting Miller in the 'pen only slows his development as a starter at this point. Plus, Kelly was a surprise last season with his success at the MLB level and the extreme success he had at AAA. He doesn't have the upside Miller does nor does he have the control and efficiency. All things being equal - health and good showing in camp - it makes sense to put Miller in the 5th spot. However, if Kelly makes the rotation, I see Miller in AAA to keep him stretched out for a starting role when needed in St. Louis. But if Miller gets it, Kelly goes in the 'pen...especially if the team only carries 12 pitchers. I could see a situation where Kelly makes a 12 pitcher squad in the pen to provide arm-saving innings. 

I70: I've been pulling for Miller since the start and I think he gets it. Kelly will stay with the big club in the pen and spot starting, but may end up in the rotation quickly depending on Garcia/Lynn and what they do early on. 

RS: Shelby Miller gets the fifth slot and Joe Kelly returns to Memphis as trade bait for a shortstop in July. 

CFCL: I have to go with Miller as the winner, despite Joe Strauss' "informed speculation" that Kelly will win. I just think Miller has more upside and has done nothing this spring to lose the battle. Kelly will become the long reliever for the Cardinals. 

CGM: 5th spot goes to Joe Kelly and they keep Miller in Memphis for 30 days to buy another year of his contract. 

BCR: Miller, Kelly goes to BP. 

KOM: Kelly gets the 5th slot. He's proven himself. There is no offense intended toward Miller, his day in the rotation is coming, but barring injury, it's in 2014. Miller is in the pen for 2013. 

SG: I can't resist throwing in my input on number 2, as I have very strong opinions about Joe Kelly not starting. I think he's a definite asset out of the bullpen, but ultimately his success as a starter seems questionable at best, even for the back end. I'm sure he could be a decent enough bottom-of-the-rotation guy, but I'd much rather see him use his high velocity and groundball-inducing ways out of the bullpen, freeing up the spot for Shelby Miller, who certainly pitched well enough down the stretch to show what he can do with the chance. 

OOC: Shelby Miller will win the 5th starter, if he has not already. Joe Kelly, whom I will never refer to as a loser, will take the Nelson Briles slot - the swing man out of the pen for long relief and spot starter should the weather not cooperate or somebody needs to skip a start. Even though it has been reported that Trevor Rosenthal will be preparing as a reliever, I have a hard time believing that he will not be the ace of the Memphis Redbirds rotation. 

F: Miller gets it, while Kelly works on pitching to lefthanders as a starter in Memphis (or at least he should). 

CSP: Shelby wins out. It's his time, he's shown that he's making developmental strides and his the best option for right now.

AMFC: Shelby Miller gets my vote for fifth starter, with Joe Kelly to the bullpen.

AMFT: I'm leaning toward Miller.  Kelly is a huge asset out of the bullpen, and Shelby has been in the process of prepping for this starting job since day one.

CTF: Likely Miller lands in the 5th spot, and what happens to JK depends largely on bullpen needs.

I've said all year that Miller should have the inside track on the last rotation slot and I don't think this spring has changed anything.  We're getting close to the decision time--both could have just three more starts in spring, probably with a decision made before that last one.  While there are obviously other factors, Miller looks like he's ready to take that final step and be a big leaguer.  As for Kelly, if Rosenthal was going to Memphis, I'd unhesitatingly say he was going to the bullpen.  That said, it still looks like the most likely destination for him.  Eduardo Sanchez has looked pretty good (save Sunday's game) but I think he's more likely set to go to Memphis and make sure the command is back.  That should leave a spot for Kelly.

C70: Who gets the first callup from Memphis?

RR: Wong, Taveras, or Wacha.

CF: Easy call - Wong. Unless there is an injury to an outfielder or Craig. If that is the case, its Adams. No room for Wacha right now. 

CNS: I keep coming back to Matt Adams - if he doesn't make the roster and doesn't get traded. Craig's knees and minor shoulder soreness shows his vulnerability to aches and pains and perhaps the most likely to get injured. That scenario becomes even more likely if Matheny can't resist the temptation to put Craig in the outfield to spell Holliday/Beltran at some point. And, Wigginton is no Spring chicken. An injury to Wigginton could lead to an Adams call up to provide innings at first base and a pinch hitter with power off the bench. However, if Adams is the "first" callup - maybe in May or June - Taveras is going to be the "eventual" callup. He'll be up by the end of July as a way to maintain power production in the lineup while giving Holliday and Beltran regular late-season rest. 

I70: Taveras, due to an injury, he gets his chance to shine. I would say Matt Adams but I don't believe he is still a Cardinal on Opening Day. 

RS: Eduardo Sanchez gets the first call-up from Memphis to help an overworked bullpen. 

CFCL: I will go with Eduardo Sanchez as well. Most teams churn their relievers between AAA and the majors to provide extra depth. 

CGM: First call-up is difficult until we know who goes and who doesnt.... I am saying Cedeno gets DFA'ed after Mo said "ummm not great" when asked how he is doing..... so I will answer Greg Garcia gets first call. 

BCR: Eduardo Sanchez. 

KOM: Wong is the first callup from Memphis. That happens when the Cards determine they need production from 2B again. One might have guessed that would have happened by now. 

OOC: As much as we would all love to see Oscar Taveras in St. Louis, it will be Matt Adams. Although it will drive Cardinals fans nuts, Ty Wigginton will be the corner infield backup with Matt Adams starting the season in Memphis. Carlos Beltran will likely spend some time on the disabled list and Adams will get the call up with Allen Craig or Matt Carpenter moving into right field. 

F: Some LOOGy chucker. Matheny won't be able to resist the urge to have a second lefty in the pen after Zep goes on the DL. 

CSP: Kelly would be the easy option if Garcia isn't ready, but on the safer side, I'd say. Ryan Jackson gets the call first, IF he stays on the field there. Greg Garcia and Kolten Wong may have something to say about that.

AMFC: Matt Adams.

AMFT: Matt Adams.  The guy simple destroys baseballs.  It can't be ignored!

CTF: It'll probably be to replace someone who's gone to the DL, so it could be Kelly (previous question) if a starter goes down, could be Adams if Craig goes down...the possibilities are plentiful.

I lean toward those that say it'll be a bullpen arm, most specifically Eduardo Sanchez  If he does have the control that made him such a weapon in 2011, Memphis is a waste for him and  he probably won't be there all that long.

C70: What will be the final record of the Cards and where will the finish in the division? Will they get a wild card?

RR: I'm optimistic in that the Cardinals can win an Astros-less Central.

CF: I will say 93-69 and a division win. 

CNS: Oh, man...I was putting off thinking on this until the predictions project. Hmmm...I'm gonna' go with 89-73. A lot of people are expecting us to be worse this season because the Astros are gone, but most don't remember exactly how much went wrong in 2012. From all the 1B injuries to the loss of Carp, the team felt less prepared than they are in 2013 to deal with the pitfalls. Now, Matheny is another year wiser/more comfortable, the young guys like Adams and all the pitchers are better-prepared to chip in, the feast/famine offense, etc. I think we find more consistency in 2013, get more dependable production from young players, and contributions from Taveras late in the year will prevent late-season production drops by Beltran and Holliday. But...the loss of Furcal, Carp, and Lohse this year will still prevent us from a 90-win season. We finish in second place close behind the Reds and with one of the Wild Card spots - most likely the second again. 

I70: I'm going 95-67 and a division win. 

RS: Cardinals barely will edge the Pirates for NL Central title with a record of 90-72. 

CFCL: I think the Cardinals finish first with a 93-69 record (Reds will win the wild card). 

BCR: 1st place--97 wins. 

KOM: I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but I'm not going over 90 wins this year. They got 88 last year, and I'm not seeing the big improvement this year. I want to be wrong, but I'm looking at a squad that suffered a lot last year when Furcal wasn't around. Kozma may have a breakout year, but I won't bet the farm. I'm going with 86 wins, 2nd place finish in the division behind the Reds, no Wild Card. 

OOC: Last season the Cardinals were 88-74. They gave away a lot of games that I don't think Mike Matheny will allow this year. He will have a short leash for both Jaime Garcia and Lance Lynn but show Jake Westbrook and Adam Wainwright some patience. The bullpen will be better than last year, especially early and more importantly, from the left side. Lets say a 6 game improvement over last year. 94-68 and they will win the NL Central (we don't need no stinkin' wild card this year). 

F: Ah, how it saddens me to read your indefinite article with "wild card." In any case, I'll call a tie between them and the Reds (92 wins) in some goofy deal like 2001. 

CSP: Cardinals go 90-72, and land a close Wild Card spot over the Giants or Dodgers. (Braves win one outright).

AMFC: 91-71, and in first place.

AMFT: I'm going to go cup-half-full and say 93 wins and a division crown.

CTF: I don't think 90 wins is enough to be division champs. And unless the Cards can fix some of the same things from last year (for example, they've scored a combined 2 runs in the last 3 games, and have been shutout in the last two; and scored 30 runs in the 3 games before that. Looks awwwwwfully familiar. Just sayin'.) I think the Cards can win 90, but I get exponentially more leery with each additional win predicted after that. On paper, CIN is already playing LAD or WAS in the NLCS, so the Cards will have their work cut out for them if they want to lay claim to the, ahem, Central Division Championship trophy.

It's tough not to be optimistic in the spring.  That's what spring training is all about, able to dream the dreams of summer untempered by the reality of what's happening now.  That said, it's tough to see just a ton of improvement in the win column this year.  Yes, the bullpen should be better (though we thought that at the beginning of 2012 as well) but will the team get a Lance Lynn-like standout performance?  I think 90-91 wins is reasonable, which may be enough to win the division as I think the Reds are going to come back to the pack a little bit this year.

C70: What is the one thing you are most looking forward to watching this season?

RR: All the nationally televised games. 

CF: How the middle infield situation plays out. 

CNS: Honestly...Pete Kozma at shortstop. I love the kid's story and would love to see a true turn-around story actually play out. He's always had potential, but his minor league numbers make everyone doubt him. I like to see people proven wrong when it corresponds with a career-saving turnaround for a guy like Koz. In a more general sense, I gotta say watching all the young guys contribute this year. It's the beginning of an impact-player producing farm system. Good times. 

I70: The development of players. Craig, Freese, Jay, Kozma, Miller, Rosenthal, and Kelly all have the chance to make major impact(s) on the club. Guys in the minors have a chance to come up and impact as well. The young an unpredictable side of it is fun. 

RS: Most looking forward to watching Oscar Taveras in his first big-league game. 

CFCL: I am really hoping to see what Miller can do if he wins a spot in the rotation. I'm also hoping to see Oscar Taveras get an extended look this year in anticipation of taking over the right field job next year. 

CGM: Most looking forward to see Taveras play. 

BCR: The young pitchers. 

KOM: I want to watch the bullpen this year. It was electric at the end of last season. For the most part of was lights out once the pen got into action, and I want to know if they can keep it up. 

OOC: Well, it certainly won't be the intelligent banter between Al Hrabosky and Jim Hayes in the third inning, that's for sure. Seriously, it will be the return to live tweeting of baseball games. I've always enjoyed spending an evening with my twitter buddies as the game progresses and emotions ebb and flow. 

While I'm very interested in watching what happens at shortstop with the big league club, the most fascinating story will be the starting rotation in Memphis. Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, perhaps Trevor Rosenthal (maybe not), John Gast, Kevin Siegrist, Michael Blazek, Scott Gorgen, maybe even Tyler Lyons and Michael Wacha. Throw in Kolten Wong, Oscar Taveras, Ryan Jackson, Greg Garcia, Chris Swauger and this should be a tremendous team to watch this season. 

F: How many runs the Cardinals score playing "small ball." Or, more accurately, how few. 

CSP: I'm excited to seeing a full renaissance of Wainwright. He showed glimpses last year, but with a lot more emphasis on his performance carrying the load for veterans without Carpenter or Lohse to fall back on, a grittier Waino could be something to behold.

AMFC: I'm most looking forward to seeing Miller, Kelly and Rosenthal and how they all do in a full season in the majors.

AMFT: For a change of pace, I'll say Mike Matheny...his progress, that is!  I'm quite curious to see how he handles this team differently than last year and how that pays off in ball games won.

CTF: Ballpark village being built.

What I love about baseball in general is the fact that it's the background of the summer, that I can turn on the TV and just hear the game throughout the house as I'm doing my regular routines.  Beyond that, I'm excited to see Wainwright on the mound, Miller on the mound, speculating on when Taveras will get the call up, and, of course, seeing as many of these UCBers as possible at our yearly conflab in St. Louis.

Have I ever said I'm proud of the people that wear the UCB tag?  I should have, because I am extremely glad that they are involved and I can call them friends.  Thanks to everyone that participated in this or any other roundtable question!

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Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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