Cards to exercise Molina option; TLR welcome back

The Cardinals celebrated Sunday, but business gets back to normal for general manager John Mozeliak on Monday. That includes plenty of dealing with free agents, and trying to secure the team’s coaching staff for 2012. It also includes the matter of dealing with some club options.

One of those options is a slam dunk. Mozeliak said that he expects to exercise catcher Yadier Molina’s 2012 option on Monday. The option is worth $7 million, with a buyout of $750,000, and is the final year of a contract Molina signed before the 2008 season.

The club also holds options on relievers Arthur Rhodes and Octavio Dotel, neither of which is likely to be exercised. However, the Cards could approach either or both about a return at a lower cost.

Additionally, Mozeliak made the club’s unsurprising stance on manager Tony La Russa clear: the team hopes to have its skipper back for a 17th season. La Russa and the team hold a mutual contract option for 2012.

-M.

46 Comments

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Not clear on some rules here, Matthew. If they decline the options on Dotel and Rhodes, can they then turn around and offer them arbitration? Or does declining the option take that off the table? Dotel’s a Type B free agent, right? I assume that Rhodes is not, so the arbitration would be irrelevant, but it isn’t for Dotel. And are there options in play with Jackson, or will they simply decide whether or not to offer arbitration?

No relation, basically. Declining the option just makes a player a free agent like any other free agent (assuming he’s reached the 6 years’ service time to be eligible for free agency).

-M.

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Here is an idea that I have been floating past a couple of Cardinal fans … seeing how Albert is such charitable person, giving of his time and money to his home country and to charities that support children with disabilities, what if the Cardinals were to fashion a contract that was record breaking in dollar terms but a significant portion of the contract went into an Albert Pujols charity fund? The Cardinals would get the tax deduction, Albert the contract “respect” he deserves, and the owners would not in theory be stretching the salary boundaries. The Cardinals could even pledge to help raise additional support from other MLB and Cardinal vendors. 10 years $20M/year for Albert and another $10/year for his charity? I don’t think this idea is too much of a stretch….

In short, no. Would not get it done, from all I know.
-M.

With La Russa retiring, would the Cardinals consider having Pujols manage as well as play first base like Rose did? Or do you think that Oquendo is just a lock and all the other interviews will be for show?

Neither of these. They will not have a player-manager, and Oquendo is not at all a certainty.
-M.

I hope it is Oquendo, I hope it is Oquendo, I hope it is Oquendo. Is Tony headed to the White Sox front office, I wonder?
Matt, we miss you here when you’re not here!
A

Thanks for the kind words, but what do you mean when I’m not here? I’ve had one day off in the last 35.
-M.

I think aprudy means HERE, as in having time to converse on your blog. Not “here” as in writing on the main site. For readers, a print story can be done by anyone. But actual responses to questions/concerns directly from you is more personal. Although I think we all understand that most of your time is taken up elsewhere.

Fair enough, but two things:

1, if you really think ANYONE can do the job, I dunno what to say, except it doesn’t reflect real well on me.

And mostly,

2, I’m very reachable. Email, twitter, bring it on.

And actually, mostly MOSTLY,

Thanks for caring about the work. It matters a lot to me.

-M.

Dude, what’d I say?! I don’t by any means think just anyone can do the job, much less me. I just like this forum more’n the main site, as Shaun noted, your voice feels to me like it is more present in what goes here. It is probably the difference between more vs less formal writing. Perhaps, like my nine year old who was let stay up too late watching too many games too often, you need and more than deserve a break for a bit. (Meant as an honest statement and to be humorous! ;-) )

No, no, not you. Again, above all else, I appreciate the interest.

I was responding to, “a print story can be done by anyone.” I just don’t believe that’s true. I believe that I actually bring something to the job in my writing on the site. If Shaun feels differently, that’s certainly his prerogative. But if I felt that way, I would feel like I was wasting my time doing the job that I do.

-M.

You do a great job on your formal and blog work! My question is, do you think the Cards ability to resign Pujols will have any impact on the type of manager they will be able to hire (from both a financial and experience stand point).

No. The manager will be settled on, and hired, before the Pujols negotiations have any real shape.
-M.

A conceptual question about re-signing Pujols: It seems the biggest hesitation with really big money is the number of years, right? Anyone would give him $30 million for the next 5 years, but 8-10 could just paralyze an organization if production declines.

Given what we know about Pujols skills, work habits, and character, is this a reasonable approach at all?

Offer him $30 million-ish for 7 years and then make it a $30 million dollar player option for 2-3 more years. The key is being the PLAYER option. It communicates respect and it puts the offer in the “best player ever” stratosphere. There is still inherent risk because the club is contractually on the hook for it. But, the key here is Pujols, his character, and maybe even his future with the cardinals beyond his playing days.

In each option year…If he is still performing at similar levels, he activates the option and everyone is happy. If his production has dipped a little, he takes it and it’s justifiable because of the bargain he was to team many years before. If his production is significantly down, you trust Pujols character, relationship with the team, the respect he has been shown to NOT activate the option (possibly re-negotiate a deal) – to not accept a 30 million dollar paycheck for 15 home runs, 75 RBI, and a 275 average.

I know it is not without risk. Is it just too Crazy?

If you really believe that ANY player would turn down $60-90MM guaranteed just because his production had dipped, I don’t think we can see eye to eye at all. There is more risk in that than there would be in simply guaranteeing $30MM a year for 10 years.

-M.

Fair Enough. I have been accused of trusting people too much.

I am curious about your last line. I don’t understand how the risk would be higher. than the simple full guarantee.

The risk for a player option is always that you’re only paying the player if it’s bad news for the team.

If the player is still at a peak — say he’s coming off two straight MVP seasons and looks as young and as healthy as ever — then he declines the option, goes to free agency, and you either lose him or pay him even more than if you’d simply guaranteed the dollars.

If he’s NOT still at a peak, then he’d be a fool to turn down the guaranteed money.

A player option is only exercised if it’s in the player’s best interest, which is to say in the vast majority of cases that it’s not in the team’s best interest. At least if you guarantee those years, then you know that you have him no matter what, even if it’s still a great deal for the team at that point.

-M.

That makes sense. Thanks for the explanation.

2 things, first off, I feel like Terry Francona or Ryne Sandberg would be the best fit for the Cardinals(excluding Joe Maddon, because he costs too much money in my opinion). What is your opinion on the possible candidates? Also, ive been wondering, if Pujols does seek a 7-10 year contract approaching 30 million a year, would it still be worth it to sign him? I understand what he means to St. Louis, but, for that kind of money, we could sign many more great players. He may be worth it now, but what about late 30′s? Thats where I’m coming from

Matt – what are the odds on Mike Matheny becoming the next Cardinal Manager? I feel the Cards will stay “in-house” on making their managerial selection and Mike would be an excellent choice. Can’t see them taking on an X-Cubbie (Sandberg) as their choice – but it sure would stir up the off-season between here and Chicago. My other long shot – Francona – Theo E. will go hard after him for the Cubbies. Probably will not be available.

Hope you have gotten some rest and are ready to start talking hot-stove baseball in the weeks ahead ;-)

* Matheny’s a candidate, so he’s got a shot, but DeWitt pretty explicitly said last week that SOME sort of managing experience is a prerequisite, so I’m not sold he has THAT much of chance.

* As for Sandberg, I honestly don’t get why it would be an issue what team he played for. Shouldn’t be and IMO won’t be.

* As for Francona, my understanding is that the Cubs are not a serious player for him.

-M.

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Maybe you need to come out and sit in the bleachers during a Cubs-Cards weekend (both here and in Chicago) and you would understand what I’m talking about in regards to the Cards hiring Sandberg. He instantly would become the most “hated man” in Chicago, would be considered a traitor by many in Chicago land. To put it into a Cardinal perspective – it would be like Whitey Herzog taking over the reins of the Cubs. Cards fans would go off the deep end. But, wouldn’t it be something if Sandberg came here and won it all in 2012? He certainly will have the horsepower to make a run at it. Cub fans would have to be put on a suicide watch. hehe. But, I’m putting my money on Matheny. After talking to a Cards official late in the summer about Matheny coming back to the organization (and working with the minor league catchers and doing other appointed jobs), I know there are some who hold him in very high regards within the organization. Even without “managing experience”, he has other qualifications that make him a serious candidate. I can see some serious, behind the scenes, lobbying on his behalf.

I’m aware it’s an intense rivalry. It’s a little insulting to suggest I’m not.

But the manager isn’t being hired to sit in the bleachers. He’s being hired to run a ballclub. The most qualified candidate should be hired. Period. If that candidate played for the Cubs, so be it. If he played for the Reds or the Brewers or the A’s or didn’t play in the Major Leagues, so be it.

Fans think far more about rivalries than players do, I assure you. The guys in the clubhouse would see Sandberg as a Hall of Famer and a respected baseball lifer 10 times over before they saw him as some sort of enemy or rival.

-M.

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Could the Cardinals consider trading Jake Westbrook off so the Cardinals could sign Mark Buerle to be in the rotation, saying that Pujols is not signed or signed at a price lower the $30 million a year?

1 – Westbrook has a blanket no-trade clause.
2 – It would be awfully risky to trade one of your five starters in the hopes that you MIGHT sign a replacement.
-M.

I don’t get the love for Buerhle that some Cards fans have. The guy has a WHIP consistently approaching 1.3, which to me seems high for a non-power pitcher. He doesn’t walk many, but gives up way too many hits for my taste. Am I just reading him wrong M?

Well, without doubt, some of it comes from him being local. Why that matters, I’ve never quite understood, but it does.

But that’s not all of it. The guy is a really nice pitcher. For one thing, he’s extremely durable and consistent, and that in itself has a lot of value. 11 straight 200-inning seasons, 10 of them with ERA+ of 100 or better, that’s legitimately worth having on your team. Eight of those with an ERA+ of 117 or better.

I don’t think WHIP really tells the story. He can be hittable. But he does so many other things. He throws strikes, controls the running game, fields his position. All of those mean that he’s the kind of pitcher who is legitimately better than things like K/BB or WHIP might suggest.

Is he a superstar? No. Is he a really valuable pitcher? Absolutely.

However, the Cardinals have five starters under contract, so from their perspective it’s almost assuredly moot.

-M.

If trading Westbrook is a bad idea then why don’t we sign Buerhle and put Westbrook in the bullpen? Is the a bad idea as well?

I would say that paying $8.5 million to a long reliever is a bad idea when there are other needs to be addressed, yes.
-M.

Not as bad as when the Giants had Zito in the pen though.

What do you see the Cardinals doing at 2nd base? Any chance Craig gets a shot there? And do you see any chance of the Cardinals going after Fielder, Reyes, or that Cuban centerfielder if Pujols doesn’t come back?

I would think Reyes if not Pujols.

Reyes’ status will almost certainly be determined long before Pujols.
-M.

What about Jose Molina as back up catcher and Michael Gonzalez as a left-handed relief pitcher and Kelly Johnson/Aaron Hill at second or stick with Shumaker?

Gonzalez is the one of those I could see as a fit, though it’s pretty unclear what kind of deal he’s going to get. Molina, I just don’t see making sense. Seems much more likely they’ll just go with Tony Cruz.
-M.

Dude, I apologize profusely. I did not mean that *anyone can do the job*. I meant to most readers, they don’t care who writes the stories as long as they are factual. I, for one, think very highly of your work. My intentions were that we appreciate the one on one question and answer sessions, and that we know you were super busy during the series.

Is Dunc staying as pitching coach?

It appears that way.

Could you answer me few questions:

1. What you think about Albert Pujols?

2. How has been his performance in the last 10 years?

3. For the Cardinals, who is Albert Pujols? What has made a difference in the history of MLB?

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