Cardinals Announce Justin Masterson Acquisition

SAN DIEGO, Calif., July 30, 2014 – The St. Louis Cardinals announced this afternoon that they have acquired right-handed starting pitcher Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Springfield (AA) outfielder James Ramsey.  Masterson, who will join the Cardinals on Friday (Aug. 1) in St. Louis, is scheduled to start Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Masterson, 29, is 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts for the Tribe this season, fanning 93 batters in his 98.0 innings pitched.  He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 8 (right knee inflammation) and made a pair of injury rehabilitation starts (July 20 & 25) for Columbus (AAA) prior to today’s trade.

The 6-6, 250-pound Masterson was an American League All-Star in 2013 as he compiled a 14-10 mark with a 3.45 ERA while ranking 8th in the league with 195 strikeouts and a league-best three shutouts.  The Jamaican-born Masterson owns a career mark of 57-49 with a 4.16 ERA in 231 games (169 starts) for Boston (2008-09) and Cleveland (2009-14).

The Cardinals also announced that they have transferred pitcher Michael Wacha from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day D.L.  The team will make a corresponding 25-man roster move prior to Friday’s game once Masterson reports to the team.

Game Recap 7/29: Padres 3 Cards 1

It is time for Mozeliak to make a move after another terrible offensive performance

It is time for Mozeliak to make a move after another terrible offensive performance

Once again, the Cardinals lost to a much weaker team because of a stalling offense.

The Cardinals appeared to have stage fright last night as they opened up the series with the Padres. Maybe it was past their bedtime with a game that started at 9:20p CST. Certainly, the lineup appeared to be sleeping.

The Cardinals had their chance to score runs early and often. Ross, the Padres pitcher, walked five batters in the first three innings. The Cardinals came out with no runs over that stretch. The lone Cardinal run came off of a Kolten Wong sacrifice fly which, in my opinion, hardly counts as an earned run. Adams had one hit in four at bats but struck out twice–continuing what appears to be a post-All-Star-Break decline.

Blame cannot fall on Lance Lynn, however. He had a solid outing with six innings pitched and allowed only two runs (one of which was unearned). It is unsurprising that the Cardinals gave up an unearned run after their three errors. Again, the lineup was sleeping.

The Cardinals need to get their offense together quickly. The Padres are a weak team with no obvious strengths. They are well below .500 (47-59), they have an average starting rotation at best, and (until last night) I could not name a single player in their lineup.

For the Cardinals to be successful, the team needs to either bulk up in this final third of the season or Matheny and Mozeliak need to find some help for the most underperforming offense in recent memory.

Game Preview: Cards at Padres (7/29/14)

If you like pitching, tonight could be the perfect night as the two teams with the lowest-scoring offenses in baseball square off at PETCO Park in San Diego at 9:10 CST. The Cards (56-48) arrive in San Diego after winning two of three against the Cubs, while the Padres (46-59) just lost three of four games in Atlanta. Without a doubt, the Padres are the worst offensive team in baseball as they are dead last in every major offensive category, and they score just 3.1 runs per game. The Cards haven’t fared much better, only 3.7 runs per game, so both teams’ pitchers should have marquee performances in this three-game series.

The Pitching Matchup: Lance Lynn (11-7, 3.05 ERA) faces off against the Padres in a game that figures to be a pitchers’ duel. Lynn was the tough luck loser in his last start, giving up just one earned run in 6.1 innings pitched against the Rays. This month, Lynn has been pitching as well as he ever has by posting a 3-1 record with a 1.75 ERA, so it’s safe to assume that Lynn will stay hot against the offensively challenged Padres. Yet, Lynn is 1-1 with a 5.73 ERA in two career starts against the Padres, though none were this season.

On the other side, Tyson Ross (9-10, 2.65 ERA), not Clayton Kershaw or Adam Wainwright, comes in as the hottest pitcher in the National League. Ross has an NL-best 1.03 ERA this month with an outstanding 0.83 WHIP, and he has pitched at least six innings and allowed two or fewer runs in seven straight starts. To make matters even worse for the Cards, Ross is even better at home, as he has recorded a 1.89 ERA this season. In his last start, Ross bested the Cubs by recording 11 strikeouts and conceding just one run in six innings of work. Ross has never started against the Cards, though he has pitched in three relief appearances against them.

The Skinny: It’s pretty fair to expect a low-scoring contest tonight, so don’t be surprised if the final score ends up being 1-0. While the pitching matchup favors the Padres, this one is up for grabs since the Cards offense has made some strides lately.

Houston’s Rockets

There are two days left until the trade deadline. The Cardinals currently sit 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the NL Central. While the Cardinals’ offense is certainly miserable, there aren’t enough usable, inexpensive bats on the market to make a reasonable improvement to this team.

That only leaves improving the starting pitching. Sure there’s been talk of acquiring David Price, but the Rays are on a hot streak and balking at officially putting him on the market. In the last two days, the Cardinals have been linked to Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, and A.J. Burnett. All three of these veteran starters would make a great addition to this Cardinals’ club for the stretch run, but each are past their prime and much too expensive.

The Cardinals and GM John Mozeliak are not known for making big flashy moves. This offseaon’s deal for Peter Bourjos was an anomaly during Mozeliak’s tenure at the Cardinals’ helm. Therefore, all this speculation of the Cardinals making a move for one of those big name pitchers is foolhardy. If the Cardinals are going to make a move, it will be for relatively cheap, projectionable pitchers. Enter the Houston Astros.

On Monday afternoon, the Houston Astros made three of their starting pitchers available for “MLB-ready offense” as per’s Brian McTaggart. Those three pitchers would be Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and Jarred Cosart, all three of which represent a complimentary starting pitcher that would help the Cardinals in the stretch run, but wouldn’t break the bank.

Dallas Keuchel

Dallas+Keuchel+Cleveland+Indians+v+Houston+zLukc9Wiu8fx-300x202Keuchel is the Astros’ ace and has posted a 9-7 record with a 3.11 ERA. Keuchel is also only 26 years old and won’t be arbitration eligible until 2016. Keuchel isn’t exactly a high-strikeout pitcher, only averaging 7.0 K/9, but he has been worth a 3.0 WAR for the Astros while posting a 128 ERA+. Even the advanced stats love Keuchel as his 3.02 FIP indicates that his numbers are not nearly as good as the could be which can be easily explained by the team he’s playing for.

So what would it take for the Cardinals to get him? Probably Oscar Taveras which would be tough to stomach for the Cardinals. Using Taveras to acquire David Price, a Cy Young winner is one thing, but using him to acquire Dallas Keuchel is a far different ordeal. While Keuchel has great upside and years of team control, he’s not currently worth a Taveras level prospect, so I don’t see the Cardinals going after the Astros’ ace.

Collin McHugh

mchughOver the All-Star break, Grantland’s Shane Ryan wrote a piece to honor the best pitches of the first half. And the winner of the best curveball? If you guessed McHugh, then I applaud your deductive reasoning, if not, you might want to invest in Lumosity. Anyway, Ryan named McHugh’s curveball as the best in all of Major League Baseball, narrowly beating out the Cardinals’ own Adam Wainwright.

Curveball aside, McHugh has been having a breakout season for the Astros, posting a 1.5 WAR and 116 ERA+, as well as posting an insane strikeout rate of 10.4 batters per nine innings. McHugh is also under team control through 2020, so he is by far the best option for this Cardinals’ club.


(Click image for curveball gif)

However, the Cardinals would most likely have to give up Stephen Piscotty and probably another prospect to get him. McHugh compliments the Cardinals’ rotation perfectly, and his inexpensive contract makes him the ideal trade target in my opinion.

Jarred Cosart

Of the three pitchers the Astros are offering, Cosart would be the cheapest to acquire but also has the least upside. Cosart’s K/9 sits at an abysmal 5.8, indicating that his numbers have the potential to severely regress in coming years. However, his FIP of 4.02 shows that Cosart has actually pitched better this year than his peripheral numbers show, so how Cosart ages is anyone’s guess.

Jarred+Cosart+Houston+Astros+v+Oakland+Athletics+tQL1zaVMxKDlOn the brighter side though, Cosart is the youngest of the three pitchers and is under team control through 2020, so if the Cardinals hope for upward progression, they won’t have to pay much for it. To acquire Cosart, the Cardinals would likely have to give up James Ramsey or Stephen Piscotty, a deal which I believe is unfair to the Cardinals.

Overall, I believe Collin McHugh is the Cardinals’ best option to acquire before the trade deadline, but all information points to the organization being interested in bigger names. If the Cardinals do acquire a David Price or Jon Lester, it will most likely only be as a rental because both seem to want to go to free agency after the 2015 season. Hopefully, whatever John Mozeliak decides to do will guide this club to the World Series without sacrificing the years to come.

A.J. Pierzynski: The Cardinals’ Savior?

After the Cards found out that Yadier Molina would be sidelined for 2-3 months with a right thumb injury, many analysts and fans thought that the Cards season was doomed. With Tony Cruz and George Kottaras not able to fill the void left behind by Molina, the prospect of the Cardinals returning to the postseason seemed even dimmer. But there could be a savior to the Cardinals season in town, and that man is A.J. Pierzynski.

Although Pierzynski underperformed as the Red Sox’s starting catcher, the Cards may have struck gold with this pickup if you look at his numbers the past few years. The 37-year-old catcher has shown signs of his age only this year with a .261 batting average and four homers, but as the Rangers’ catcher last year, Pierzynski hit .272 and clubbed 17 homers and 70 RBI’s. In the year prior, he arguably had his best season in the big leagues with the White Sox, the team he’s most associated with, as he batted .278 and belted 27 homers. That’s a lot of power for a catcher, and the Cardinals sorely need it, as the team is 29th in runs scored and 25th in slugging percentage.

In general, Pierzynski has power that current starting catcher Tony Cruz, who has zero homers and a .220 batting average in 82 at-bats this year, simply can’t provide. Furthermore, Cruz has just two career homers in four years as a backup catcher behind Molina, though, to be fair, it’s hard to expect a scarcely used catcher to come off the bench and hit for power.

AJ Pierzynski

Additionally, the Cards starting pitchers may benefit from Pierzynski’s veteran presence, 17 seasons to be exact, behind the plate. Wainwright seemed very comfortable with Pierzynski on Sunday when he pitched seven shutout innings, while Shelby Miller had his best start in over a month with Pierzynski behind the plate on Saturday.

So how often can we expect to see Pierzynski behind the plate this year? Well, Matheny recently said that he foresaw using Pierzynski in a platoon with Cruz.

“I think it’ll be a lot like what we’ve seen with quite a few of the other positions. We’ll see how guys are going, what we need to do, realizing there is a platoon opportunity,” Matheny said. “That was part of the conversation with A.J., too, was letting him know that we’ve got a guy [Cruz] we have faith in and has done a nice job.”

More specifically, Cards fans can expect Cruz to start against lefties and Pierzynski against righties. Pierzynski is a horrendous .195 hitter against lefties, so it’s logical to expect that Cruz will start over him in most of those situations. Pierzynski fares much better against righties (.294 batting average), and if he continues to swing a hot bat, Matheny will be more than happy to start him over Cruz.

With all of that being said, Pierzynski still has a few skeletons in his closet. For one, his fielding may turn out to be a big problem, as he has caught stealing just 9 of 48 runners this season. There could also be problems with Pierzynski’s clubhouse presence, not to mention his reputation for causing brawls (Remember this punch?). All in all, though Pierzynski may not have a reputation for doing things the “Cardinal way”, he provides experience and a jolt of offense to a team that desperately needs it, and the reward could greatly outweigh the risk.

Michael Barrett’s lands a punch on AJ Pierzynski that starts an infamous brawl between the Cubs and White Sox in 2006.

Tulowitzki to the Cardinals? What if…

As I was casually looking through news articles today, I came across a particularly surprising one from XN news by Sam Spiegelman. Among the teams looking to make trades, they cited that the Rockies were looking to get rid of Troy Tulowitzki–the best shortstop in baseball. They would be looking to pick up pitchers.

Most likely, Spiegelman argued, he would go to the Mets. Unsurprisingly, the Mets need to add power to their lineup. Still, at the very end of the article, Spiegelman hinted that the Cardinals were also interested in pick up Tulo. Those were the only two teams he named.

To be explicit, picking up Tulo would be the greatest thing to happen to the Cardinals since 2011. For some reference of how good he is, Tulo is batting a .340 which, if it holds, would be the best batting average of any Cardinal since Albert Pujols’ prime. He has 21 home runs which is more than the sum of the entire Cardinal outfield. Tulo gets on base 43% of the time he bats.

Outside of my pipe-dream, there are a few downsides to Tulo. First, he is injured. We all know that injury can leave a lot to chance. Tulo also only plays shortstop, which would put Jhonny Peralta in a weird place especially considering the price tag of having both players. Peralta has been doing extremely well the back half of this year and it would be a waste not to play him. If one of them could move to second, it would provide a massive boost to the Cardinals’ bats.

With Tulo, the Cardinals would be destined to go deep into the playoffs. The Brewers would quickly fall well behind the Cards being outgunned on the mound and outhit at the plate. Tulo’s price tag, though high, may guarantee packed stadiums and even a World Series within the next few years.

To check out the XN Sports article, follow the link below.

Game Recap: Holliday homers, Cards win 1-0

The Bottom Line: Adam Wainwright threw 7 innings of no run baseball, and Matt Holliday hit a solo shot in the first to power this Cardinals’ offense past the lowly Chicago Cubs. Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 32nd save after stranding a runner in the ninth.

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright

Waino: Once again, Adam Wainwright proved why he is the ace of this staff and one of the best in all of baseball. Even though today wasn’t his sharpest outing, Waino still shutdown the Cubs’ offense, only allowing five hits over seven innings. With this game, Wainwright’s ERA is once again under 2.00 and sits at an unbelievable 1.92.

Offense: Matt Holliday provided what ended up being the only run in this game with a solo shot in the first. Matt Carpenter added three hits and A.J. Pierzynski went 1 for 4 and is batting .500 in his two games with the Cardinals. However, despite the win today, this offense is still dreadful. Most games this team will live or die on the bats of Holliday and Matt Adams, but if both of them have an off-day, this team will struggle to score at all. GM John Mozeliak needs to add a quality bat if the Cards have any chance of a run in October.

Btkw_6ICcAESip7TLR: Today Cardinals’ great Tony La Russa was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. La Russa won two World Series while the manager of the Cards and one Manager of the Year award. Go check out his speech sometime today and you won’t be disappointed.

What’s Next: The Cards have an offday tomorrow before starting a three game set against the anemic Padres on Tuesday. Lance Lynn is scheduled to start that game for the Cards.

Week in Review: Stock Up, Stock Down

In the week since the All-Star Break, the Cards went a disappointing 3-4 and fell to three games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. The Cards started the week by taking two of three from the Dodgers at Busch, but then they lost two home games to the streaking Rays, and now they are playing in the rubber match against the last place Cubs. The Cards went through a season-high four-game skid during this stretch, but they are just a half game behind the Braves for the final Wild Card spot.

Stock Up:

Shelby Miller: Following a quality start against the Cubs on Saturday, Shelby Miller indicated that he is possibly turning the corner after going through a rough pitching stretch where he went 0-3 and raised his 3.42 ERA to 4.29. Miller lasted 5.2 innings against the Cubs and only gave up three hits and two runs in a no decision on Saturday. Furthermore, he issued zero walks in that start, which is the first time he has done that since at least May.

Shelby Miller may be turning the corner after a quality start against the Cubs yesterday.

Shelby Miller may be turning the corner after notching a quality start against the Cubs yesterday.

Matt Holliday: With three homers and seven RBI’s since the All-Star Break, Matt Holliday is showing signs of returning to his vintage form. Holliday only had six dingers before the break, and although his batting average is still just .266, it seems like he’s ready to lead the Cards to the postseason.

Matt Adams: Although his batting average dipped to .320, Matt Adams demonstrated that he is the catalyst of the Cardinals offense. Since the All-Star Break, Adams has clubbed his 12th home run of the year and driven in six runs to up his season total to 47.

Stock Down:

Adam Wainwright: While it may be odd to see him on this list, Adam Wainwright’s start on Tuesday left much to be desired. Facing a Rays team that was on fire at the plate, Waino could not cool them as he tossed just 4.2 innings, allowed six runs (four earned), and inexplicably walked four batters in taking the loss. Waino still has an impressive 12-5 record and 2.02 ERA, but let’s hope he gets back on track this coming week.

Tony Cruz: His batting average fell from a subpar .235 to an even worse .220 during a 2-for-17 week in which he drove in no runs. Cruz performed so poorly this week at the catcher’s position that the Cards ended up signing veteran AJ Pierzynski, who recorded three hits as the starting catcher for the Cards yesterday. It’s safe to say that Cruz has not come close to filling the void left behind by Yadier Molina, so you can’t blame the front office for picking up a veteran catcher like Pierzynski who has a much better bat.

Tony Cruz struggled at the plate this past week, which resulted in the Cards signing AJ Pierzynksi.

Tony Cruz struggled at the plate this past week, which resulted in the Cards signing AJ Pierzynksi.

Sam Freeman: The once dominant relief pitcher has gone through some relatively tough times this week as he conceded three hits, three walks, and two earned runs in just 2.1 innings pitched. In an appearance against the Cubs on Friday, Freeman walked a batter and then hit another one with a pitch before being taken out, so it’s apparent that control was a problem for him. The scarcely used lefty pitcher saw his ERA jump from 1.42 to 2.11 as a result of this bad week.