We spoke on Tuesday with B.J. Rains of Fox Sports Midwest about the Cardinals and the upcoming few weeks with Spring Training right around the corner. Here’s what he had to say:
Steve Hirsch: Obviously Stan passed away a little over a week ago now and the outpour of love and support for him has really been something special. Can you give your thoughts on the past week and your thoughts on Stan’s passing now that we’ve had a little time to digest it?
B.J. Rains: I certainly knew who Stan was before he passed away, but to hear the support from the fans, players, and front office personnel over the past ten days or so, I really got a new appreciation for him. Everyone knows the 7 batting titles, the 3 MVP awards, the 24 All-Star Games. Everyone knows all the numbers but hearing all the stories from the random fans who gathered down by his statue after he passed away, he was just an unbelievable ambassador to the city and his legacy will hopefully continue for a long, long time.
SH: John Mozeliak recently said that it’s Daniel Descalso’s job to lose at second base. Do you think he has the ability to play every day. and if not, who should be there at second on Opening Day?
BJ: Well I think he’s the best option to have right now, and certainly what he did defensively last year has given him a leg up there. It will be curious to see how Ronny Cedeno fits into the mix…Do they put him in the mix at second base and have him play short? He’s definitely more of an insurance player for Rafael Furcal, but I know he can play second base and could be given an opportunity. I think Matt Carpenter is going to get a serious look too, and he really feels good about the progress that he has made. I know a lot of people aren’t sure what to think about that, but in talking to Carpenter a couple times this offseason, he feels like he has done a lot of work and is much improved. He is very comfortable at second base, but the Cardinals won’t really know what they have in him until they get down to Spring Training. But certainly Dan Descalso, what he did defensively, he has the leg up. I also think you’ll see an increase in Descalso’s offense. He didn’t hit very well last year but if you look at his career averages, he might not hit .300, but he’ll hit a little higher than he did last year.
SH: What do you think will ultimately happen with the Adam Wainwright negotiations? Do you think his contract will get extended before Opening Day and how much do you think he should or will get?
BJ: That’s one of the biggest questions as far as what the Cardinals are going to do. This is the third year in a row going into Spring Training with a franchise player in the final year of his contract. Obviously Albert Pujols did not sign and Yadier Molina did sign during Spring Training, so what’s going to happen to Wainwright is certainly on the forefront of Cardinals fans’ minds. You see some of the big dollar contracts going out there to guys like Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels, but they’re all a little younger than Wainwright, so you wonder how many years the Cardinals are willing to go. Are they willing to go five or six years? I don’t think they are. I think they would like to keep it at a four-year deal, maybe five years.
It sounds like things are moving in the right direction. They talked last year during the season and Wainwright eventually said he wanted those talks to stop so he could focus on the playoffs, but when I asked Wainwright how those negotations were going before they were cut off, he said that he liked the direction they were headed, and Bill DeWitt said the same thing. I think they’re going to get something done whether it’s before or during Spring Training, or maybe even during the early part of the regular season. There’s not going to be a deadline or anything like we saw with Pujols, so I think ultimtely Wainwright wants to stay, and I think the Cardinals will pay him, but in terms of the exact contract, we’ll have to wait and see.
BJ: It’s a very good question because you look at the rotation right now and there are some question marks. Is Jaime Garcia going to be healthy and ready to go start the season? Is Chris Carpenter going to be ready to go? I still think there are some question marks there until he gets out and proves at Spring Training that he’s healthy again. And so, there are going to be some question marks, and certainly if all those guys are healthy in your starting five, it’s Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, and Jake Westbrook. You’re not going to be able to fit all those guys on a team because you have Joe Kelly who needs a spot as well. John Mozeliak said at Winter Warm-Up that if everyone’s healthy, it’s going to be hard for some of those guys on the roster to break in, and I totally agree. You could have a guy like Shelby Miller starting the year at Triple-A even though he came up late in the year.
I think Trevor Rosenthal finds a spot on the team probably in the bullpen. I know ultimately they probably see Rosenthal as a starter but it would not hurt him if he was in the bullpen another year…I think Shelby Miller is that one guy where if everybody’s healthy, he may be the guy who gets bumped and may be sent back to Triple-A and get some innings there.
SH: In regards to a guy like Carlos Beltran, if he continues to show the same type of knee problems that he had in the second half of last season in 2013, do you think we could see someone like Oscar Taveras in the big leagues sooner than later?
BJ: Yes, I think you will see Oscar Taveras at some point this season. With the way the draft rules and stuff goes you’re probably not going to see him until June or maybe July, but it just depends on the health situation of the club. The Cardinals have a couple of options. If somebody gets hurt in the outfield, they can either move Allen Craig to the outfield and put Matt Adams at first base, or they could just call up Oscar Taveras because he does have experience playing all three outfield positions. If it’s a short two week injury for somebody…Matt Adams has already been brought up, so he would probably be the guy who would get the call and they would just move him around other guys. But if you’re talking about a guy going down with a serious knee injury, like if Beltran was to have surgery and miss six to eight weeks…I think you’re going to have Oscar Taveras ready to go.
It’s going to be a big spring for him – coming in the big league camp, getting a chance to show what he can do. He’s going to get a lot of playing time with a guy like Carlos Beltran going to the WBC. I think they would like to have him at Triple-A and continue to get some more at bats, but I have a pretty strong feeling at some time this season we’re going to see Oscar Taveras with the big league club. Just don’t forget that they don’t want to bring him up unless he’s ready to play. They don’t want to bring him up if he is going to sit the bench.
B.J. Rains co-hosts The Sports Zone on Sports Radio 1380, which airs on weekdays from 1-3PM