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Cards acquire Heyward, Walden; deal Miller, Jenkins

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Needing to fill an unexpected hole in right field for 2015, the Cardinals went for a big splash, acquiring outfielder Jason Heyward from the Braves along with right-handed reliever Jordan Walden. The cost was heavy, however, as the Cardinals sent a pair of former first-round picks – right-handers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins – to Atlanta to complete the four-player trade on Monday.

The trade comes three weeks after the death of 22-year-old outfielder Oscar Taveras, who, along with Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, was expected to cover the right-field position in 2015. Uncertain if Grichuk and Piscotty alone could provide the Cardinals with the offensive upgrade they sought, general manager John Mozeliak vowed to look elsewhere for help.

With the free-agent market thin on outfielders, he said early in the process that a trade might be necessary to sufficiently fill the outfield void. In the end, he was able to deal from an area of surplus, as the Cardinals clearly believe they have enough starting pitching depth to weather the departure of Miller, who had been a member of the rotation for the last two seasons.

In Heyward, the Cardinals get an elite defender with a career slash line of .262/.351/.429 in five seasons with the Braves. Heyward is due $7.8 million in 2015 as part of the second installment of a two-year, $13.3 million contract that he signed to cover his final two seasons of arbitration.

Heyward will be a free agent at the end of the season. Walden, a second-time arbitration eligible player, will enter free agency after the 2016 season. That means the Cardinals procured two players with a combined three years of team control in exchange for the 10 years of control Atlanta gets with Miller and Jenkins.

A short-term fit in right field was somewhat appealing to the Cardinals all along, however, as Mozeliak has said that he still believes Piscotty and Grichuk have the potential to become everyday Major League outfielders.

Heyward, 25, is coming off his second Gold Glove season, one in which he led all Major League players with 32 Defensive Runs Saved. His Ultimate Zone Rating (24.1) ranked second in baseball behind Kansas City’s Alex Gordon.

In the lineup, Heyward would be a natural fit to hit in one of the top two spots in the lineup, giving the Cardinals flexibility to move Matt Carpenter down in the batting order, if desired. Heyward hit 26 doubles and 11 homers while driving in 58 for Atlanta in 149 games in 2014.

(more…)

Fall League final numbers

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Arizona Fall League finished play on Saturday, with Salt River defeating Peoria in the championship game. Eight Cardinals minor leaguers participated in the AFL, which is commonly referred to as the “finishing league” since it requires an invite to participate and is oftentimes a jumping-off point toward the Majors.

In case you missed it Friday, I wrote at length about Tyrell Jenkins’ strong AFL showing and how his improved health allowed him to take some critical steps forward this year. You can read the story at this link. Keep his name on the radar as you look for breakout candidates among the Cardinals’ prospects in 2015.

I also suggest this piece from MLB.com’s Jim Callis on the top AFL performer/prospect from each organization. There, you’ll find Jenkins’ name again, along with that of Sam Tuivailala.

And here are the final AFL numbers for each of the Cardinals’ representatives:

  • RHP Mitch Harris (11 games): 12.2 IP, 13 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 12 K
  • RHP Tyrell Jenkins (6 starts): 2-2, 2.22 ERA, 24.1 IP, 23 H, 6 ER, 10 BB, 18 K
  • RHP Chris Perry (9 games): 7.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 10 BB, 3 K
  • RHP Sam Tuivailala (12 games): 5 SV, 14 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 8 BB, 13 K
  • C Cody Stanley (21 games): .292/.363/.375, 9 R, 4 2B, 12 RBI
  • INF Breyvic Valera (12 games): .333/.400/.359, 5 R, 5 RBI, 3 SB
  • INF Jacob Wilson (24 games): .289/.347/.389, 12 R, 7 2B, 13 RBI
  • OF C.J. McElroy (16 games): .200/.347/.225, 4 R, 2 RBI, 7 SB

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Wrapping up this awards week

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

With today’s MVP announcement, MLB’s awards season (at least the bulk of it) has come to an end. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw took home NL MVP honors, becoming the first NL pitcher since St. Louis’ Bob Gibson in 1968 to win both the MVP and Cy Young awards. Three Cardinals players received votes on the 30 MVP ballots, which each list a first- through 10th-place finisher.

Adam Wainwright placed eighth, with 53 points. He was named on 14 ballots and was as high as fifth on one of them. Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta each received 17 points, tying them for 14th. Holliday appeared on four ballots, Peralta on seven.

For a full breakdown on the MVP voting, click here.

The Cardinals had no one place higher than third in the voting for any of the four major Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards. Kolten Wong finished third in the Rookie of the Year race, while Wainwright had the same placement in Cy Young voting. Mike Matheny was fourth for the Manager of the Year Award.

The lone postseason awards the Cardinals have collected both went to Yadier Molina, winner of his seventh Gold Glove and third Platinum Glove.

I should remind you that voting for the final set of 2014 MLB awards — the GIBBYS (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) — is still ongoing at MLB.com. Aside from the Platinum Glove award, this is the only one to incoporate fan voting in the results. You can find the GIBBYs ballot here.

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Bourjos undergoes hip surgery

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Outfielder Peter Bourjos underwent right hip surgery to address a previously undisclosed hip impingement that, according to general manager John Mozeliak, affected Bourjos throughout much of the second half of the season.

The surgery, which was performed by team orthopedist Dr. David King on Oct. 21, should not have Bourjos limited when Spring Training opens in February. The Cardinals are expected to tender Bourjos, a second-time arbitration-eligible player, a contract this winter to bring him back as an extra outfielder in 2015.

The Cardinals’ training staff conducted a study on Bourjos’ hip in August, Mozeliak said, after the 27-year-old outfielder noted some discomfort in that area. At that time, it was determined that Bourjos would need to undergo a clean-out procedure at season’s end to address a cartilage defect in his hip.

Bourjos continued to play through the injury and was not known to have cut back on his pregame workload.

“He just grinded it out,” Mozeliak said. “He could have probably stopped the year had we not needed him. … It was something that bothered him most of the second half of the season, to where I do think it affected him offensively. I spoke to him a couple days ago, and he’s already feeling better.”

Bourjos, in his first season with the Cardinals, actually had better offensive numbers in the second half than the first half, but his playing time was limited. In 103 plate appearances after the All-Star break, Bourjos hit .253/.313/.374 with four stolen bases. Late in the year, he was used primarily as a defensive replacement.

This marks the second straight offseason during which Bourjos will be recovering from surgery. In September 2013, he underwent surgery on his right wrist. That procedure delayed his start on an offseason workout program, as will this one.

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Arizona Fall League update

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

With the Cardinals’ run to the NLCS and the tragedy that followed, I haven’t offered much of an update on the happenings down at the Arizona Fall League. Let’s rectify that today.

The AFL, which began on Oct. 7 and continues for another two weeks, offers some of the better prospects in the game the opportunity to compete against their peers. The group of players representing the Cardinals are part of the Peoria Javelinas club, which is 7-11-2.

Here is some content that might be of interest as you follow along:

  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis, after his trip to Arizona, wrote about the participating Cardinals’ minor leaguers here. In particular, he highlights C.J. McElroy.
  • Video: MLB.com’s AFL report on the Cardinals.
  • Right-hander Sam Tuivailala to represent the Cardinals in Saturday’s Fall Stars Game, which will be televised on MLB Network (7 pm CT)
  • Story on how Cardinals infield prospect Justin Wilson helped Peoria to a 5-4 win on Wednesday.

And up-to-date results (current through Wednesday) on the Cardinals in the AFL:

  • RHP Mitch Harris (6 games): 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
  • RHP Tyrell Jenkins (4 starts): 0-2, 1.56 ERA, 17.1 IP, 14 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 13 K
  • RHP Chris Perry (6 games): 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 8 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Sam Tuivailala (7 games): 2 SV, 9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 K
  • C Cody Stanley (10 games): .263/.282/.316, 2 R, 2 2B, 4 RBI
  • INF Breyvic Valera (7 games): .273/.370/.273, 2 R, 2 RBI, 3 SB
  • INF Jacob Wilson (15 games): .268/.328/.393, 5 R, 5 2B, 7 RBI
  • OF C.J. McElroy (9 games): .160/.344/.200, 3 R, 1 2B, 4 SB

For more stats, schedules and stories, you can visit the Arizona Fall League website.

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Continuing to remember the life of Oscar Taveras

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Three days after a car accident took the life of 22-year-old Oscar Taveras and his 18-year-old girlfriend, several communities continue to mourn his loss. For those who may not have seen the following stories/photos/remembrances over the past 24 hours, here is a recap of some of the recent coverage:

  • MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez traveled to the Dominican Republic, where he joined a community mourning over its lost son. Here is Sanchez’s story of Taveras’ funeral and the outpouring of emotion in Taveras’ hometown. Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez and Taveras’ father, Francisco, were among those who talked with Sanchez.
  • As darkness came over St. Louis on Tuesday, bright lights shined over right field at Busch Stadium.
  • The World Series paused to remember Taveras before Game 6.
  • Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura dedicated his dominant Game 6 start to his late friend, Taveras. Ventura’s hat, on which he wrote ‘RIP OT #18′ is headed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • On today’s podcast, national reporter Anthony Castrovince and I talked at length about Taveras’ life and the impact his death will leave on the Cardinals organization.

On an aside, I have gotten a lot of questions about plans the Cardinals may have to honor Taveras locally in St. Louis. Those have not yet been announced, though I’m told the organization is working on something. As soon as that information is made public, I will pass it along.

Over the last few days, I’ve taken some time to go back and read some of the stories on/watched some clips of Taveras — his potential, his arrival, his biggest hits and what we thought would be his future — as a way to remember not just the sadness that is, but the smiles that were. If you’d like to take that journey back in time, too, here are some recommended links:

And though it wasn’t published at the time, here is Taveras speaking about his future in one of his final interviews: “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future or tomorrow. I’m going to keep working hard and we’ll see what happens. I want to be ready for any opportunity I get, for my manager and for the organization and do everything I can to win the games.”

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Remembering Oscar in St. Louis and the DR

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Thousands gathered in the neighborhood of Sosua, Dominican Republic, to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of Oscar Taveras on Tuesday. Here in St. Louis, folks continued to stop by Busch Stadium. Several placed items at a growing memorial at the foot of the Stan Musial statue.

Here are some images from both scenes:

A mass is held for Oscar Taveras near his Dominican Republic home.

A mass is held for Oscar Taveras near his Dominican Republic home.

Thousands gather to pay their final respects to Oscar Taveras during a Tuesday burial service.

Thousands gather to pay their final respects to Oscar Taveras during a Tuesday burial service.

Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez, speaking through tears, talks about the loss and memory of his best friend.

Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez, speaking through tears, talks about the loss and memory of his best friend.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

In his own words: Xavier Scruggs on his friend, Oscar

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

They were teammates for years in the Cardinals’ minor league system, grew to be close friends along the way and shared the joy of both making their Major League debuts in 2014. Here is Xavier Scruggs, in his own words, on what it was like to call Oscar Taveras a teammate and then to say goodbye too soon.

As written by Scruggs:

Matthew 5:4 — Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 

I am hurt. I can’t help but think that this a bad dream. Oscar Taveras was family. He brightened up every single person’s day with such an amazing smile. Both his smile and laughter couldn’t help but put you in a great mood. I am selfish to think about how I have lost a great teammate, an awesome friend, and an amazing person. I say I am selfish because to think that just I am affected by this tragedy is self-centered. So many people are affected by this loss; however we need to rejoice in the fact that Oscar was even in our lives. I can’t believe I was even blessed to play with someone with such great talent. His ability on the baseball field was unreal. There are so many times when I couldn’t help but think that this game was too easy for him. His fluidity as a hitter was unmatchable. His love for the game was remarkable. As a teammate, I would marvel at the fact that he would be so sincerely disappointed when he was not perfect. For we all know that it is impossible to be perfect in this game;, however he found a way to make it seem tangible. It is weird how baseball will bring you close to someone that you might not normally associate with in everyday life. He was a true friend from the Dominican Republic. I am honored to be playing in a country right now that he brought so much joy to. Language was no barrier when it came to Taveras and I. I know it to be the same with everyone who played with him. We shared far too many laughs that should happen on a baseball field, but those who knew Oscar know that was just him. A loose, full-of-energy guy. I cringe at the idea that he is gone;, however I will continue to think back upon the amazing times we had together. This past season when I was in Triple-A Memphis and he was making his Major League debut, I watched him homer for his first hit and I remember thinking ‘He never disappoints’. It didn’t surprise me because a moment too big for most was just an opportunity for Oscar to show the world his talent. The baseball community has lost someone truly special. My prayers go out to his family, as well as his girlfriend’s family and anyone who has been affected by his lost. Thank you Oscar for touching the lives of so many. You will never be forgotten. You will forever be in our hearts. OT18

Tu Hermano, 

Xavier Scruggs 

Matheny releases statement on Taveras tragedy

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Since the day he took over as manager of the Cardinals, Mike Matheny has asked for his players to buy into the team as a family. He considers each player, each coach as a member of his family, and that is why you’ll find his words below so poignant and powerful. This is a manager who, like so many others in the Cardinals family, is hurting very deeply.

Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak are traveling to the Dominican Republic today to visit the Taveras family and represent the organization at a Wednesday funeral service.

Here is Matheny’s statement:

“I was asked last night to give some words regarding the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, but I just simply couldn’t.

“First of all, it felt like a bad dream that could not be real, and when reality kicked in, my words didn’t even seem to make sense. To say this is a horrible loss of a life ended too soon would be an understatement. To talk about the potential of his abilities seemed to be untimely. All I wanted to do was get the guys together and be with our baseball family.  I know the hurt that comes along with buying into the brotherhood of a baseball team. That hurt is just as powerful as the joys that come with this life. Not to say it is even close to the depth of pain his true family is going through, but the pain itself is just as real. The ache is deep because the relationships were deep, and forged through time and trials.

“To the many fans who have already reached out with condolences, and to the many more who are in mourning, thank you for taking these players in, like they are one of your own. This level of care is what sets our fans apart.

“In my opinion, the word “love” is the most misused, and misunderstood word in the English language. It is not popular for men to use this word, and even less popular for athletes. But, there is not a more accurate word for how a group of men share a deep and genuine concern for each other. We loved Oscar, and he loved us. That is what a team does, that is what a family does. You will be missed, Oscar.”

A jovial young man, a budding superstar, lost too soon

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Toward the end of the regular season, I joked with Oscar Taveras that he had been around long enough that he could stop calling me ‘ma’am’ during each of our interactions. I told him it made me feel old, though, in fairness, I guess I was to him, a 22-year-old kid. He laughed and noted that he probably wouldn’t be able to break the habit. That’s how he had been taught, he added.

And then he shook my hand.

Almost every one of our conversations — and goodness, now I know we didn’t have enough of them — ended with a handshake and a smile. Always gracious with his time and ever eager to show off how far his English speaking skills had come, Taveras brought joy to my job. He had such a sweet swing, but also the heart to match it. I’m glad I got to know that part of him, too.

For all the negative storylines that may have emerged from his season — Would he live up to the hype? Could he get in shape? Did he fit in the clubhouse? — there was never one iota of doubt that Taveras loved what he did. He was a respectful young man, trying to find his way in a game that had always come so naturally to him. Had he been given the chance to have a full career, I’m sure he would have gotten there.

We’ll always remember this…

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_05_31_sfnmlb_slnmlb_1&mode=video&content_id=33333153&tcid=vpp_copy_33333153

And this…

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_10_12_sfnmlb_slnmlb_1&mode=video&content_id=36800103&tcid=vpp_copy_36800103

Those were two swings that, now we know, bookended a career cut so tragically short.

The emotions are still raw, the suddenness of this all too real. As the baseball world was getting ready to tune into Game 5 of the World Series, general manager John Mozeliak received a phone call that punched him in his gut. Manager Mike Matheny declined interview requests, noting he couldn’t get himself composed enough to speak publically just yet.

Matheny has worked hard to create a clubhouse culture where players and staff are like family. You’ll understand, then, why this hits the organization like the loss of a family member.

The Cardinals will release further information on funeral arrangements in the coming days. More information about the accident will also be learned.

For now, let me direct you to MLB.com’s coverage of this tragedy and the memories that remain of a kid with such a genuine love for life and baseball:

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