Tag: Michael Wacha

MLB Trade Rumors: Analyzing Buzz on Andrew McCutchen, Ian Kinsler and More

Free agency gets all the headlines this time of year in Major League Baseball, but a dreadful crop of talent for all 30 teams to choose from should boost interest and activity in the trade market over the winter. 

The end of November is often the calm before the storm, as MLB players and executives are making their final preparations for the winter meetings that will begin on Dec. 4. 

That is the key date to focus on for when a deluge of trades is likely to happen. Teams already have a strong idea of what their payroll will be for 2017 and how much they have to spend, though trades are more complex because they require teams to give up assets and money in order to improve. 

Given what the trade market could bring this hot-stove season, here are the hottest rumors two weeks away from the winter meetings. 


McCutchen’s Market

Coming off the worst season of his career, Pittsburgh Pirates star Andrew McCutchen finds himself at a crossroads. He’s only 30 years old and finished in the top five of National League MVP voting each year from 2012-15, so there is reason to be optimistic about a turnaround next season.

Other teams are aware of this, which is why they have called the Pirates about McCutchen. 

MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported the Seattle Mariners inquired about McCutchen earlier this offseason, but whatever talks the two sides had did not advance. 

The Pirates may not be able to wait around for McCutchen to figure things out in 2017. His salary will be $14 million, per Spotrac, which is a manageable figure for most teams. 

Per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Pirates’ payroll has exceeded $90 million the previous two seasons and their obligations for next season when factoring in estimated arbitration salaries. They also have to supplement the roster with free agents. 

The Pirates are a small-market team, so having one player eating up a significant portion of the payroll severely limits what they are capable of adding around him. They also have a nearly ready center field prospect in Austin Meadows, who ended this season in Triple-A. 

ESPN.com’s Keith Law highlighted another reason it could be enticing for the Pirates to move McCutchen now:

Trading McCutchen, as painful as it might be, could be a big retooling move for the Pirates, who still have a strong farm system and could use Cutch to keep the team competitive without having to go through a few losing seasons first. There should be 20 clubs lined up to make offers, as anyone could take him and put him in left field, where I expect his defense to be plus and his offense, at pre-2016 levels, to still make him an above-average or better regular.

McCutchen hit .256/.336/.430 with a career-high 143 strikeouts in 598 at-bats. His defense fell off a cliff, with FanGraphs’ defensive runs saved noting he cost the Pirates 28 runs in center field. 

There is an injury explanation for McCutchen’s offensive performance. He had a right thumb issue that flared up in May and June, and any issue with the hand is going to impact bat speed and power. 

The defensive fall is more worrisome since it could be an indication McCutchen is losing a step now that he’s reached 30. 

If the thumb issue is a problem in the rearview mirror, McCutchen’s offense should at least approach his 2012-15 levels and make his $14 million salary a relative bargain. He’s exponentially more valuable if he can play center, as opposed to moving to a corner, but the bat will play anywhere. 

The Pirates certainly don’t want to trade McCutchen because of how important he’s been to the franchise, but they also can’t afford to hang onto him one year too long when his market could completely collapse if he has another down season. 

The Mariners may be the most recent team linked to McCutchen, but when the winter meetings begin, any team that might think it needs an outfielder should be calling the Pirates to see how serious they are about engaging in trade talks. 


The Kinsler Complication

The Detroit Tigers could be at the epicenter of trade discussions this offseason. General manager Al Avila said in October the team has been operating “way above its means for some time,” per MLB.com’s Jason Beck

Owner Mike Ilitch has been willing to spend freely for the last five years in hopes of bringing Detroit a World Series title, but that strategy has limitations. The Tigers are now saddled with a lot of large multiyear contracts for players well into their 30s. 

Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander are still terrific players. However, they are almost impossible to move because they will make a combined $172 million through 2019, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, and Cabrera is signed through 2023 (excluding option years), when he will be 40 years old. 

Ian Kinsler becomes one of the most valuable trade chips for the Tigers because he’s still a star player who is signed to a modest deal that pays him $11 million in 2017 with a $10 million team option for 2018, per Spotrac

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers have had talks regarding Kinsler. 

Things would not be as simple as merely agreeing on pieces being moved if the two sides were to strike a deal.

Rosenthal noted Kinsler has a limited no-trade clause with 10 teams on the list, including the Dodgers. Kinsler’s agent, Jay Franklin, told Rosenthal his client would be open to agreeing to a deal under one condition.

“If one of the 10 teams happens to call and wants to talk about it, we’re open to talking about it,” Franklin said. “(But) they’re going to have to extend him for us to waive the no-trade.”

The problem with extending Kinsler is he will turn 35 in June. He’s coming off a strong 2016 in which he hit .288/.348/.484 with 28 homers and won his first Gold Glove. 

As a result of that success, Kinsler could and should be seeking a multiyear extension. But how many more years can he realistically be expected to have anywhere near that kind of production?

The Dodgers would be a perfect fit because they need a second baseman with Chase Utley being a free agent, and they certainly have the money to do whatever they want. Yet this front office, led by Andrew Friedman, let Zack Greinke walk last winter after he had a 1.66 ERA in 2015. 


Wacha’s Last Stand

When Michael Wacha burst onto the scene in 2013, the natural assumption was he would be the St. Louis Cardinals’ No. 2 starter and heir apparent to Adam Wainwright as the ace. 

Three years later, Wacha’s career has been a disappointment due to a series of injuries that have hindered his performance. 

Perhaps as an indication the Cardinals don’t want to wait around for Wacha to regain his 2013 form, Rosenthal reported the team has “floated” his name around in trade discussions. 

However, Rosenthal added “it’s unlikely they would get much for a pitcher who has a history of shoulder trouble.”

Last year was rock-bottom for Wacha. He had a 5.09 ERA with 159 hits allowed in 138 innings over 27 appearances (24 starts). He missed one month from Aug. 8 through Sept. 14 with a shoulder issue. 

Per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch, Wacha and the Cardinals doctors worked together to develop a new rehab strategy to get him healthy. The results didn’t show upon his return, as he allowed 13 earned runs in 6.2 innings. 

One advantage Wacha has for any team potentially interested is age. He’s only 25 years old and under team control through 2019. His struggles last season will help keep his arbitration salary down next season, with Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors estimating he will make $3.2 million. 

Wacha is just one year removed from making 30 starts with a 3.38 ERA and posting a career-high 2.3 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs.

He may never be the pitcher who looked like an ace and carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his first playoff start in 2013, but a low-cost starting pitcher is the most valuable commodity in baseball. 

The Cardinals are smart to dangle Wacha out there to see if any market develops. If it does, they can deal him without hesitation. If it doesn’t, they will do everything in their power to make sure he starts 30 games once again.

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Cardinals vs. Cubs: Latest News and Notes Ahead of NLDS Game 3

In just a few hours, (5:07 p.m. CT to be exact), a pivotal Game 3 of the of the National League Division Series will take place at the historic Wrigley Park, where the hometown Chicago Cubs are looking to break the series tie against the St. Louis Cardinals. It won’t be an easy task for either team to take the lead, but there is no doubt that both teams are more than ready to step it up and walk away with a win.

For the Chicago Cubs, this is an opportunity to make the next two games memorable since this is the first postseason game to take place in Chicago since 2008. As a unit, the Cubs have had success when Cardinals lead pitcher Michael Wacha is on the mound, batting a .311 average along with a .365 on-base percentage in a total of 115 plate appearance.

Individually, it’s hard to ignore the incredible run that Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta has been on recently. As per our very own featured columnist Joel Reuter, the 29-year old is 8-0, with a 0.27 ERA, 0.552 WHIP, 73 strikeouts and 67.0 innings pitched in his last nine starts. Most recently, Arrieta pitched an impressive five-run shutout during a crucial Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

When asked about his mindset going into tonight’s matchup, Arietta views it as a special opportunity:

“Getting two in St. Louis would’ve been great, but getting one in St. Louis puts us in a good situation to do some special things here at Wrigley over the next couple of days,” he said, per Greg Garno at MLB.com.

As for the St. Louis Cardinals, participating in the postseason is nothing new to them, as they are one of the top teams who have the talent to do so. Perhaps the X-factor in tonight’s game will be the Cardinals bullpen, who will need to step up in a big way if starting pitcher Wacha continues to struggle as he has in recent weeks on the mound. Overall, this relief squad averaged a 2.82 ERA this season, ranking them in third place in majors.

In addition to recent trips to the playoffs, this is not the first time that the Cardinals were up against the league’s most sought-after pitcher. Last year, they faced Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who also happened to be the Major League MVP and National League Cy Young Award winner.

Arrieta is having a similar stellar season to the one Kershaw had last year, serving as familiar territory for the Cardinals. “I swear, it feels like it’s déjà vu,” said Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter on Sunday, per Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. “Just facing a different guy.”

Yet this experienced squad is ready tackle this déjà vu moment head on. “We’ve gone up against a number of teams and a number of pitchers where everybody kind of ruled us out and said you can’t do this or that, and I think this team has responded well in the past,” said Cardinal manager Mike Mathany. per Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. “We understand there’s a pitcher on their side that’s been throwing the ball very well, and we need to just come out and do what we do.”

Judging by the numbers, it is easy to assume that the Cubs will walk away with tonight’s win. However, it’s impossible to count out a team like the Cardinals, who have more postseason experience in recent years. Needless to say, fans are in for a treat tonight!

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MLB Players Quietly Carrying Their Teams into 2015 Contention

Not everyone gets the Bryce Harper treatment.

While the Washington Nationals’ right fielder has been generating all sorts of much-deserved buzz, there’s also a slew of MLB players like Brian Dozier and Michael Wacha who have quietly carried their teams into postseason contention.

In the list that follows, there’s room for one masher who’s making a dark-horse run for MVP honors and a few starters who are making lots of noise in the Cy Young Award chases.

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Will Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia Injuries Endanger Cardinals’ Strong Rotation?

Baseball’s best franchise is about to be tested.

When Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia hit the disabled list with shoulder injuries, the strength of the defending National League champions was challenged. If the team is going to overcome the potentially long-term losses, it will take gargantuan efforts from the remaining 60 percent of the staff and the next men up in the organization.

In the aftermath of Sunday’s victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak alerted the media about Wacha and Garcia, per Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.

While the idea of the oft-injured Garcia heading back to the sidelines surprised few, the news surrounding Wacha was a bombshell and a major hit to St. Louis’ chances at a postseason berth.

As Mozeliak explained, there’s not a concrete timetable for the return of either starter, leading to worry inside the organization:

It’s concerning. We really don’t know what’s coming. You’re putting two pitchers on the DL today. I’m not in a position where I’ll know when they’re return or how they’ll return or the effectiveness of how they’ll return. It does leave us in a little bit of a gray area. Now, two weeks from now, a month from now, we may feel pretty good about where we are. But as I sit here today, I don’t know that answer.

For St. Louis, the answer lies in two separate but intertwined areas: the remaining rotation members and fill-in starters. 

Let’s start with the trio of Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller. As you can tell from the following chart, St. Louis’ starting rotation is a major reason the team entered play on June 23 having only allowed 256 runs on the season, good for best in the NL and second in all of baseball to the Oakland Athletics.

After a dominant effort—8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 SO, 0 BB—by Lynn against the Colorado Rockies, the numbers are even more impressive for the season.

With 77 games in the books, the Cardinals are on pace to allow just 538 runs for the entire year. To put that into perspective, the last time St. Louis pitching limited opposing offenses to that few runs in a full season was 1968, also known as the year of the pitcher.

While Wainwright and Lynn look poised to carry a rotation over the next few months, worry should accompany Miller’s upcoming starts. On the surface, a 3.56 ERA looks respectable for a 23-year-old starter, but, digging deeper, the numbers aren’t pretty.

With a FIP (fielding independent pitching) well over 4.00 and suspect command, Miller is flirting with disaster on a routine basis. In time, the former first-round pick may develop into an ace or a front-of-the-rotation pitcher. Right now, ERA is the only thing suggesting success thus far in 2014. 

Losing two starters and featuring a young, unproven third starter with spotty numbers isn’t enough to ruin postseason hopes for the Cardinals. Thanks to a deep, fertile prospect base and system-wide depth, the Cardinals have options at the back end of the rotation. 

For the time being, Carlos Martinez will continue to work out of the rotation. In his last start against Philadelphia, the 22-year-old righty earned the victory after tossing up the following line: 5 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 5 SO, 1 BB.

With a 99 mph fastball and the pedigree of a pitcher groomed to be a starter, Martinez could take off and make folks forget about Wacha, at least for a while. But despite his great stuff and his overwhelming fastball, left-handed batters own an .866 OPS against Martinez this season. If that isn’t corrected, success won’t follow.

In the other spot, Marco Gonzales, last June’s first-round pick, will be called up for a start, per broadcaster Dan McLaughlin. If Gonzales isn’t ready for prime time, Joe Kelly could be back shortly to reprise his role as an underrated starter.

“Joe Kelly, who we believe to relatively close in what we know, still has to check those boxes,” Mozeliak said in regard to rehab for starting pitchers.

Since bursting on the scene as a 21-year-old last summer, Wacha has been one of the best pitchers in the world and virtually irreplaceable. Among starters with at least 155.0 IP since the start of the 2013 season, Wacha‘s 2.79 ERA ranks 12th, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required). 

Among the starters below Wacha on that list: Chris Sale, Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer

Although Garcia doesn’t possess the same high-end ability, St. Louis lost rotation balance when the southpaw went down. From Wainwright to Lynn to Miller to Martinez to Kelly, the Cardinals rotation could feature five right-handed starters soon. If Gonzales is good enough to hold a spot, the rookie would replace Garcia as manager Mike Matheny’s lone lefty.

Over the next few months, the Cardinals rotation is poised to take a hit. Even if Wainwright and Lynn pitch at a high level, Miller’s uneven season is bound to disappoint, and the combination of Martinez, Kelly and Gonzales isn’t good enough to be trusted for excellence yet.

That being said, not many teams have capable fill-in arms that range from former top-30 prospect (Martinez), first-round pick (Gonzales) and seasoned big-game pitcher (Kelly). 

Before long, St. Louis likely won’t be among the top two or three or five best teams in runs allowed, but there’s enough talent and depth in this system to keep the Cardinals afloat for the next few months. 

Agree? Disagree? 

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comFanGraphs and ESPN unless otherwise noted.

Comment, follow me on Twitter or “like” my Facebook page to talk about all things baseball.

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St. Louis Cardinals’ Michael Wacha Isn’t a Fan of ‘Wacha Flocka Flame’ Nickname

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha never wanted to be called “Wacha Flocka Flame.”

“I guess it’s just something I have to get used to,” he said on Friday before the Cardinals played the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The nickname is a reference to the similarly named rapper Waka Flocka Flame. Wacha had never heard of the hip-hop artist before a friend his freshman year at Texas A&M introduced Wacha to his music.

And it was not love at first listen.

Wacha had no interest in adopting a nickname associated with the rapper then, let alone filling his iPod with Waka Flocka Flame songs. Wacha still doesn’t. But fans, along with outlets including ESPN, Sporting News and Arch City Sports, have embraced its usage.

Wacha’s disinterest in the nickname doesn’t stem from a disinterest in rap. He listed hip hop and country as his favorite genres of music for his get-to-know-you Q&A on the official website of the Memphis Redbirds, the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate. His lack of interest is individualized.

While the 22-year-old Wacha has quickly developed into a prominent pitcher, Waka Flocka Flame isn’t the most respected rapper.

Wacha won four of the five games he pitched in the 2013 MLB playoffs, finishing with a 2.64 ERA. Comparatively, in review of Waka’s last album “Triple F Life,” Rolling Stone wrote “classing up Waka is like putting a fig leaf over King Kong’s balls.”

Due to the not-so-gratifying comparison, it isn’t shocking that Wacha doesn’t lay in bed at night dreaming about Waka writing a song about him, though the idea of isn’t far-fetched. Waka is a sports fanatic and coined “hard in the paint,” a phrase used often enough by athletes for ESPN to publish a feature about it.

The pitcher did say he isn’t fazed by the nickname as much as he used to be, but he’s not dying to hear a “Hard on the Mound” remix.


*All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

David Daniels is a breaking news writer at Bleacher Report and news editor at Wade-O Radio.

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