St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals owner says the offseason is over. But I don’t believe him

Free agent Greg Holland saved a league-best 41 games for the Colorado Rockies last season. The Cardinals bullpen, meanwhile, led the league with 17 blown saves.
Free agent Greg Holland saved a league-best 41 games for the Colorado Rockies last season. The Cardinals bullpen, meanwhile, led the league with 17 blown saves. AP

It’s been downright frigid in St. Louis for weeks, but nothing frosted fans at the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up like the comments made by team owner Bill DeWitt Jr. on Sunday.

“I don’t really anticipate a major move between now and spring training,” he said.

Really? But you’re not finished yet.

John Mozeliak and Co. get an A-plus for adding Marcell Ozuna to the middle of the lineup, but the Cardinals are going to be chasing the Cubs again if they don’t at least come up with an established closer.

The bullpen blew 17 saves last year. It allowed 35.2 percent of the baserunners it inherited to score, which was second-worst in the National League.

With all that new revenue coming due with their big television contract and all their depth of prospects, much has been said about how well positioned the Cardinals are to make a great big splash this offseason. But all the bullpen reinforcement Mo and Co. have added so far is Luke Gregerson, the same guy they traded nine years ago for half-a-season of shortstop Khalil Greene.

Near as I can figure, the team has shed about $56.7 million in payroll while adding back just $33.22 million for 2018. They have so far added about $23.48 million to the bottom line.

Now DeWitt is telling us the offseason is over? With Greg Holland and his National League-leading 41 saves just sitting there?

Nope. Sorry. I just don’t believe it.

The arctic blast that blew through the Midwest wasn’t the weekend’s only bluster. Could it be DeWitt’s comments are just a lot of posturing in a slow-to-develop offseason?

Consider this:

Super agent Scott Boras handles most of the big-name free agents. His strategy has been to wait out the market, inventing the interest of “mystery teams” and creating an all-out panic ahead of spring training to drive up the value of his clients.

This trickles down to middle-tier free agents who depend on the big dominoes to fall in order to evaluate their own market value. This is how a good player like Jayson Werth (a Boras client) gets an elite-player contract like the $126 million monster he got in 2011.

It’s also why this year’s hot stove, so far, has been anything but.

Slightly more than 200 players reached the end of the 2017 season without a contract. One of them retired, three signed qualifying offers with their existing teams and 53 others moved on to new deals.

That leaves 146 free agents still available with just four weeks until pitchers and catchers report. The list includes most of the big names — Holland, Jake Arrieta, J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and so on.

Is every team in Major League Baseball finished this offseason? Or are they just calling the Boras bluff?

OK. Fine. Maybe that’s a reach, but it’s the best I’ve got to make sense of what DeWitt and the Cardinals are trying to sell.

They have too much need and too much “dry powder” to believe they are really done making deals.

Don’t they?

Sports Editor Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman

Cardinals Payroll Added

Player

2017

2018

Dif.

Marcell Ozuna

NA

$9 million

+ $9 million

Luke Gregerson

NA

$5.5 million

+ $5.5 million

Miles Mikolas

NA

$7.5 million

+ $7.5 million

Randal Grichuk

$557,200

$2.6 million

+ $2.04 million

Michael Wacha

$2.775 million

$5.3 million

+ $2.525 million

Tyler Lyons

$549,800

$1.2 million

+ $651,000

Yadier Molina

$14 million

$20 million

+ $6 million

TOTAL

+ $33.22 million

Cardinals Payroll Subtracted

Player

2017

2018

Dif.

Jhonny Peralta

$10 million

$0

- $19 million

Lance Lynn

$7.5 million

$0 (?)

- $7.5 million

Stephen Piscotty

$1.3 million *

$0

- $1.3 million

Aledmys Diaz

$2.5 million

$0

- $2.5 million

Trevor Rosenthal

$6.4 million

$0

- $6.4 million

Mike Leake

$17 million

$0

- $17 million

Seung-hwan Oh

$2.75 million

$0

- $2.75 million

Zach Duke

$5.5 million

$0

- $5.5 million

Jonathan Broxton

$3.75 million

$0

- $3.5 million

TOTAL

- $56.7 million

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