Report: Rasmus requested trade earlier this season

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Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a bit of news that will add lighter fluid to the stack of rumors hinting at a “rift” between Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and 24-year-old outfielder Colby Rasmus.

Strauss heard from sources that Rasmus requested a trade earlier this season because of “frustrations” with La Russa and his lack of everyday playing time. 

It’s not hard to believe.  Ryan Ludwick, in fact, made a similar request just before he was traded to the Padres in late July and it’s beginning to look like we may have a scapegoat for what has been a horribly disappointing season in St. Louis: the skipper himself. 

La Russa has a Hall of Fame track record as a manager and has enjoyed a great amount of success over the past 15 years in the Gateway City.  But it’s time for the Cardinals to step forward and acknowledge that Rasmus, a five-tool player with sky-high upside, is far more important to the Cardinals’ future than La Russa, a 65-year-old manager who is so out of touch that he thought sending his superstar Latino first baseman to a Glenn Beck rally was a good idea.

Rasmus needs to play every day, or at least more than 145 games per season.  He started only 114 times last year and has started only 97 times in 133 opportunities in 2010.  Even if you attribute 20 of those missed starts this year to a calf injury, that still leaves 16 unexplained absences.

La Russa enjoys tweaking his lineups often and finding at-bats for mediocre veterans — see: Aaron Miles and Randy Winn.  That sort of mix-and-match strategy has worked in the past and Tony has a couple of rings to show for it, but this year it has upset his offensive core. 

Or, at least Rasmus and Ludwick.  Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are well-paid family men who probably go unaffected by clubhouse dynamics.

The solution to this problem in St. Louis comes down to simple math.  One, 24-year-old center fielders with 30-homer power don’t come around often.  Two, I can find you a 65-year-old manager down at the local softball lot.  Not to be over-dramatic, but my guess is the random old man will have the presence of mind to lead a team with three sub-3.00 ERA starters (and Albert friggin’ Pujols) to the postseason while also managing to maintain a healthy relationship with the hugely talented Rasmus.

If the Cardinals do decide to shake things up this offseason, the cuts should start at the top.

UPDATE:  La Russa has confirmed the report, according to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest, also saying that Rasmus requested a trade last season.

UPDATE:  Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse grabbed a few telling quotes from Rasmus on Sunday morning.  Asked if he was happy with the Cardinals, the center fielder said, “I’d rather not answer that if I don’t have to.”

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.