Tony La Russa: will he or won’t he return for another season as manager of the Cardinals?
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is about as close to the team’s thinking as a columnist can get and passes along some insight in his Sunday edition of “Bernie’s Bytes.”
First, Miklasz says that the decision to return or not to return will be up to La Russa himself. Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt III and GM John Mozeliak are firmly in the skipper’s corner despite a disappointing 2010 finish and a highly publicized mid-season rift with star center fielder Colby Rasmus.
If La Russa leaves, it will be because he wanted to go. If he stays, it will be on his own terms.
By all accounts, the 65-year-old La Russa should commit for at least one more season in St. Louis. He’ll have a roster in 2011 that includes this generation’s greatest hitter in Albert Pujols, two Cy Young candidates in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, and a well-paid and highly-productive left fielder in Matt Holliday. Oh, and let’s not forget about young left-hander Jaime Garcia, who might win the National League’s Rookie of the Year this season.
La Russa also ranks third on the list of all-time managerial wins with 2,628, behind only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763). It’s feasible that he will catch McGraw and move into second place all-time with just two more years on the job. That might not be the most important thing to La Russa, but he’s certainly not immune to the lure of establishing a long-lasting legacy.
La Russa has been operating on one-year contracts for a few seasons now. If we’re to believe the current indications, he will likely ink a similar deal before winter fully sets in.
Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.
Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.
Hazen issued a statement following the signing:
With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.