Things are falling into place for a long-term marriage between the Cardinals and right-hander Jake Westbrook. The free agent told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in September that he would “definitely” be interested in returning to St. Louis and GM John Mozeliak shared the same feeling last week.
Now Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com is reporting that discussions are “taking place” and that Mozeliak and Co. have expressed a “high level of interest” in retaining their No. 3 starter.
Westbrook, 33, posted a 3.48 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 12 starts with the Cardinals this season after joining the club as part of a three-team deal in late July. He had a 4.22 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 33 overall outings with a 128/68 K/BB ratio in 202.2 innings.
The Cards will sport a starting rotation of Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse next season. If Westbrook is brought back, he would probably slot in between Carpenter and Garcia. And maybe right after the Rookie of the Year Award candidate.
Now let’s talk money. Westbrook earned $11 million this past season and will likely be asking for a similar salary over the next 4-5 seasons. The Cardinals have to pay slugger Albert Pujols soon and must decide if there will be enough money left over for that possibly historic contract extension.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.
Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.
The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.
Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.