UPDATE: The Cardinals have hired Matheny. Wow. Between him and Robin Ventura in Chicago, no managerial experience is the new thing for 2012.
The Cards are going to formally announce Matheny tomorrow.
Saturday: The Cardinals are expected to name Tony La Russa’s replacement at some point before Thanksgiving, and possibly as soon as next week.
Six candidates have interviewed for the job: Triple-A Memphis manager Chris Maloney, White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing, former Cubs great Ryne Sandberg, former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo and former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny. The St. Louis higher-ups are not expected to interview more.
So where does this all stand? Is there a front-runner? And can any of the names above be ruled out?
It’s hard to say. The Cardinals are keeping tight-lipped as usual and the beat writers who cover the team have been unable to pick up strong leads. But there is a little something brewing.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a column Saturday handicapping the field, and while he states that the rankings are only a matter of opinion and speculation, he’s about as close to the team’s thinking as it gets. And his best guess for a current favorite would be Matheny.
Then comes this tweet from SI.com’s Jon Heyman:
Matheny has no managing experience and turned 41 years old just last month, but the feeling is that he would make the transition from La Russa a smooth one and that he would operate well with the front office and coaching staff that is currently set in place. He’d also be cheaper, presumably, than Francona.
We can’t be certain that Matheny is truly the front-runner for the gig, but there’s certainly some buzz.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.
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.