The Cardinals name Mike Matheny their new manager

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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:

source:  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.

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.