Pittsburgh Pirates v St. Louis Cardinals

Could a Cardinal not named Yadier Molina win the MVP?

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The NL MVP race doesn’t have a consensus candidate, really. I feel like, among the chattering classes, Andrew McCutchen and Yadier Molina have the most juice behind them. But Paul Goldschmidt has his backers. Even guys like Freddie Freeman have people making their case for whatever reason. But how about a non-Molina St. Louis Cardinal? Derrick Goold presents the bonafides of Matt Carpenter’s season:

Carpenter’s two hits gave him 174 for the season, which leads the National League by eight. His two runs give him 112 so far this season. He’s the only player in the NL with more than 100. He ranks in the top 10 in average (.316), on-base percentage (.386) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.868). Baseball’s new math adores him, too, with a Wins Above Replacement at 5.5 that ranks seventh, just behind RBI leader Paul Goldschmidt’s 5.8. That is also ahead of Yadier Molina, at 5.1, who is having an MVP-caliber season.

Though WAR has entered the MVP conversation in pretty significant ways these past couple of years I don’t think it’s much beyond a talking point for single-season awards. Even among the stat-minded there is a general acknowledgment that single-season WAR numbers should be taken with copious amounts of salt given the uncertainty as to how to measure and weigh defensive numbers. Yes, it’s a fun caricature of a stat person to say they’re WAR-First and WAR-Only, but no one who thinks about this stuff thoughtfully or seriously should make such an argument (not that I think Goold is doing that here; he clearly isn’t).

All of that being said, I believe that if it came down to Carpenter and Molina, I feel like Molina will get all the support and then some, WAR notwithstanding. Generally speaking, when top notch defensive catchers hit .323, it’s really, really hard for voters to say no. Catchers do, quite understandably, get bonus points from people for stellar offense.

League-wide, I feel like it’s either Molina’s or McCutchen’s award, depending on how they and their teams finish and how much people want to wrap a bow on the Pirates’ breakthrough season. Each would be deserving. Even if Carpenter is having a great, great season.

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.