Cardinals “reluctant” to give five-year deal to Jimmy Rollins, could pursue Carlos Beltran

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Jimmy Rollins has been linked to the Cardinals following Albert Pujols’ departure, but Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that they “would be reluctant to enter the bidding for Rollins” unless he backs off demands for a five-year deal.

Philadelphia is also said to be very much against the idea of giving Rollins a five-year commitment at age 33, so the shortstop changing his stance may be inevitable.

Allen Craig is expected to replace Pujols in St. Louis’ lineup, but he’ll likely miss at least the first month or two of the season following knee surgery and Goold writes that the Cardinals “have explored what the market is for outfielder Carlos Beltran.”

Beltran’s name has been connected to surprisingly few suitors this offseason, so if the price was right on a one- or two-year deal he’d be an excellent pickup for the Cardinals.

More position players have pitched this year than ever

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Yesterday, in Milwaukee, utilityman Hernan Perez pitched two scoreless innings, and backup catcher Erik Kratz pitched one himself, mopping up in a blowout loss to the Dodgers. In doing so they became the 31st and 32nd position players to pitch this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most position players who have taken the mound in a season in the Expansion Era, which began in 1961. Presumably far fewer ever did so when the league had only 16 teams.

It’s pretty remarkable to set that record now, in this age of 13 and sometimes 14-man pitching staffs. That’s especially true when teams shuttle guys back and forth from the minors more often than they ever have before and when, due to the shortened, 10-day disabled list, it’s easier to give guys breaks because of “injuries” than it ever has been.

Pitcher usage is driving this, however. While teams carry far more relievers than they ever have before, they actually carry far fewer swingmen or mopup men who are capable of throwing multiple innings in a blowout to save other pitchers’ arms. Rather, teams focus on max-effort, high-velocity relievers who go one or two innings tops, thus requiring catchers and utility guys to help do the mopping that actual pitchers used to do.

I don’t know if that’s a bad thing necessarily — some of these backup catchers throw harder than a lot of pitchers did 30 years ago and it’s always kind of fun to see a position player pitch — but it is yet another way the game has changed due to a focus on specialization and velocity when it comes to pitchers.