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Bird Watching: St. Louis Cardinals News

Part 1: Goodbyes from 2021

Greetings fellow bird watchers! Today is the day! Cardinals baseball is BACK! This winter was long and dark without notifications to follow for free agent signings, or big-name trades (heck any trade for that matter). But Alas, rejoice! For today the St.Louis Cardinals take on the Houston Astros in their spring training opener. Living legend Adam Wainwright gets the start against future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander to start the 2012 2022 spring campaign for the redbirds.

Lots of stories and notes to follow for the Cardinals in this 2022 season but I thought it would be good to take a look at some of the “Hellos” and “Goodbyes”, from the off-season so far for the Cardinals. Also, while we’re at it I’ll throw in a few predictions for the remaining free agents and trade pieces to have a little fun.

This will be a three-part article and today we start with the “Goodbyes”…


Goodbyes

Andrew Miller-LHP-Free Agent

Miller spent the last three seasons in St.Louis after signing a 2 year/ 25 million dollar contract before the 2019 campaign. The tall lefty definitely showed signs of his former all-star self at times, but consistently was never able to be that dominant late-inning arm that he was for Clevland and New York. His leadership skills did prove to be valuable and thus I am confident his time in St.Louis though may not have been the most successful, was impactful. The Birds will look to replace him in the bullpen.

Austin Dean-OF-San Francisco

“Deaner” as former manager Mike Shildt called Austin Dean, played in a total of 25 games over his two seasons with St.Louis. He was a right-handed platoon OF bat the could occasionally pull one over the left-field wall. He didn’t provide much of a threat off the bench though and the Cardinals will hope Yepez and Nootbar can provide more protection. Best wishes in San Fran Deaner!

Carlos Martinez-RHP-San Francisco

“C-Mart” was a personal favorite. Spending his entire career in the St.Louis organization he made his debut in 2013 and quickly we all understood why he was a top projected pitching prospect. His stuff was electric and it helped propel him early in his career to two all-star games and three consecutive 10+ win seasons before he was 25. Unfortunately for Carlos, now 30, he has not pitched more than 120 innings in a season since 2017 and has watched his command and consistency dip. A lot of it has always been between his ears as Martinez wears his emotions on his sleeve. When harnessed, for good. More often than not as of recent, not-so-good. Yes, he had 24 saves in 2019, but in 20 IP in 2020 a 9.9 era and a 6.23 in 82 Innings pitched last year proved to be more than enough for the Cardinals to want to move on. He singed on with the Giants on a minor league deal in an effort to refind his stuff. Thanks for the memories Carlos and best of wishes.

J.A. Happ-LHP-Free Agent

Happ got off to one of the worst starts of his career with a 6.77 era in 17 starts in Minnesota. Then he got a break. He came to St.Louis to pitch in front of the best defense and in 11 starts with the Cardinals had a 4.00 era. Happ was an innings eater and a strike-thrower. Something the Birds needed more of in May, and June last year, but arrived at the trade deadline. He expressed interest in returning to St.Louis but the Cardinals decided to part ways. At 39 years old and a playing career that spans back to 2007, this could be the end for J.A. Happ. Regardless we thank him for his time with the birds and wish him the best!

Jon Lester-LHP-Retired

I never thought Jon Lester would be a St.Louis Cardinal. He was a menace against the Birds for years with the Red Sox and Cubs. I am glad Jon Lester was a Cardinal. A winning veteran left-handed pitcher who could come in a throw strikes and eat innings. Yes, please. He enjoyed working with Wainwright to rediscover his stuff and throw to the tune of a 4.36 era, pushing the Cardinals to a playoff birth. Lester was never going to be the dominant arm he was when he was younger, but he was exactly what the birds needed when they got him.

Lots have been written on Jon Lester and his retirement this off-season and rightfully so. The man was a “Big game pitcher”. Heck, he owns three world-series championships and was a 5x All-Star. Here is a piece on Lester if you’re interested in diving deeper into his career. Enjoy retirement Jon!

Jose Rondon-2B/SS-Free Agent

After appearing in 63 games with the Cardinals in 2021, his contract was not tendered and Rondon became a free agent. Rondon played all over the diamond for the Birds in ’21 and smacked 3 HR in his time with St.Louis. Up to this point, he has been a career fringe Major Leauge player and I expect he will get another shot with a club. Good luck to Rondon!

Justin Miller-RHP-Free Agent

Coming over from Washington last summer to help the birds make a late-season push, Miller, 34, provided more depth and a strong 4-seam fastball to help the Cardinals in their 17 game winning streak and sneak into the playoffs. With the younger pitching crowd waiting in AAA, the two parties moved on and Justin is now a free agent. Thank you for your time, Justin!

Justin Williams-OF-Phillies

Williams is still young and I expect him to get better. That being said a .160 batting average with a strikeout percentage of almost 33.6% in 2021 wasn’t enough to warrant the young RH OF another year with the birds. Williams signs on with the Philadelphia Phillies and we wish him the best!

Kwang Hyun Kim-LHP-KBO

Oh KK, I will miss you so. Your time with St.Louis never was never given a fair shot from the beginning as from the moment you landed a pandemic ensured and normalcy was disrupted.A tweet from Derrick S. Goold

Originally I was very excited to see KK come to the states and get a taste of Major League action. Thus injuries and Pandemics defiantly inhibited that. KK was a versatile LHP that could provide late-inning work, mid-inning help, or start. Ultimately he didn’t end up having the success in St.Louis that we all thought could happen and Kim found himself returning to Korea to sign with the SSG Landers. I think this is a great fit for him as he gets to be with his family and looks to finish his career in his home country. He also complimented Adam Wainwright for his experience in helping him learn to adjust to the majors and prolong his career. Best wishes to you KK!

Luis Garcia-RHP-San Diego Padres

This was a big loss for the Cardinals and I hope they can replace Garcia’s production. The dominant righty came over after being released from the Yankees during the 2021 season and literally rediscovered his stuff. In 34 appearances with the Birds, Garcia had a 9.2 strikeout per 9 and a 3.24 era. He would pitch 7th innings, 8th innings, and close games. He was a huge part of the 17 game winning streak and due to his great reemergence with the Cardinals, he was quickly scooped up this off-season by the Padres. Garcia will be one who is greatly missed. Best wishes to him!

Matt Carpenter-3B/1B-Texas Rangers

Believe it or not, Matt Carpenter is an All-time Cardinal great. Tied for 21st all-time on the Cardinals W.A.R list with a 27.3. That’s above the likes of Cardinals legends Scott Rolen (25.9), Willie McGee (25.6), and Matt Holliday (23.1). Carpenter has spent his entire career up to this point in St.Louis making his debut in 2011. From 2013 to 2018 Matt twice led the league in doubles, tying a Cardinals single-season record of 55 with Stan Musial in 2013, earned three all-star nominations and a silver slugger award to boot. He also had one of the best eyes  I’ve ever seen from a batter. His strike zone recognization was incredible. He WAS the count of “3-2”.

Unfortunately, it didn’t feel like we were watching an all-time great in his last few years with the birds on the bat. With the ever-increasing usage of the shift and analytics, Carpenter, 36, found his production decrease dramatically not hitting above .226 since 2018 with a combined 22 HRs. At times he looked simply overmatched and lost at the plate. Never being known for his defense the writing was on the wall at the end of ’21 that Carp would no longer be a Bird. Matt decided to bet on himself and inked a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers, his hometown club. If he can make the most out of it, it could be a lot of fun to watch Carp bash in that new stadium as a DH. We thank him for all the memories in St. Louis and wish Matty-C the best!

Max Moroff-2B-Free Agent

Moroff never really found his footing with St.Louis. The career minor leaguer appeared in only 6 games with the Birds last year and didn’t provide much. He remains a free agent. Best wishes Max!

Mike Shildt-Manager-San Diego Padres/ MLB

Hands down the most surprising goodbye of ’21 was the departure of Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. I wrote a piece on that here. So I won’t go into much here other than to say he will most definitely be missed. From the moment he took over the defense dramatically improved, along with the baserunning and just a sense of collective unity. Players were noted saying how they loved playing for Shildt and felt they could win a championship under him. He also led the team to the playoffs every year he was the manager. There was clearly a disconnect between the front office and Shildt that lead to the departure and his eventual landing in San Diego as a member of the player developmental staff. Along with his work in San Diego, Shildt will also work with the commissioner’s office to help further advance the game. I think he will get another shot in the dugout if he wants in the future but he is a developmental genius and I expect him to have success. Best wishes Shildty!

Wade LaBlanc-LHP-Free Agent

LeBlanc, 36, was another late summer ’21 addition that was invited over to throw strikes and eat innings. He did both, and fairly well. Nothing flashy about LeBlanc but as a 13-year veteran, he knew his role. He appeared in 12 games down the stretch and used the defense of the Cardinals to finish with a 3.61 era with his time in St.Louis. Unfortunately, injuries and youth pushed him out from the roster and he now sits as a free agent. Best wishes Wade and thanks for your service!


That’s it for today friends! Please stay tuned as “Part II” will be out over the next few days as we say “hello” to our new faces in Cardinal red. Stay safe, happy, and welcome some baseball into your life!

-Matt

Written by Matthew Blaker

Former minor-league broadcaster and still a contageous baseball nerd. Have watched every Cardinals game for the last 22+ years, and I will never stop. Love to travel and try great food too! I also play Bass in my spare time.

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