Given his over three decades of success in the dugout, it is only natural that St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has a key voice in team player personnel decisions.
Still, some moves made by the club in recent years seem to have more than the expected amount of La Russa’s fingerprints on them. Last week’s trade of Colby Rasmus to Toronto was the most recent.
La Russa is still at it. Apparently his cell phone was out of service on Tuesday when the skipper sent general manager John Mozeliak a clear to-do via the media.
With only one left-handed reliever in a bullpen that normally has two, La Russa apparently covets veteran lefty hurler Arthur Rhodes, who was designated for assignment by Texas on Tuesday. The 41-year-old, a 20-year MLB veteran, posted a 4.81 ERA in 32 games for the Rangers in 2011 after a pair of solid seasons with Cincinnati.
“He’s been a hell of a (professional) for a long, long time,” La Russa told the media, speaking of Rhodes. “He has all of our respect. Does that sound like (I’m) intrigued?”
DFAing Rhodes means the Rangers have ten days to decide his fate – trade, release or assignment to the minors if he clears waivers.
Not only did La Russa’s public comments put Mozeliak on the spot, they signaled to Texas and the rest of baseball the Cardinals’ intent.
If it had been prior to the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, the Rangers, knowing the high level of La Russa’s interest, could have decided to jack up Rhodes’ selling price. Even now, the Cardinals may face a heightened risk of losing out on Rhodes. Another club, especially one trailing the Cards in the tight National League Central race, might choose to claim the reliever off waivers just to block him from St. Louis.
The Rangers are currently on the hook to pay Rhodes around $1.3 million for the final two months of the season. Any team that claims him would have to pick up that financial commitment. Rhodes’ contract also includes a 2012 option for $4 million that is based on both appearances and good health that he most likely will not achieve.
Signaling personnel wants through the media is not the Cardinals normal mode of operation as they have been most successful in the past making stealth moves.
Certainly La Russa should be consulted about his opinions of potentially-available players on other clubs, but the organization may be better served if he keeps them behind closed doors.
On the other hand, in this particular case, missing out on a 41-year-old reliever who may be on his last legs may turn out to be the right (non-) move for the Cardinals, anyway.