photo: Alex Reyes (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports)
St. Louis Cardinals Twitter announcement
The following players have been optioned to the Memphis (AAA) roster:
▫️ LHP Génesis Cabrera
▫️ RHP Junior Fernández
▫️ C Andrew Knizner
▫️ RHP Alex Reyes pic.twitter.com/avEDvzlJHD
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) March 26, 2020
Brian Walton’s take
On the second consecutive Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals cut four 40-man roster players from Major League spring training camp. These are the team’s third major roster cuts of the spring, now two weeks after spring training was halted, and the second reductions since the current coronavirus standstill begun.
Of course, Thursday, March 26 was to be the original Opening Day for the 2020 MLB regular season.
As was the quartet who proceeded them in their assignment to the virtual minor league camp, this Thursday’s four are all members of St. Louis’ 40-man roster. None of the four cuts are tremendous surprises, with Fernandez and Cabrera perhaps having been in most serious contention to make St. Louis’ 26-man active roster out of camp.
Fernandez, 23, made his Major League debut last August and pitched in 13 games with a 5.40 ERA. The right-hander was not selected for the post-season roster.
The Cardinal Nation’s 10th-ranked prospect for 2020 was solid this spring before stumbling in his sixth and final appearance, allowing two runs on a hit and three walks in 2/3 inning and taking the loss vs. Boston on March 10.
In five spring innings overall, Fernandez yielded just three hits and four free passes, fanned eight and posted a 3.60 ERA. I would expect him to figure in the late innings mix for manager Ben Johnson’s Memphis Redbirds.
Cabrera, 23, also pitched in his initial MLB game last season, on May 29. The hard-throwing lefty made two starts and 11 relief appearances, logging a 4.87 ERA in 20 1/3 innings. Unlike Fernandez, Cabrera made the post-season roster, but made just two appearances, totaling 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
Over two starts and two relief appearances this spring, Cabrera was strong, allowing one run in six innings. TCN’s no. 11 prospect for 2020 gave up five hits, walked two and fanned eight.
In camp, with top lefty Andrew Miller sidelined, it initially appeared that Cabrera’s chances of making the Opening Day roster were improved. However, with the extended delay to the start of the season, Miller is expected to be ready.
The Cardinals are still well-covered from the left side. In addition to Miller, the Cardinals have four other left-handers among their 15 non-injured list 40-man roster pitchers remaining in camp – starters Kwang-Hyun Kim and Austin Gomber plus relievers Tyler Webb and Brett Cecil.
It will be very interesting to see if Cabrera will rejoin Memphis’ rotation or is moved into the bullpen.
I am positive that no one reading this is not already familiar with the basics of Reyes’ background. As much as the former national no. 1 prospect hoped to join St. Louis’ rotation, the ramp-up from his latest ailment seemed to make a bullpen spot a much more likely area in which to contribute in 2020.
The 25-year old right-hander was inconsistent this spring, on the positive side, striking out nine in 4 1/3 innings. However, he yielded four runs on three walks and eight hits, for a .381 batting average against.
Like Cabrera, Reyes may be a candidate to start for the Redbirds, but if so, might be best utilized in a tandem arrangement. There cannot be a Cardinals fan who is not pulling for him.
Though there was some early speculation that The Cardinal Nation’s fifth-ranked prospect might be carried as the third catcher and 26th man on St. Louis’ roster, Knizner did not hit well in camp, going 4-for-26 (.154) with six strikeouts.
Realistically, though, with the return of Matt Wieters to back up ironman Yadier Molina, Knizner would be better served to return to Memphis and play every day. However, the 25-year old should be back with St. Louis the instant one of the two veterans hit the injured list.
The big picture
These four cuts reduce the number of players who will return to major league camp (when it resumes) to 49 – 29 members of the 40-man roster and 20 non-roster invitees (NRI).
If the season began tomorrow with a theoretical 28-man roster, the Cardinals would have their team from the 40-man players remaining in camp – 13 position players and 15 pitchers. However, that would assume no non-roster players (such as Dylan Carlson and Kodi Whitley) open with St. Louis, which is still unknown. One 40-man roster spot remains open, created by the unexpected departure of Yairo Munoz.
It seems obvious that the current labor negotiations between ownership and the Players Association are keeping the NRIs in place for now – even though the vast majority of them are less likely to make the Opening Day roster than several of the 40-man members already demoted.
On the other hand, while service time and compensation decisions for 40-man roster players have not been announced, these four players now would not have been on the MLB roster on the old Opening Day.
So if injured during the down period, now that they have been optioned to the minors, they would not have to go on St. Louis’ 60-day injured list, accruing MLB service time and receiving MLB salary. In other words, these are insurance moves.
On Thursday, Major League Baseball’s revised plans for the (normally) June First-Year Player Draft began to leak out. At this point, the details are still unofficial, but clearly indicate MLB is trying to reduce 2020 expenses.
a maximum bonus for undrafted players has been discussed. Most discussed number for that is $10,000. Could push lots of high school talent to college, middle-tier college talent to return to school.
— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) March 26, 2020
Jeff Passan of ESPN believes the full agreement will be announced on Friday.
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have a deal, sources tell ESPN. The players have voted on it already. MLB owners are expected to ratify it tomorrow. An excellent sign that draws a path forward as baseball tries to figure out when it will return.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 27, 2020
This news about a transaction freeze offers additional insight into why the above moves were made on Thursday.
No more roster moves. When the MLB and MLBPA deal is ratified by MLB owners as expected tomorrow, a transaction freeze will be in place, source says. Sides will agree when it is lifted.
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) March 27, 2020
Also, Adam Wainwright and his wife announced a $250,000 donation to help Cardinals minor leaguers during a time in which they are not receiving pay. In rough math, if all the money goes to the organization’s minor leaguers, it works out to close to $1000 each.
Excited to announce that @UncleCharlie50 and his wife Jenny have donated $250,000 to provide assistance to Cardinals minor leaguers during the COVID-19 crisis. Press release below. pic.twitter.com/niDApEIUEj
— More Than Baseball (@mtb_org) March 26, 2020
To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.
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