photo: Greg Garcia (Joe Puetz/USA TODAY Sports)
The St. Louis Cardinals began their expected roster pruning on Thursday with the announcement that infielder Greg Garcia was claimed off waivers by the San Diego Padres and catcher Francisco Pena was outrighted to the minors.
The Garcia move was expected for three reasons. The first is that the services of the 29-year old would be more expensive in 2019 as he becomes arbitration eligible for the first time. Also, Garcia’s production offensively has been on a downturn. The third is the emergence of his replacement, 2018 rookie Yairo Muñoz.
In 114 games this season, Garcia had just 181 at-bats, often pinch hitting. The left-handed hitter contributed three home runs, six doubles, 15 RBI and three stolen bases. He finished with a slash line of just .221/.309/.304/.613. His OPS dropped considerably over the last three seasons, from .762 in 2016, to .697 last year, to .613. His OPS+ of 70 is 30 percent below an MLB-average hitter.
Garcia joined the organization as its seventh-round selection from 2010 from the University of Hawaii and is a Southern California native. He made his St. Louis debut in April 2014.
One downside of the move is that a heavily-right-handed hitting offense became even more so. However, there is still an entire winter to address this.
In another expected move, catcher Francisco Pena was also placed on outright waivers to remove him from the 40-man roster, and he cleared. That means none of the other 29 teams wanted to add the 29-year old to their 40-man roster.
St. Louis’ reserve behind Yadier Molina this season was ineffective offensively, with a .510 OPS. With Carson Kelly having nothing to prove in Memphis and the need for roster space, this move was telegraphed.
Because Pena has been previously outrighted, he has the right to elect free agency, rather than play for Memphis in 2019.
Pena originally joined St. Louis last December on a minor league contract, and made the major league team out of spring training instead of Kelly as the staff was not pleased with the prospect’s play.
Note: Within the last few weeks, at least one major news site erroneously reported that Pena was to become a free agent, along with Adam Wainwright, Tyson Ross, Bud Norris and Matt Adams. However, Pena was ineligible for free agency and under team control for 2019 until this outright, which is effective today, November 1.
What is next?
This does not and should not suggest the Cardinals are done making roster cuts. The pair were undoubtedly placed on outright waivers when Adam Wainwright was re-signed on Tuesday. This was necessary because the 40-man roster was already full. As a result, the 40-man is still at 39 players, leaving them little flexibility currently.
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