Cardinals Sign Five Minor League Free Agents

photo: Oscar Mercado (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing five minor league free agents, including a former second round draft pick.  Outfielder Oscar Mercado returns to the Cardinals after four years with Cleveland and Philadelphia, and infielder Taylor Motter, shortstop Juniel Querecuto (joo-nee-EL care-uh-KOO-toh), left-handed pitcher Kenny Hernandez and right-handed pitcher Logan Sawyer will also join the Cardinals organization for the 2023 season.

Oscar Mercado

Mercado, who turns 28 on December 16, has played 278 games in Major League Baseball since his debut with Cleveland in 2019.  He was part of a 2018 trade in which St. Louis acquired minor league outfielders Jhon Torres and Conner Capel.  Originally drafted by the Cardinals in the 2nd round of the 2013 June Amateur Draft, Mercado batted .235 with 26 home runs, 95 RBI and 27 stolen bases over four MLB seasons with career highs of .269 with 15 HR, 54 RBI and 15 stolen bases his 2019 rookie season.

Logan Sawyer

Sawyer, 29, was a former 29th round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2014.  He pitched three of the last four years in the Independent Leagues and Australia.  In 2022, Sawyer dominated his opponents as a member of Evansville in the Frontier League, racking up 22 saves over 30 appearances with the Otters.  He allowed only one unearned run on 11 hits with three walks while striking out 39 batters over 30 innings.  His last action in affiliated ball was with the Rockies’ High-A affiliate in Modesto in 2016.

Taylor Motter

Motter, 33, is a former 17th round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays out of Coastal Carolina University in 2011.  The veteran of five years in Major League Baseball played the 2022 season between Gwinnett (AAA) and Louisville of the International League.  He cracked 20 home runs with 54 RBI earning a two-game promotion to Cincinnati.  Since 2016, he’s played all four infield positions and the two corner outfield spots as a member of Tampa Bay, Seattle, Minnesota, Colorado, Boston and Cincinnati totaling 159 games with a career batting average of .191 with 10 home runs and 38 RBI.

Juniel Quereceto

Quereceto, 30, last played in the Major Leagues in 2016 with the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Barquisimeto, Venezuela, native spent five seasons since with the Rays, Giants, Diamondbacks and Reds minor league affiliates and five winter seasons in the Venezuelan League.  Over his professional career, he’s played in 1,037 minor league games and four Major League games.

Kenny Hernandez

Hernandez, 24, was originally signed as an International free agent by the Diamondbacks in 2016 and has played six seasons advancing as high as Double-A Amarillo.  He’s appeared in 122 games, making 40 starts with a 26-22 record and 3.90 ERA.

Chris Stratton

The Cardinals also announced yesterday the signing of right-handed pitcher Chris Stratton to a one-year contract.

Brian Walton’s take

It is good to see the Cardinals move quickly in the off-season to address farm system depth needs, after 16 players recently left the organization as minor league free agents.

Cardinals Say Goodbye to 16 Minor League Free Agents

Having said that, a group of well-traveled minor signees averaging 29 years of age are not going to vault to the top of the prospect lists. Yet that doesn’t mean that they cannot contribute to achieving organizational objectives.

At 24, Hernandez is the only one of the five who would be considered to still be on his way up. Quality left-handed pitching is valuable whether starting or relieving, so the native of Panama will find a new home if effective on the mound.

Mercado is most known for his base stealing acumen and solid center field defense. He may replace Ben DeLuzio in center for Memphis in 2023.

Like Mercado, Motter has considerable MLB service time with the primary value of being able to play about anywhere in the field and bringing a veteran bat to the lineup.

Sawyer was the 2022 Frontier League Reliever of the Year and continues a Cardinals trend in recent years of dipping into independent ball for pitching depth.

Quereceto appears to be a glove-first shortstop who can also play the other infield positions and left field. However, a .689 career minor league OPS does not suggest his switch-hitting is a major asset.

At this point, all five are assigned to Memphis, though that does not necessarily remain they will remain there for Rule 5 purposes.

All five are eligible for the December 7 Draft, but unless they are placed lower than Memphis for purposes of the draft, none are likely to be taken.

Stratton was arbitration eligible. The former Pirates reliever came to terms on the $2.8 million contract one day prior to the contract tender date for 2023.

For more

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