Cards add Royce Ring instead of Rolls Royce

The St. Louis Cardinals have signed left-handed reliever Royce Ring to a one-year contract, the club announced on Monday. According to the AP, the deal is a major league contract for $475,000 plus $25,000 more in appearance incentives. With the move, the Cardinals’ 40-man roster now sits at 35.

The club is just coming off a failed bid for the top left-handed reliever in the free agent market, closer Brian Fuentes, who spurned the Cardinals’ offer in favor of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Perhaps it is just unfortunate timing, but the addition of fellow Californian Ring instead is hardly a consolation prize for missing out on Fuentes.

The 28-year-old Ring is well-traveled, having pitched for Atlanta, San Diego and the Mets since breaking in during the 2005 season. His career numbers over 94 games and 65 2/3 innings include a 3-3 record, 53 strikeouts but 40 walks and a 4.97 ERA.

In 2008, Ring made his first-ever opening day roster and began the Braves’ season with 11 consecutive scoreless outings. But the success was short-lived. In seven appearances from the All-Star break until the end of July, Ring’s ERA was 36.00.

Two days later, he was designated for assignment. Any of the other 29 major league organizations could have then claimed Ring for the prorated MLB minimum salary, but they all passed. The 6-foot, 220-pounder was removed from the Braves’ 40-man roster and reported to Triple-A Richmond.

Overall for the Braves last season, Ring had posted an 8.46 ERA over 22 1/3 innings with 16 strikeouts and ten walks. Finishing out the season with Richmond, he continued the familiar pattern, walking seven and fanning seven in nine innings over 11 games.

In his major league career, Ring has been effective against lefties, with an aggregate line of .229/.350/.321 (BA/OBP/SLG). Right-handed hitters had been far more successful with a combined .267/.353/.425 mark against him.

At the July 2007 deadline, just one week after having been optioned out to Triple-A, Ring was traded from San Diego to Atlanta. Ring had failed to make the Padres out of spring training, but was promoted a month later. With the Braves, he was back in the majors when rosters expanded that September.

Ring had joined the Padres in a November 2006 trade with the Mets that also included former Cardinals farmhand Ben Johnson heading the other way. Ring had bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the majors during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, never appearing in more than 26 games in the majors either year. His 42 games with the Braves last season prior to being demoted is his career high in the majors.

As the centerpiece of a July 2003 trade for Roberto Alomar, Ring, at that time a hot-shot 22-year-old Double-A closer, moved from the Chicago White Sox to the Metropolitans.

Ring had been a top collegiate pitcher with San Diego State and was taken by the Sox with their first-round pick, 18th overall in 2002. At the time, he sported a low-90’s fastball and a 73-75 mph slider effective against lefty hitters. Ring was the Sox’ 10th-ranked prospect in 2003 and #13 on the Mets’ list in 2004 according to Baseball America.

Obviously, he has never reached his potential since.

Walton’s take: To me this seems like the addition of more quantity instead of quality in an attempt to meet the Cardinals left-handed need. Apparently they hope someone will emerge from a growing group to work alongside recent signee Trever Miller.

Ring will hop into a shallow pool of left-handed relief hopefuls that includes Nats’ castoff Charlie Manning and former Tigers farmhand Ian Ostlund.

The Cardinals’ primary 2008 lefties, Randy Flores and Ron Villone as well as oft-injured Tyler Johnson, have all been cut loose. At this point, it is hard to see how their prospective 2009 replacements will be any better.