photo: Bud Norris (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)
Update: Thanks to sharp-eyed reader @C70 on Twitter, Tyler Lyons is no. 37 on the list. The minor league free agent has been added to the table in the appropriate section below.
Just timing when I flipped my books, Lyons declared free agency on 10/2, about a month before the other MLB and MiLB free agents. I agree he should be included, though. Is there something about his uniform number that has special allure to you? Seriously, thanks for the heads up.
— Brian Walton (@B_Walton) March 2, 2019
With St. Louis Cardinals minor league camp almost open, it is time once again to focus on the promise of the new season. Before 2018 is officially forgotten, it seems appropriate to say goodbye one last time to a group of 36 players who have become ex-Cardinals since the close of the 2018 season. This is significantly higher than the 28 departures the winter before and closer to the 40 from two years ago.
The largest group to leave the organization is typically free agents, but this fall was an exception, with releases predominating. The vast majority of the 16 players cut loose were short-season pitchers, an area in which the Cardinals as an organization was weak in 2018.
St. Louis had 12 players become free agents following the 2018 season, same as the year before. Four were off the major league roster with the other eight minor league free agents, again identical to the prior winter. However, the difference this year is that three re-signed with the Cardinals for 2019, leaving a net of nine losses in this area.
The Cardinals lost four additional players via trade. Three were claimed off waivers as the club removed them from the 40-man roster. Two were lost in the Rule 5 draft and another two retired.
All 36 are outlined in the following.
Major league free agents (4-1)
Of the four major league free agents, three are pitchers.
|MLB FA (4-1)||A. Wainwright (resign)||RH||StL||Matt Adams||1B||StL|
Two pitchers, Bud Norris (Toronto) and Tyson Ross (Detroit), have new homes for 2019. Same for first baseman Matt Adams, returning to Washington. As many know, Adam Wainwright’s free agency was a necessary formality before he could sign a lower-dollar, incentive-laden deal to return to St. Louis for a 12th season.
|MLB trade (3)||Luke Weaver||RH||StL||Carson Kelly||C||StL|
|Minors trade (1)||none||Andy Young||2B||Spr|
This area was rather quiet the winter after the Cardinals reworked the roster with trades. Of course, the one deal made was a huge one. 40-man roster pitcher Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly moved to Arizona along with minor league second baseman Andy Young. St. Louis’ second trade was with Texas, as third baseman Patrick Wisdom headed south with Drew Robinson the newest Cardinal.
Major league waivers (3)
|MLB waivers (3)||Matt Bowman||RH||StL||Greg Garcia||2B||StL|
Multiple other teams were interested in players for whom the Cardinals no longer had room. In the case of infielder Greg Garcia, he reached arbitration eligibility and his higher salary meant he could be replaced by a less-experienced, less-expensive infield reserve.
To free up 40-man roster space for players they wanted to protect from the Rule 5 draft, the Cardinals placed pitchers Matt Bowman, Conner Greene, Derian Gonzalez on outright waivers. Only Gonzalez cleared and remained with the organization. Bowman moved to the Reds with Greene a Royal.
Minor League Rule 5 Draft (2)
|Minors Rule 5 (2)||Chris Ellis||RH||Spr||none|
Though they were inactive in the major league phase, the Cardinals lost one pitcher for good in that segment of the draft in December, as Chris Ellis was selected by Texas and traded to Kansas City. He could still be returned. In the minor league phase of the Rule 5, pitcher Winston Nicacio was taken by the Pirates and will not be returned.
Minor league free agents (9-2)
With the Cardinals having released a number of older minor league free agents during the season, eight declared free agency for the upcoming season. As noted above, that is the same as the year before, with the difference being that two returned for 2019.
|Minors FA (9-2)||Edward Mujica||RH||Mem||Francisco Pena (resign)||C||Mem|
|Tommy Layne (resign)||LH||Mem||Steven Baron||C||Mem|
|Elniery Garcia||LH||Spr||Wilfredo Tovar||2B||Mem|
|Tyler Lyons||LH||Mem||Alex Mejia||SS||Mem|
Four of them were former 40-man roster players, including reliever Edward Mujica, who was on his second turn with the organization. The others are catcher Francisco Peña, who later returned to the Cardinals as a free agent, and infielder Alex Mejia and catcher Steven Baron. The other returnee is lefty pitcher Tommy Layne, a local St. Louis product.
Of the eight, the only homegrown Cardinal was Mejia with the others being repeat free agents or trade acquisitions. Mejia was St. Louis’ fourth-round draft pick in 2012 and signed to play in Mexico for 2019.
Other Minor League departures (18)
A whopping 18 2018 Cardinals left the organization in a manner other than free agency, trade and Rule 5 during this past off-season. Specifically, 16 were released and two hung up their spikes for good.
|Minors release (16)||Colton Thomson||LH||PB||Joe Freiday||C||GCL|
|Robbie Gordon||RH||Peo||Sanel Rosendo||OF||JC|
|Minors retire (2)||Andrew Summerville||LH||Peo||none|
12 of the 18 were short-season pitchers, with two more releases from the position player ranks. Both the retirees and the other two players cut loose played in Class-A ball in 2018.
The biggest surprise may be the retirement of Evan Guillory, who pitched very well in his full-season debut with Peoria last season before struggling at Palm Beach in the second half.
36 players have left the Cardinals organization since the end of last season – nine from the 40-man roster and 27 minor leaguers. 25 are pitchers, with the other 11 being position players.
In Part 2 of this annual series, I will take on a similar analysis of all the new Cardinals who have arrived for 2019.
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. In the off-season version of the Roster Matrix, you can also check out where the players from above who have re-signed for 2019 landed.
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