photo: José Rondón (Raj Mehta/Imagn)
Cardinals add minor league infield depth
This past week, the St. Louis Cardinals announced the signings of two players with major league experience to minor league contracts. The two, both infielders, received invitations to major league spring training camp.
Infielder Max Moroff’s deal was announced on Tuesday. Moroff, 27, was the 16th round draft choice of the Pirates in 2012. He made his major league debut with Pittsburgh on July 31, 2016 and appeared in two games that season. Moroff returned for 56 games in 2017 and 26 games in 2018 before being traded to Cleveland on November 14, 2018. Moroff appeared in 20 games for the Indians in 2019 and then elected free agency after being outrighted off the roster. He signed a minor league deal with the Mets and was part of that teams’s 60-man player pool. He did not play in the major leagues for the Mets in 2020.
Moroff, a switch hitter, will be added to the Cardinals infield depth, down considerably with the departures of Kolten Wong, Brad Miller, and Max Schrock. Moroff may begin the 2021 season with the Cardinals Triple-A team, the Memphis Redbirds.
On Friday, the Cardinals announced the addition of infielder Jose Rondon. Rondon, also 27, a Venezuelan native, was originally signed by the Angels as an amateur free agent in 2011. He was traded to the San Diego Padres in July 2014 and added to the Padres 40[man roster in the 2015 offseason. Rondon made his major league debut with the Padres on July 29, 2016. He appeared in only eight games in 2016 and spent all of 2017 with San Diego’s Double-A and Triple-A teams.
In January 2018, the White Sox purchased Rondon’s contract from the Padres. He played in 42 games for the White Sox in 2018 and in 55 games in 2019. He was designated for assignment by Chicago in July of 2019 and claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles. He made one appearance for the Orioles in 2019 and was placed again on waivers and outrighted to the Orioles minor leagues. Rondon remained with the Orioles organization but did not make an appearance in 2020. He became a free agent at the end of the season.
Rondon may join Moroff in Memphis and serve as a infield depth.
In other signing news, the Cardinals re-signed pitcher Ricardo Sanchez to a minor league contract. The 23-year old left-hander made his brief MLB debut in 2020, but was subsequently removed from the roster and became a free agent this fall.
For further information:
On Friday, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt answered questions from the media. He touched on a number of off-season-related topics, some of which were summarized at MLB.com.
— Anne Rogers (@anne__rogers) December 21, 2020
For Cardinals minor league followers, Shildt offered an optimistic perspective on prospects Matthew Liberatore and Nolan Gorman.
Players Alliance visits St. Louis
On Wednesday, the Players Alliance tour came to St. Louis to hand out food and needed supplies to local neighborhood families in need due to the coronavirus epidemic. The non-profit organization was formed in the wake of the death of George Floyd by 100 current and former black MLB players.
Each player in the group donated their game day salaries from Jackie Robinson Day to fund the organization. MLB added $1 million worth of supplies to the Alliance. Cardinals members are Dexter Fowler, Jack Flaherty, and Jordan Hicks.
The Alliance is conducting a 33-city tour this offseason to give back to Black communities. Fowler, Flaherty, and Hicks reside in other cities during the offseason, so the players involved in the St. Louis stop were not Cardinals. They were St. Louis native and 2020 NL Rookie of the Year recipient Devin Williams of the Brewers, St. Louis native James Proctor, a minor league pitcher in the Reds organization, and Texas Rangers pitcher Kyle Gibson, whose wife is from St. Louis and who lives in the area in the offseason. Gibson, who is white, is not a member of the Alliance but volunteered to help out in the local relief effort.
The St. Louis segment included two stops, the first on Gravois Avenue, and the second at the 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis building on Delmar Blvd. The people lined up to received aid were given food, Covid-19 supplies, and baseball equipment. The Cardinals donated items to give out as well. The baseball equipment is a part of an effort to grow Black participation in the game.
The Players Alliance is pulling up to a city near you, investing $1 million to support Black communities across the country 🚛
— ThePlayersAlliance (@Player_Alliance) November 24, 2020
Martinez starts in winter ball
St. Louis pitcher Carlos Martinez, whose 2020 season prematurely ended with a September oblique injury, has begun pitching in winter ball in his Dominican Republic homeland. His stated goal is to be built up to 100 pitches by Cardinals spring training camp, where he will have to compete to retain his starting berth.
— Brian Walton (@B_Walton) December 19, 2020
Members of The Cardinal Nation can follow the winter exploits of a dozen Cardinals hitters and pitchers currently playing across Latin America in our exclusive weekly reports.
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
There are no new trade or acquisition rumors to report. The Cardinals remain in the mix for signing both Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, but no movement toward either has been reported.
The Cardinals were reportedly interested in free agent catcher James McCann, but McCann signed with the Mets and is therefore off the market.
- 12/15 The Cardinals sign INF Max Moroff to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.
- 12/18 The Cardinals sign INF Jose Rondon to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.
- 12/18 The Cardinals re-sign LHP Ricardo Sanchez to a minor league contract.
There are no new injuries to report.
- 1/15/21 Deadline for teams and arbitration eligible players to submit salary figures. The Cardinals have five arbitration eligible players, CF Harrison Bader and RHPs Jack Flaherty, John Gant, Jordan Hicks, and Alex Reyes. All but Gant are first time arbitration eligible. Gant is in his second year of eligibility. Gant has already reached agreement with the Cardinals on a 2021 contract, avoiding arbitration. John Brebbia was originally in this group as well, but was instead non-tendered and remains a free agent. Hearings will occur in February for players who have not yet come to terms with their employer.
- The annual Winter Warm-Up fan festival is going virtual for 2021. Details on the events and opportunities for autographed merchandise can be found at com/wwu. The events will take place January 16-18.
Blast from the Past – Jose Oquendo: 1991-1995
This week’s Blast From the Past continues the series on former Cardinals player and present minor league instructor Jose Oquendo. Today, we review the final five seasons of Oquendo’s playing career. They were down seasons for the team, as the 1991-1995 Cardinals missed the playoffs every year.
In the 1991 season, Oquendo continued to primarily play second base. He made 118 appearances at second, 22 at shortstop and three at first base. Jose slashed .240/.357/.301 that season with one home run and 26 RBI. It would be the final year in which Oquendo was a full time player.
Oquendo suffered a hamstring injury in the 1992 season opener, which kept him out of action until June. He played in only five games in June, five games in July, and three games in September, for a total of 14 games in the season. He slashed .257/.350/.400.
Luis Alicea, who Oquendo replaced in 1988, was recalled from the minor leagues and became Oquendo’s replacement at second base after the injury. Alicea remained the Cardinals primary second baseman in 1993 as well. Oquendo appeared in only 46 games that season – 16 games at second and 22 at shortstop. He slashed only .205/.314/.205.
Oquendo never returned to full time status. Second base in 1994 was shared by Alicea and Geronimo Pena. Oquendo played 16 games at second and 28 games at shortstop in 1994. He also made 14 pinch hitting appearances. His total games played in 1994 was 55. During that season Jose slashed .264/.364/.310.
The 1995 season was Oquendo’s last as a player. He increased his games played total to 88 that season with 62 of them at second base. Alicea had been traded to Boston in the offseason and Oquendo shared the second base duties with Pena, and after July with the newly acquired David Bell, who came over in a trade from Cleveland. Jose also appeared at shortstop in 24 contests, two games at third base, and one game in right field. Jose slashed .209/.316/.300 in his final season.
With new manager Tony La Russa in charge, Oquendo failed to make the team in 1996 spring training and retired. At the age of 32, he had logged 12 seasons in the majors. Jose’s time in baseball, however, was not over. Next week, we will look at Oquendo’s post-playing career.
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