TCN St. Louis Cardinals 2017 Top Story #8: Major Roster Turnover

photo: Mike Leake and Lance Lynn (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Drip, drip, drip.

Virtually no one is talking about 2017 having been a significant transition year for the St. Louis Cardinals, but looking back, that is exactly what it was. However, rather than happening in one fell swoop, the makeover of the club’s 25-man active roster occurred in many small increments. Perhaps that kept the aggregate impact beneath the attention level of many.

Sure, every Major League Baseball club experiences some level of player turnover each year. But the churn on the 2017 Cardinals, when viewed in its entirety, while gradual, was far more extensive than usual.

Specifically, 11 of the 25 players on the Opening Day roster plus two front-liners who began the season on the disabled list are no longer Cardinals. That is a whopping 48.1 percent turnover – just from April to December.

They weren’t just reserves, either. Among these 13 now ex-Cardinals are two members of the 2017 opening five-man rotation, both closers, the starting left side of the infield and the regular right-fielder. From a lineup perspective, the number two, four and six hitters from the Opening Day lineup are no longer with the team.

As an aside, this group does not even include 10 others who left last fall, following the conclusion of the 2016 schedule. They include long-time leader Matt Holliday and veteran starter Jaime Garcia. In other words, a 12-month view of roster turnover may be even more drastic, but I am staying with the 2017 calendar year focus here.

These 2017 departing players were not transients, in fact far from it. Just under half of the 13 were homegrown Cardinals who had been a part of the organization for a very long time. (Players are listed in chronological departure date with the two Opening Day 2017 injured players noted by (DL).)

Homegrown former Cardinal Signed StL debut Departure Move To
Matt Adams 2009 2012 May 17 trade Braves
Kevin Siegrist 2008 2013 Sep. 2 waiver claim Phillies
Lance Lynn 2008 2011 Nov. 2 free agency TBD
Trevor Rosenthal (DL) 2009 2012 Nov. 6 non-tender TBD
Aledmys Diaz 2014 2016 Dec. 1 trade Blue Jays
Stephen Piscotty 2012 2015 Dec. 14 trade A’s

To be specific, the six career-long Cardinals spent a total of 48 years in the organization, including an aggregate of 29 seasons with St. Louis.

Trevor Rosenthal (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Free agent Lance Lynn is the dean – drafted a decade ago and the only one to have debuted with St. Louis under Tony La Russa. Three others joined Lynn on all four playoff clubs during the first four years with manager Mike Matheny – 2012-2015. They are Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist and Matt Adams. Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz were the newbies, initially called up in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

In addition, seven other pitchers and another former starting shortstop have left since Opening Day, as well. In contrast to the above group, five of them had had been Cardinals for two years or less, with all having joined St. Louis from other clubs. To date, only one of the seven has a home for 2018, starter Mike Leake, sent to Seattle with three-plus years remaining on his contract.

Jhonny Peralta (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Among other front-line players at the start of last season to depart since are the incumbent closer Seung-hwan Oh, now a free agent, and Jhonny Peralta, the Opening Day third baseman and clean-up hitter. The infielder joined the Cardinals prior to the 2014 season and started on the left side of the infield for three-plus years before his release in June. The 35-year old soon joined Boston’s Triple-A club in an attempt to return to the majors, but was cut loose again three weeks later.

Other releases include reliever Jonathan Broxton with catcher Eric Fryer electing free agency after being removed from the 40-man roster for the second consecutive year. Among new free agents are relievers Miguel Socolovich (minor league FA after being outrighted) and lefty Zach Duke.

Former Cardinal StL debut Departure Move To
Jonathan Broxton 2016 May 31 release TBD
Jhonny Peralta 2014 Jun. 13 release Red Sox/release
Eric Fryer 2016 Jul. 25 outright/FA TBD
Mike Leake 2016 Aug. 30 trade Mariners
Seung-hwan Oh 2016 Nov. 2 free agency TBD
Zach Duke (DL) 2016 Nov. 2 free agency TBD
Miguel Socolovich 2015 Nov. 6 minors FA TBD

Many of these former Cardinals have been replaced by a wave of younger, homegrown prospects, with the most promising perhaps being Paul DeJong for Diaz, Carson Kelly for Fryer and Jack Flaherty for Leake.

Though the changes are never complete, it seems very safe to suggest that almost 50 percent of the 2018 Opening Day roster will not turn over during this coming year. If it does, however, another uneven and unsatisfying season could be ahead for the Cardinals.

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