Adam Wainwright seems close to returning to the majors as he is building up his strength in rehab starts. Whether he will become a starter or reliever remains to be seen. He’s currently on the 60 day disabled list, which means that he is not taking up a spot on the 40 man roster. When he gets activated, the Cardinals will need to make a counter move to make room for him. I don’t know whether that will be putting someone currently on the 10 day DL onto the 60 or whether it will be outrighting someone to Memphis and subjecting them to waivers (i.e. Tyler Lyons earlier this year)
I am sure the Cardinals have a plan when they do indeed activate Wainwright, but I’m not sure what it is at the moment. The pessimist in me thinks that Michael Wacha is going to go to the 60 Day DL in light of him exiting his most recent rehab start. If not that, I’m not entirely sure. It could be letting Tyson Ross go - even if you’re optimistic on him, he hasn’t exactly pitched in important spots since the spot start and he’s gone after the season anyway. But they have to do something and I don’t see it.
The reason I bring this up? I don’t know what the hell the Cardinals are going to do with the 40 man over the offseason. It’s not just that I don’t see many holes in it right now, it’s that I’m looking over the players and seeing a bunch of keepers for next year too. Alex Reyes, Luke Gregerson, and Dexter Fowler are all on the 60 Day DL, plus you have to consider players you need to add so another team doesn’t pick them up. Let’s go through the list, starting with pitchers with a secure spot for the 25 man roster next year, not just the 40 man.
Luke Weaver (9)
It goes without saying that these players will definitely make the 25 man roster, if they aren’t traded or injured when the season starts, which is a pretty big if given some of the names on there. I’m not basing my Cecil opinion on a few good appearances, but it would be weird if the Cardinals went out on a limb for the guy, he performed, and then they didn’t bring him back. Cecil is staying. The Cardinals traded a valuable piece for Leone, whose advanced stats thus far have been promising. I don’t see him leaving either. The rest are fairly self-explanatory. Now onto the pitchers who will probably make the 40 man because they have options and have proven, at one time or another, to be capable of getting major leaguers out.
Daniel Poncedeleon (15)
Pitchers with options are more valuable to have than pitchers without options, when they are on the fringes of making or not making an MLB roster. Thus I feel reasonably certain these guys will come back and on the 40 man, barring injury or a trade. The most controversial is probably Bowman, but he still has two option years left and actually struck out 23.9% of hitters in his short time healthy, which is easily a career high. He also has a career high walks, but he has a .373 BABIP, a 21.1 HR/FB%, and a 3.82 xFIP so I’m not entirely sure he’s a different pitcher than the last two years, just with way shittier “luck.” Lastly, these players are only uncertain because they are out of options. If you keep them, you’re basically hamstringing yourself if they don’t perform, because they need to be on the MLB roster or they will probably be claimed.
Chasen Shreve (18)
I’m particularly disappointed at Gant and Mayers not having options. The Cardinals may feel they have enough options that could stand out between November, the due date for the 40 man, and April to let them go. The Cardinals seem somewhat committed to having two lefties in the bullpen, so I’m not really sure on Shreve. That does not cover all of the pitchers. Here are the rest of the pitchers not named on the 40 man.
Luke Gregerson (21)
Gonzalez, presumably picked to prevent the Padres from getting him in the Rule 5, is being kept. It looks like he’s had an injury-shortened year, throwing 33 total innings all year. Conner Greene has been not very good, but he’s 23-years-old and in AAA, so I’m sure they want to give him more opportunities. Gregerson is under contract for next season. He’s usually a player the Cardinals keep, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t. Webb is fine, but I doubt someone they keep. That leaves a few pitchers leaving the 40 man roster to become free agents.
It feels safe to say that Ross and Wainwright will not be returning to the Cardinals in 2019. People smarter than me seem convinced the Cardinals will resign Norris, but I don’t think that’s a sure thing right now. So that’s 21 pitchers who have a good case for staying on the 40 man roster, plus Norris if you’re certain he will resign with the Cards. There are a couple, but not many, of that 21 who may not be kept despite the reasoning being there to keep them though. Let’s go through the sure thing hitters to make the 25-man roster next season, if they are not injured or traded. (Do I need to keep using this disclaimer? You guys get it right?)
Kolten Wong (30)
Obviously there’s a few names on this list that are FAR from a sure thing to be on the 25 man roster on March 30, but if they are not traded and are healthy, they will be. There’s pretty good odds that two of Fowler, Martinez, and Gyorko are traded for instance. If two are traded, there’s also a good chance a free agent - oh I don’t know know just spitballing here Manny Machado or Bryce Harper - replaces them. Let’s move to the hitters with options and aren’t going anywhere because of that (insert disclaimer)
Jose Adolis Garcia
Justin Williams (36)
I think JAG should be a more borderline case than he probably is, given the pure glut of OFers, his performance, and his age, but I would still be pretty surprised if he doesn’t stay on there next year. Kelly has one more option year remaining so he can hang around for another year. Munoz and O’Neill have good cases to remain in the majors, much less the 40. Sosa and Williams are super young and having their first taste of AAA this year so they are getting a longer look. That leaves the borderline cases, well sort of anyway.
I’m very curious what they do with Garcia. For his career, he has been a 3.2 WAR player over 832 PAs, or 2.3 WAR player per 600 PAs. That is a very good bench player. He has not been that this year, but he’s still been worth 0.5 WAR in very limited playing time. Munoz threatens his spot. Munoz has been worth 0.1 WAR on the backs of some very bad defensive numbers. (I’m not sure he’s been as bad as the numbers say, but he’s definitely a worse fielder than Garcia in my honest opinion) Wisdom is not coming back I feel fairly confident in saying. Francisco Pena is probably not coming back either.
So that’s 15 players that are coming back, barring a trade or injury, and Garcia, a player who I think could go either way. In total, that’s 36 players plus Norris and Garcia if you feel strongly they are coming back, who need a 40 man roster spot for next season. This does not include players the Cardinals will need to protect in order to keep them. Here are some interesting players, who if I’m reading the rules right, will be eligible in November to everyone if left off the 40 man.
Near as I can tell, that’s it. Randy Arozarena does not appear eligible. Neither does Andrew Knizner. If true, I doubt either gets added. Helsley is a must add. Thomas just turned 23-years-old a week ago and had a 123 wRC+ in AA. I think there’s danger someone might get him. Shrock had a bad season, but is still a middle infielder prospect some team may want to back up on their bad team. I truly have no clue if Urias is actually eligible but he’s been playing professional ball since 2011 so he kind of has to be, right? I think all four are probably put on the 40 man.
Well there you go. It comes out to 40 players. Some of this will be solved, I’m sure, by trades. If Fowler is traded, he’s not returning anyone will need to be added to the 40 man. Jose Martinez either really. This doesn’t include any potential free agent moves. I think the Cardinals are interested in adding somebody on the free agent market. I’m sure Mike Girsch and John Mozeliak are aware of what I’ve laid out. After all, they did trade Oscar Mercado when they seemingly didn’t need to trade him. They might need to make moves like that again in order to add a free agent. I know they don’t like going into the season with all 40 spots filled. The Cardinals had a roster crunch upcoming and I’m very interested to see how they handle it.