The Cardinals got a head start to clear some 40-man roster space and announced the following transactions this afternoon:
Activated LHP Brett Cecil, RHP Jordan Hicks and OF Lane Thomas from the 60-day IL
Outrighted C Joe Hudson to AAA Memphis
Noted the loss of RHP Mike Mayers to the Los Angeles Angels on an outright assignment waiver claim
60-day IL Players
The Major League Rules require that all clubs activate all the players from their 60-day MLB Injured Lists by 5:00 EST on the 5th day following the final game of the World Series, regardless of whether the players had actually spent 60 days on the list. The deadline was thus on Monday, November 4th, but the Cardinals went ahead and complied with that requirement early. The 40-man roster being at 36 players before this move, the activation of Cecil, Hicks and Thomas put the Cards’ 40-man roster at 39.
The Outright of Joe Hudson
Hudson was Andrew Knizner’s backup catcher at AAA Memphis in 2019 and was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds organization in the 6th round of the 2012 draft. Although he didn’t play at all for some reason in 2012, he went on to have 5 full seasons in the Reds’ organization and was a non-roster invitee to their major league training camp in 2016 and 2018. He didn’t crack AAA until his age-27 season in 2018, and after only 16 games played that year for AAA Louisville, the Reds traded him to the Los Angeles Angels organization for straight cash on June 30th of that year. After spending time in both AA and AAA for the Angels, that club purchased his contract after rosters expanded on September 4th, 2018 and he got 4 starts behind the plate, with 2 hits in 12 PA.
Right after the 2018 World Series ended, the Angels designated him for assignment and outrighted him to AAA Salt Lake after he cleared outright assignment waivers. Because Hudson had spent 7 seasons on a minor league reserve list, Hudson was automatically declared a minor league free agent 2 days later. Hudson then signed a minor league deal with the Cards later in November of 2018 and was invited to 2019 spring training. In 222 PA with Memphis in 2019, he managed a 65 wRC+ and a .223/.293/.411 slash line with 10 HR. He started 52 games at catcher and threw out 15 of 38 runners trying to steal against him for a 39.5% caught stealing percentage.
When the Cards transferred Lane Thomas from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL on September 1st of 2019 when rosters expanded, they added Hudson to the 40-man roster at that time to take Thomas’s spot. They did this because Matt Wieters injured his calf running the bases in Game 2 of the doubleheader on August 31st, and they wanted to protect themselves in case Wieters missed more time than they expected. The move still seemed unnecessary at the time, given that Molina would likely not miss much starting time in a pennant race, and the Cards still had Knizner on hand if they wanted to rest Molina. As it turned out, Hudson basically rotted on the bench. He never played in the field, and had only 1 plate appearance, striking out looking in the bottom of the 8th inning of a 10-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on September 13th as a pinch hitter for Paul Goldschmidt of all people.
Before the Cards could outright Hudson to AAA Memphis, they had to first place him on outright assignment waivers, which are irrevocable. They likely did this on Wednesday, and the club announced his outright today, which means he cleared waivers, and no team wanted to add him to their 40-man roster at this time. The outright of Hudson shows just how valuable 40-man roster spots are. Hudson still had all 3 minor league options remaining, and his career caught stealing percentage in the minor leagues was 44%. But the Cards felt like they needed his spot and were prepared to just add a catcher to the 40-man roster at a later time if something happened to either Yadier Molina or Knizner.
Because Hudson has spent at least parts of 7 seasons in the minor leagues, he will be automatically declared a Rule 55 minor league free agent on November 4th at 5:00 EST unless he signs a 2020 minor league contract with the Cardinals before then. He also has the right to elect free agency in lieu of accepting an outright assignment because he has been previously outrighted in his career (by the Angels in the 2018 offseason). Because this took place during the offseason, he would have 3 days to make the election.
While it is possible that Hudson could sign another minor league deal with the Cardinals for next season, I think you can expect him to be working for another organization next season on a minor league deal. With Wieters and now Hudson off the books, Knizner is the clear backup catcher in the majors, and the next men up for catchers in the minor leagues are Jose Godoy—who is eligible to be declared a minor league free agent himself on Monday—Brian O’Keefe and Julio Rodriguez. The Cardinals could also look to the International Brotherhood of Backup Catchers to sign someone to a minor-league deal for Memphis depth.
The Angels Claim Mayers on Waivers
The Cardinals also placed Mike Mayers on outright assignment waivers, but he was claimed by the Los Angeles Angels. The Cards drafted Mayers in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft, and he began his career as a starter. The club first purchased his contract in July of 2016, and he made a painful start on July 24th of that year against the Dodgers at Busch Stadium, allowing 9 ER on 8 H, including 2 HR in just 1.1 IP. He pitched 3 games out of the bullpen in 2016 and 3 more in 2017, before spending his last option year in 2018 on the Memphis shuttle as a reliever, doing a solid job despite the fact that Mike Matheny had him stowed as the reliever under glass while he was still the manager earlier in the season.
The 2019 season, however, was a different story. Mayers always threw hard and developed a curveball, but had trouble finding the plate. Injuries could have had something to do with it. The Cards placed him on the 10-day IL with a right shoulder lat strain on April 16th after only 8 games pitched, during which time he allowed 2 HR and walked 5 batters in just 5 IP with an 18.5% ground ball percentage. The Cards then transferred him to the 60-day IL on June 17th to make room on the 40-man roster for Rangel Ravelo, a move necessary because Yairo Munoz went on the paternity list. Mayers did not return to action until July 24th, but the Cards designated him for assignment after only 4 additional games on August 4th and outrighted him to AAA Memphis on August 6th after no one claimed him on outright assignment waivers. In addition to needing room for Adalberto Mejia, who had just been claimed on waivers, the basic reason assigned by the Cards was that Mayers was out of minor league options, he was not sharp, and the club did not feel like they could afford to let him get sharp in the major league bullpen during a pennant race. He again struggled with control, walking 5 more men in only 4 games and 5.1 IP.
In what many believed was a stunning move, the Cards decided to add Mayers back to the 40-man roster on September 1st when rosters expanded to take the spot of Drew Robinson, who had recently been released. Between the time of his outright to Memphis and September 1st, Mayers pitched 10 one-inning games and allowed 10 hits, but only 2 ER to go along with 3 BB and 15 SO. While the club felt that was good enough to help them down the pennant stretch in September, Mike Shildt only brought him in to pitch 4 times the rest of the season. One of the games was the 2nd game of a double header on September 1st, and he languished in the bullpen between September 6th and September 25th without pitching at all. Mayers ended the 2019 season with a negative WAR, a walk rate of over 5 men per 9 innings and an xFIP over 6.
Had Mayers gone unclaimed, he would have been in a similar boat to Hudson. He would have been declared a minor league free agent automatically on Monday November 4th, and would also have had the separate right to elect free agency in lieu of an outright assignment because the Cards outrighted him earlier this year. As it stands, Mayers will not be outrighted anywhere right now, because the Los Angeles Angels claimed him on outright assignment waivers and were awarded the claim today. This requires the Angels to add him to their 40-man roster immediately, and since he is out of options, they will have to put him on outright assignment waivers themselves if they want to assign him to the minor leagues.
The Angels were the 10th worst club in Major League Baseball going by 2019 regular season winning percentage (.444), without regard to the playoffs. We don’t know if any club other than the Angels put in a claim for Mayers, but we do know that the Tigers, Orioles, Marlins, Royals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Pirates, Padres and Rockies all took a pass on him. If any one of those clubs had put in a claim, they would have had priority over the Angels. If any one of the remaining 19 clubs had put in a claim, the Angels’ claim would have taken precedence.
With the moves described above, the Cards’ 40-man roster now stands at 37. It is likely that between now and November 20th, the date to protect prospects from the Rule 5 draft, you will see a couple of additional spots cleared to make room. Stay tuned for news on Monday, November 4th, when we will find out if the Cards extend a qualifying offer to Marcell Ozuna and whether the Cards decide to stop any of 11 potential minor-league free agents from being lost by adding them to the 40-man roster.