While just about every team is announcing their 60-man Club Player Pool, for some reason, the Cardinals, through Twitter, only released a list of 44 names, which constitutes the players that have been invited to the second spring training. The same tweet informs us that the club will have a “future announcement regarding additional players in our 60-player pool.” Clubs have called this camp different things, from Spring Training 2.0 to July Training, but the Cardinals have followed suit with the Cincinnati Reds and are calling this the “Summer Camp Roster.”
There are a few possibilities here. The first is that although the 2020 MLB Operations Manual clearly called for clubs to submit both a spring training invite list and a 60-man CPP list, that this was the only list the club submitted to MLB. Or that this was a dual list, and the initial CPP list only consisted of 44 players. The Manual just states that a club can’t have more than 60 players on the CPP, and clearly contemplates that players can be added. If the Cards did submit a larger CPP list, I don’t understand why the Cards wouldn’t tell us the names of the rest of the possible 16 players that would constitute the rest of the 60-man CPP. It is possible, therefore, that the club just couldn’t make up its mind, and wanted to wait until later to submit an updated list that would consist of players that will start work at the Alternate Training Site on July 14th. At the same time, the heading on the Cards’ tweet just announced their list as the Summer Camp Roster, and further announced that “We will make a future announcement regarding additional players in our 60-player pool.” It’s unclear if they already have a 60-player pool and just decided not to announce the rest of it. Either way, every player they did announce that is on the 44-man summer camp roster is on the 60-man CPP.
What I am going to do here is remind everyone of what the state of the Cardinals’ roster was up to this point by tracing how we got here from the point that players were invited to the first spring training that was shut down in March. Then I will discuss the 44-man “summer camp roster,” note and identify any discrepancies and oddities, describe what it means from a transaction standpoint, then provide some other roster musings.
FROM FEBRUARY 12th to NOW
The Cardinals initially invited 72 players to the first spring training. As of that time, the 40-man roster was full, with the last 40-man roster transaction being the Cards’ signing of UT Brad Miller to a major league contract and RHP Jordan Hicks being placed on the 60-day IL. That left 32 non-roster invitees. From that point until now, the following transactions took place:
3/2/20: Invited IF Kramer Robertson to major league camp as a NRI.
This increased the camp size to 73 and the number of NRIs to 33. The Cards did this because they felt they needed middle infield depth after Yairo Munoz injured his hamstring running to first base in a February 29th game and Brad Miller was scratched from a planned March 1st start with lower back stiffness.
3/7/20: Placed UT Yairo Munoz on unconditional release waivers. Optioned 3B Elehuris Montero and LHP Ricardo Sanchez to AA Springfield. Optioned RHP Alvaro Seijas to A+ Palm Beach. Assigned RHP Akeem Bostick, RHP Nabil Crismatt, RHP Seth Elledge, RHP Alex FaGalde, RHP Griffin Roberts, RHP Angel Rondon, RHP Ramon Santos, 1B Luken Baker, C Julio Rodriguez and C Alexis Wilson to minor league camp. Before that date, without formally announcing it, the Cards also assigned C Aaron Antonini and C Pedro Pages to minor league camp.
We all know what happened with Yairo Munoz, but if you need a refresher, you can check out this piece I wrote on it. He basically just left camp because he got injured then got mad, and the Cards decided to cut him loose. The other moves and options, which were expected, left the 40-man roster at 39, and the camp roster at 57 (36 40-man roster players and 21 NRIs).
3/19/20: Optioned OF Austin Dean, IF Edmundo Sosa, OF Justin Williams and RHP Jake Woodford to AAA Memphis.
By this point spring training had been cancelled and opening day had been delayed indefinitely. The interesting part about this was that this was officially Edmundo Sosa’s fourth minor league option, a rare procedure which I wrote about here.
3/26/20: Optioned LHP Genesis Cabrera, RHP Junior Fernandez, C Andrew Knizner and RHP Alex Reyes to AAA Memphis.
MLB ordered a transaction freeze the next day. The moves of 3/26 and 3/19 were designed to situate the clubs’ rosters as close to their planned 26-man roster as they could reasonably anticipate. One reason could have been to make sure that if players that they did not anticipate making the opening day roster got injured or infected, those players would not be required to be placed on the MLB injured to list and thus earn MLB pay and MLB service time. The moves of 3/26 and 3/19, collectively put the non-existent camp roster at 49, which consisted of 28 40-man roster players and 21 NRIs.
5/27/20: Memphis Redbirds released C Oscar Hernandez.
The transaction freeze applied to MLB opening day only, and around this time, there was a huge wave of releases from minor league affiliates. I mention this one because Hernandez was still considered a NRI at that point because he had not been re-assigned to the minor leagues. This put the then non-existent camp roster at 48, with 28 40-man roster players and 20 NRIs.
6/27/20: Placed RHP John Brebbia on the 45-day IL (right UCL tear).
We didn’t hear that Brebbia even had an arm problem until after the fact, much less that he had Tommy John surgery. Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch later reported here that Brebbia experienced a pull on his elbow during his final pitches of the first spring training. After spring training was cancelled, Brebbia had his elbow scanned, which revealed a partial tear. He was initially given a platelet-rich plasma injection, and when that didn’t help, he had Tommy John surgery on June 8th in St. Louis.
The March transaction freeze was lifted on Friday, June 26th at Noon EST. The Cardinals did not tweet this transaction as they usually do, and the only place I found it was on the transaction pages on MLB.com. The MLB 2020 Operations Manual states that the 60-day Injured List has been shortened to 45 days. Now that clubs have begun to use this transaction, the transaction pages are still calling it the 60-day IL, even though for this season it’s really not. Normally, this transaction would not have been legal, because the usual rule is that a club may not use the 60-day-IL unless its 40-man roster is full, and the Cards’ 40-man roster was not full. But the Manual notes that that rule has been waived this year. Brebbia will be out the rest of this season and probably the first half of next season.
This collective series of transactions put the Cards’ 40-man roster at 38, and the non-existent camp roster at 47, with 27 40-man roster players and 20 NRIs.
Here was the state of the “camp roster” at this point:
40-man roster players (27):
Pitchers (14): Cecil, Flaherty, Gallegos, Gant, Gomber, Helsley, Hudson, Kim, C. Martinez, Mikolas, A. Miller, Ponce de Leon, Wainwright, Webb
Position Players (13): Molina, Wieters, Carpenter, DeJong, Edman, Goldschmidt, B. Miller, Ravelo, Wong, Bader, Fowler, O’Neill, Thomas
Pitchers (10): Cruz, Dobzanski, Kaminsky, Kruczynski, Liberatore, Oviedo, Parsons, Ramirez, Thompson, Whitley
Position Players (10): Godoy, Herrera, Ortega, Soto, Gorman, Mendoza, Robertson, Nogowski, Schrock, Carlson.
CARDS ANNOUNCE 44-MAN SUMMER CAMP ROSTER
Today, about 2 hours after the deadline to turn it in, the Cards announced a list of 44 players who they have decided to invite to this second spring training, which the club is calling Summer Camp. All of the following players are both a part of the 60-man CPP list and have been invited to this second spring training, now being called summer camp. Here is the camp invite list:
Genesis Cabrera, Brett Cecil, Junior Fernandez, Jack Flaherty, Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant, Austin Gomber, Ryan Helsley, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, Kwang-Hyun Kim, Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Andrew Miller, Johan Oviedo, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Alex Reyes, Ricardo Sanchez, Adam Wainwright, Tyler Webb, Kodi Whitley, Jake Woodford
Jose Godoy, Ivan Herrera, Andrew Knizner, Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters
Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Brad Miller, John Nogowski, Rangel Ravelo, Max Schrock, Edmundo Sosa, Kolten Wong
Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson, Austin Dean, Dexter Fowler, Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, Justin Williams
SUMMER CAMP ROSTER ANALYSIS
*There were 24 camp pitchers listed before the announcement, and now there are 22. Cabrera, Fernandez, Reyes, Sanchez and Woodford were 40-man roster pitchers that had been optioned to the minor leagues and are now back on the summer camp roster. I’m going to treat them as being recalled to major league camp. This has been the traditional procedure in camp in the past when someone has been optioned and sent to minor league camp, then was brought to major league camp. I believe this also to be consistent with the Manual, which says that optioned players will be treated as assigned to the Alternate Training Site. By definition, these players are in camp and not at the ATS.
*Of the 10 NRI pitchers that were left before the announcement, only RHP Johan Oviedo and RHP Kodi Whitley have been invited to this summer camp. The previous camp pitchers that didn’t make this cut are Jesus Cruz, Bryan Dobzanski, Rob Kaminsky, Evan Kruczynski, Matthew Liberatore, Tommy Parsons, Roel Ramirez and Zack Thompson.
*Of the 40-man roster pitchers, only RHP Alvaro Seijas, whose highest level of play has been Class-A Advanced Palm Beach, was not invited to camp.
*The wild card pitcher here is RHP Jordan Hicks. Hicks had been recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the Cards placed him on the 60-day IL on February 12th, which was the first day that pitchers and catchers were authorized to report to the first spring training. Hicks blew out his elbow in a game against the California Angels on June 22nd, 2019. Recovery time for successful cases is typically between 12 and 14 months. He was not expected to be back in action under normal conditions until this season’s All-Star Break. He’s clearly not ready for major league action now. Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch quoted John Mozeliak here as saying “I don’t know where Hicks will be in this,” and that Hicks might be ready be opening day or by August 1st. Yet the Cards have included Hicks on their summer camp invite list. That means he is on the 60-man CPP, because only CPP players may be invited to spring training. It’s very odd, however, because he’s supposedly still on the 60-day (now 45-day) IL. The Manual states that players on the 60-day IL do not have to count against the 60-man CPP, and that players on the 60-day IL may use club facilities and engage in club-organized baseball activities despite not being on the CPP.
But there had to have been quite a bit of planning for the club to put it’s spring list together. Despite the list not being officially due until today, the 2020 Operations Manual states that clubs had to submit a list to MLB by 7 days before the spring training report date of all people, including players, that it wanted to designate to have various levels of access to the facility. There are three tiers, and players are classified as Tier 1. A maximum of 60 players that are in the CPP can be given Tier 1 access.
Perhaps the issue is as simple as this: the club has already announced that a camp at the Alternate Training Site in Springfield will not open until July 14th. Although Hicks may not be ready to rock right now, he is on a throwing program, and the club wants him to be able to continue to work out right away under the supervision of club personnel. The only way to do that was to put him on both the 60-man CPP and 44-man summer camp invite list so he can get his COVID screening done and be ready to work on July 1st. Hicks is just in a very odd state from a transaction standpoint, as I’ve never heard of someone on any kind of injured list being considered to be a player in camp. Much less a pitcher not on the 40-man roster because he is on the 60-day IL.
*There were 23 position players listed before the announcement, and like with pitchers, now there are 22. Dean, Sosa, Williams and Knizner were 40-man roster players that had been optioned to the minor leagues and are now back on the summer camp roster. I will treat these players as being recalled to major league camp.
*Of the 10 NRI position players that were left before the announcement, only C Jose Godoy, C Ivan Herrera, 1B John Nogowski, IF Max Schrock and OF Dylan Carlson have been invited to this summer camp. The previous camp position players that didn’t make this cut are C Dennis Ortega, C Carlos Soto, 3B Nolan Gorman, IF Evan Mendoza and IF Kramer Robertson.
*Of the 40-man roster position players, only 3B Elehuris Montero, who basically had a lost season at AA Springfield last year due to injury, was not invited to camp.
*The Cards’ 44-man camp roster consists of 36 out of 38 40-man roster players, one player who is currently on the 60-day IL, and 7 non-roster invitees. Only RHP Johan Oviedo, LHP Ricardo Sanchez and C Ivan Herrera have not had at least some time in AAA. Oviedo last played for AA Springfield. Sanchez last pitched for the AA Arkansas Travelers in the Seattle Mariners organization. Herrera last played with A-Advanced Palm Beach, and that was only for 18 games.
*There is no one in this camp that was not invited to the first spring training camp. There are 13 players that were left over from the time the last camp ended that are not invited to this camp:
Pitchers: (8) Jesus Cruz, Bryan Dobzanski, Rob Kaminsky, Evan Kruczynski, Matthew Liberatore, Tommy Parsons, Roel Ramirez and Zack Thompson.
Position Players: (5) C Dennis Ortega, C Carlos Soto, 3B Nolan Gorman, IF Evan Mendoza and IF Kramer Robertson.
With 44 players in camp and a total possible 60-man Club Player Pool, it is possible that all 13 of these players either have been or could be placed on the CPP. We don’t know for sure, but it could be a good bet. If they were left over from the previous camp, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think the club thinks highly enough of them to keep them working once the Alternate Training Site opens up on July 14th. If all 13 players are placed on the CPP, that would leave an additional 3 players who could be added.
DYLAN CARLSON IS NOT A LOCK FOR OPENING DAY
Dylan Carlson was the only non-roster invitee outfielder that was invited to the first spring training, and remains the only non-roster invitee outfielder in the upcoming summer camp. But he is not a lock for even an opening day 30-man active roster. First, MLB has announced that there will be no limit on the number of pitchers a club may roster this season. Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch quoted manager Mike Shildt here as stating that “I don’t think we would go over 14 position players, so that puts us at a minimum of 16 pitchers.” Mozeliak added in the same article that the purpose of the expanded roster was to give clubs extra pitching. They have already talked about piggybacking starts and pitchers going few innings at the beginning.
All along during spring training, with a 26-man planned roster, we were expecting a 5-man bench of C Matt Wieters, UT Tommy Edman, UT Brad Miller, 1B Rangel Ravelo and OF Lane Thomas. It’s not unthinkable that the club would stick with just a 5-man bench and go with 17 pitchers. For one thing, now that the DH is being used, you can call that 5-man group the DH/bench group. Using the DH limits the substitutions and pinch hitting and gives players the option to rest from playing the field. Sticking with the 5-man group would allow the club to use all of Gomber, Helsley, Cabrera, Fernandez and Reyes on opening day, leaving only Sanchez, Seijas and Woodford as 40-man roster pitchers at the Alternate Training Site to start. It would not be a bogus setup at all to use 17 pitchers and leave Carlson at the ATS.
Now if Shildt and company decide to only use the 16 pitchers that they have said is a minimum, then you could see Carlson added to the 40-man. There is room, and your other choices would be Austin Dean, Edmundo Sosa, Andrew Knizner and Justin Williams. But there would be nothing wrong with carrying a third catcher in Knizner to lighten the load. And it’s not like a normal season where Knizner could play every day with AAA Memphis. The minor league season has been cancelled, there will be no intersquad games at the Alternate Training Site, and the club would not be wrong in wanting him to get some real game action. This is also Justin Williams’s final option year, and the club might want to actually use him in game situations to see what he has to offer, instead of having him burn his final option year with no game action at all.
Then there is the little factor of service time and option years. Do the Cardinals want to avoid starting Carlson’s free agency clock? Based upon the agreed upon formula for pro-rated service time, the club would only have to leave Carlson off of the active roster for either 5 or 6 days, depending on rounding, and he would not accrue a full year of service time. Check my service time analysis here. Ok, then why wouldn’t the Cards add Carlson to the 40-man roster, put him on the opening day 30-man active roster, and then just option him to the Alternate Training Site 15 days later when the rosters will be knocked down to 28? Because that would burn one of Carlson’s three option years, and one might question the wisdom of adding Carlson to the 40-man roster and burning one of the young man’s option years in a short season with no minor league games to show for it.
It will be interesting to see what the Cardinals do, but there are good faith reasons to keep Carlson off of the opening day roster, and it will not be a sham if the Cardinals do not add him.