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TA 7/28: Gallegos Activated, Mikolas To IL, Woodford Recalled, & Why the Cards Played Short

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Cards announced today that the club activated Giovanny Gallegos from the COVID-19 Related Injury List and activated him onto the 30-man roster. Miles Mikolas has been placed on the 10-day IL (right forearm strain), retroactive to July 25th and Jake Woodford has been recalled from the ATS.

When J.P. Hill and I outlined the active roster and debated various decisions, we noted that the Cards opened the season with only 29 players. And we said that we did not understand how the Cards could keep a player essentially in abeyance to add to the active roster in case Gallegos was not ready to go. Gallegos was placed on the COVID-19 Related Injury list on July 18th. The opening day roster had to be submitted at Noon EST on July 23rd. Jake Woodford was considered the next man up to replace Gallegos on the active roster if Gallegos was not ready to go. Yet when the roster was released, neither Gallegos nor Woodford was on it. The Operations Manual specifically said that although 30 was the active roster limit to start the season, the minimum number of players is 25. So opening with 29 was legal. But what about Woodford? What state was he in?

I had just assumed that when Woodford didn’t make the opening day roster on July 23rd, he was optioned to the Alternate Training Site on that date. And having made that assumption, I further assumed that, having been optioned, he had to spend the first 10 days of the regular season on option, and would not be able to replace Gallegos on the active roster if Gallegos was not ready to go in a timely manner. Gallegos was placed on the IL on July 18th, and I though Woodford was optioned after that. Thus, Gallegos being unavailable would not provide justification for the waiver of the 10-day option rule. Right?

Wrong. I forgot something critically important. Back during Spring Training 1.0 in March, and extending up through the transaction freeze on March 26th, the Cardinals optioned 11 players to the minor leagues: Ricardo Sanchez, Alvaro Seijas, Elehuris Montero, Austin Dean, Justin Williams, Edmundo Sosa, Woodford, Genesis Cabrera, Junior Fernandez, Andrew Knizner and Alex Reyes. Woodford’s name is on that list. Where I got tripped up was when the Cards introduced their initial Club Player Pool of 44 players and assigned 44 players to their Summer Camp Roster. Every one of those 11 players I mentioned was listed on the Summer Camp Roster, except for Seijas, who was assigned to the Alternate Training Site when it was instituted on July 14th, and Montero, who was added to the Summer Camp Roster a little later.

In past seasons, when a player had been optioned during Spring Training and then sent back to big league camp, he was officially recalled. I made the false assumption that when Woodford and the other guys were placed on the Summer Camp roster—this year’s equivalent of big league spring training—that they were recalled. But they were not, and that’s where I messed up. I got tripped up on a section in the Manual that talked about transactions between the big club and the Alternate Training Site. Those players have actually been on option this whole time even though they were assigned to Summer Camp. They didn’t begin to burn the option until MLB Opening Day. But they were still optioned.

This is why the Cardinals’ plan complied with the rules. The normal 10-day option rule provides an exception if the optioned player is being recalled to take the place of a player who is being placed on a major league injured list, as long as that player was placed on the IL after the player was optioned initially. Woodford was actually optioned on March 19th, was never recalled and was not optioned again. Gallegos was placed on the COVID-19 Related Injury List on July 18th. The club could legally start the season with 29 players. Unlike other injury lists, the COVID-19 Related Injury List has no minimum or maximum stay, so the Cards could have activated Gallegos whenever they thought he was ready. If Gallegos had not been ready in a timely enough manner for the Cardinals’ liking, they could have just recalled Woodford, and used Gallegos’ IL placement to justify the 10-day option rule being waived. They could do that because Gallegos’ IL placement took place after Woodford’s option and not before! The rules don’t say the recall has to happen immediately upon the IL placement. As long as the IL placement occurs after the option, it’s all good.

If the Cards had named Woodford as the 30th player on the roster when opening day rosters were submitted, activated Gallegos today and then optioned Woodford in the corresponding roster move, Woodford would have then been lost for 10 days (until August 6th), unless the club could come up with some other IL move. He would normally have been available after 10 days of the regular season had elapsed, which would be August 2nd. That might not be that big of a deal, but what if one of their other pitchers couldn’t get anybody out for some reason in that window and there was no injury they could come up with? The club wanted wanted to be protected fully and have Woodford available just in case.

In a normal season, something like this never would have happened. The club could have legally started the season one player short under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. But in a normal season, to justify the recall of Woodford before the 10-day period, the club would have had to place Gallegos on a regular injured list, which could only be made retroactive to opening day by three days. This year, the regular injured list for pitchers was originally supposed to increase from 10 to 15 days, so Gallegos would have been lost for the first 12 days of the regular season. Even with a 10-day injured list, he would have been lost for 7 days. Losing Gallegos automatically for that long would defeat the purpose of the entire strategy.

The closest thing the Cards might have done in a normal season would have been to just name Gallegos to a full opening day roster, then send him to the injured list after a couple of days if he wasn’t ready. In that case, they could have recalled Woodford. Why didn’t they just name Gallegos to start with this season? Gallegos’ being named to the COVID-19 Related IL to begin with was a little questionable to begin with, although I understand why it was allowed. As I discussed here, I presume he was allowed to be placed on the list, even though he had been cleared to join the team for workouts, because a COVID issue made him not ready for game action on opening day. If the Cards then activated him and put him on the opening day roster, the Cards would be telling the Joint Committee that he is ready to go. Although the COVID-19 Related IL has no minimum or maximum stay, it still requires the permission of the Joint Committee to use. It would have been really strange for the Cards, having activated him, and him facing no new COVID issue, to tell the Joint Committee “Psych. Sorry, he really wasn’t ready like we thought.” Maybe permission to put him back on would have been denied. At the very least, it would be sort of sketchy.

So there you have it. A bunch of factors conspired to make this happen: a larger opening day active roster, Woodford being optioned way back in spring training 1.0, and the presence of a special injured list that requires no minimum stay. I hope I have made this as as easy as possible to understand, because sorting through all of this has been quite the challenge.

SUMMER CAMP TRANSACTIONS THROUGH TODAY

In case you haven’t followed us throughout the course of summer camp, here are the transactions the Cards engaged in to get us to this point:

6/27/20: Transaction freeze lifted. Placed John Brebbia on the 45-day IL. 40-man roster at 38 (It was at 39 when the Cards released Yairo Munoz during Spring Training 1.0).

6/28/20: Cards announce a Club Player Pool of 44 players, consisting of 36 40-man roster players, one player on the 45-day IL (Hicks) and 7 NRIs. All 44 players are assigned to the Summer Camp Roster.

7/1/20: Added 3B Elehuris Montero to the CPP and assigned him to the Summer Camp Roster. CPP at 45.

7/7/20: Added RHP Seth Elledge, LHP Rob Kaminsky and LHP Zack Thompson to the CPP and assigned them to the Summer Camp Roster. CPP at 48.

7/8/20: Added RHP Nabil Crismatt, OF Tre Fletcher, 3B Nolan Gorman, LHP Matthew Liberatore, IF Evan Mendoza, 3B Malcolm Nunez, RHP Roel Ramirez, C Julio Rodriguez, RHP Angel Rondon, RHP Alvaro Seijas, 3B Jordan Walker and RHP Masyn Winn to the CPP and assigned them all to the Alternate Training Site in Springfield. CPP full at 60. 48 in Camp and 12 at ATS.

7/13/20: Placed RHP Jordan Hicks on the Restricted List (opted out of the season). 40-man roster still at 38 because he was already on the 45-day IL. CPP at 59. 47 in Camp and 12 at ATS.

7/16/20: Re-assigned RHP Seth Elledge, C Ivan Herrera, LHP Rob Kaminsky and LHP Zack Thompson to the ATS. 48 in Summer Camp. 43 in Camp and 16 at ATS.

7/18/20: Placed RHP Giovanny Gallegos and LHP Ricardo Sanchez on the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster at 36, CPP at 57. 41 in Camp and 16 at ATS.

7/22/20: Placed LHP Brett Cecil on unconditional release waivers. Placed UT Brad Miller on the 10-day IL, retroactive to July 20th (right ankle bursitis). 40-man roster at 35, CPP at 56. 40 in Camp and 16 at ATS.

7/23/20: Purchased the contract of RHP Kodi Whitley from the Alternate Training Site. Recalled OF Austin Dean, RHP Junior Fernandez, C Andrew Knizner and IF Edmundo Sosa (who had been optioned earlier but had been assigned to Summer Camp) from the Alternate Training Site. 40-man roster at 36. Re-assigned LHP Genesis Cabrera, RHP Alex Reyes, RHP Jake Woodford, 3B Elehuris Montero and OF Justin Williams (who had been optioned earlier but had been assigned to Summer Camp) to the Alternate Training Site. Re-assigned RHP Johan Oviedo, C Jose Godoy, 1B John Nogowski, IF Max Schrock and OF Dylan Carlson to the Alternate Training Site. Opening Day Roster had 29 players, one man player short of the authorized limit of 30, consisting of 14 pitchers and 15 position players.

I’ll note a couple of things here. You should read the piece by stlcardsfan4 here if you want to understand Kodi Whitley’s story and how he rose to the majors. Second, J.P. Hill was right and I was wrong about Edmundo Sosa. If they had not added Sosa to the active roster, they would have been in a mess if something happened to one of our infielders. The Cards have been going with Tommy Edman at 3B and Matt Carpenter at DH. If Paul DeJong got hurt, for example, they would certainly have put Edman at short. They either would have had to move Carpenter from DH to 3B, in which case they would have forfeited the DH, or they would have had to put Ravelo at 3B, which is far from ideal. That might not have been a big deal for one game, but I can understand why it’s something they didn’t want to have to worry about. Last, as I explained above, the reason the Cards had to officially recall Dean, Fernandez, Knizner and Sosa is that they had been optioned in March during Spring Training 1.0 and had not been recalled, despite spending the whole time in summer camp. With Elehuris Montero slowed at camp by a positive COVID test and not ready for prime time anyway, OF Justin Williams is the only 40-man roster position player at the ATS that could help the club.

7/26/20: Activated RHP Giovanny Gallegos from the COVID-19 Related IL. Placed RHP Miles Mikolas on the 10-day IL (right forearm strain), retroactive to July 25th. Recalled RHP Jake Woodford from the ATS. Active roster at 30, 40-man roster at 37, CPP at 57.

Miles Mikolas has not recovered properly from the forearm stiffness he showed in Spring Training 1.0, when he was shut down. The issue apparently started last season, although he did not miss time for it. He was originally going to start the 4th game of the season, but the club bumped Carlos Martinez’ start up for one day to try to give Mikolas extra time to recover. Mikolas’ velocity had been down during intrasquad games, as we all saw, and while the issue did not bother him as much when he rested, it crept back up again when he would ramp his throwing back up. He had to shut his bullpen session down over the weekend. Now it has been reported that Mikolas will have surgery on his flexor tendon and will be out for the season. If there is any silver lining at all, POBO John Mozeliak said that the tendon is intact, and he is expected back by spring training next season.

Although KK could have started tomorrow’s game on July 29th with 4 days of rest, Daniel Ponce de Leon will take the hill. We don’t know how long the plan of KK as closer and Ponce as starter will last. As for Mikolas, the normal rule that clubs can’t use the 60-day (45-day IL) unless the 40-man roster is full has been suspended until August 31st. The Cards, however, still have open 40-man roster spots, so felt no need to go ahead and name him to that list at this time.

With Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes slowed by COVID-19 issues during summer camp, Woodford has always been considered the next man up in this situation, basically because he’s the only legitimate option. The only other choice on the 40-man roster is Alvaro Seijas, and he has only pitched 10 games as high as the Class-A Advanced level. Woodford was the workhorse starter for AAA Memphis last season. The Cards added him to the 40-man roster last November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. I wrote a little about him at that time, and you can check out that piece here. Thankfully, Woodford was already travelling with the club because had been named to the taxi squad.

CURRENT ACTIVE ROSTER (30)

PITCHERS (15)

Starters (5): Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson, Carlos Martinez, Daniel Ponce de Leon

Relievers (10): Junior Fernandez, Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant, Austin Gomber (L), Ryan Helsley, Kwang-Hyun Kim (L), Andrew Miller (L), Tyler Webb (L), Kodi Whitley, Jake Woodford

POSITION PLAYERS (15)

Catchers (3): Andrew Knizner, Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters (S)

Infielders (7): Matt Carpenter (L), Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman (S), Paul Goldschmidt, Rangel Ravelo, Edmundo Sosa, Kolten Wong (L)

Outfielders (5): Harrison Bader, Austin Dean, Dexter Fowler (S), Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas

10-Day IL (2)

UT Brad Miller, RHP Miles Mikolas

45-Day IL (1)

RHP John Brebbia

COVID-19 Related IL (1)

LHP Ricardo Sanchez

ALTERNATE TRAINING SITE (25)

Optioned Players (5): LHP Genesis Cabrera, RHP Alex Reyes, RHP Alvaro Seijas, 3B Elehuris Montero, OF Justin Williams

Non-roster Players (20): RHP Nabil Crismatt, RHP Seth Elledge, LHP Rob Kaminsky, LHP Matthew Liberatore, RHP Johan Oviedo, RHP Roel Ramirez, RHP Angel Rondon, LHP Zack Thompson, RHP/SS Masyn Winn, C Jose Godoy, C Ivan Herrera, C Julio Rodriguez, 3B Nolan Gorman, IF Evan Mendoza, 1B John Nogowski, 3B Malcolm Nunez, IF Max Schrock, 3B Jordan Walker, OF Dylan Carlson, OF Tre Fletcher

*The Cards hd announced that RHP Jake Woodford and IF Max Schrock will be part of the taxi squad, taken with the club on the road trip and allowed to work out with the club. Now that Woodford has been activated, I don’t know if a player has been named to replace him on the taxi squad. A catcher is only required to be on the taxi squad if the club takes the full taxi squad complement of 3 players, and with 3 catchers on the active roster, another catcher wasn’t needed. If another catcher was needed, Jose Godoy would be the next man up. There is no official transaction announced to place players on the taxi squad. A roster move would only need to be made if a taxi squad player was placed on the active roster.

*Note on LHP Ricardo Sanchez. The Cards tweeted that the club placed Sanchez on the “injury list,” but this was not reflected on the transaction pages. Perhaps the MLB websites did not know how to compute putting a player on an injured list that had already been optioned. There is precedent this season for that being messed up. Angel Perdomo, a Brewers pitcher was optioned to the minors during spring training, and several media outlets reported him being placed on the COVID-19 Related IL. The transaction pages didn’t reflect it, but I know it happened. If it didn’t, the Brewers would not have had enough 40-man roster space to add RHP Mike Morin on opening day. We have been told Sanchez has been sent to the ATS in Springfield, but nothing has been said about his activation. Maybe the Cards will tweet about it, and maybe they won’t. He has been cleared to work out, so I don’t understand why he was placed on the list to begin with. Whenever he is activated, that would restore the 40-man roster to 38 and the CPP to 58, leaving 2 spots on each.