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TA 8/4: Cards Make COVID-IL Moves that Include C-Mart, Activate Brad Miller

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MLB: St Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals have announced the following moves surrounding the most recent COVID-19 outbreak:

8/4/20: Placed C Yadier Molina, SS Paul DeJong, IF Edmundo Sosa, RHP Junior Fernandez, RHP Carlos Martinez and RHP Kodi Whitley on the COVID-19 Related IL. Activated UT Brad Miller from the 10-day IL. 40-man roster at 31 (or 32 if Ricardo Sanchez has been activated from the COVID-19 Related Injury List). CPP at 51 (or 52, depending on Sanchez).

The Cardinals had announced earlier that 7 players have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus: SS Paul DeJong, RHP Junior Fernandez, C Yadier Molina, 1B/DH Rangel Ravelo, IF Edmundo Sosa and RHP Kodi Whitley. The identity of the 7th player was unknown, but one can only surmise that with his placement on the IL that Carlos Martinez was the 7th player. I do not understand why Rangel Ravelo was not placed on the IL as well, give that he has tested positive. He will not be allowed to be in the club facility or play a game until he has demonstrated that he has two negative tests, taken at least 24 hours apart. I would suspect he will be added shortly.

If there is any silver lining in any of this, it is that the Cardinals have no new positive tests since the announcement of the 7-player total. Assuming no further positive tests, the Cardinals plan to travel to St. Louis on Wednesday August 5th, have workouts on that day and the next, then play a 3-game series against the Cubs at Busch Stadium starting on Friday, August 7th.

The Cardinals will have to make some roster moves, including some 40-man roster additions, to field a full squad if that series with the Cubs goes forward. After close analysis, I have concluded that if the Cards have no further positive tests, the club should escape this outbreak without the risk of losing a player when the infected players are restored to the roster.

SIZE OF ACTIVE ROSTER

The first issue to consider is what the size of the active roster will be. The MLB 2020 Operations Manual called for the active rosters of the clubs to be reduced from 30 to 28 players on the 15th day of the season. Although only 4 clubs played on the evening of July 23rd, that day is considered to be the start of the season. The 15th day of the season is Thursday August 6th. If the 28-man roster holds firm, it will actually make things easier on the Cardinals from one standpoint because they won’t have to make as many replacements. Multiple media outlets have reported, however, that MLB and the MLBPA have been in negotiations to keep the active roster at 30 players for the rest of the season. There have been recent reports that the MLB and the MLBPA are leaning towards reducing the active roster to 28 on August 6th, but keeping it there the rest of the season. The size of the active roster will affect the amount of moves the club will make. But it does not affect my ultimate thesis: the Cards should escape the outbreak without the risk of player loss.

STATE OF THE CARDINALS’ ROSTER

The Club has 7 players on the active 30-man roster that have tested positive for the virus. Six of those players have now been placed on the COVID-19 Related Injury List. You would think Ravelo will also be placed on the list. There is no minimum or maximum required stay on that list, and placement on that list opens up a spot on the 60-man Club Player Pool, the 40-man roster and the active roster.

The Cards either have 37 or 38 players on the 40-man roster right now. The reason I am hedging is that long after being officially optioned to the minor leagues, LHP Ricardo Sanchez was placed on the COVID-19 Related IL on the same day as RHP Giovanny Gallegos. Gallegos has been activated and Sanchez had already been cleared to throw at the Alternate Training Site at Springfield, but we have never been given any official announcement that Sanchez has been activated from that list. There are a couple of different possibilities here. One is that he never has been activated because it wasn’t necessary. He had already been cleared to throw when he was placed on the list anyway, and no rule requires activation at any time. Since he had already been optioned and his presence or non-presence on the list wouldn’t materially affect any roster count, it is possible that the Cards didn’t bother to activate him. Another possibility is that the Cards actually activated Sanchez and didn’t bother to tell anyone for the same reasons I just mentioned. In the final analysis, as I will explain below, this ultimately should not make a difference.

Fortunately, and contrary to my first notions, the Cardinals should have just enough room on their roster to handle all of this, regardless of the status of Sanchez. The Cardinals have 5 players on option to the Alternate Training Site who are available to recall: LHP Genesis Cabrera, RHP Alex Reyes, RHP Alvaro Seijas, 3B Elehuris Montero, and OF Justin Williams. Another saving grace is that UT Brad Miller is already on the 40-man roster and he was just activated from the 10-day IL. That saves the need to make one 40-man roster addition. It is true that not all of our optioned players are ready for the big leagues. Not only was Montero slowed all summer camp by a positive COVID-19 test, but his most recent season was an injury-shortened stint with AA Springfield. Seijas has only pitched 10 games at the Class A-Advanced Level. I would find it highly unlikely that the Cards would recall either Montero or Seijas.

But suppose that the Cards put all 7 infected players on the COVID-19 Related IL, recall Cabrera, Reyes and Williams, then activate Brad Miller from the 10-day IL. The Cardinals would have to add 3 players to the 40-man roster, assuming MLB and the MLBPA agree to extend the 30-man active limit for the rest of the season. That would put the 40-man roster at 33 players. Then, when the 7 infected players come back, that would put the 40-man roster at a full 40 players. If the 30-man active roster remains for the rest of the season, the Cards would have to find a way to get the active roster back down to 30 players, which would be easy. Cabrera, Reyes and Williams would be optioned back. None of our non-40-man roster players at the Alternate Training Site have ever been on an MLB 40-man roster before, so there would be no restriction on optioning any of them. The three 40-man roster additions would thus be optioned back. Brad Miller’s activation would require one additional player to be optioned because he has enough service time that he can refuse an option to the minor leagues. But the Cards could easily pick one additional player to be optioned between Andrew Knizner, Edmundo Sosa and Austin Dean, or even Kodi Whitley.

EXAMPLE OF A POTENTIAL SCENARIO

Let’s work through a possible example of what the Cards might do. Let’s assume also that Ravelo is added to the COVID-19 Related IL on the day of the Cubs series because he is still not cleared to play.

*August 4th: Place DeJong, Fernandez, Martinez, Molina, Sosa and Whitley on the COVID-19 Related IL. Activated UT Brad Miller from the 10-day IL. Assume Sanchez is still on the COVID-Related IL and not on the 40-man. 40-man roster was at 37, and is now at 31.

*August 7th: Place Ravelo on the COVID-19 Related IL. Recall Cabrera, Reyes and Williams from the ATS. Purchase the contract of IF Max Schrock, RHP Johan Oviedo and C Jose Godoy from the ATS. 40-man roster now at 33.

*Let’s assume a very simple and unlikely scenario and assume all 7 infected players come back at the same time and choose an arbitrary date like 2 weeks from August 7th.

*August 21st: Activate DeJong, Fernandez, Martinez, Molina, Ravelo, Sosa and Whitley from the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster now at a full 40. Option Schrock, Oviedo, Godoy, Williams, Cabrera, Reyes and Sosa to the ATS. Active Roster at 30, with no player being designated for assignment, released or placed on outright assignment waivers.

*You could mix and match the pitching if you like. If you want to keep Cabrera and Reyes on the active roster, you could just option Fernandez and Woodford. You can also mix and match the position players because Knizner and Dean could also be optioned.

*The availability of Ricardo Sanchez would not affect the ultimate conclusion. Suppose Sanchez has either already been or is activated from the COVID-Related IL, putting the 40-man roster at 38 to start, and the Cards put him on the active roster. That would just require the addition of 2 40-man roster players. Sanchez can be optioned back, so the Cards would still be at no risk of losing any players.

*If the active rosters are reduced to 28 players by August 6th, the Cardinals could get out of this by making just one 40-man roster addition. They could recall Cabrera, Reyes and Williams. They have already activated Brad Miller, so that just leaves one more spot the club would have to fill, which my guess would be Max Schrock for infield depth.

*If, for some reason, the Cards needed an additional 40-man roster spot, the club could also transfer RHP Miles Mikolas from the 10-day IL to the 45-day IL. Mikolas wouldn’t have to be added back to the 40-man roster until the 5th day after the conclusion of the World Series.

CONCLUSION

It is certainly fair to wonder if the baseball season will reach its conclusion as originally hoped and planned. It is also fair to ask whether there should have been a season to start with and whether the season should continue. The outbreak of the virus in the Cardinals’ clubhouse has certainly scared all of the Cardinal family, including spouses, children and significant others. But if it is determined that the MLB season must move forward, the Cardinals should be able to survive this mess without ultimately being at the risk of losing any of their players to other clubs.