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TA 8/5: Cards Set 28-Man Roster with Cabrera, Reyes, Ramirez and Schrock

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals-Media Day Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Cards announced the following transactions this afternoon:

8/5/20: Placed 1B/DH Rangel Ravelo on the COVID-19 Related IL. Recalled LHP Genesis Cabrera and RHP Alex Reyes from the Alternate Training Site. Purchased the contracts of RHP Roel Ramirez and IF Max Schrock from the Alternate Training Site. 40-man Roster at 32 (or 33, depending on if LHP Ricardo Sanchez is still on the COVID-19 Related IL). Club Player Pool at 50 (or 51, depending on Sanchez). Active roster at 28.

The active rosters for MLB are set to go down from 30 players to 28 players tomorrow. While there had been talks about leaving the active rosters at 30, it looks like now that active rosters will go down to 28 tomorrow, but stay at 28 all year instead of going down further to 26 after two additional weeks.

The rosters being reduced to 28 actually makes things a bit easier on the Cards because fewer replacements will be required. The Cards have removed 7 players from the active roster (and 40-man roster) by placing them on the COVID-19 Related IL. This put the active roster at 23. Brad Miller was activated from the 10-day IL yesterday, which put the roster at 24. That left the Cards with needing only 4 reinforcements.

As I described yesterday, the Cards only had 5 available 40-man roster players to recall from the Alternate Training Site, assuming that LHP Ricardo Sanchez has not been activated from the COVID-19 Related IL. I expected that RHP Alvaro Seijas and 3B Elehuris Montero would not be recalled due to their experience levels. I also expected the club to recall both LHP Genesis Cabrera and RHP Alex Reyes if they were in any way ready to contribute. The club has done that. I also thought the club would recall OF Justin Williams. They did not do that, but now that I have taken a look at things more closely, I understand the reasoning.

As I will show below, today’s roster moves leave the Cards with 15 pitchers and only 13 position players. With the DH in the lineup, the Cardinals will only have a 4-man bench, which leaves the Cards with just enough position players on hand that the club can feel comfortable functioning with. With Miles Mikolas now out for the season and Carlos Martinez on the COVID-19 Related IL, the Cards’ rotation is strained. Daniel Ponce de Leon showed flashes of excellence in his start, but he threw way too many pitches. Dakota Hudson lasted only 4.1 IP in his start. The Cards need to fill an additional rotation spot. Derrick Goold just tweeted that Kwang-Hyun Kim will take that spot. That news will make many Cardinal fans happy, but we must remember that Kim was initially geared to be the closer, so his workouts will require re-tooling and we don’t know how long it will take him to adjust. We must also note that the Cardinals have not played a game at all since July 29th, and have been in quarantine in Milwaukee since July 31st. Regardless of how much a pitcher can throw the ball against his mattress, it is fair to assume that the pitchers are behind the 8-ball. In short, the Cardinals need all the pitching help they can get, and that explains why they only added one position player to the roster.

Cabrera and Reyes need no introduction, other than to note that their progress was slowed earlier in camp by a positive COVID-19 test. Max Schrock was a 13th round draft choice by the Washington Nationals, who traded him to the Oakland Athletics on August 25th, 2016 for Mark Rzepczynski and cash. The Cardinals traded Stephen Piscotty for Schrock and Yairo Munoz in December of 2017. Schrock had always been a high BABIP, extreme contact hitter, who had never hit lower than .320 in his minor league career. But his numbers went into the tank in his first spin at AAA with the Memphis Redbirds, when he slashed .249/.296/.331 with only a .260 BABIP. In a reunion tour with Memphis in 2019, his walk rate jumped all the way to a career-high 12.2%, but his strikeout rate also spiked to 16.2%, which was 7% higher than he had ever had at any minor league stop. He also made 3 trips to the injured list and amassed only 303 PA, but he did improve his slash line to .275/.366/.381. Schrock has 9 career minor league starts at SS, and none since 2016. While he had been primarily a second baseman, he actually played third base almost exclusively last season. Schrock lives and dies by his batting eye and his BABIP because he has no power at all. The way things stand right now, he will serve as infield insurance, and against right-handed pitching, he figures to be the only left-handed bat on the bench.

While I did not anticipate Roel Ramirez being added to the 40-man roster, I really should have given it some more thought. The reason I didn’t was that Johan Oviedo, Rob Kaminsky and Seth Elledge got more press during camp. Oviedo was named to the initial 44-man summer camp roster as a non-roster invitee along with Whitley. Elledge and Kaminsky were sent to summer camp in St. Louis as temporary reinforcements before the Alternate Training Site roster in Springfield was even announced.

But as I outlined in articles here, here, here, and here, the Cardinals were in danger of losing Ramirez this offseason. Ramirez was initially an 8th round pick in 2013 by the Tampa Bay Rays, and then traded to the Cardinals along with Cabrera Williams as part of the package for Tommy Pham at the 2018 trade deadline. The 2019 season marked the 7th season that Ramirez played in the minor leagues without being on a 40-man roster. That meant that last November, he was entitled to be declared an automatic Rule 55 minor league free agent, free to sign with any organization that was interested in him. The fact that he was not so declared without being added to the Cards’ 40-man roster last November meant that the Cardinals re-signed Ramirez to a successor minor league deal for 2020.

We don’t know why Ramirez agreed to do this, because the deal itself wasn’t even reported by the media in the fashion I described. Perhaps he got a bump in pay. Perhaps he was convinced at the time that he had the best shot to reach the majors with the Cards. Maybe he just liked the Cardinal organization, or he didn’t get any feelers from any other organization. The relevant point is that the Cards risked losing him again to minor league free agency after this season, he might not sign another minor league deal with this organization after this season, and the Cards must have been intrigued enough by his stuff and ability to give him a try now.

The factor that still makes it somewhat surprising is that Ramirez, who just turned 25 in May, has barely any experience at the AAA level. He was drafted out of high school in 2013, but he spent 3 years in different short-season leagues, parts of 2 seasons in A ball and parts of 2 seasons in High-A ball. He didn’t reach the AA level until his 6th year in pro ball. And his only AAA experience was 2 games and 3 IP last year for AAA Memphis. The Cardinals must remain high on Ramirez, however, as he struck out over 25% of his batters faced last year, he keeps the ball in the ballpark, and he impressed in the Arizona Fall League with a SO/BB ratio over 5. Ramirez has started in the past, and he might be able to go a couple of innings at a time, if necessary.

RHP Nabil Crismatt, RHP Seth Elledge and LHP Rob Kaminsky were the three players at the Alternate Training Site who were passed over that had significant AAA experience. The other options at the ATS have been starters only in their careers or had not advanced to a high enough level to take them seriously as candidates for an MLB bullpen job at this time.

UPDATED ACTIVE ROSTER (28)

PITCHERS (15)

Starters (5): Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Kwang-Hyun Kim (L)

Relievers (10): Genesis Cabrera (L), Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant, Austin Gomber (L), Ryan Helsley, Andrew Miller (L), Roel Ramirez, Alex Reyes, Tyler Webb (L), Jake Woodford

POSITION PLAYERS (13)

Catchers (2): Andrew Knizner, Matt Wieters (S)

Infielders (6): Matt Carpenter (L), Tommy Edman (S), Paul Goldschmidt, Brad Miller (L), Max Schrock (L), Kolten Wong (L)

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

10-DAY IL (1)

RHP Miles Mikolas

45-DAY IL (1)

RHP John Brebbia

RESTRICTED LIST (1)

RHP Jordan Hicks

COVID-19 Related IL (8)

SS Paul DeJong, RHP Junior Fernandez, RHP Carlos Martinez, C Yadier Molina, 1B/DH Rangel Ravelo, LHP Ricardo Sanchez, IF Edmundo Sosa, RHP Kodi Whitley

*Note that I could be wrong about Sanchez still being on the COVID-19 Related IL.

CONCLUSION

I think we can put the Dylan Carlson service time manipulation narrative to bed now. The Cardinals had a 30-man roster to start the season, and decided to play a man short. There has been enough time elapsed to add Carlson and still keep the extra year of control. The club has placed 4 position players on the COVID-19 Related IL, and Carlson is still not here. Perhaps people should believe John Mozeliak when he says that he wants to get Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas opportunities to play and that Carlson will not be here unless he’s going to play every day. It looks like that is not going to happen this year unless we see an injury or COVID-19 diagnosis for one of our starting outfielders.

Just putting together a random lineup against right-handed pitching, I came up with:

1. Wong 2b

2. Edman ss

3. Carpenter 3b

4. Goldschmidt 1b

5. Miller DH

6. O’Neill lf

7. Fowler rf

8. Wieters c

9. Bader cf

The lineup might not look exactly like that or even be optimal. I could have the order totally wrong, but I predict that those are the players that Shildt will use in those positions against right-handed pitching. If that’s correct, you’re looking at a bench most days of Andrew Knizner, Max Schrock, Austin Dean and Lane Thomas, with Schrock the only lefty option off the bench.

The Cards should totally destroy the Cubs, right?