The Cardinals today announced the following surprising flurry of roster moves:
9/2/20: Placed RF Dexter Fowler on the COVID-19 Related IL. Optioned RHP Ryan Meisinger to the ATS. Activated 1B/DH Rangel Ravelo from the COVID-19 Related IL. Recalled LHP Rob Kaminsky from the ATS. 40-man roster still full. CPP still at 55.
The Cardinals wanted to activate Rangel Ravelo from the COVID-19 Related IL. That required the club to clear yet another 40-man roster spot. In a surprise move, the Cards placed Dexter Fowler on the COVID-19 Related IL. It was only described by the club as the “injured list,” but only placement on either the 45-day IL or the COVID-19 Related IL would have opened up a 40-man roster spot for Ravelo’s return. There would have been no reason not to name the injury for a 45-day IL move, so the COVID-19 Related IL is the only other possibility.
Thanks to both Derrick Goold (Twitter announcement here, and Post-Dispatch article here), and Jeff Jones (see his Twitter thread here), we now somewhat understand the situation. Fowler DOES NOT have the COVID-19 virus. He has always tested negative. Mozeliak said that Fowler has had a stomach condition for years. Fowler has taken medication for this condition in the past, but never during his tenure with the Cardinals. The illness has apparently acted up recently, and Fowler has begun taking that medication again. One of the side effects of the medication is that it compromises Fowler’s immune system, and he has not been feeling well. Mozeliak acknowledged that this issue led, in part, to Fowler being removed from the game last night. It is the immune-system compromising effects of the medication that make Fowler an increased risk to contract the virus that made him eligible for the COVID-19 Related IL. Fowler had been dealing with this potential issue for a couple of weeks, and matters reached the point where the team doctors felt it would be safer for Fowler to go to his home and be away from the club.
This is a real bad break for Fowler, who is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks. This only adds to the intrigue surrounding the Cards’ outfield situation. Fowler has taken a lot of heat, and there are many that have wanted him to be released for years. But however you want to slice it, he’s been the most productive outfielder the Cards have had from an offensive standpoint. His .279/.347/.485 line leads all outfielders in all 3 of the triple slash stats, and he’s tied for the club lead in homers with 4. He also leads all outfielders in wRC+ (126) and DRC+ (111).
Mike Shildt appears to be insistent on getting Tommy Edman’s bat in the lineup, and tonight he is in right field with Tyler O’Neill back in left field, Lane Thomas in center field, and Harrison Bader on the bench for the 4th game in a row. Can we expect this going forward? A further dive into the outfielders, especially from an offensive standpoint is probably in order, but for now it appears that either Shildt, the front office or both doesn’t believe in Harrison Bader’s ability to hit enough to stick in the lineup for now. This despite his .261 ISO (2nd on the club), 118 wRC+ (2nd on the club among outfielders) and 0.6 fWAR (tied for 3rd on the club). Bader’s exit velocity is 7% below league average and he’s in the 1st percentile in expected batting average, and the 6th percentile in hard hit %. It is possibly for that reason that Baseball Prospectus doesn’t buy his offense, giving him only an 80 DRC+ on the year. Interestingly, BP is the least confident of that DRC+ number for Bader than all the other outfielders, because it comes with a standard deviation of 16, which is the largest among the outfielders, and only the 2nd highest standard deviation for DRC+ on the Cardinals behind Paul DeJong. What BP is essentially claiming is that it is highly confident that Bader is anywhere from a 64 to a 96, but not lower or higher. For what it’s worth, BP only gives Edman and his .274/.343/.379 line an 84 DRC+ on the year, tied with Tyler O’Neill, and he’s not nearly as good on defense in the outfield as the other possible options. Carlson has been the worst outfielder offensively by far, by almost any measure you can possibly use. But that is an article for another time.
As for Ravelo, It wouldn’t be a bad bet to expect him to return to that left-handed DH role that the club seemed to have carved out for him before the virus interrupted the Cards’ season. Since the Cards returned to action on August 15th, they have only faced a left-handed starter twice. Brad Miller sat on the bench both times. The first instance was on August 16th against Dallas Keuchel of the White Sox. In that game, Paul Goldschmidt was used as the DH and John Nogowski played first base. The other time was on August 22nd against Wade Miley and the Reds, and Fowler was used as the DH that night. Ravelo can also play first base instead of Carpenter if the club either wants to rest Goldschmidt entirely or put Goldy at DH.
Since Kaminsky has been on the traveling taxi squad and working out with the club during this road trip, it hasn’t had any effect that he has been yanked back and forth from the active roster. He was just optioned yesterday to make room for Ryan Helsley after not pitching, despite being on the active roster for 3 days. He was allowed to be recalled after only 1 day on option because of the injured list move with Fowler. Meisinger was recalled from the ATS on August 29th, the same day as Kaminsky, and didn’t appear until last night’s blowout of the Reds. He faced 5 batters, walking 2 and striking out 1 over 1 inning pitched. With Daniel Ponce de Leon scheduled to be added as the 29th man for the doubleheader with the Cubs this weekend, you probably won’t see Meisinger back before the required 10 days are up. But with this crazy season, who knows.
For now, the specter of another DFA has been postponed.
UPDATED ACTIVE ROSTER
Starters (5): Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson, Kwang Hyun Kim (L), Johan Oviedo, Jack Flaherty
Relievers (10): Genesis Cabrera (L), Seth Elledge, Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant, Austin Gomber (L), Ryan Helsley, Rob Kaminsky, Alex Reyes, Tyler Webb (L), Jake Woodford
POSITION PLAYERS (13)
Catchers (2): Andrew Knizner, Yadier Molina
Infielders (7): Matt Carpenter (L), Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman (S), Paul Goldschmidt, Brad Miller (L), Rangel Ravelo, Kolten Wong (L)
Outfielders (4): Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson (S), Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas