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TA 5/14/21: Cards Put DeJong on IL, Select Max Moroff from Memphis

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Miami Marlins Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

In advance of tonight’s game against the Padres, the Cards announced the following transaction.

5/14/21: Placed SS Paul DeJong on the 10-day IL, retroactive to May 13th (non-displaced left rib fracture). Purchased the contract of IF Max Moroff from AAA Memphis. To make room on the 40-man roster, transferred RHP Jordan Hicks from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL.

Brewers’ starter Freddy Peralta hit DeJong in the left side with an 88 mph changeup in the 7th inning of the May 11th matchup. DeJong stayed in that game and started the game the next day, but was removed in favor of Edmundo Sosa in the bottom of the 5th inning in the May 12th game after he felt a pull in his side when making a tag at second base. Imaging showed that it was not an oblique injury, but that DeJong had a significant contusion, and now they’re calling it a break. Jeff Jones of the Belleville-News democrat reports that Shild said the hope is that DeJong will only be out the minimum 10 days, but that he doesn’t think it will be longer than 14 days. DeJong had 7 home runs already, and was walking at a career-high 10.6% clip, but was only slashing .177/.277/.371, perhaps due in part to an unlucky .176 BABIP.

It had been suspected for a couple of days that DeJong would have to go on the IL. When Jose Rondon was double-switched out of the May 12th game for AAA Memphis in the 7th inning against Nashville, speculation arose that he might be headed to join the club as a taxi squad player at a minimum. Even Mike Shildt indicated that there might be something to that idea. But when Rondon started last night’s game and Max Moroff was a last-second scratch from the lineup, it became almost certain that he would be the one to join the club.

The Cards signed Moroff, who just turned 28 yesterday, to a minor league deal on December 15th, 2020. He was an 8th round pick of the Pirates in 2012, was added to that club’s 40-man roster in November of 2015 and made his major league debut on July 31st, 2016. He only got 2 plate appearances as a pinch hitter that season, and spent a tad more time in the majors over the next two years. The Pirates traded him to the Indians after the 2018 season to the Indians, who rostered him to start 2019, but outrighted him to the minor leagues in May of that year. Moroff signed a minor league deal for 2020 with the Mets after being declared a minor league free agent, and the Cards got him after he didn’t see any MLB action in 2020 and declared minor league free agency again. Moroff’s last major league game was on May 1st, 2019.

Moroff can play second, third and short, but he had not played any short for AAA Memphis this season so far, instead just splitting time between second and third. He has always had a good batting eye in the minors, and this season so far in 7 games and 34 plate appearances, has 6 walks to only 3 strikeouts. He has gotten off to a fantastic start at the plate, slashing .538/.647/1.115, with 4 homers and 3 doubles out of his 14 hits. The thing to understand about Moroff is that while he has always had decent minor league lines, this has been his 5th spin at the AAA level and his success has never translated to the majors. He’s never struck out less than 30% of the time at the major league level, and in his last MLB action with the Indians in 2019, he struck out 16 times in 35 trips to the plate.

What’s interesting—but not surprising—about DeJong’s injury is that instead of using Edmundo Sosa, the Cards have decided to just shift Tommy Edman from second base to short and put Matt Carpenter at 2nd base. They have decided to keep Edmundo Sosa, who is out of options, on this roster, and you would think a DeJong injury would be the perfect time for Sosa to play and see what he’s got offensively for an extended stretch. It would definitely give the Cards the best infield defense possible. Sosa started two games at short so far on days the club decided to rest DeJong, but that’s it. He’s only appeared as a pinch-hitter four times all year. If they’re not going to play him now, I don’t really see the point in having him. Maybe they’ll start him if the Cards face a left-hander, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to believe that the Cards’ offense will be much better with Carpenter out there and Edman at short.

Judging by the Cards’ behavior (Edman is in the lineup at short again tonight), it’s unlikely you’ll see Moroff start at short either, but because of his offense and the fact that he switch hits, maybe the Cards will be more likely to use him as a pinch hitter than Sosa. Moroff is out of options, so unless the Cards do something else when DeJong comes back, they will risk losing Moroff to another organization on waivers. Moroff also has the right to elect free agency in lieu of an outright assignment to the minors because he has been outrighted previously in his career.

The time that Jordan Hicks already spent on the 10-day IL counts towards the 60 days total he must be away, but this move now puts him out of action until July 3rd at a minimum. Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat tweeted that when Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch asked the question, Shildt said that Hicks would be out clearly longer than the 60 days but the club is “very optimistic he’ll pitch again this year.” The timetable for Hicks keeps sneaking further back as time goes on.

BENCH

Knizner, Moroff, Sosa, Thomas, Williams