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Transaction Analysis 6/5/22: Dickerson to IL, Walsh Recalled and a Bit on the 27th Man Rule

MLB: San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Cards announced the following transactions yesterday and today:

6/4/22: Added RHP Jake Woodford as the 27th man for today’s doubleheader and returned him to AAA Memphis after Game 2.

6/5/22: Placed DH/OF Corey Dickerson on the 10-day IL (left calf strain). Recalled RHP Jake Walsh from AAA Memphis. Noted the loss of IF Kramer Robertson to the Atlanta Braves on an outright assignment waiver claim.

The rules allow a club to add a 27th man for doubleheaders. There are a few important to understand about this rule. The addition of a player from the minor leagues is not deemed to be an official recall, and thus the player is eligible to be added even though he has not spent the requisite number of days in the minor leagues on his most recent option. Woodford was optioned to Memphis on May 30th. Fifteen days not having elapsed, the 27th man rule was the only reason why he was able to pitch for the Cards yesterday. The rules require the club to return to a 26-man roster immediately following the 2nd game of the doubleheader. If you just look at the transaction pages, you will see the addition as a recall on the day of the doubleheader and the return of the player to the minors as an option, but neither is correct. The people that run the sites just haven’t figured out how to code it properly to call the transactions what they really are.

It is possible to keep the person added as the 27th man and make another move to get down to 26 players. But this is only possible if all of the other major league rules are complied with. In Woodford’s case, he had not spent 15 days on option, so the only legal reason to keep him with the club would be if the club put another player on an inactive list. That was ultimately what the Cards did in placing Corey Dickerson on the IL. One can imagine a scenario where the club wasn’t ready to pull the trigger on deciding to put Dickerson on the shelf right after the second game of the doubleheader. Even so, if the club had really wanted to keep Woodford, they could have just recalled him today when Dickerson was placed on the IL. Woodford pitched three innings yesterday in Game One, allowing five hits and three runs. Not only would he not be available for a few days, but manager Oli Marmol has said multiple times that Woodford’s secondary pitches need work, most notably his slider. Woodford’s return to Memphis does not constitute a separate option, the 15-day clock does not re-start, and he will be eligible for recall again on June 15th.

Dickerson started Game One of yesterday’s doubleheader in right field, but had to leave the game in the second inning. Without coming to the plate or fielding a ball, he tore his calf somehow. Signed to a 1-year, $5 million deal the day Spring Training games started, Dickerson was set to be the the long side of a platoon with Albert Pujols at DH. Although that may have been the original design, it did not quite turn out that way. Pujols has started at DH against every left-hander the Cards have faced. Meanwhile, the Cards have spread the DH starts against right-handed pitching among ten different players. Dickerson actually has the lead with twelve such starts, followed by Pujols with nine, Juan Yepez and Paul Goldschmidt with seven and Nolan Arenado with four. Lars Nootbaar, Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill, Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman have a start each.

What happened was that Dickerson started out as the basic DH against righties, but then he didn’t hit, Juan Yepez arrived on the scene, both O’Neill and Carlson got hurt, which forced Marmol to start Dickerson in the outfield, and Marmol started spreading the DH job amongst other regulars to give them some rest. It might be quite a surprise to some, but Dickerson actually started 14 games in the outfield, 10 in left and 4 in right, to go along with his 12 starts at DH. By my count, he only started against a lefty once, and that was in the outfield. Between the DH and outfield starts, Dickerson has started in almost half of the Cards’ 55 games thus far. Dickerson hit .194/.245/.286, 2 homers, 6 walks and 20 strikeouts. Both of those homers came in the June 3rd game against the Cubs, and one was against a position player pitching. If you strip out his 11 trips to the plate against lefties, he’s slashed .205/.253/.295 in 95 plate appearances. He’s scored at zero Outs Above Average on defense, and he hasn’t offered anything as a pinch-hitter in five tries. He has below average speed. The most that can be said for him is that his BABIP is only .235 against right-handed pitching, which is far worse than anything he’s done in his career. Although his xwOBA outpaces his wOBA by 40 points, his overall xwOBA is still only .279, and he’s below-average in barrels and Hard Hit%. It might be worth a deeper dive, but the difference between his wOBA (.215) and his xwOBA (.302) is most stark when it comes to fastballs, as he’s actually perfoming better than expected against breaking pitches and offspeed pitches. That’s almost impossible to believe. In short, he really hasn’t been able to hit anything.

The Cards are basically out of position players on the 40-man roster. There’s no interest in recalling Paul DeJong at this point, and the only other position players on the 40-man are catchers Ivan Herrera and Ali Sanchez, neither of whom are needed. So the Cards have temporarily bit the bullet with a 14-man pitching staff and 3-man bench by recalling Jake Walsh. Walsh was eligible for recall today without an IL move, and the Cards other choices, which included keeping Woodford, or bringing back Junior Fernandez, Kodi Whitley or Angel Rondon. Woodford pitched three innings in Game One yesterday. Rondon wasn’t an option, as he started yesterday for Memphis and pitched 5.2 innings. Fernandez pitched reasonably well in the last four games since his May 26th option, but he pitched 1.1 innings on June 3rd. Kodi Whitley hasn’t yet pitched for Memphis since his June 3rd option to iron out his control issues. Since Jake Walsh was optioned to Memphis on May 21st, he’s only pitched in three games, most recently on May 31st, so he’s the most rested. In the three games, he logged six strikeouts, one intentional walk and allowed one homer in six innings pitched.

Although clubs have been granted through the games of June 19th to carry 14 pitchers, I don’t think you’re going to see the three-man bench for much longer. One or both of Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson might be activated for the series against Tampa Bay that starts Tuesday. The most interesting issues going forward are how the rotation will shake out in the interim before Steven Matz and Jack Flaherty come back, and how much longer Dickerson will last on the roster once he comes back from this injury.

I don’t think the loss of Kramer Robertson is that big of a deal. Between Edman, Gorman and Donovan, the club has enough coverage, and if there was some sort of emergency, DeJong could be recalled. The waiver claim might thin the infield depth a bit, but Kramer Robertson is 27 years old, he probably wouldn’t have been added to the 40-man roster under normal circumstances anyway, and he would have been eligible for minor league free agency after the 2023 season. If something happened this season, they could get Cory Spangenberg or Evan Mendoza and things would probably be fine.