It’s time to get caught up on the Cardinal transactions over the past few weeks:
6/22/22: Placed LHP T.J. McFarland on the COVID-19 Related IL. Recalled RHP Junior Fernandez from AAA Memphis. 40-man roster at 39.
6/24/22: Placed RHP Drew VerHagen on the 15-day IL (right shoulder impingement). Recalled LHP Packy Naughton from AAA Memphis.
6/25/22: Placed LHP Genesis Cabrera on the COVID-19 Related IL. Recalled RHP Jake Woodford from AAA Memphis. 40-man roster at 38.
6/27/22: Placed RHP Jack Flaherty on the 15-day IL (right shoulder strain). Placed CF Harrison Bader on the 10-day IL (right foot plantar fascitis). Selected the contracts of RHP James Naile and OF Conner Capel from AAA Memphis. 40-man roster now full.
7/2/22: Designed RHP Nick Wittgren for assignment. Optioned RHP Jake Woodford to AAA Memphis. Activated RHP Jordan Hicks from the 15-day IL. Recalled LHP Matthew Liberatore from AAA Memphis. 40-man roster at 39.
7/4/22: Optioned C Ivan Herrera to AAA Memphis. Selected the contract of C Austin Romine from AAA Memphis. 40-man roster now full.
7/8/22: Optioned RHP James Naile to AAA Memphis. Activated LHP Genesis Cabrera from the COVID-19 Related IL. To make room on the 40-man roster, designated RHP Angel Rondon for assignment. 40-man roster still full.
7/9/22: Optioned OF Conner Capel to AAA Memphis. Activated OF Corey Dickerson from the 10-day IL. Released RHP Nick Wittgren.
7/11/22: Optioned LHP Zack Thompson to AAA Memphis. Activated LHP T.J. McFarland from the COVID-19 Related IL. To make room on the 40-man roster, transferred RHP Jack Flaherty from the 15-day IL to the 60-day IL. 40-man roster still full.
It’s probably easiest to think about this transaction update by breaking it down between the state of the Cardinal position players and pitching.
*The Cardinals have gotten basically nothing from the catcher position all year. Yadier Molina has started 35 games with a .213/.225/.294 line. He’s been on the shelf for almost a month now with a knee injury, and has been granted permission to rehab in Puerto Rico with no timetable for return. Andrew Knizner started 43 games before July 11th and slashed .178/.275/.230. That line might look worse than Molina’s, but it’s not because Molina preferred to take poison than a walk this season, walking in only 1.4% of his plate appearances. The Cards weren’t prepared to let Ivan Herrera get a solid run at the job and decided after six starts that he needed more work on his all-around game. So the club went down to the International Brotherhood of Backup Catchers union hall and grabbed Austin Romine. Romine was a 2nd round draft choice of the New York Yankees in 2007, broke into the majors as a 22-year old with that club in 2011 and stayed in the organization through his age-30 season in 2019. Thought to have a shot to be the successor to Posada in New York, it didn’t happen because he didn’t hit in the majors like he did in the minors. He’s a poor hitter, even by catcher standards (career 80 DRC+), and he does not have a good throwing arm. He has been productive in limited bursts when he has been pressed into service. After leaving the Yankees in free agency, Romine spent 2020 as the primary catcher for the Tigers. He was signed to be the backup catcher for the Cubs in 2021, but missed most of the season with a wrist injury. He could only find a minor league deal with the Angels to start this season, and saw major league action in three games as a COVID substitute. The Angels organization released him on May 31st, and he signed a minor league deal with AAA Memphis on June 17th. He’s a better framer and blocker than Knizner, but has a worse arm.
*Both Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill have been out longer than expected. Bader has recently started light running. He’s almost certainly gone until after the All-Star break. O’Neill started a rehab assignment with AAA Memphis on July 4th, but he was hit by a pitch in his wrist two games later. A small tear in a tendon was found near his right pinky finger, but Oli Marmol has told the media that he could return before the break.
*Carlson slid over to center field when Bader went on the shelf. Brendan Donovan and Juan Yepez have been every day players. Donovan has been the primary left fielder ever since O’Neill was placed on the IL on June 20th. Against right-handed pitching, Juan Yepez has been the primary DH. Lars Nootbaar and Conner Capel split the right-field chores fairly evenly. Against lefties, Albert Pujols has almost always been the DH, with Yepez in right. Capel is said to have the speed and arm to handle any position in the outfield, but the Cards never game him a shot in center. Until he was sent down for Corey Dickerson, there was an argument that Capel had the best raw defensive ability of all our outfielders at the time. Capel is an interesting character, in that he didn’t hit at all in AA as a 22-year old, and now that he’s 25 and his strikeout and walk rates have trended in the right direction in AAA, he’s getting a little old for prospect status. Nootbaar is a year younger, and has a better offensive track record. The Cards have felt the dip defensively in the outfield, as Yepez is brutal in the field and Donovan is below average. Dickerson has started in left field every day since his activation, as Donovan has rested with an unknown illness.
*It’s hard to believe, but the Cards are almost out of healthy pitching options on the 40-man roster. Jake Walsh might be out for the year with an elbow injury, as the club is waiting to see about the results from a PRP injection. Kodi Whitley has been on the Memphis IL since July 4th. Due to injuries and COVID cases, the Cards had to resort to James Naile, a Cape Girardeau native, who was drafted in the 20th round of the 2015 draft by the Athletics as a 22-year old. Now 29, Naile was declared a Rule 9 minor league free agent and signed with Memphis for this season. His peripherals have always been middling at best, but his sinker/slider approach has at least led to lots of grounders and relatively low walk rates. I never would have expected the Cards to DFA Angel Rondon just so they wouldn’t have to expose Naile to outright assignment waivers. Rondon was right up there numbers-wise with Johan Oviedo for the 2019 AA Springfield club, but he’s now found himself dumped from the 40-man after not being able to throw strikes this season. Oviedo has been with the major league club since June 3rd, and the Cards may have figured out that he just doesn’t have the command to start, but can be useful in a multi-inning role out of the bullpen. If you take away his one start with the club, he’s got 15 strikeouts to only 2 walks over 9 games. Marmol has yet to try him in back-to-back games, preferring instead to give him multiple days of rest.
*Jake Woodford is an enigma. He didn’t light the world on fire last season when he plugged a hole in the Cardinal rotation, but he did a serviceable job. This season, his strikeout rate dropped, Oli Marmol commented publicly that his slider needed work, and the club hasn’t used him much, preferring younger, less experienced options. Junior Fernandez has always had a tantalizing arsenal, and after struggling to throw strikes the last two seasons, looked like he might have been out of chances. He’s been up here since June 22nd, almost out of necessity, and so far he has pitched okay, but he’s been awful BABIP-lucky.
*The Cards are looking to give T.J. McFarland one last chance to stay in the bullpen after coming back from a bout with COVID. Management must have seen enough in his sinker during his three-game rehab stint, because the club optioned Zack Thompson, who has been an effective reliever for us in limited action. It remains to be seen whether the Memphis staff has orders to reinsert him into the rotation.
*Jack Flaherty has been limited to three starts this season. He started out the year on the IL with his shoulder problem, and upon his activation in mid-June, walked more then he struck out in his three starts. Flaherty never did look right, and went down with a dead arm. At first, there might have been cause for optimism because a dead arm is better than recurring shoulder pain. Now it has been reported by Goold that Jack has persistent discomfort and inflammation, and he’s not even begun a throwing program. Now that he’s just been placed on the 60-day IL, the earliest possible date he could return is August 26th. Marmol said he’ll need every bit of that time.
*The rotation could use some help. Matthew Liberatore has been a mixed bag this season, showing flashes that reminded people of his prospect status, but his walk rate is too high and he doesn’t have the groundball game to make up for it. Andre Pallante has been a surprise to all, first in making the club, and then switching from middle to relief to the rotation. Raise your hand if you thought going into the season that Pallante would not only make the club, but stay the whole time without being optioned. Pallante has an impossibly high strand rate, has a tendency to get into deep counts, and his poor peripherals means he relies heavily on his defense. He’s far from great, but he keeps the ball in the park and on the ground, which has worked for this club so far. Steven Matz went on the IL on May 23rd, and was originally expected back long before now. He could return shortly after the break.
Wainwright, Hudson, Pallante, Mikolas, Liberatore (L)
Cabrera (L), Fernandez, Gallegos, Helsley, Hicks, McFarland (L), Naughton (L), Oviedo
Romine, Sosa/Gorman, Dickerson, Pujols/Nootbaar
10-DAY IL (3)
C Yadier Molina, CF Harrison Bader, LF Tyler O’Neill
15-DAY IL (2)
LHP Steven Matz, RHP Drew VerHagen
60-DAY IL (2)
RHP Jack Flaherty, RHP Alex Reyes