The Cards announced the following transaction in advance of tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks:
8/12/22: Released LHP T.J. McFarland
8/19/22: Placed RHP Ryan Helsley on the Paternity Leave List. Recalled LHP JoJo Romero from AAA Memphis. Activated DH Juan Yepez from the 10-day IL and optioned him to AAA Memphis.
I’m not sure whether Helsley’s wife has already given birth to their child or is about to. The rules allow the Cards to place Helsley on the Paternity Leave List to attend the birth of a child, a birth which is either imminent or has already occurred within the previous 48 hours. Helsley must remain on the list for at least 24 hours, but no longer than 72 hours.
To replace Helsley on the active roster temporarily, the club has decided to give JoJo Romero a shot. The Cards acquired Romero from the Phillies on July 30th in a straight-up trade for Edmundo Sosa. I elaborated on Romero’s background here on the day of the trade. Romero started the season on the 60-day IL of the Phils because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and has pitched 17 games across five different levels, which include several games on rehab assignments. Oddly enough, he’s only pitched three games for AAA Memphis since the trade, and none since August 9th. Romero pitched one inning in each of his three Memphis outings, and struck out half of the ten batters he faced. In 15 total innings in the minor leagues this season, he’s struck out 20, with only two walks and has not allowed a ball to leave the yard. While his past time in the major leagues has not gone so well, the Cards are prepared to see if his strikeout punch will work for them.
Let’s take a look at the other options on the 40-man roster the Cards could have chosen instead of Romero. Freddy Pacheco was promoted to Memphis form Springfield on June 23rd and has posted a 34.2% K rate against a respectable 8.9% walk rate. He’s a fly ball pitcher, but fortunately has not allowed any homers in 21 innings this season. Jake Walsh has been out for over two months with a right elbow injury, and is probably done for the year. The 29-year old James Naile pitched six very fine innings for the Cardinals in an earlier stint. Junior Fernandez was optioned on August 2nd to make room for the new pitchers the club acquired in trade. Since that time, he had three-walk outing, but has allowed only two hits in five innings with seven strikeouts. Kodi Whitley was on the Memphis IL for over a month with an unknown ailment, but since his activation at the beginning of this month, he’s walked only two against seven strikeouts in six innings. The club decided to keep Matthew Liberatore stretched out as a starter in Memphis, and he was not a realistic choice for short-term bullpen help. Zack Thompson, on the other hand, has been auditioned as a short reliever for Memphis since his August 4th option. His four outings, two of which have been on short rest, have not gone well, as he’s walked more batters than he has struck out, and he has allowed over twice as many hits as innings pitched. Thompson has definitely not handled being jerked around from rotation work to long relief to short relief as well as Andre Pallante has.
Not only is Romero thoroughly rested for some reason, but the club must have figured it has seen plenty of the other realistic choices and wanted to see what the new lefty could do in what will likely amount to a maximum three-game stint.
In other news, Juan Yepez has been activated from the 10-day IL and optioned to Memphis. In the excitement of Albert Pujols’s recent homers and the emergence of Lars Nootbaar as our every day right fielder, some may have forgotten a bit about Yepez. With Paul DeJong getting the overwhelming majority of the playing time at shortstop and Nootbaar starting every day in right, Brendan Donovan and his almost .400 OBP has become a bench player. With Yepez set to come off of the IL, I fully expected the club to option Donovan after listening to manager Marmol’s say that it was really important to get Yepez back out there on defense. I had assumed he was going to be shoe-horned, at a minimum into the short side of a right field platoon with Nootbaar. Yepez started a rehab assignment with Memphis on August 9th. It’s a real small sample, but he’s got three singles and no walks in 18 trips to the plate with three strikeouts. Yepez also came down with an illness during the rehab assignment that prevented him playing for four days, so one should not be inclined to read anything into the numbers.
Still, the bench is real odd. You have a backup catcher in Knizner, a backup outfielder in Dickerson, but no real backup centerfielder. You have Donovan, who can theoretically stand at six positions, but is not a serious option at shortstop, and you have a DH platoon between Albert Pujols and Nolan Gorman. With Pujols on the roster, Yepez is almost redundant, as his butchery in the outfield doesn’t offer anything else. While it would be reasonable to prefer the sock Yepez offers in a pinch-hitting role, there’s not a lot of pinch-hitting with the DH anyway, the club already has Pujols from the right side, and optioning Donovan would leave the club with no one to back up second, third or short. It’s just a strange bench to me because we don’t have anyone that you would want to bring in as a defensive replacement at the end of the game.
The option of Yepez will almost certainly last only until September 1st, at which time the clubs are required to expand their roster to 28 players. You should expect the club to go with 14 pitchers and 14 position players and for Yepez to be the additional position player added at that time.
Wainwright, Mikolas, Quintana (L), Montgomery (L), Hudson
Cabrera (L), Gallegos, Hicks, Naughton (L), Pallante, Romero (L), Stratton, Woodford
Knizner, Dickerson, Donovan, Pujols/Gorman