The Cards announced the following transactions yesterday:
9/1/22: Recalled RHP James Naile from AAA Memphis. Selected the contract of OF Ben DeLuzio from AAA Memphis.
In years past, baseball clubs were permitted, but not required, to call up the entire 40-man roster on September 1st. Some clubs would call up a few, while others would grab almost everyone possible. As of September 3rd, 2019, for instance, the Cards had a 35-man active roster for the stretch drive, complete with a 12-man bullpen and a 10-man bench. By that point in the season, at least the regular season of the full-season minor league clubs would have been almost over. Roster moves at that stage of the season were also very rare. There was no good reason to put someone on the injured list, because the whole 40-man roster was available. For the same reason, you didn’t see players optioned to the minor leagues, not to mention the fact that there would have been nowhere to option the player in most cases.
Everything changed beginning last season. Teams are no longer allowed to bring up a bunch of kids for a cup of coffee. Now major league clubs are required to have a 28-man roster beginning on September 1st, and the roster reverts back to 26 players for the playoffs. Clubs are limited to 14 pitchers for the rest of the regular season, so if a club had 13 pitchers already, as most clubs do, they can add one pitcher and one position player. You could see injured list moves, and the players would have to stay down for the requisite time. In addition, the regular season for AAA Memphis ends on September 28th, so you could also see options, and the players optioned would also have to stay down for 10 or 15 days, as the case may be. The regular season for the Cardinals ends on October 5th. Even in the unlikely event that the club would want to option a player between September 28th and October 5th, it could still option the player to the Complex League club. Clubs, therefore, have to be more careful about the moves they make this month.
There were also new option rules that were instituted both last year and this year. Last year, the Rules were changed to permit the club to option players to the Complex League clubs even after the regular season and any postseason of the other minor league affiliates has ended. Players optioned to the Complex League clubs on or after September 1st get major league service time. In addition, players optioned anywhere on or after September 1st get major league service time for the period of the option if two conditions are met. First, the player had to have been continuously on the major league 26-man roster or injured list from June 1st through the date of the optional assignment. And second, the option would have to be responsible for depriving the player of the service time necessary to be eligible for salary arbitration or Article XX-B major league free agency. Finally, in years past, clubs could option and recall a player back and forth as many times as it wanted within one season. Beginning this year, clubs may only option a player five times in any one regular season. For this season only, options that took place before May 2nd didn’t count towards the allowable five options, but they will count from day one of the regular season starting next year.
For the pitcher add, the Cards chose James Naile, which was a sensible choice. The choice basically came down to Naile, Junior Fernandez, Freddy Pacheco or Kodi Whitley. Packy Naughton and Genesis Cabrera were optioned on August 26th and 27th, respectively, and are not yet eligible for recall. And James Walsh is out for the year. Whitley has had walk issues, (15.3% in 12.2 MLB IP and 12.1% in 23 AAA IP). So has Fernandez to a lesser degree, and for whatever reason, he’s been knocked around in AAA to the tune of a .416 BABIP. Naile hasn’t shown the potential strikeout punch of the other two guys, but he keeps the ball on the ground just as well, if not better, his walk rate is much lower, and he has done a better job keeping the ball in the park.
Giving Pacheco a look-see wouldn’t have been a bad choice, actually. He started out the season with AA Springfield, but since his June 23rd promotion to Memphis, he has 31 strikeouts to only 7 walks, one homer allowed and only 14 hits allowed in 25 innings pitched. Even if a .228 BABIP allowed could be considered fortunate, his FIP is 2.50. The Cards went with the overall pitching experience over the raw stuff in this case.
Ben DeLuzio’s addition to the 40-man and active rosters is a function, in large part of the timing surrounding the birth of Nolan Arenado’s child. Yepez would have been the choice here, but he is not eligible. Arenado went on the Paternity Leave List on August 26th, which triggered the recall of Juan Yepez for that day’s game only. When Arenado was activated the next day, Yepez had to be optioned back to Memphis, and having been optioned, he is not eligible for recall, even with the expanded roster rule, until September 6th.
The other 40-man roster position players were Ivan Herrera, Kramer Robertson and Conner Capel. With AAA games extending through the end of September, the club must feel it’s more valuable for Herrera to get regular work. Robertson has shown an excellent batting eye and posted a .397 OBP in 411 plate appearances at the AAA level this season, but doesn’t hit much, and isn’t so strong on defense that you’d want to take the bat out of the hands of the other middle infielders. Conner Capel was the last option, and although he has some experience in center field, he has almost exclusively played the corners this year. Capel slashed .255/.357/.417, and Baseball Prospects rated his defense above average, but being a lefty, he’s sort of redundant with Dickerson, Nootbaar and Donovan, and doesn’t make a good platoon partner for anyone you’d want to platoon.
The Cards thus decided on the 28-year old DeLuzio, whom the the club plucked from the Arizona Diamondbacks organization in the minor league portion of the December 2021 Rule 5 draft. The most notable statistic about DeLuzio is that he has 30 steals in 36 tries. Primarily a corner outfielder until 2018, the righty-swinger started 83 of the possible 125 games for Memphis in center field. Baseball Prospectus actually rates him as a negative defender. I haven’t seen either Capel or DeLuzio play very much, but looking at the available metrics, it looks like the only thing DeLuzio does better than Capel is run the bases better and steal more. Capel walks more, strikes out less, has a higher ISO in fewer trips to the plate, has better defensive numbers, and relies far less on BABIP to generate his offense. Yet with both players on the roster at the same time in AAA, DeLuzio was the clear choice for center field.
At the end of the day, this will likely not matter much. Yepez will almost certainly be recalled on September 6th for his bat, and Jack Flaherty is set to join the Cards’ rotation on September 5th. The Cards will need to trim a 40-man roster spot to make room for Jack, and DeLuzio is almost certain to be DFAd in a few days. Perhaps the Cards might want to put DeLuzio in center in the late innings against right-handed pitching to move O’Neill to left and take Dickerson out of the game or use DeLuzio to pinch-run. I don’t know that I’m correct for sure, but DeLuzio hasn’t been on any kind of hot streak (.220/.246/.271 with a 29.3% strikeout rate the last month), and I just view it as as a reward for yeoman’s service. If the Cards do end up outrighting DeLuzio, he will be eligible for minor-league free agency after the season is over.
Gallegos, Helsley, Hicks, Naile, Pallante, Romero (L), Stratton, Thompson (L), Woodford
Knizner, DeLuzio, Carlson/Dickerson, Pujols/Donovan, DeJong/Gorman