The Cardinals announced on Tuesday that right-hander Seth Maness has been placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to Aug. 14) due to a strain in his right elbow. Fellow righty Sam Tuivailala has been recalled from Triple-A to take his spot on the roster.
The loss of Maness is yet another blow to a Cardinals team that has seen displaced closer Trevor Rosenthal, right-hander Michael Wacha, left-hander Tyler Lyons, left fielder Matt Holliday, first baseman Matt Adams and shortstop Aledmys Diaz all land on the disabled list within the past three weeks. Beyond that group, the Cards have been without righties Lance Lynn and Jordan Walden all season. The injury to Maness is doubly concerning, as the 27-year-old has already missed roughly five weeks this season due to a separate injury in the same elbow.
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When healthy, Maness has been an important part of manager Mike Matheny’s bullpen, logging a 3.41 ERA in 31 2/3 innings of work. However, his strikeout rate has also wilted in 2016 (4.5 K/9), as has his velocity (average fastball down from 89.5 mph to 87.9 mph), and he’s averaging nearly a half a walk more per nine innings pitched than he did in 2015 (2.27 BB/9 in 2016, 1.85 in 2015). Those trends wouldn’t be encouraging in any season but are especially concerning in a year that has included two elbow-related trips to the disabled list.
With Maness, Rosenthal and Lyons all on the disabled list, the Cardinals are suddenly lacking in proven right-handed options in the bullpen. Seung Hwan Oh has been a revelation in his rookie season, but Jonathan Broxton has struggled in the first season of a two-year deal. Beyond that, the Cards are leaning on journeyman Jerome Williams as a long reliever and rookies Matt Bowman and Alex Reyes as other right-handed options. Bowman, though, has begun to fade in the second half. And while Reyes is widely regarded as one of the five or 10 best prospects in all of baseball, he has just four Major League innings under his belt. And on top of all that, lefty Kevin Siegrist said yesterday that he’s been dealing with a “deadish feeling” in his arm. Tuivailala will hope to help patch things up, but he’s limped to a 5.44 ERA out of the Triple-A bullpen in spite of a gaudy 13.8 K/9 rate through 43 innings.
Certainly, it’s logical to expect the Cardinals, who are currently tied with the Marlins for the second NL Wild Card slot, to examine the August trade market for potential bullpen upgrades. Then again, their current place in the standings (one game ahead of the Pirates in the Wild Card race, two ahead of the Mets) allows a pair of teams, including a division rival, to place claims for the purpose of blocking St. Louis from obtaining help. Recently released Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon could potentially be had for nothing more than $130K through season’s end (the pro-rated portion of the league minimum), though that’s purely speculation on my behalf, as there’s been no indication that the Cardinals are in the mix for his services.