The Cardinals announced a series of roster moves prior to today’s game. Outfielder Randal Grichuk and lefty Zach Duke were both activated from the 10-day and 60-day DL, respectively, while catcher Carson Kelly was recalled from Triple-A. Righty Sam Tuivailala and outfielder Magneuris Sierra were optioned to Triple-A last night to open up two roster spots, and catcher Eric Fryer was designated for assignment today in another corresponding move.
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Fryer signed a minor league deal with St. Louis this winter and has hit .155/.277/.197 over 83 PA serving as Yadier Molina’s backup. This is Fryer’s second stint with the Cards, having originally joined the club on another minors deal in the 2015-16 offseason and then spending part of last season with the Pirates after being claimed off waivers.
Kelly, a consensus top-100 prospect in baseball, will replace Fryer in the backup catcher role. Kelly made his big league debut last year, a 14-plate appearance cup of coffee that saw him appear in 10 games for the Cardinals. The 23-year-old Kelly has only added to his lofty prospect status by hitting well in his first full season at Triple-A, batting .283/.375/.459 over 280 PA.
With Molina freshly signed to an extension though the 2020 season and Kelly seemingly ready for an extended look in the big leagues, it is possible that this callup could be Kelly’s audition for teams interested in a trade for the young catcher. He would certainly be a major trade chip for a Cards team that may be looking to land some controllable but established MLB talent for 2018, or even still make a run at the NL Central.
Grichuk returns after a brief stay on the disabled list due to a back strain. He’ll add depth to a Cardinals outfield that is still missing Stephen Piscotty, though Grichuk is still looking for consistency during a disappointing 2017 season that has included a minor league demotion. Grichuk has continued to struggle since returning from the minors, and is batting just .215/.270/.408 in 241 PA.
Remarkably, Duke is back in action after undergoing Tommy John surgery just over nine months ago, far outpacing the procedure’s usual recovery timeline of 12-15 months. Duke has posted strong numbers as a reliever for the Cards, Brewers, White Sox and Reds over the last four seasons, and he’ll join Brett Cecil, Kevin Siegrist and Tyler Lyons as left-handed options out of the St. Louis bullpen. With this much lefty depth on hand, the Cards could potentially shop one of their southpaws to needy teams at the deadline.