The Cardinals announced Wednesday that they’ve acquired minor league infielder Jose Fermin from the Guardians in exchange for cash. Fermin has been selected to the 40-man roster in St. Louis, the team added. The Cardinals also reinstated righties Alex Reyes and Drew VerHagen from the 60-day injured list, bringing their 40-man roster to a total of 38 players.
Fermin, 24 in March, spent the 2022 season with Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate and batted .215/.336/.322 with just a 13.9% strikeout rate against a 12.7% walk rate. He’s hit just 22 home runs in 415 minor league games and 1687 plate appearances, which underscores the lack of power that scouting reports on Fermin have emphasized. He stole 28 bases in just 105 games as recently as 2019, but Fermin only swiped nine bags in 90 games and 330 plate appearances in Triple-A this year.
While Fermin played plenty of shortstop early in his minor league run with Cleveland, he was deployed exclusively at second base and third base in 2022. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote prior to the 2022 season that Fermin rarely swings and misses but “lacks passable big league physicality and is a better fit at second base than shortstop.”
For the Cardinals, Fermin will give them a right-handed hitter with experience at three infield positions and solid bat-to-ball skills. Fermin would’ve been eligible to be selected in this year’s Rule 5 Draft, but St. Louis obviously saw enough in him that they preemptively made a move to acquire him and add him to the 40-man roster. This is the first time Fermin has been selected to a 40-man, so he’ll have a full slate of three minor league option years — assuming he sticks on their roster for that long, anyhow.
The moves to reinstate Reyes and VerHagen were a formality. Reyes missed the entire 2022 season due to shoulder surgery and has now managed just 145 innings in the Majors since making his debut back in 2016. He’ll be in line to earn a projected $2.8MM in arbitration this winter, and the Cardinals will likely have to weigh non-tendering the once-vaunted prospect.
VerHagen, meanwhile, missed time with shoulder and hip impingements in 2022 and didn’t pitch after being placed on the injured list on July 17. Signed to a two-year, $5.5MM deal in March — the first post-lockout, Major League free-agent signing for fans of random MLB trivia — the 32-year-old VerHagen was unable to replicate the success he’d found pitching overseas in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. In 21 2/3 innings with the Cardinals, he logged a 6.65 ERA with a 17% strikeout rate against a bloated 13.2% walk rate. He’s owed $3MM next season.