9:51am: The Cardinals have now formally announced the moves, specifying that Romero is hitting the injured list due to patellar tendinitis in his left knee.
9:25am: The Cardinals have designated infielder Taylor Motter for assignment, clearing an active roster spot for the recall of José Fermín from Triple-A Memphis. St. Louis also reinstated Matthew Liberatore from the 15-day injured list while placing JoJo Romero on the 15-day IL, retroactive to September 2. The team has yet to formally announce the moves via press release, but each is reflected on their transaction log at MLB.com. The Cards’ 40-man count drops to 39.
Motter has had three separate stints on the St. Louis roster. The 33-year-old has played in 29 games, his biggest MLB workload since 2017. Motter hasn’t produced much offensively, hitting .171/.232/.211 through 82 trips to the plate. As has been the case throughout his career, the bigger appeal has been in his defensive flexibility. Motter has gotten multiple starts at each of second base, third base and shortstop.
The Cards have waived him twice before. He’s gone unclaimed both times. If that’s the case yet again, he’d have the right to elect free agency. Motter would qualify for minor league free agency at the start of the offseason if he’s not on St. Louis’ major league roster in either case, so he could look to explore other opportunities a few weeks early.
Liberatore was only sidelined for a couple weeks by back tightness. The former first-round pick and top prospect is getting consistent rotation run as the Cards evaluate potential depth options for next year’s starting staff. Despite a slight velocity uptick and decent numbers in Triple-A, Liberatore has gotten hit hard in 50 MLB innings this season. He’s allowing 6.12 earned runs per nine with a well below-average 15.1% strikeout rate.
Romero has pitched his way into key innings for a St. Louis bullpen that subtracted a couple veterans at the deadline. While the 26-year-old has a solid but unspectacular 3.68 ERA over 36 2/3 frames, that run prevention mark belies excellent underlying numbers. Romero has fanned 28.6% of batters faced while generating grounders on nearly three-fifths of batted balls he allows. In the process, he has likely staked a claim to a high-leverage role in the 2024 relief corps.
As for the open spot on the 40-man roster, it could be ticketed for Rule 5 pick Wilking Rodriguez, who has missed the entire season thus far after undergoing shoulder surgery in early May. Rodriguez was given a timetable of four to six weeks to recover from that operation, and Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat reports that the Cards are hopeful of taking a look at him down the stretch in 2023. He’s currently on the 60-day injured list but is on a minor league rehab stint in Triple-A Memphis, where he’s pitched 1 2/3 innings with four strikeouts, no walks and just one unearned run allowed.
Even if Rodriguez is activated and spends the final few weeks of the season on the Major League roster, he won’t meet the requirements to shed his Rule 5 status. A player needs to spend at least 90 days on the active roster during his Rule 5 season to fulfill those requirements, so Rodriguez’s Rule 5 designation would carry over into the 2024 season until he reaches that mark. As it stands, he’s hardly a sure bet to remain on the 40-man roster throughout the offseason, but a strong showing in the final three to four weeks could go a long way in changing that perception.