The Cardinals announced this evening that they’ve designated right-hander Guillermo Zuniga for assignment. The move makes room for recently-signed right-hander Keynan Middleton on the club’s 40-man roster.
Zuniga, 25, signed with St. Louis on a big league deal last offseason despite the righty never having pitched above the Double-A level to that point in his career after the right-hander became a free agent on the heels of a pair of seasons where he struck out a combined 29.8% of batters faced at the Double-A level. Despite that minimal experience, it didn’t take long for Zuniga to make his big league debut last season. The Cardinals added him to the roster in time for him to make his big league debut on May 2 as he struck out two without allowing a hit or a walk in a scoreless inning of work.
That would be Zuniga’s only big league appearance for quite some time, as he returned to Triple-A shortly after and spent time on the injured list in the minor leagues. Eventually, the club called Zuniga back up to the majors in August though his stay on the big league roster once again proved to be short-lived. The righty allowed a run on two hits while striking out two in the sole appearance of his second stint in the big leagues before being placed on the 15-day injured list with a forearm strain that eventually ended the right-hander’s season.
In between Zuniga’s brief stints in the majors this year, he struggled badly at the Triple-A level with a 7.63 ERA across 29 appearances. While he struck out a respectable 25.3% of batters faced during that time, he struggled badly with his control and allowed a worrisome 13.7% walk rate. In addition to his seemingly wavering command this past season, health is another concern for the righty entering the 2024 campaign. Updates on Zuniga’s strained right forearm have been few and far between since he was transferred to the 60-day IL back in September, so it’s unclear if he’s expected to be ready for Spring Training.
That being said, the right-hander has flashed a plus breaking ball and can touch triple digits with his heater, making him an enticing arm for most any team to add as optionable bullpen depth if healthy. Looking ahead, the Cardinals will have seven days to either trade Zuniga or attempt to pass him through waivers. If they’re successful in passing Zuniga through waivers, he figures to remain in the organization as non-roster depth headed into the 2024 campaign. As for St. Louis, the club’s retooled bullpen figures to feature some combination of Middleton, Andrew Kittredge, Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos and JoJo Romero covering the late innings.