The Cardinals announced a series of roster moves in advance of today’s 40-man roster deadline. Right-handers Adam Kloffenstein and Sem Robberse and catcher Pedro Pages had their contracts selected, while left-hander Connor Thomas was designated for assignment. (Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported earlier today that Pages’ contract was going to be selected.) Left-hander Packy Naughton was outrighted to Triple-A, and St. Louis officially confirmed the previously-reported news that Wilking Rodriguez elected free agency after the right-hander had also been outrighted to Triple-A.
It was essentially a set of chalk picks for the Cards in protecting three of the four Rule 5-eligible prospects on their MLB Pipeline top 30 list, with right-hander Ian Bedell the only eligible player now available to rival clubs in December’s R5 Draft. Bedell might be one of the more interesting names to watch heading into the Rule 5, but the Cardinals felt Kloffenstein, Robberse, and Pages were more worthy of 40-man roster spots.
Kloffenstein and Robberse only joined the organization at the trade deadline, acquired from the Blue Jays in the Jordan Hicks trade. Both pitchers made their Triple-A debuts after coming to the Cardinals, and they’ll likely start 2024 at Triple-A as well. Since St. Louis is aiming to add multiple new starting pitchers this winter, Robberse and Kloffenstein will be competing with the Cards’ other young arms to see who might be part of the first wave of depth starters. It also isn’t out of the question that either could be on the move if the Cardinals pursued some experienced pitching on the trade market.
Pages was a sixth-round pick for the Cardinals in the 2019 draft, and he hit .267/.362/.443 with 16 home runs over 497 plate appearances with Double-A Springfield last season. Speaking of trade depth, the Cards might also look to the catcher position, as they now have four backstops (Willson Contreras, Ivan Herrera, Andrew Knizner, and Pages) on the 40-man roster.
Thomas was a 40-man selection almost exactly a year ago, as St. Louis looked to protect the outfielder from the 2022 Rule 5 Draft. The southpaw was coming off a 5.47 ERA in 135 Triple-A innings in 2022, but couldn’t make much headway last year, delivering a 5.53 ERA, 15.7% strikeout rate, and 7.0% walk rate in 94 1/3 frames for Memphis. Thomas is a grounder specialist who has faced some heavy BABIP misfortune during his minor league career, but the Cardinals have seen enough to potentially move on from the 25-year-old.
Naughton has a 4.98 ERA over 59 2/3 Major League innings since the start of the 2021 season, with his first two big league campaigns spent shuttling back and forth from Triple-A with the Angels and Cardinals. His 2023 campaign was essentially lost to injury, as Naughton underwent flexor tendon surgery in late June and figures to miss probably the first half of the 2024 season, based on past timelines for similar procedures. Naughton will continue rehabbing and potentially also surface for at least some bullpen work at some point next year.