The Cardinals have made several roster moves, per their transactions tracker at MLB.com. Infielder Taylor Motter has been selected to the club’s 40-man roster, while infielder/outfielder Juan Yepez and lefties Génesis Cabrera and JoJo Romero were optioned to the minors. The Cardinals already opened up a spot on their 40-man roster last week when right-hander Freddy Pacheco was lost on waivers to the Tigers, meaning a corresponding move won’t be necessary for the addition of Motter.
Motter, 33, is a veteran journeyman utility guy, who has appeared in 161 major league games scattered over five different seasons. He’s spent time with the Rays, Mariners, Twins, Rockies, Red Sox and Reds. In that time, he’s hit .191/.262/.309 for a wRC+ of 55. With Cincy last year, he got into just two major league games, spending most of his time in Triple-A. He was released in July and then latched on with Atlanta via a minor league deal. Between the two organizations, he got into 81 Triple-A games and hit .254/.357/.523, wRC+ of 129.
Though he doesn’t have much of a track record of success hitting MLB pitching, Motter certainly can provide defensive versatility, having played every position on the diamond except for center field and catcher. That seemed to give him an edge on a roster spot when shortstop Paul DeJong suffered some back tightness that is going to have him start the season on the injured list. That left the club a bit light in the middle infield behind shortstop Tommy Edman and second baseman Brendan Donovan. Nolan Gorman can play second but doesn’t really play short, so Motter will give the club a bit of extra protection.
The optioning of Yepez comes as a bit of a surprise, as he hit 12 home runs in his 76-game debut last year, leading to a .253/.296/.447 batting line and a 109 wRC+. However, unlike Motter, he’s somewhat limited defensively, as he can only play the corner positions. Since the Cards have Nolan Arenado at third and Paul Goldschmidt at first, Yepez would be limited to the designated hitter spot and some corner outfield work, where his defense was graded poorly last year. The outfield is also getting pretty crowded, with Tyler O’Neill, Lars Nootbaar and Dylan Carlson set to return and prospect Jordan Walker looking like he will make the team, though nothing had been made official there. It seems Yepez would have had a limited path to playing time in the big leagues and will instead get some regular at-bats in the minors.
The optioning of Cabrera is also somewhat surprising, given his track record. In 2021, he made 71 appearances in 2021 with a 3.73 ERA, striking out 26.0% of batters faced. His 12.2% walk rate was certainly on the high side, but it was a strong campaign nonetheless. In 2022, he dropped his walk rate to 10.3% but his strikeouts also vanished, dropping to 16.5% and leading to a 4.63 ERA. Despite that rough year last year, he was having a nice performance here in Spring Training, throwing seven innings with seven punchouts, no walks and a 2.57 ERA. But that evidently wasn’t enough to get him a nod for the Opening Day roster.
Romero, 26, came over from the Phillies in the Edmundo Sosa trade. He has a 6.25 ERA in 36 MLB innings thus far in his career. His option doesn’t come as a shock, but with him and Cabrera out of the picture, it seems possible that Zack Thompson and Packy Naughton might be the club’s lefty relief options to open the season.
As mentioned, today’s moves won’t require a corresponding move to open up a 40-man roster spot for Motter. However, if Walker is indeed going to make the team like many expect, he will need a spot in the coming days.