2:40pm: The Cardinals have announced Mercado’s selection, along with left-hander Matthew Liberatore being recalled from Triple-A Memphis. In corresponding moves, Carlson was placed on the 10-day injured list retroactive to May 15 while righty James Naile was optioned. To make room for Mercado on the 40-man roster, lefty Packy Naughton was transferred to the 60-day injured list. Naughton has been on the IL since April 8 with a forearm strain and will now be ineligible to return until early June, 60 days from that initial IL placement.
12:47pm: The Cardinals are set to select the contract of outfielder Oscar Mercado, as first reported by Robert Murray and Joshua Jacobs of FanSided (Twitter link). They’ll need to make a corresponding 40-man roster move, as Mercado is currently in Triple-A Memphis on a minor league deal.
Outfielder Dylan Carlson has been hobbled by an ankle injury that’s kept him out of the lineup for the past few games. He’s been available off the bench on an emergency basis but hasn’t played since exiting the Cardinals’ Sunday game after just one plate appearance. Tyler O’Neill is already on the injured list with a back strain, and it stands to reason that Carlson could also wind up headed there if he’s still unavailable. A 10-day IL placement can be backdated up to three days, so he that move could still have him available for activation within a week’s time, if the Cards go that route.
Calling up Mercado will give the Cards some additional depth in center field behind Lars Nootbaar, who’s been starting in center recently. Mercado will join Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, Alec Burleson and Juan Yepez as outfield options on the big league roster.
Mercado, 28, was a second-round pick by St. Louis back in 2013 but was traded to Cleveland before making his big league debut. He was a fringe Rookie of the Year candidate in Cleveland in 2019, batting .269/.318/.443 with 15 homers and 15 steals in 482 trips to the plate. That landed him an eighth-place finish on the ballot and looked to set the stage for Mercado to hold down a long-term spot in the outfield, but he regressed badly in 2020 and has yet to recover. In 459 plate appearances since that strong debut campaign, Mercado has batted .200/.258/.330.
The Cardinals brought Mercado back to the organization on a minor league contract this offseason, and he’s out to a nice start in Memphis, where he’s slashed .278/.361/.421 (100 wRC+) with a pair of home runs and 15 steals (in 18 tries). Mercado is out of minor league options, so it could be a short stay on the big league roster for him once O’Neill and/or Carlson can return to the lineup. The Cards won’t be able to send Mercado down without first passing him through waivers, which would make him a DFA candidate once the outfield is at full strength.