- The Cardinals will recall center fielder Harrison Bader from Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday and option outfielder Randy Arozarena, per Stu Durando and Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Manager Mike Shildt noted the Cardinals are “super proud” of Bader for the way he handled himself in the wake of his July 29 demotion. Bader had been a staple in St. Louis’ lineup for most of the year until the club sent him down, but he’s coming back as a result of a dominant offensive showing in the minors. Meanwhile, fellow Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill could start a rehab assignment with Memphis later in the week, according to Durando and Hummel. O’Neill has been on the IL since Aug. 3 with a left wrist strain.
- Cardinals utilityman Drew Robinson recently underwent a season-ending, “progressive” version of Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, manager Mike Shildt told MLB.com’s Anne Rogers and other reporters. The surgery was only a partial version of the normal Tommy John procedure and it was on Robinson’s non-throwing arm, so Shildt believes Robinson will be ready for Spring Training. Acquired in the trade that sent Patrick Wisdom to the Rangers last December, Robinson appeared in five MLB games for the Cardinals and hit .265/.385/.423 over 234 PA for Triple-A Memphis this season before hitting the injured list on June 24. Robinson has some very solid minor league numbers over his ten pro seasons, though he hasn’t hit much over 253 Major League plate appearances with Texas and St. Louis from 2016-18.
The Cardinals have promoted top outfield prospect Dylan Carlson to Triple-A, per an announcement from the club’s top affiliate. That puts the 20-year-old switch-hitter right on the doorstep of the big leagues. Carlson turned in a strong .281/.364/.518 batting line with 21 long balls and 18 steals over 483 Double-A plate appearances. It’s not clear whether the club has any thought of a late-2019 MLB promotion for the talented youngster.
More from the National League …
- MLB.com’s Mike Petriello provides an interesting examination of the feast-or-famine experience hitters have had this year against Brewers lefty relief ace Josh Hader. It really is a curious situation, as Petriello explains in full detail. In essence: Hader is harder to make contact against than anyone in baseball. But when batters have put bat to ball this year, they’ve tended to make loud sounds and often ended up trotting the bases. Petriello identifies a few potential causes/fixes for the Milwaukee southpaw. In particular, it seems Hader can work on reducing first-pitch predictability and tightening up his command at times. You’ll certainly want to read the entire piece to appreciate it.
- As he continues to produce middling overall offensive numbers, Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer is showing increasingly yawning platoon splits, as MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell writes. It’s simple enough, in theory, to spell him against southpaws. But that’s tough to do given the club’s mammoth investment in Hosmer. Skipper Andy Green made clear it’s not an immediate possibility. That makes sense, as the Friars have to hope that Hosmer turns a corner and can afford to give him the leash to work things out. But if it comes down to it, the extreme platoon situation actually ought to make it easier in the long run to deal with a contract that has simply not panned out.
- Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed has long been lauded for his superlative glovework, but has mostly remained an obscure player. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic highlights the growing value of the 29-year-old, who is now finally marrying his excellent defensive performance with much-improved hitting. With torrid recent streak, Ahmed has reached league-average offensive levels for the season as a whole. Piecoro provides an excellent look at Ahmed’s thus-far successful efforts to avoid chasing pitches out of the zone and make better contact when he does offer. Ahmed, who is earning $3.663MM this season, is entering his final season of arbitration eligibility.
- The Cardinals announced yesterday that they have relieved assistant hitting coach Mark Budaska of his duties. He’ll be replaced by Jobel Jimenez, who had served as the club’s Triple-A hitting coach prior to his promotion. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link) interprets the decision as one that “underscores [the] commitment to hitting coach Jeff Albert.” Indeed, the organization is working to spread Albert’s “comprehensive offensive strategy throughout [its] system.” Albert, who has spent time in the Cardinals and Astros organizations prior to taking on the current role in the fall of 2018, discussed his philosophies with David Laurila of Fangraphs not long after getting the gig. Goold had previously examined Budaska’s importance to the Cards’ developmental system before the hiring of Albert. As for Jimenez, he’s a well-known commodity to the St. Louis front office, having spent more than a decade working on the Cardinals farm.
The Cardinals have placed outfielder Jose Martinez on the 10-day injured list with a right AC joint sprain, selected the contract of outfielder Randy Arozarena from Triple-A Memphis, activated catcher Yadier Molina from the IL and optioned backstop Andrew Knizner, Anne Rogers of MLB.com tweets.
This has been a surprisingly underwhelming season for the 31-year-old Martinez, who has slashed just .266/.336/.401 (96 wRC+) with 10 home runs in 348 plate appearances. Martinez was far better over the previous two seasons, during which he hit .306/.369/.478 (129 wRC+) with 31 long balls across 897 PA.
The Cardinals will replace Martinez with Arozarena, a Cuba native who signed with the club for $1.25MM in 2016. Now 24 years old, Arozarena has hit a spectacular .368/.442/.562 (147 wRC+) with seven home runs and eight steals at the Triple-A level this season.
Not to be forgotten, Molina – one of the greatest Cardinals ever – is back after spending a month on the IL with a right thumb tendon strain. The 37-year-old’s thumb has bothered him since May, which is likely among the reasons he has batted a woeful .261/.286/.368 (70 wRC+) in 276 trips to the plate this season. Backup Matt Wieters has been a fine offensive substitute in Molina’s stead, though it has been a while since the former was an especially well-regarded defender.
The Angels announced Thursday that they’ve claimed lefty Adalberto Mejia off waivers from the Cardinals. It’s the second time this season that the Halos have claimed Mejia, whom they lost to the Cardinals on waivers in late July after designating him for assignment themselves. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Halos requested unconditional release waivers on catcher Jose Briceno.
A former top 100 prospect who profiled as a fourth starter, Mejia never established himself with the Twins and has now bounced from Minnesota to Anaheim to St. Louis and back to Anaheim this season. He’s posted a 7.54 ERA in 22 2/3 innings, though he’s only a season removed from solid numbers as a starter with Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate a season ago. Mejia is out of minor league options, so the Angels will have to keep him on the big league roster or else expose him to waivers for what would be the fourth time this season.
Mejia was designated by the Angels at the conclusion of a 16-inning marathon game that depleted their ’pen, and the club was perhaps reluctant to make that move. They’ll now get a second look at the big lefty as they evaluate whether he can be a potential piece of the pitching staff moving forward — be it in the ’pen or in the rotation. He has experience in both arenas.
As for Briceno, the 26-year-old has spent the season in Triple-A Salt Lake, where he’s managed a tepid .215/.262/.405 slash in 84 plate appearances. He’s shown a bit of pop in limited Triple-A action over the past couple seasons but has a sub-.300 OBP at every level above Class-A ball in his career.
This has been a solid but injury-shortened season for Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who ranks among the game’s best pending free-agent position players. Although Ozuna could have a chance to shop his services around the majors in a few months, the soon-to-be 29-year-old would like to remain with the Cardinals, Mark Saxon of The Athletic writes (subscription required).
“I hope to stay here,” Ozuna told Saxon. “Let’s see how the season goes and how much I can help the team, but my preference is to stay here. I like the team, the city of St. Louis, everything. Maybe at the end of the season, we can get something done. Let’s see how the team finishes.”
The Cardinals, however, aren’t prepared to discuss an extension yet. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak told Saxon it’s “good to hear” Ozuna wants to remain a Redbird, but he added, “We will focus on this in the offseason.”
If the two sides don’t reach an agreement before the market opens, the Cardinals are likely to slap a qualifying offer on Ozuna as he potentially prepares to depart. That would be a pricey move on the team’s part (the QO was worth $17.9MM last offseason), but Ozuna is on the way to justifying the investment with another respectable showing.
Now in his second year with the Cardinals, the former Marlin has slashed .252/.329/.505 (115 wRC+) with 1.6 fWAR over 346 plate appearances in 2019. Ozuna missed just over a month this summer with multiple finger fractures, but he has still piled up 21 home runs. His prodigious power has helped make him a favorite of Statcast, which places Ozuna anywhere from the league’s 79th to 98th percentile in expected batting average, expected weighted on-base average, expected slugging percentage, average exit velocity and hard-hit rate.
Aside from J.D. Martinez, primarily a designated hitter, Ozuna may be the premier corner outfield-capable player with the potential to become a free agent. Martinez definitely isn’t a lock to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5MM left on his contract with Boston, though. Conversely, Ozuna’s very likely to face competition from fellow pending free-agent corner outfielders Nicholas Castellanos and Yasiel Puig – two just-traded players who won’t be eligible for qualifying offers – and maybe Kole Calhoun if the Angels decline his $14MM option.
For their part, the Cardinals don’t appear to have any outfielders as appealing as Ozuna right now. That could influence the club to try to bring Ozuna back, though St. Louis is likely mindful that its recent big-money contracts for veteran position players haven’t paid off to this point. The Cardinals have issues a combined $311.5MM in guarantees to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, catcher Yadier Molina, third baseman Matt Carpenter and outfielder Dexter Fowler dating back to December 2016. All four of those players have experienced marked declines in production since receiving their deals, which helps explain why the Cardinals aren’t in possession of a National League playoff spot at the moment.
It appears that Cardinals righty Alex Reyes is once again threatened by the potential of a season-ending injury. Mark Saxon of The Athletic tweets that Reyes is heading to St. Louis for another round of imaging and examinations on his ailing right pectoral muscle, adding that it “appears as if his 2019 season is over.”
Reyes, 25 later this month, has been limited to just 40 1/3 innings in 2019 — only three of which came at the MLB level. He hasn’t pitched in a game since a June 23 outing and hasn’t appeared in the Majors since April 5. At the time of the injury, it was announced as a pectoral strain that was only expected to cost Reyes two to three starts, but manager Mike Shildt said Wednesday that Reyes’ arm didn’t respond well to a bullpen session this week (Twitter link via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
If Reyes is indeed shut down for the season, it’ll mark a third straight season for Reyes that has been virtually wiped out by injury. He didn’t pitch at all in 2017 due to Tommy John surgery, was limited to 26 innings last year thanks largely to surgery to repair a tendon in his lat muscle and has now only totaled 40 1/3 frames in 2019. Reyes is among the most highly touted pitching prospects in recent memory and was at one point hailed as a potential ace in the making, but he’s never even reached a total of 115 innings in a season between the Majors and minors combined.
The latest setback for Reyes comes at a poor time, as St. Louis has dropped four consecutive games after choosing not to add to its rotation at the trade deadline. Michael Wacha is currently holding the fifth spot in the rotation, but he’s lost that job twice already in 2019 and pitched poorly in his return to a starting role in his last outing.
Among internal alternatives, lefty Genesis Cabrera has struggled in the upper minors and in a pair of MLB starts. Right-hander Daniel Ponce de Leon made a handful of solid outings earlier this season but didn’t complete four innings in any of his three most recent starts. Lefty Austin Gomber, also on the 40-man roster, has been sidelined since mid-May. Adding depth in August is harder than ever before, and the Cardinals’ record is better than that of fellow postseason hopefuls in Milwaukee, New York, Arizona, San Francisco and Cincinnati, which lessens the likelihood of a palatable option making it to St. Louis on outright waivers.
The Cardinals announced Tuesday that they’ve selected the contract of righty Junior Fernandez from Triple-A Memphis and designated left-hander Adalberto Mejia for assignment in order to open a spot on the 40-man and 25-man rosters. St. Louis also announced that right-hander Mike Mayers cleared waivers and has been assigned outright to Memphis.
Mejia, 26, was claimed by the Cardinals just last week and made only three appearances before being cut loose by his third team this season. He allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk with two strikeouts over three innings in his short-lived St. Louis stint.
A former top 100 prospect who profiled as a fourth starter, Mejia never established himself with the Twins and has now bounced from Minnesota to Anaheim to St. Louis this season. He’s posted a 7.54 ERA in 22 2/3 innings, though he’s only a season removed from solid numbers as a starter with Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate a season ago. Mejia, though, is out of minor league options, so any club to claim him would need to allow him to try to sort things out at the MLB level, as he can’t be sent down without first clearing waivers. He’s missed time due to blister, wrist, biceps and calf injuries dating back to 2017, so durability could be an issue as well.
As for the 22-year-old Fernandez, he’s soared through three minor league levels in 2019, posting an ERA of 1.55 or better at each stop. In all, he’s totaled 61 1/3 innings with a 1.47 ERA, 11.2 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 and, incredibly, no home runs allowed. He’s unlikely to have that type of success in limiting long balls in the Majors — particularly given the apparent changes to the ball in 2019 — but he’ll nonetheless give the Cards an intriguing jolt of youth in their relief corps.
The Cardinals have designated right-hander Mike Mayers for assignment, tweets Mark Saxon of the Athletic. The club has since announced the move. Additionally, infielder Matt Carpenter has been activated from the 10-day injured list, pitching prospect Ryan Helsley has been recalled, while corner infielder Rangel Ravelo was optioned to Triple-A Memphis.
Mayers, 27, was out of options, so St. Louis had to keep him on the 25-man roster or cut bait. Ultimately, Mayers’ continued big league struggles did him in. He’s logged 13.2 innings in 12 appearances since coming off the 60-day injured list over a month ago, but his numbers were ghastly. Mayers coughed up 11 runs in that time, including two longballs, with matching strikeout and walk totals (10 apiece). That continued a rough MLB go for Mayers, who has a 7.17 ERA in 69 career games.
Mayers has some interesting raw material to work with, though. Per Statcast, his fastball and curveball each have above-average spin, and he’s generally performed well in Triple-A. A contender like St. Louis could no longer afford to keep giving MLB opportunities to an underperforming arm, but perhaps another organization with a less urgent competitive cycle will give a crack at straightening Mayers out. Any claiming team would have to keep Mayers on the 25-man roster or again expose him to waivers.
Carpenter returns from a three-week stint on the shelf with a right foot contusion. His underwhelming .215/.321/.373 line has been a surprising sore spot for an offense that looks stronger on paper than it has played to this point.
With Carpenter back and Mayers gone, the club swaps out the rookie position player (Ravelo) for a rookie arm (Helsley). Helsely’s mid-90’s fastball will return to the bullpen, while Ravelo will look to continue to build on a strong Triple-A body of work.