News: Cardinals call up Breyvic Valera

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals promoted IF Breyvic Valera from Triple-A Memphis.

The story. With the public admission last night that Matt Carpenter‘s shoulder has bothered him all season, the Cardinals looked to add some depth to help cover potential absences from the lineup.

The numbers. Valera, 25, was signed as an international free agent back in 2010 and has now played in 800 minor league games over 8 seasons with the club. He was added to the team’s 40 man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft and has put together his best minor league season this year with Memphis. He has hit .314/.368/.450 with 8 home runs over 117 games with Memphis. This season he has set or tied career highs in doubles, triples, and home runs.

Valera’s best tool might be his versatility. If you include the Arizona Fall League, Valera has appeared at every position on the diamond except pitcher and catcher in his minor league career. This year he has starts at Memphis at second base, third base, left field, and right field.

The impact. 7/10. The impact is more in the admission that Carpenter has been dealing with an injury most of the season than the call up of Valera.

Carpenter told reporters after an unexplained early exit yesterday that he had been managing shoulder pain much of the season and that a recent flareup, suggested to be due to the recent decision to mix him in at third base with the absence of Jedd Gyorko, might keep him out of the lineup.

He added that the sensation is a sharp pain on pretty much every throw and on most swings. It might help explain why Carpenter has a career low .241 batting average and second-worst slugging percentage of his career. He has hit .188 since August 1st.

As I tweeted last night, for an established player to play through an injury to the potential detriment of his team is one of those selfish acts that I will never understand. If you’re fighting for a position, I get it a little more. But a guy like Carpenter is secure in his job and has a commitment from the organization.

Let’s just think about this. Rather than get the injury looked at and potentially dealt with earlier in the year, Carpenter played through it and forced the trade of Matt Adams. Since that trade, Adams has outplayed Carpenter, 117 wRC+ to 110 wRC+. Then later this season, Carpenter’s every day play forced the demotion of Luke Voit who has never gotten traction.

Also how different does this season look if Carpenter gets it treated earlier in the season and is healthy today and is the 130 wRC+ player he’s been in his career over the 100 wRC+ player he’s been since August 1? That’s why I think playing through and grinding through injuries is generally short sighted. Especially when you can’t perform up to your own personal standard while doing it.

News: Jack Flaherty leads September callups

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals purchased the contract of RHP Jack Flaherty, RHP Sandy Alcantara, and C Alberto Rosario as well as called up OF Harrison Bader and IF Alex Mejia. To make room on the 40 man roster, LHP Sean Gilmartin was outrighted.

The story. The Cardinals made their first wave of September callups today. We already knew about Flaherty, as he had already been announced as today’s starting pitcher against the Giants, however, the rest were unknown but not unexpected additions.

The numbers. Jack Flaherty, 21, is a former first round pick of the Cardinals from the 2014 MLB Draft. Through the minors, he has been dominant, holding a 2.77 ERA over 400 innings in four seasons and five different levels of the minors. This season, he started the year posting a 1.42 ERA in 10 starts for Double-A Springfield before a promotion to Triple-A Memphis where he posted a 2.74 ERA in 15 starts.

He has thrown 149 innings so far this season and is likely going to be pushed as far or a little further than the club would like to, but it is a heavier workload for a minor league starting pitcher than I can remember in recent years. For comparison, the most Carlos Martinez ever threw in a season in the minors was 104 innings. For Alex Reyes it was 109.

Sandy Alcantara, 22 next week, was an international signing by the Cardinals. He had a 4.31 ERA in 22 starts and 3 relief appearances for Double-A Springfield. Alcantara boasted a 11.2 K/9 in two stops last season, but it has tumbled to 7.6 K/9 this season. The Cardinals are hoping he can be 2017’s Alex Reyes and turn that electric fastball into a quality bullpen arm.

Alberto Rosario, 30, has hit .247/.291/.279 in 50 games in Triple-A Memphis. He joined the club as a minor league free agent in December 2014. He spent time on the club’s 40 man roster last season, hitting .184 in 20 games with the big league club.

Alex Mejia, 26, will be the fourth member of the Cardinals’ 2012 draft class on their roster this September. The shortstop is up for his second stint with the big league club, having spent a couple weeks with the team hitting .214 in 10 games with the club including almost single-handed winning a game by himself. He has hit .291/.341/413 with 7 home runs in 118 games between Springfield and Memphis this season.

Harrison Bader, 23, was a third round pick of the Cardinals from the 2015 draft. He spent a week with the big league club earlier this season and hit .286/.348/.381 including scoring the walk off game winning run in his MLB debut. He hit .283/.347/.469 with 20 home runs in 123 games for Triple-A Memphis this season.

The impact. 8/10. Normally I wouldn’t consider September callups to be all that important to the club, but this is a unique place for the Cardinals to be.

They traded away Mike Leake to create an opportunity for Flaherty in the rotation. He is penciled into the 2018 rotation at this point and a good showing will go a long way towards helping the Cardinals made a run at this wild card.

Additionally, Alcantara could be an intriguing boost to the bullpen. He has the electric fastball, but also struggles with command. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. If, like Trevor Rosenthal and Alex Reyes before him, he can harness it and put in some quality innings, that can be a big impact for a bullpen that has struggled in important innings most of the season.

The addition of Bader could be intriguing for an offensive mix that really only has Tommy Pham as a consistent contributor. Dexter Fowler has a nagging injury, Randal Grichuk is streaky, and Stephen Piscotty has had a rough season. But he will have to hit the ground running in his early starts to elbow his way into additional playing time.

I don’t foresee Mejia or Rosario in a position to give the club much impact, but those three, if the club makes an unlikely run at the Cubs or a Wild Card spot, the three guys I mentioned probably played a big role.

News: Cardinals designate Kevin Siegrist for assignment

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have activated LHP Kevin Siegrist from the 10 day disabled list and designated him for assignment. They have also recalled RHP John Gant from Memphis to fill Mike Leake‘s spot on the 25 man roster.

The story. The Cardinals had 24 hours to fill Leake’s spot per the collective bargaining agreement, so that is what led to Gant’s return to the club. His 40 man roster spot is being kept warm for Jack Flaherty, who was announced as Friday’s starter against the Giants.

Meanwhile, Kevin Siegrist has been on the disabled list since August 6th with left forearm tendinitis and was designated for assignment which will remove him from the 40 man roster immediately and open up a spot for a September call up tomorrow.

The numbers. John Gant, who was one of three players the Cardinals acquired in exchange for Jaime Garcia over the winter, has a 3.83 ERA in 18 starts for Memphis this season, including a 2.97 ERA over his last five. This will be his second stint in the big leagues this season. He made one relief appearance during his stint in June where he allowed two earned runs in 3.1 innings of work. He has a career 4.89 ERA over 53.1 MLB innings over the past two seasons between Atlanta and St. Louis.

Kevin Siegrist was once upon a time one of the best relievers in baseball, but problems staying healthy had turned 2017 into a tough year for the left hander. In 2015 and 2016, Siegrist combined to post a 2.44 ERA in 136.1 innings, but he struggled this year to a 4.98 ERA over 34.1 innings. He had an earlier DL stint this season for a neck issue and now for an arm problem and the club elected to designate him for assignment.

The impact. 2/10. Today was mostly procedural for the Cardinals, but I do find it surprising that they elected to designate Kevin Siegrist for assignment considering how good he has been when healthy the past few years. I suppose he was too much of an injury risk to invest in for next season. And with Tyler Lyons, Brett Cecil, and perhaps Ryan Sherriff out there, it was getting crowded in the bullpen for left handers.

News: Cardinals trade Mike Leake to Mariners

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have traded RHP Mike Leake, cash, and international cap money to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for minor league SS Rayder Ascanio.

The story. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first reported last night at the Cardinals were close to trading Leake and it was confirmed this morning by both Nightengale and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that Leake had waived his no trade clause to complete the trade. Both clubs confirmed the deal around noon.

The numbers. Mike Leake is in the second year of a 5 year, $80 million deal that he signed before the 2015 season and, except for a stellar start to this season, Leake’s nearly two year stint with the Cardinals can only be considered a disappointment.

He will end his time with the Cardinals with a 4.46 ERA in 56 starts. After posting near career bests in all the fielding independent pitcher metrics last season, Leake came out strong in 2017 posting a 2.97 ERA over his first 16 starts. But this summer the wheels fell off as he managed just a 6.94 ERA over his final 10 starts, culminating in a 7 inning, 4 run performance this weekend as the Cardinals won.

Rayder Ascanio, 21, was signed by the Mariners as an international free agent out of Venezuela at 16. In 111 games between low A, high A, and Triple-A this season, he has hit .217 with 9 home runs. Based on the scouting reports I could find, he seems to be a defensive whiz with very little bat. Which is what the stats tell me as well.

The impact. 9/10. Mike Leake was one of the few Cardinals that they had signed to long-term deals and it appeared like he was poised to be a crucial piece in that rotation for the duration of it.

Before Leake signed with the Cardinals in 2015, there were reports that Leake preferred to play on the west coast to be closer to his family that lives in Arizona. It was suggested as one of the top reasons he would not sign with the Cardinals, but he ended up here anyway. It sounds like the Cardinals had been trying to trade Leake for awhile too, which makes me wonder who initiated the desire to trade him.

This deal makes you wonder what the angle is for the Cardinals. They free up some room in their payroll budget. Are they going to make a play for a star closer like Wade Davis? Are they going to go after re-signing Lance Lynn? Is it to free up space to acquire another pitcher by trade? Or could it be to do none of the above and just cash out in distributions to ownership?

This spring I made my case about bringing back Lynn because the Cardinals will need to fill innings in their rotation. Relying on young arms wasn’t going to make this team better in 2018 than they were in 2017 and this trade would seem to make it an even more pressing matter. Consider that the Cardinals have no starting pitcher penciled into their 2018 rotation that I would be willing to bet money on making 32 starts next year.

Immediately, this will provide a good opportunity for a young pitcher, most likely Jack Flaherty, to get some starts at the big league level until Adam Wainwright is ready to come off the disabled list. That would line them up for an opportunity next season.

In the future, Ascanio is the definition of a lottery pick type prospect. If his bat could ever develop well enough so that his glove deserved to play, an Adeiny Hecchavaria-type shortstop seems to be a good comp for his ceiling.

News: Cardinals place Jedd Gyorko on DL

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have placed third baseman Jedd Gyorko on the 10 day disabled list with a right hamstring strain. In a corresponding move, they have recalled first baseman Luke Voit from Triple-A Memphis.

The story. In the 8th inning last night, Kolten Wong poked a base hit into right field that scored Yadier Molina to tie the game with Jedd Gyorko rounding third behind him when Gyorko pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury. After hobbling back to third base safely and time was called, Gyorko didn’t even wait for the trainer to reach him before heading to the dugout.

The numbers. Gyorko was in the middle of a career year in St. Louis, batting .272/.341/.469 with 18 home runs through 114 games. However, most of that damage had been in the first half as he has hit just .221/.298/.376 with 6 home runs in 44 games since July 1st. Recently though, he had been showing signs of turning it around at the plate, hitting .282 with 3 home runs in the last 10 games.

Luke Voit returns to the big league club for the second time. Voit had been optioned on Monday after the LIttle League Classic when the club elected to keep Stephen Piscotty instead. Voit had struggled to find playing time, making just two starts in August, but had hit .304/.333/.435 over 15 games this month. In four games since his return to Memphis, Voit had hit .429 with a home run.

The impact. 7/10. If Gyorko was really on the verge of putting together another strong streak, this is a big loss for the Cardinals. For much of the first half, it was Gyorko who drove the offense with his career best start to a season. He is one of the starters on this team and defensive metrics suggest he is one of the strongest third basemen this season defensively.

With third base playing time up for grabs, there are some options available for the Cardinals. Greg Garcia, who will get the start today, has hit .289/.426/.368 in 20 games this month. I argued last winter that, should they insist on keeping Matt Carpenter at first base, Garcia and Gyorko should have started this season in a platoon at third base.

They could also do what they probably should have done to start the year, put Carpenter at third base so that they could play a career first baseman at first. This time that would be Luke Voit. Otherwise, things won’t go much better for Voit this time around. If Voit can come up and hit like I believe he can if he gets consistent at bats, this could turn out to be a plus for the Cardinals.

News: Cardinals call up Ryan Sherriff; end Trevor Rosenthal’s season

What happened. Today the Cardinals optioned RHP Josh Lucas to Memphis and purchased the contract of LHP Ryan Sherriff. To make room for Sherriff on the 40 man roster, RHP Trevor Rosenthal was moved to the 60 day disabled list.

The story. The Cardinals make yet another bullpen move, this time calling up Ryan Sherriff for the carousel of the last bullpen spot. The biggest news might be that the move to the 60 day DL means that the season is over for Trevor Rosenthal.

The numbers. Josh Lucas, who was called up on Saturday, made two appearances for the Cardinals and posted a 6.75 ERA over 4 innings of work. He pitched the 8th and 9th innings last night and allowed a two run home run to Yangervis Solarte in the 8th before pitching a 1-2-3 ninth. He will return to Memphis where he has a 3.34 ERA over 56.2 innings and has worked recently as their closer.

Ryan Sherriff, 27, was a 28th round pick of the Cardinals in 2011. He gained some attention to fans this spring when Adam Wainwright got a rental car for him after seeing him walking to the ballpark every day. This season in Memphis he has a 3.19 ERA in 53.2 innings pitched along with a dominant 0.99 WHIP. Left handed batters have hit .198/.225/.302 against him while right handed batters haven’t fared much better with a .215/.286/.271 line.

The impact. 10/10. The move alone is a 1/10 because I don’t think who the 8th guy in Mike Matheny‘s bullpen matters at all. However, the knowledge that the Cardinals have lost Trevor Rosenthal for the remainder of the season is big news.

After struggling a bit this summer, Rosenthal had gotten back on the horse in July and since July 4th (and not including the appearance where he got injured) he had a 0.52 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in 15 appearances. He had been 7-for-7 in save situations and had reclaimed his hold on the closer’s role.

But now Rosenthal is done for the year and likely out for the entirety of 2018 after it was confirmed that he will undergo UCL replacement surgery. With his absence for 2018 expected, that also means that the odds are good that he will be a prime non-tender candidate for the Cardinals in November.

Rosenthal is making $6.2 million this year and has one more season of arbitration eligibility before he can elect for free agency after the 2018 season, however, the current CBA restricts how much a team can reduce the salary of a player under team control. For Rosenthal, it means the minimum he could earn next season without being non-tendered is roughly $5 million.

Last year with Seth Maness in a similar situation, he made just $1.4 million and was expected to be back early in the season after UCL reconstruction. However, they still non-tendered him.

That isn’t to mean that the two sides couldn’t get creative on a two year deal that would pay Rosenthal in 2018 and give him a reduced rate in 2019 on an incentive laden deal, but I would imagine that the target would be something similar to what Greg Holland got from the Rockies last winter. After missing a year, Holland got a 1 year, $7 million deal with incentives and an option. Those incentives have already been worth an additional $6 million this year and the option has vested into a $15 million player option.

I expect that Rosenthal and his agent, Scott Boras, would prefer free agency and hope to find a team willing to go further than the Cardinals.

News: Cardinals option Luke Voit

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals optioned first baseman Luke Voit to Memphis to return their MLB roster to 25 players after keeping outfielder Stephen Piscotty.

The story. On Sunday, the Cardinals played in the Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and due to the extra travel, Major League Baseball allowed them to use a 26th man. That man was Stephen Piscotty. However today they need to return the roster to 25, which meant optioning someone and the club elected to keep Piscotty.

The numbers. Luke Voit was called up on June 25th and he hit .316/.366/.684 from his call up until the All Star Break while starting 9 of the team’s 15 games. With the return of Kolten Wong after the break, Voit’s playing time suffered and he made just 5 starts over the next 16 games and hit just .155.

However, Voit’s numbers were turning around in August. He has hit .304 in August including .375 in the two games he’s started. But he has started just 2 of 19 games in August.

Stephen Piscotty went 2-for-4 with a walk in his return to the big leagues yesterday.

The impact. 6/10. The biggest issue with the return of Piscotty, as I pointed out yesterday, is that it is into a crowded and productive big league outfield.

Voit had been hitting and Gyorko had not been and yet Carpenter was not moved across the diamond to accomodate that. That move would have been the most logical way to find Voit more playing time, but much like was the case for Matt Adams, there is no room for him in St. Louis as long as Carpenter is considered this team’s first baseman.

News: Stephen Piscotty added as 26th man

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals designated outfielder Stephen Piscotty as their 26th man for today’s Little League Classic.

The story. Originally it was reported that Magneuris Sierra was on his way to Williamsport to be the club’s 26th man, but after changing their mind at the last minute, it was Piscotty who was activated this morning. Both the Cardinals and the Pirates were given approval to use a 26th man for today’s game due to the additional travel.

The numbers. Stephen Piscotty, who has had a rough year, has hit well over the past several days in Memphis. In 8 games, he has hit .313/.421/.781 with 4 home runs. The biggest plus would seem to be the appearance of his power, something that has been down this season.

The impact. 6/10. The outfield is not exactly a position of need for the Cardinals at the moment, and even if Piscotty is back for good or whether it is just a one day trip, he is not an improvement on the available players and might actually muddy up the situation.

Just look at these numbers in the second half. Tommy Pham has hit .321/.419/.489 with a 142 wRC+. Randal Grichuk has hit .305/.336/.581 with a 135 wRC+. Dexter Fowler has hit .308/.443/.487 with a 146 wRC+. And when you throw Jose Martinez into the mix too, four of the Cardinals top-5 hitters of the second half are outfielders.

If Piscotty does stick around, and I think the odds are good that he does, who is sitting to give him playing time when you’ve already got four outfielders who are excelling at the plate?

News: Cardinals purchase Josh Lucas

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals purchased the contract of RHP Josh Lucas from Memphis and optioned RHP Mike Mayers. The move puts the Cardinals’ 40 man roster at 40 players. Lucas will wear #77.

The story. The I-55 express continues as the Cardinals send Mike Mayers back to Memphis and bring up Memphis’ closer Josh Lucas. Mayers had been called up yesterday to take the roster spot of Adam Wainwright after he went on the DL.

The numbers. Mike Mayers has struggled in his few appearances at the big league level and this time was no different. On Friday night he came in with a 10-3 lead and promptly surrendered five runs. That brief appearance inflated his ERA in the Major Leagues this season to 11.57. In 10 career innings in the Majors, Mayers has allowed 24 earned runs.

Josh Lucas, 26, was a 21st round pick of the Cardinals in the 2010 draft. He has a 3.45 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP over 56.2 innings in Memphis and has 14 saves. He has a 2.83 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over his past 10 appearances.

The impact. 1/10. The addition of Lucas to the bullpen now gives the Cardinals two former Redbirds closers in the mix with Sam Tuivailala also there. However, it doesn’t really matter who is in the bullpen or how well they pitch as long as Mike Matheny always defaults to his main guys in crunch time regardless of how much they’ve struggled.

News: Cardinals place Adam Wainwright on DL

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals placed RHP Adam Wainwright on the 10 day disabled list with a right elbow impingement and recalled RHP Mike Mayers from Triple-A  memphis.

The story. Adam Wainwright existed last night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates early after allowing five runs on 55 pitches in three innings. While speaking with the media after the game, he mentioned that he couldn’t get his arm loose and had a pinching sensation in his elbow when he tried to throw. He compared it to discomfort he had felt and pitched through in 2014 before having surgery to remove bone spurs that winter.

The numbers. Wainwright has made 23 starts this season and has a career highs in ERA (5.12) and FIP (4.27) over his 121 innings. Regardless of the struggle, however, he has managed to win as he leads the team with 12 wins and the Cardinals are 15-8 in games where he takes the mound. That is the best record among Cardinals starting pitchers.

Mike Mayers, 26, will get his third trip to the Majors this season. While he has managed to pitch well in Memphis, he has struggled to find traction in the Majors and has allowed runs in each of his relief appearances. He has pitched four innings and allowed two earned runs on four hits and three walks.

The impact. 7/10. While I want to dismiss the loss of Wainwright for a couple weeks as a benefit to the team given his ERA, the fact that the Cardinals still win when he pitches gives me pause. He has pitched through this his last three starts and has had a noticeable decrease in velocity.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and he will return today to St. Louis for additional medical tests. While it’s pure conjecture at this point, you have to think there is a real possibility that he will be done for the season.

The club likely turns to Luke Weaver to make Wainwright’s next start. Weaver is the guy that is expected to take over Lance Lynn‘s rotation spot next season, so it will be a good cameo opportunity for him.