…And Then There Was Aaron Miles

Of the ten free agents from the 2010 St. Louis Cardinals, only one does not have a home for 2011. We look at some of the 40-man roster changes this off-season and the ramifications to prospects and minor league free agents vying for jobs this spring.

Over the last few days, as the opening of spring training camps near, there has been a dizzying rate of signings across Major League Baseball, most of a similar ilk – a veteran player on the downside of his career having to accept a minor league contract.

Along with the deal is typically an invitation to major league spring training camp and a chance to earn back that 25-man roster spot with a good spring performance and a helping of luck.

In the past few days alone, four members of the 2010 St. Louis Cardinals not asked back for 2011 agreed to terms on such a deal. That increased the count to six of the club's ten free agents* who had to lower their sights to find a 2011 job with one more likely to follow the same route.

The only one of the ten still on the outside looking in is infielder Aaron Miles. Though Colorado was rumored to have been interested in him, this past week they signed former Marlin Alfredo Amezaga instead.

(* I should note that I am including Felipe Lopez in the ten even though technically the Cardinals released him on September 21. In my broad definition here, he fits as a marginal player no longer wanted by the club who had to settle for a minor league deal.)

To look at this situation from the other side, just one of the ten is returning to St. Louis, Jake Westbrook. He is the only one of the group to have received a multi-year contract and just one of two to earn a major league deal. Brad Penny is the other.

Pitchers Contract Team Date
Jake Westbrook 2 years Cardinals 11/16/10
Brad Penny 1 year Tigers 1/11/11
Jeff Suppan minor lg. Giants 1/20/11
Mike MacDougal minor lg. Dodgers 1/28/11
Dennys Reyes minor lg. Red Sox 2/5/11
Position Players
Jason LaRue retired
Aaron Miles free agent
Pedro Feliz minor lg. Royals 2/3/11
Randy Winn minor lg. Orioles 2/3/11
Felipe Lopez minor lg. Rays 2/2/11

Looking at this from the 2011 side instead of the 2010 view, we see that only five of the nine 40-man roster spots freed up through free agency since the end of the season were taken up by additions that required a 40-man spot. Four were veteran free agent signings, including the return of Westbrook, and one, Bryan Augenstein, a waiver claim.

I lined them up here by the players they roughly replaced in terms of position/role.

Pitchers MLB Replacement How From
Jake Westbrook Jake Westbrook Free agent Cardinals
Brad Penny
Jeff Suppan Bryan Augenstein Waiver D'backs
Mike MacDougal
Dennys Reyes Brian Tallet Free agent Blue Jays
Position Players
Jason LaRue Gerald Laird Free agent Tigers
Aaron Miles
Pedro Feliz
Randy Winn Lance Berkman Free agent Yankees

(For completeness, I will mention the two trades made this winter, though for 40-man purposes, they were roster-neutral deals. Brendan Ryan and Blake Hawksworth were replaced by Maikel Cleto and Ryan Theriot.)

With the 40-man roster currently full, one might consider that the four spots previously held by veterans were filled by prospects added in November prior to the Rule 5 draft. That group included seven players in total - pitchers Blake King, David Kopp, Adam Reifer and Eduardo Sanchez, catcher Tony Cruz, shortstop Pete Kozma and outfielder Adron Chambers.

Prospect-watchers should hold their celebration, however. There still could be a roster shift to re-allocate some or all of those 40-man spots away from youngsters and back to veterans.

To bring this article full-circle, remember the Cardinals have imported five veteran non-roster invitees who will be in camp trying to do that very thing – re-capture a major league job. These ex-major leaguers are pitchers Miguel Batista, Ian Snell and Raul Valdes, infielder Ramon Vazquez and outfielder Jim Edmonds.

For every one of them that makes the team out of camp, someone else will have to be removed from the 40-man roster (or transferred onto the 60-day disabled list) to make room.

Update: On Monday, February 7, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced the signing of Miles to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training camp.

Note: To see the entire St. Louis Cardinals 40-man roster, including all 20 non-roster invitees as well as 21 early minor league camp invitees, refer to the Cardinals Roster Matrix maintained up to the day at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Selected TCN content appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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