Saying final good-byes to Cards free agents

Updating the status of 20 members of the St. Louis Cardinals system in 2013 who have moved on for 2014.

As the St. Louis Cardinals minor league camp officially begins on Monday, I am preparing a refresh of the Roster Matrix to run at The Cardinal Nation blog. A by-product of that is that last fall's free agents will drop off the page for the final time. Before that happens, I thought I would recap the action from this winter by those now ex-Cardinals.

St. Louis had 20 players become free agents following the 2013 season. Six were major league and 14 were minor league free agents.

Major league free agents

Of the major leaguers, four of the six are signed for 2014, with two having retired.

P Chris Carpenter – retired
P Jake Westbrook – retired
P Edward Mujica – Boston – two years, $9.5 million
P John Axford – Cleveland – one year, $4.5 million
IF Rafael Furcal – Miami – one year, $3.5 million
OF Carlos Beltran – Yankees – three years, $45 million

One of the better pitchers in Cardinals history, Carpenter retired at age 38 with 95 regular season and 10 important post-season wins with the club. He will be joining the team's front office. Westbrook provided valuable innings in his 3 ½ years as a Cardinal and bowed out at age 36.

"Chief" now with Red Sox
Mujica, the Cardinals closer for most of 2013, will likely set up Koji Uehara in Beantown. Axford, who joined St. Louis from Milwaukee late in the season, never closed for St. Louis, but should be doing so for the Tribe in 2014. He replaces another ex-Cardinal, Chris Perez, who looks to be the third option for the Dodgers after Kenley Jansen and Brian Wilson.

The Marlins signed Furcal to replace light-hitting Donovan Solano, a former Cards farmhand, at second base. This spring will provide answers as to whether Furcal has enough remaining in the tank to contribute. He may take the Miami roster spot of another former Cardinal, Placido Polanco, who was not asked back for 2014 and could be done.

The addition of Carlos Beltran by the Yankees gave the Cardinals salary relief, a compensatory draft pick and a way for Matt Adams and Allen Craig to play at the same time. On the other side of the coin, St. Louis lost its top home run hitter in each of the past two seasons.

Minor league free agents

Of the 14 minor league free agents, 12 have signed for the upcoming season. None received a major league deal with three securing non-roster invitations to major league camps (NRI). Of the 12, 10 are in affiliated ball in the US, one is going to play in independent ball and one has moved to Japan.

It is important to note that of the 14, only six were homegrown Cardinals, denoted by (h). Five of them are pitchers. As I pointed out in the 2014 Memphis roster prediction article, eight of Memphis' 12 position players to open last season and four of its pitchers had joined the Cardinals from the outside. Most of them are now ex-Cardinals.

P Victor Marte – unsigned
P Ramon Delgado (h) – unsigned
P Nick Additon (h) – Baltimore
P Richard Castillo (h) – Colorado
P Deryk Hooker (h) – Oakland
P Zack Russell (h) – Texas
P Jay Voss – Lancaster, Atlantic League

C Rob Johnson – San Diego
1B Brock Peterson – Washington (NRI)
3B Ruben Gotay – Cincinnati
OF Jamie Romak – Dodgers
OF Justin Christian – Tampa Bay (NRI)
OF Chad Huffman – Chiba Lotte Marines, Japan
OF Adron Chambers (h) – Houston (NRI)

Marte
Now 33 years of age, Marte was a good soldier for Memphis the last three seasons, setting the club record for career saves, but is not good enough to stick in the bigs. The right-hander pitched in winter ball in his Dominican Republic homeland, but has not caught on for 2014 to my knowledge. Ramon Delgado was once a promising prospect, but his career was derailed by injuries. Given his last meaningful innings were in 2010, it is amazing he lasted this long.

Nick Additon and Richard Castillo performed valiant service as minor league starters, but seemed to lack the out pitch that would propel them to the majors. Relievers Deryk Hooker and Zack Russell drew notice as hard-throwers but ran out of runway. Jay Voss was once a good prospect with Miami and Detroit, but has struggled following Tommy John surgery and could do nothing in his year as a Cardinal.

Johnson
Speaking of pitchers, Rob Johnson is moving from catching to the mound in his 11th professional season. San Diego gave him a chance to remake himself. 2013 Springfield third baseman Ruben Gotay joined the Reds, while 1B/OF Jamie Romak is now with the Dodgers.

Chad Huffman followed other former Redbirds Nick Stavinoha, Brandon Dickson and Evan MacLane in deciding to further his career in Japan.

Three 2013 Cardinals have scored non-roster invitations with their new organizations – first baseman Brock Peterson with the Nationals, outfielder Adron Chambers with the Astros and outfielder Justin Christian with the Rays. The first two played briefly with St. Louis last season, with Chambers the only home-grown Cardinal among the trio.

Chambers may also have the best chance of any of these free agents to recapture a 40-man roster spot, though none has a clear road ahead.



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

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