Cards Lose RPs Fornataro, Rondon, Add Easley

Via waivers, the St. Louis Cardinals lost right-handed relievers Eric Fornataro and Jorge Rondon to the Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies, respectively. Catcher Ed Easley was placed on the 40-man roster and Audry Perez elected free agency.

Eric Fornataro’s time on the St. Louis Cardinals’ 40-man roster was almost exactly two years.

In preparation for the upcoming need to protect players for the December Rule 5 Draft, the Cardinals initiated a roster clearing move, to drop the right-handed pitcher from the 40-man.

Before he could be outrighted to the minor leagues, the reliever was claimed by the Washington Nationals on waivers from St. Louis. The Nationals announced the transaction Monday afternoon.

In his Major League debut season of 2014, Fornataro posted a 4.66 ERA, five earned runs over 9 2/3 innings in eight first-half appearances. He struck out three and walked one. Fornataro’s last outing with St. Louis was on June 28.

The hard-throwing right-hander has a 3.90 career ERA in 219 minor league games. In his two healthy seasons as a reliever, Fornataro logged a 2.57 ERA and was 15 for 19 in save opportunities at Triple-A Memphis in 2014. His 2.39 mark in 2012 helped earn him The Cardinal Nation’s Double-A Springfield Reliever of the Year award. In between, the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder struggled with injury in 2013.

Among qualifying relievers, Fornataro’s ground ball to fly ball ratio of 2.4-to-1 was seventh-best in the Cardinals system in 2014, however, his 5.6 per nine strikeout rate was fourth-lowest and his strikeout to walk ratio of 1.8-to-1 was seventh-lowest among the organization’s bullpenners.

The 26-year-old was the sixth-round selection of the Cardinals in the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Coming into the 2014 season, Fornataro was St. Louis’ number 39 prospect according to The Cardinal Nation after being ranked 27th the year before.

Rondon Follows Ottavino

Later Monday afternoon, the Colorado Rockies announced they had claimed another Cardinals reliever off waivers, Fornataro’s Memphis teammate Jorge Rondon.

Rondon

As St. Louis moved on from Fornataro this season, they tried Rondon from the right side in their pen. The 26-year-old made his Major League debut the next day after Fornataro’s last appearance. On June 29th, the Venezuelan native tossed a scoreless inning against the Dodgers, which became his only appearance in the Majors over three call-ups. Rondon was returned to Memphis on June 30th and like Fornataro, was not a September call up, handwriting on the wall.

Rondon was originally signed by St. Louis as a non-drafted free agent on July 3, 2006 and had spent his entire professional career in the Cardinals organization. In his ninth season in 2014, Rondon had 10 saves to go with a 3.03 ERA in 62 1/3 innings over 51 games for Triple-A Memphis. He walked 20 and fanned 51.

Among Cardinals minor league relievers this season, Rondon’s only appearance on the system-wide leaderboards was a tie with Fornataro for seventh in the organization with a 2.4-to-1 ground ball to fly ball ratio.

In the spring of 2012, the Rox grabbed a former Cardinals first-round draft pick, Adam Ottavino, off waivers. In the three seasons since, the former first-rounder has appeared in 179 games for Colorado, all out of the bullpen, becoming one of the club’s most valued relievers.

Easley Laps Perez

When the St. Louis Cardinals’ roster expended in September, no extra catchers were needed with Tony Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski already backing up Yadier Molina.

Easley

On September 11, the Cardinals removed their only other catcher then on the 40-man roster as 25-year-old Audry Perez was outrighted. On Monday, the Cards finished changing horses, adding Perez’ Memphis teammate, Ed Easley, to the 40-man, where he joins holdovers Molina and Cruz. (Pierzynski is a free agent.) The move keeps Easley from becoming a minor league free agent, himself.

Easley was with the Redbirds for all of 2014, his eighth year as a professional and second at Triple-A, but first in the Cardinals organization. The 28-year-old had spent his first seven seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Signed as a minor league free agent last November, the right-handed hitter is a local Memphis product. At the plate, Easley hit 10 home runs and drove in 43 in 277 at-bats. His slash line was a respectable .296/.359/.473/.832.

Solid defensively, Easley was second in the Pacific Coast League in throwing out runners this season, with a .423 caught-stealing mark (22 of 52). The 6-foot, 205-pounder started 78 games behind the plate during the regular season to 62 for Perez.

With all the recent puts and takes, St. Louis’ 40-man roster sits at 35.

Perez Bails Out

As mentioned above, catcher Audry Perez was removed from the St. Louis Cardinals’ 40-man roster in September. Following the season, the 25-year-old decided to resume his career elsewhere by exercising his right for free agency.

Perez

The native of the Dominican Republic was originally signed by St. Louis in March 2008 and was added to the 40-man in September 2013, when he made his MLB debut. Perez had been invited to big-league camp in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

Named the “Best Defensive Catcher” in the system in 2013 by Baseball America, Perez threw out 35.4 percent of attempted base stealers (150 of 424) in his seven professional seasons.

With the bat, the right-handed hitter has logged a career minor league line of .270/.293/.413/.706 in 1738 plate appearances over 441 games. For St. Louis, Perez managed just two plate appearances, one each in 2013 and 2014, with one walk and one strikeout.

Perez is currently competing in winter ball in the Dominican for Las Aguilas Cibaenas. TCN members can read up on his and other Cardinals’ results this off-season here

The Roster Matrix has Who is Where

Every one of the 281 players in the Cardinals system is documented by level and position as is each free agent and every transaction all year long. The place is the Cardinals organization Roster Matrix, free at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

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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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