Projected Cardinals Minor League Free Agents

At least 12 St. Louis Cardinals farmhands are expected to seek minor league free agency this off-season.

Though the official lists have yet to be released, the St. Louis Cardinals already have one confirmed minor league free agent. Catcher Audry Perez, removed from the 40-man roster in September, has elected free agency. Perez was essentially replaced by minor league veteran Ed Easley, added to the 40-man this week. Details here.

To generalize, players who have completed seven seasons in the minor leagues or have been previously released may test free agency each off-season. As such, the 2008 draft class will be eligible for the first time for what is commonly called "six-year minor league free agency."

By my estimation, at least 11 Cardinals farmhands (along with Perez) have the right to test the free agent market. Five are homegrown, with the others having spent time in other organizations, as well. Seven of the 11 finished the 2014 season with Memphis, three at Springfield and one with Palm Beach.

Any could re-sign with the Cardinals instead of moving on - if a 2015 contract is offered and accepted.

2008 Draft Pos Tm Notes 
Jermaine Curtis 3B Mem Removed from 40-man 11/13
Luis Mateo 2B Mem Impressed in MLB spring camp
       
Original NDFAs Pos Tm Notes 
Jose Almarante RHR Mem Injured much of 2014
Jesus Montero C PB Ditto
Ildemaro Vargas 2B Spr Pushed up from PB late August
       
FA Signees Pos Tm Notes 
David Aardsma RHR Mem Ex- MLB closer never called up
Scott Moore 3B Mem 30 y/o minor league veteran
Jeremy Berg RHR Spr Released by LAA, signed in July
Curt Smith 1B Spr Was back for a second stint
       
Other Additions Pos Tm Notes 
Rafael Ortega OF Mem Removed from 40-man 09/14
Greg Miclat SS Mem 2013 minor league Rule 5 pick-up

Home-Grown Cardinals

Infielder Jermaine Curtis made his five-plate-appearance Major League debut during the 2013 season, but was removed from the 40-man shortly after. Versatile defensively, the former fifth-rounder from UCLA should catch on elsewhere if he chooses.

Though Luis Mateo remained in Major League camp this spring until very late, the infielder bounced up and down between Springfield and Memphis all season long. Also able to play multiple positions, the Puerto Rican native was the Cards’ 20th-rounder in 2008.

Once upon a time, Haitian native Jose Almarante was an international signee. From 2008-10, the slender right-hander was known as Eduard Estalis before coming to the US in 2011. With Memphis in 2014, Almarante had multiple stints on the disabled list after going to MLB camp as a non-roster invitee this spring.

Catcher Jesus Montero is the younger brother of the Mariners prospect of the same name. The Cardinals’ Montero was unable to progress past the A-Advanced level due to injury. The 23-year-old Venezuelan had been a spring NRI in 2013.

Infielder Ildemaro Vargas’ career highlight was in 2012, when the right-handed hitter came in third in the Appalachian League batting race at .322. The Venezuelan native hit just .248 and .236 the last two years, in his first full-season action, primarily at Peoria and Palm Beach.

Other Free Agents

David Aardsma was a final-week add in spring training and did not have enough time to get ready. About the time the 32-year-old hit his stride at Memphis, he suffered a mid-June injury. With 69 career MLB saves, Aardsma should easily find a home for 2015.

Veteran Scott Moore offered Memphis a proven bat and the ability to play multiple positions. If Springfield third baseman Patrick Wisdom was ready for Triple-A, Moore or his replacement would not be needed in 2015.

Right-hander Jeremy Berg had Triple-A experience with the Angels, but secured his release to make a new start. The Cards had an opening in the Double-A bullpen and the 28-year-old Californian did a nice job since joining Springfield in July.

28-year-old Curt Smith is well-traveled. The Curacao native went to school in Maine before being taken by the Cards in the 2008 draft. The veteran of international play for the Netherlands was released in 2011 and bounced around before re-joining the Cards as a reserve for Springfield this summer.

Though Springfield manager Mike Shildt raved about Rafael Ortega’s progress at Double-A this season, the Cards removed the outfielder from the 40-man in September and he went unclaimed. St. Louis had added the 23-year-old Venezuelan on a waiver claim from Texas this January.

Like Mateo, infielder Greg Miclat was moved around the system in 2014, appearing as low as Palm Beach and finishing with Memphis. The 27-year-old also came from the Rangers, selected by the Cards in the Triple-A phase of the December 2013 Rule 5 Draft.

Other 2008 Draft Considerations

Above Curtis and Mateo, four members of the 2008 draft class are currently on the Cardinals 40-man roster. They include Lance Lynn, Sam Freeman and Kevin Siegrist. The other is Xavier Scruggs, just added in September, which kept the first baseman off this list.

Reliever Mitch Harris, also taken in the 13th round in 2008, is a special case due to his four years on the Military List. Harris, currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League, will not be free agent-eligible until the fall of 2015, but unless protected in the interim, will be in the Rule 5 class this December.

Likely with an eye on this fall’s minor league free agency, the Cardinals pruned three other players from the 2008 draft class during the 2014 season. They are pitchers Anthony Ferrara and Scott McGregor and outfielder Chris Swauger, with the latter remaining in the organization as a minor league hitting coach.

Next Steps

These 11 will be joined in the open market by another 500 or more minor league free agents from the other 29 organizations. The Cardinals will likely make a handful of signings from this population in the upcoming weeks to fill projected 2015 roster gaps at Memphis and Springfield.

Update: 11/7

With the official lists in hand, all of the projected free agents highlighted above are correct with the exception of Ortega. The outfielder remains under Cardinals control for 2015.

The Roster Matrix has Who is Where

Every one of the 273 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.

These 11 free agents will be shifted on the Roster Matrix once their status is officially confirmed. On 2014 team roster pages here at The Cardinal Nation, these players will be indicated by “FA” in place of their uniform number.

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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