The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to Wednesday night’s series finale in Chicago that they have purchased first baseman Dan Johnson from Memphis (AAA) and optioned left-handed pitcher Tyler Lyons (the 26th man for Tuesday’s double-header) and right-handed pitcher Marcus Hatley to the Triple-A club.
Johnson, a veteran of nine seasons in the majors – all in the American League, signed with the Cardinals as a minor league free-agent in early May and was batting .265 (.354 on-base pct.) with 11 home runs and 42 RBI in 61 games for the Memphis club. He was batting .362 (21-for-58) with the runners in scoring position for the Redbirds.
The left-handed hitting first-baseman owns a career .236 batting mark with 57 HR’s and 201 RBI in 431 games in the majors with stops in Oakland (2005-08), Tampa Bay (2008, 2010-11), Chicago White Sox (2012), Baltimore (2013) and Toronto (2014).
Johnson, 35, has enjoyed eight minor league seasons with 20 or more homers, including 2010 when he hit a career-high 30 round-trippers for the Durham Bulls (AAA).
The 6-2, 210-pound Johnson, who was drafted by Oakland in the 7th round in 2001 out of the University of Nebraska, hit 15 home runs for the Athletics in 2005 and 18 in 2007.
Johnson has been assigned uniform no. 30.
Brian Walton’s take
Those fans who got all excited Tuesday evening because outfielder Stephen Piscotty did not play for Memphis that night after he was listed on the initial lineup were sadly disappointed. On the other hand, those who realized that the Cardinals need first base help understand why Piscotty, with no career appearances at the position, was passed over. Especially with Matt Holliday on the cusp of coming off the disabled list, adding a corner-only outfielder who needs to play every day would make no sense.
Regarding Johnson, at age 35, what you see is what you get. He has done a nice job at Memphis since being signed as a free agent back in May. Then again, keep in mind that he was a minor league free agent as recently as May. Johnson isn’t going to be the solution for Matt Adams’ absence, but at least the Cardinals are trying everyone they have before the trade deadline nears. Other first basemen on the 25-man active roster are Xavier Scruggs and Mark Reynolds.
Those who thought Piscotty was not called up because he is not on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster, well, all I can say is that you are wrong. First of all, a 40-man roster spot can be cleared any time there is a true need. Second of all, Johnson was not on the 40-man, either, so the same move could have been made for either.
The player St. Louis is taking off the 40-man has not yet been announced. My guess is that he is still on waivers, during which time he could be claimed by another organization.
For those who think that the Cards cannot afford to remove anyone from their 40-man, here is a reminder. Just two years ago, these Triple-A players all held coveted 40-man roster spots: Maikel Cleto, Eric Fornataro, Jorge Rondon, Victor Marte, Michael Blazek, Ryan Jackson, Jermaine Curtis and Adron Chambers. Are they missed today? Simply put, roster churn is a necessary part of the game.
Cuban emigre Aledmys Diaz is the player removed from the 40-man, as the shortstop has been designated for assignment. The 24-year-old is 1.5 years into a four-year, $8 million contract signed in March 2014.
With a career line of .250/.305/.382/.687, accrued at Double-A Springfield and A-Advanced Palm Beach, a shoulder that has bothered him both seasons in the US and the size of his contract may limit Diaz’ appeal to other organizations, who have a right to claim him (and his contract).
If unclaimed and not traded or released, Diaz will likely return to Springfield. In the interim period of up to 10 days, he will be inactive.
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