Kozma, Easley, Tartamella off Cards’ 40-Man

In addition, the St. Louis Cardinals picked up Jaime Garcia’s 2016 option, but not Jonathan Broxton’s.

On Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals used Twitter first to make a series of roster-shaping announcements.

First, the club confirmed they have exercised their $11.5 million option on the 2016 services of starter Jaime Garcia. Once activated in late May, the left-hander made 20 starts, posting rotation-bests in ERA at 2.43 and FIP at 3.00. The Cardinals also hold another $12 million option for 2017.

Also as expected, St. Louis declined its $9 million option for 2016 on reliever Jonathan Broxton, making the right-hander a free agent. The trade deadline deal which sent rookie-ball outfielder Malik Collymore to Milwaukee included money to cover Broxton’s $1 million buyout. After an ugly 5.89 ERA with the Brewers this season, Broxton improved to a 2.66 ERA with a 26 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings with St. Louis, but also issued 12 walks.

Finally, the Cardinals announced that they have outrighted three players to the minor leagues, removing them from the 40-man roster - shortstop Pete Kozma plus catchers Ed Easley and Travis Tartamella.

Kozma was the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2007. St. Louis’ primary shortstop in 2013 was replaced by free agent signee Jhonny Peralta in 2014. Spending most of last season with Triple-A Memphis, Kozma exhausted the last of his minor league options.

The 27-year-old remained with St. Louis for the entire 2015 season, batting just .152, second-worst among all 225 National League players with at least 100 plate appearances. It is clear the Cardinals want a better-hitting infield reserve for 2016.

Easley, 29, played the last two years in the Cardinals organization after spending his first seven seasons in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, for whom he was a supplemental first round draft pick in 2007. The catcher spent all of 2014 in his hometown with Triple-A Memphis and was added to the 40-man roster last November.

Easley was first called up to St. Louis in mid-April when Tony Cruz was excused for a three-day paternity leave. He was back for three weeks starting at the end of May of 2015, making his official MLB debut on May 29. Easley returned when rosters expanded - on September 11 through the end of the season. With the Cardinals, he went 0-for-6 with a sacrifice fly.

Tartamella, 27, has been in the Cardinals system since being their 19th-round pick in 2009. The defensive specialist has a career minor league batting average of .197, including a .203 mark at Memphis this season. However, when Cody Stanley was suspended and Yadier Molina was injured in September, Tartamella was called up to St. Louis to be the third catcher behind Cruz and Easley. With the Cardinals, he went 1-for-2.

Implications

Because the three have been outrighted, rather than designated for assignment, it signifies that they have cleared irrevocable outright waivers – none of the other 29 clubs claimed them to add them to their 40-man roster.

However, the three may still not remain Cardinals for long. Each will become minor league free agents later this week. Easley is a repeater. The other two will qualify as “six-year” minor leaguers.

If any would sign a minor league contract before December’s Rule 5 Draft, they would be eligible for selection in that process. They would be protected if signed to a major-league deal in the interim.

Related commentary 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 at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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