As expected, the St. Louis Cardinals offered 2016 contracts to four of their five remaining arbitration-eligible players - Matt Adams, Brandon Moss, Trevor Rosenthal and Seth Maness before the Wednesday midnight EST deadline.
However, via the same process, Steve Cishek’s time as a St. Louis Cardinal ended at just over four months in duration. Though not arbitration-eligible, catcher Cody Stanley was not offered a 2016 contract, as well.
Cishek, 29, acquired by St. Louis from Miami on July 24 for bullpen depth, was non-tendered by St. Louis on Wednesday, thereby becoming a free agent. The Cardinals did not offer Cishek a contract because he was eligible for his 2016 salary to be set via the arbitration process and there is a mismatch between his current salary and his expected role.
For much of the prior 2 1/2 seasons, Cishek had been the Marlins’ closer. As a result, he was being paid like one with his 2015 salary $6.65 million and for 2016, he could earn a raise of a half-million or so via arbitration. That is too expensive given the right-hander’s projected role as a set-up man, so he was let go instead.
With the Marlins since 2011, Cishek saved 94 games, including 39 in 2014 and 34 in 2013, and has been durable, averaging 66 games pitched over the last four seasons. However, his 2015 got off to a horrendous start. The 6-foot-6, 215-pounder with the unorthodox delivery dropped six of eight decisions and blew four of seven save opportunities before he lost his job and was temporarily demoted to Double-A.
After joining St. Louis in return for reliever Kyle Barraclough, Cishek had no decisions, one save and one blown save with a 2.31 ERA in 23 1/3 innings over 27 games. He struck out 20, but walked 13 and was not often used in crucial situations. His FIP as a Cardinal was a less pretty 4.33. The writing seemed to be on the wall when despite being healthy, Cishek was left off the club’s National League Division Series roster.
Almost three months elapsed between Stanley’s second PED-related suspension and Wednesday, when the Cardinals cut their ties. The 26-year-old spent most of 2015 at Triple-A Memphis, but was promoted to St. Louis briefly in late April and was back when major league rosters expanded on September 1. His 80-game suspension was announced on September 12 after he tested positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone.
Stanley went 4 for 10 with three RBI in nine games in his first and only action with St. Louis. As a minor leaguer, he also was suspended for 50 games in March 2012 for testing positive for Methylhexaneamine and Tamoxifen.
The catcher was originally selected in the fourth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft from North Carolina-Wilmington and finished his Cardinals minor league career with a line of .269/.320/.406/.726 in 497 games over six seasons. Stanley was The Cardinal Nation’s 26th-ranked prospect prior to the 2015 season.
40-man roster player Michael Ohlman is expected to move up from Double-A to be one of Triple-A Memphis’ catchers in 2016. He should share the job with veteran Eric Fryer, signed last month to a minor league contract. 2015 Redbirds catchers Ed Easley and Travis Tartamella have departed as minor league free agents.
What is next?
With the Cishek move, the Cardinals’ 40-man roster is down to 34 players. A player on the restricted list such as Stanley does not count against the 40-man limit.
The Cardinals will work with the remaining four - Adams, Moss, Rosenthal and Maness – to come up with an agreed-to amount for 2016 contracts. If not, the sides will enter the arbitration process. Each side will submit a recommended 2016 salary and if they cannot come to terms ahead of time, a February arbitration panel will choose one of the two amounts.
Earlier Wednesday, the Cardinals moved out two other arbitration-eligible players as catcher Tony Cruz was traded to Kansas City for a minor leaguer and outfielder Peter Bourjos was claimed off waivers by Philadelphia.
For more roster detail
Remember that to see the entire Cardinals system from the Dominican Summer League to St. Louis in one graphical view with all transactions, free agents and more, check out the Roster Matrix, kept updated at The Cardinal Nation Blog.
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