Saying Goodbyes to 35 2015 Cardinals Players

Updating the status of 35 members of the St. Louis Cardinals system in 2015 who left the organization.

As minor league camp begins on Monday, March 7, I will post a refresh of the Roster Matrix to run at The Cardinal Nation blog. A by-product is that last fall’s free agents will drop off the charts for the final time. Before that happens, I will recap the action from this winter by those mostly now ex-St. Louis Cardinals.

St. Louis had 21 players become free agents following the 2015 season, up from 18 the year before. Nine were off the major league roster and 12 were minor league free agents. One in the former group and two in the latter group ended up re-signing with the Cardinals for a net loss of 18.

17 others became former Cardinals in a variety of other manners, all outlined in the following.

Major league free agents (9)

Of the major league free agents, seven of the nine signed for 2016, six on major league deals. Along with Jason Heyward’s Cubs-record contract, three others got two years each and two are on one-year deals.

P John Lackey – Cubs – two years, $32 million
P Jonathan Broxton – Cardinals – two years, $7.5 million
P Matt Belisle – Nationals – minor league deal with MLB spring invite
P Randy Choate – unsigned
P Carlos Villanueva – San Diego – one year, $1.5 million
P Steve Cishek – Seattle – two years, $10 million (non-tendered)
C Cody Stanley – unsigned (non-tendered following PED suspension)
3B Mark Reynolds – Colorado – one year, $2.6 million
OF Jason Heyward – Cubs – eight years, $184 million

Lackey is being replaced by the return of Adam Wainwright from injury or the signing of free agent Mike Leake, depending on your perspective. Stephen Piscotty is slated to take over for Heyward in right field.

The Cardinals acquired both former closers in Broxton and Cishek last July and decided to pursue the former to stay. The latter also signed a two-year deal – to become Seattle’s closer.

2015 long man Carlos Villanueva may be replaced by Rule 5 addition Matt Bowman or out of options lefty Tyler Lyons.

Lyons could also be in the mix to step in for the lefty reliever Choate, with newly-signed Korean right-hander Seung-hwan Oh in line to take Belisle’s hoped-for late-inning role.

Reynolds’ role as a bench power bat will be taken by whichever of Matt Adams and Brandon Moss is not starting. Defensively, he will be replaced by a combination of the two aforementioned first basemen along with Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia as reserves behind Matt Carpenter at third.

Jay: Now with the Padres

Other Major League departures (3)

Though they were not free agents, three other Cardinals left the Major League roster over the winter.

On December 2, St. Louis dealt reserve catcher Tony Cruz to Kansas City for minor league shortstop Jose Martinez. Cruz’ job was taken by free agent signee Brayan Pena.

The same day, it was announced that outfielder Peter Bourjos had been claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies. Minor leaguer Tommy Pham looks to claim Bourjos’ old outfield reserve spot.

Six days later, the Cardinals traded outfielder Jon Jay to San Diego for Gyorko. Randal Grichuk is primed to be the every-day centerfielder in 2016.

Minor league free agents (12)

Of the 12 minor league free agents, only seven have signed for the upcoming season, with two of them returning to the Cardinals organization – catcher Alberto Rosario and outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker. One, Rafael Ortega, received a major league deal but he had been on two other 40-man rosters prior, including with St. Louis.

Pete Kozma received a non-roster invitation to the Yankees major league camp (NRI) as did Xavier Scruggs in Miami. The other two to re-sign are in affiliated ball in the US.

Four of the 12 free agents were homegrown Cardinals, denoted by (h). Along with Kozma and Scruggs, reliever Keith Butler and catcher Travis Tartamella have yet to play with another professional organization.

P Nick Greenwood (Memphis) – Cubs
P Marcus Hatley (Memphis) – unsigned
P Keith Butler (h - Palm Beach) – unsigned
C Ed Easley (Memphis) – Pittsburgh
C Travis Tartamella (h – Memphis) – unsigned
C Alberto Rosario (Springfield) – St. Louis (re-signed)
C Jose Gonzalez (Palm Beach) – unsigned
1B Dan Johnson (Memphis) – unsigned
1B Xavier Scruggs (h - Memphis) – Miami (NRI)
SS Pete Kozma (h - St. Louis) – Yankees (NRI)
OF Jeremy Hazelbaker (Memphis) - St. Louis (re-signed)
OF Rafael Ortega (Memphis) – Angels (MLB deal)

Hazelbaker re-signed

Of the 12, eight reached St. Louis. Pitchers Nick Greenwood, Marcus Hatley and Keith Butler, catchers Tartamella and Ed Easley and first baseman Dan Johnson joined Scruggs and Easley. All were subsequently removed from the 40-man roster, which created their free agency opportunity.

Among the two re-signees, both of whom received a non-roster invitation to major league spring camp, Hazelbaker would seem to have the best chance of getting a call to help St. Louis at some point during 2016. Rosario is organizational catching depth.

Other Minor League departures (14)

14 other Cardinals left the organization in a manner other than free agency during this past off-season.

On December 10, the Cardinals lost eight players in the Rule 5 Draft, seven in the minor league phase. With the fourth pick in the MLB phase, the Colorado Rockies selected right-handed pitcher Luis Perdomo, St. Louis‘ representative in the 2015 MLB Futures Game. An hour later, Colorado traded Perdomo to San Diego. He could still return to the Cardinals if he does not stick with the Padres.

In the first round of the Triple-A phase, right-handed pitchers Jhonny Polanco and Cory Jones were snapped up by Boston and Baltimore, respectively. St. Louis lost three more players in the second round as right-handed pitcher Kender Villegas, shortstop Robelys Reyes and outfielder Mike O’Neill were taken. In the third round, right-hander Fernando Baez was selected by Tampa Bay. All seven will not return to the Cardinals. (link)

Petrick: Moved to Japan

One week later, the Cardinals sold the contract of Memphis right-handed pitcher Zach Petrick, the organization's 2013 Pitcher of the Year, to Yokohama in Japan. (link)

Also in December, four short-season minor league pitchers were released – Steve Sabatino, Anderson Gerdel, Juan Bautista and Ismael Brito. (link)

In January, Memphis left-hander John Gast’s retirement decision became public.

In conclusion

All told, at least 38 players could have left the Cardinals organization since the end of last season, and three later returned. Half of the 38, 19, were free agents, two were non-tendered (and became free agents), two were traded away, one was lost via waivers, eight were claimed in the Rule 5 Draft, one was sold to a Japanese team, four were released, and one retired.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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