Via Twitter on Thursday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals announced the following:
Brian Walton’s take
This is the first of what is expected to be a series of 40-man roster adjustments coming this off-season. To be outrighted, all three players have cleared waivers.
Including five players who finished the 2016 on the 60-day disabled list, the Cardinals had 45 players on their 40-man roster, so these moves only take them to 42. Even with impending free agents, other cuts will most likely be required to align the roster for 2017.
(To see the 40-man roster detail, plus the entire minor league system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.)
Mitch Harris, who turns 31 years of age next month, has a famous backstory as a US Naval Academy graduate who was drafted by St. Louis in 2008. After unsuccessfully fighting for five years to avoid his active duty commitment, Harris began his professional baseball career in 2013.
The right-hander reached the majors in 2015, pitching in 26 games with St. Louis, posting a 3.67 ERA. Harris struck out 15 and walked 13 in 27 innings. He missed all of the 2016 season, having “Tommy John-like” surgery in June.
Because he was injured during spring training, Harris spent the entire season on the Major League DL, unlike pitchers Marco Gonzales and Tim Cooney, who had been optioned out earlier. As a result, Harris could not be outrighted until either healthy or the end of the regular season. This week, he was removed from the 60-day DL, then cleared waivers.
Harris has been rehabbing in the Cardinals complex in Jupiter, Florida. He told me two weeks ago that his recovery was on track and he was excited about soon being cleared to throw from the mound again. (The above photo was taken at that time – Harris is on the left.)
Even without Harris, the Cardinals are well stocked with arms, with a total of 22 pitchers still remaining on the 40-man roster for just 12 expected jobs to open the 2017 season – five starters and seven relievers.
Speaking of numbers, the Cards had five catchers on the 40-man roster - until Thursday. The three remaining include stalwart Yadier Molina, veteran Brayan Pena, who missed most of the 2016 due to injury, but remains under contract for 2017, and rookie prospect Carson Kelly, added to the 40-man in September. The latter is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League.
Michael Ohlman, a 6-foot-5 backstop, was acquired from Baltimore for cash considerations in February 2015 after having been designated for assignment by the Orioles and has been on St. Louis’ 40-man the entire time. The right-handed hitter repeated Double-A in 2015 and was asked to improve his defense to catch up with his bat. Ohlman was a Texas League mid- and post-season All-Star before being assigned to the Arizona Fall League (for the second consecutive year).
In 2016, the 25-year-old’s progress at Triple-A Memphis stalled, however, to the point he was sent back down to Springfield for about five weeks from June into July. Kelly’s emergence has made Ohlman’s 40-man spot unnecessary.
Alberto Rosario, who turns 30 in January, began his professional career in the Angels system, in his native Dominican Republic. The right-handed hitter first reached Triple-A in 2013, moved to the Red Sox in 2013 and Dodgers in 2014.
Rosario signed with St. Louis as a minor league free agent in December 2014 and spent most of 2015 playing with Ohlman at Springfield. At Memphis in 2016, Rosario appeared in just 39 games, backing up Ohlman (54 games) and Michael McKenry (51 contests).
Once veteran Eric Fryer was let go from St. Louis, Pena’s continued inability to catch due to a knee problem finally opened the big-league door for Rosario. He was added to the 40-man roster and called up on July 6th for his MLB debut. He remained with St. Louis for the final 90 days of the season, however, with Molina showing considerable resiliency at the plate, Rosario had just 38 at-bats over 20 games, batting .184.
Both Rosario and Ohlman will become eligible to leave as minor league free agents. This occurs five days after the conclusion of the World Series.
For Ohlman to achieve his Major League dream, it may have to be with another organization. Then again, 12 months ago, free agent Rosario was asked by the Cardinals to return for 2016 and did.
Despite Harris having been drafted in 2008, his time spent on the inactive Military List means he has not yet secured enough minor league service time to become free agent eligible.
To see the list of 18 other potential Cardinals minor league free agents, refer to this article:
Other news – Doyle is done
In minor league news, the Cardinals cut ties with infielder Luke Doyle, giving him his release. Placed on the Johnson City roster, the 21-year-old received a second suspension of 100 games in early August for refusing to take a drug test. Doyle was already on a 50-game suspension since March for a positive test for an amphetamine.
St. Louis’ 20th-round draft pick in 2016 from Yavapai College in Arizona played every infield position and both corner outfield spots over his first 44 games as a professional. The 6-foot, 185-pounder posted a line of .207/.345/.354/.699 at Johnson City in 2015, but of course, did not play in 2016.
Given the Appy League’s 68-game schedule, with the 100 games tacked on, Doyle is required to sit out until 14 games into the 2018 season, with that penalty following him after his release. More than likely, his affiliated baseball career is over.
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