Eric Fryer (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports Images)

A former Cardinal in Eric Fryer, an outfielder-turned pitcher and a catcher signed minor league deals with St. Louis.

On Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing of three players to minor league contracts with MLB Spring Training camp invitations - catcher Eric Fryer, left-handed pitcher/outfielder Jordan Schafer and catcher Gabriel Lino.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing of Jordan Schafer, Eric Fryer and Gabriel Lino, three free agents, to minor league contracts with an invitation to Spring Training.

Fryer, 31, played in a career-high 60 games last season between St. Louis and Pittsburgh.  The veteran catcher originally signed with the Cardinals as a minor league free agent in November 2015, before the Pirates selected him off waivers in July. 

The right-handed hitting Fryer batted .267 with a career-high 13 RBI during the season.  During his 24 games with the Cardinals, Fryer batted .368 (14-38), posting a .415 on-base percentage, while throwing out four of six attempted base stealers.  He batted .218 with eight RBI over 36 games as a member of the Pirates.

Schafer, 30, will be listed as a left-handed pitcher with the ability to play the outfield where he logged 5.024 years of Major League service time.  During the 2016 season, Schafer pitched 49.1 innings between three levels in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.  He was 1-1 with a 3.83 ERA in 40 appearances with 59 strikeouts, compiling a 10.76 strikeouts/9 IP at the Dodgers Arizona Summer League affiliate, Tulsa (AA) and Oklahoma City (AAA).  Of his 49.1 innings pitched, 40 were thrown in Double-A and 6.1 in Triple-A.

Schafer appeared in 463 Major League games in the outfield with Braves, Astros and Twins from 2009-15, batting .228 with 12 home runs, 85 RBI and 103 career stolen bases.

Lino, 23, a 6-foot-3, 200 lb., catcher out of Maracay, Venezuela, has played in 464 career minor league games from 2010-16 with the Phillies and Orioles organizations.  The right-handed hitting backstop most recently played in 58 games for Reading (AA) and Clearwater (A) with the Phillies organization in 2016.  He has a career batting average of .230 with 26 home runs and 172 RBI, while throwing out 33 percent of 457 attempted base stealers.   Originally signed as a 16-year-old non-drafted free agent by the Orioles in 2009, he was traded to the Phillies along with Kyle Simon for Jim Thome in 2012.

Schafer, Fryer and Lino join OF Todd Cunningham, RHP Kendry Flores, OF Chad Huffman, LHP Zach Phillips and SS Wilfredo Tovar as Cardinals off-season minor league free agent signings and an invitation to Major League Spring Training.  The team also re-signed free agent RHP Josh Lucas, C Alberto Rosario, RHP Robby Rowland. 

The Cardinals also signed LHP Daniel Schlereth and INF Dickie Joe Thon. to minor league contracts and will report to minor league camp for Spring Training.  Schlereth, a former first round draft pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks, appeared in 94 Major League games for the Diamondbacks and Tigers from 2009-12.  Thon is the son of former 15-year Major League veteran infielder Dickie Thon.

Brian Walton's take

Fryer frenzy unfinished

I find the high level of fan excitement over Eric Fryer’s return to be a bit odd, but the Cardinals organization is smart from a PR perspective to bring him back for a song.

The 31-year-old is a journeyman who joined St. Louis last November on a similar minor league-make good contact, carrying a career .243 batting average over parts of six seasons in the Majors. He had an opening when Brayan Pena was injured at the end of spring training and mounted a brief hot streak to open 2016, which excited some fans. He went on to hit .368 over his 24 games with St. Louis. Fryer lost his roster spot when it appeared Pena was ready to return and was claimed by Pittsburgh on July 3.

Upon his reunion with the Pirates, he returned to being Eric Fryer, batting .218 in 36 games before being removed from the 40-man roster and becoming a free agent again following the season.

I am a bit surprised that Fryer is returning to St. Louis, given how his last stay with the team ended and the very real possibility of prospect Carson Kelly taking his job at some point in the season. The reality is that Fryer is unlikely to play much in 2017 and if Molina is injured, Fryer would simply become Kelly’s back up.

Yet, when all is said and done, the Cardinals clearly needed another catcher, so why not Fryer?

As a minor league signing, Fryer will be listed on the Memphis roster until he is added to St. Louis’. Though the 40-man roster is full, the Cardinals could easily shift the reserve catcher in the spring when injured pitcher Zach Duke can be placed on the 60-day disabled list.


Schafer is versatile

Jordan Schafer, 30, was once a top prospect as an Atlanta Braves outfielder, but never could cut it as a hitter in the majors. In big-league shots totaling 463 games from 2009-2015 with Atlanta, Houston, Atlanta (a second time) and Minnesota, the center fielder logged a career .228/.308/.307/.615 line.

Last season, Schafer tried his luck at pitching at his next stop, the Dodgers organization. With them, the left-hander posted a 3.83 ERA with 59 strikeouts against 18 walks in 49 total innings, primarily at Double-A. He did not do well in a late-season Triple-A trial, however, yielding seven runs in 6 1/3 innings and became a free agent following the season.

For now, I will place Schafer as a pitcher on the Memphis roster. I guess teams can never have too much left-handed pitching, but the projected Redbirds now have five, with Schafer joining Marco Gonzales, Corey Littrell, Ryan Sherriff and another recently-signed free agent with a non-roster invite to big-league camp, Zach Phillips. Assuming starter Austin Gomber makes the jump from Springfield, it would be six portsiders on the Triple-A roster.


Lino offers depth

Gabriel Lino, 23, joins recent re-signing Alberto Rosario as veteran catching depth at the upper levels of the system, a weak area other than Kelly. The Venezuelan native first signed with Baltimore in 2010 and joined the Phillies system two years later. He reached Triple-A in 2015 but split his time last season back down between high-A and Double-A.

The right-handed batter has a career slash line of .230/.303/.341/.644. Defensively, Lino has thrown out 34.1 percent of runners who attempted steals against him over his seven-year minor league career. He became a six-year minor league free agent following the 2016 season.

Likely, Lino will be assigned to Springfield, with Kelly and Rosario handing the Memphis catching duties.


The others

Schlereth, 30, is on a downward spin since once being a first-rounder and experiencing moderate success in the majors. One has to wonder what is left. In each of the last two Junes, the lefty has been released - by the Cubs in 2015 and the Blue Jays last summer. Since last pitching in MLB for Detroit in 2012, he spent three years at Triple-A before skidding downward to Double-A in 2016.

Thon, 25, Toronto's fifth rounder in 2010, became a free agent this fall after seven years in the Jays' system. The second baseman has never advanced beyond high-A. His career line is .244/.322/.354/.676. One interesting factoid is that Thon stole 23 bases in 32 tries in 2016 after never having more than nine in any other season.

One additional move

In a transaction not announced, the Cardinals released catcher Dylan Melendez. The 21-year-old, signed in March 2014, missed 2016 due to injury. The right-handed hitter finished his Cardinals career, consisting of two years in the Dominican Summer League, with a slash line of .276/.345/.378/.723.

For more

Keep on top of all free agents and transactions across the entire Cardinals system by position and level via the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

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