Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Remembering 40 members of the St. Louis Cardinals system in 2016 who have left the organization this off-season.

Remembering 40 members of the St. Louis Cardinals system in 2016 who have left the organization this off-season.

As St. Louis Cardinals major league camp officially begins today, Tuesday, February 14, it is time once again to focus on the promise of the new season. Before that happens, though, it seems appropriate to say goodbye one last time to a group of 40 players who have become ex-Cardinals since the close of the 2016 season.

That’s right. Since St. Louis’ minor league teams hung up their spikes last fall, an entire 40-man roster’s-worth of players have left the organization.

The largest group is typically free agents and this fall was no exception. St. Louis had 17 players become free agents following the 2016 season, down from 21 the year before. Just four were off the major league roster with the other 13 minor league free agents.

The Cardinals lost three additional players via waivers as the club removed them from the 40-man roster. Three others were released and another was dealt away.

16 other minor leaguers became former Cardinals in a variety of other manners, including the via Rule 5 draft, release and retirement.

All 40 are outlined in the following.


Major league free agents (4)

Of the major league free agents, the two position players fared well, finding new homes from 2017, while the two pitchers are still out of work. 

  Pitchers  Thr Tm   Position Players  Pos Tm
MLB FA (4) Jordan Walden RH StL DL   Matt Holliday OF StL
  Jerome Williams RH StL     Brandon Moss OF StL

Jordan Walden – minor league contract voided (Braves)

Jerome Williams – free agent

Matt Holliday – one year, $13 million (Yankees)

Brandon Moss – two years, $12 million (Royals)

The Cardinals declined club options on outfielder Matt Holliday and reliever Jordan Walden, making them free agents. St. Louis declined to make qualifying offers to outfielder-first baseman Brandon Moss and pitcher Jerome Williams, placing them in the free-agent pool, as well.

St. Louis received just 12 games in return for their two-year contract with Walden, who spent most of 2015 and all of 2016 on the disabled list. The right-hander returned to Atlanta on a minor league contract for 2017, but it was voided this past week after Walden’s rehab did not progress as the Braves hoped.

The 35-year-old Williams remains a free agent and will almost certainly have to accept a minor league deal if he wants to try to keep pitching.

For 2017, sluggers Holliday and Moss signed with the Yankees and Royals, respectively, and could each spend a fair amount of time this season as their new team’s designated hitter. Of course, that is an option that was not available to them while in the National League.


Other Major league departures (7)

Though they were not granted free agency in the traditional sense, seven other Cardinals left the Major League roster over the winter.

  Pitchers  Thr Tm   Position Players  Pos Tm
MLB trade (1) Jaime Garcia LH StL        
MLB release/ Seth Maness RH StL   Brayan Pena C StL
non-tender (3)         Dean Anna IF Mem
MLB waivers Dean Kiekhefer LH StL   Jeremy Hazelbaker OF StL
(3) Tim Cooney RH Mem DL        

With no place in the 2017 rotation for Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals traded the enigmatic lefty to Atlanta. Garcia first reached St. Louis in 2010 after having been drafted by the club in 2005. Among current Cardinals, only Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright had been with the organization longer.

St. Louis let Seth Maness and Brayan Pena go, in both cases due to injury concerns. Catcher Pena, who had a year remaining on his contract, was released following an injury-plagued 2016 and returned to Kansas City on a minor league deal. Maness, who had been arbitration-eligible, was non-tendered. The right-hander, who is coming off elbow ligament repair surgery, also signed a minor league deal with the Royals for 2017 after auditioning for a number of interested clubs.

Infielder Dean Anna, who inexplicably held onto a 40-man roster spot for two years despite getting a grand total of one St. Louis at-bat, was finally jettisoned in September when the Cardinals needed his 40-man roster spot for catcher Carson Kelly. Like Pena and Maness, Anna joined the Royals on a minor league contract for 2017.

In the process of removing three players from the 40-man roster this off-season, the Cardinals lost all three via irrevocable waivers. They are pitchers Dean Kiekhefer (Seattle) and Tim Cooney (Cleveland) plus outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker (Arizona). Since then, the Mariners put Kiekhefer back on waivers and this time, the lefty cleared. So he is now on their Triple-A roster.


Rule 5 Draft (3)

  Pitchers  Thr Tm   Position Players  Pos Tm
Rule 5 (3) Kyle Grana RH PB   Matt Williams IF Mem
          Allen Cordoba SS JC

The Cardinals lost two players for good in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December – pitcher Kyle Grana (Dodgers) and infielder Matt Williams (Angels).

The most controversial move was Johnson City shortstop Allen Cordoba, who was left unprotected and was taken in the MLB phase by rebuilding San Diego. It is a huge step from the Appalachian League to the Majors, so Cordoba could be returned to St. Louis at some point this season.


Minor league free agents (13)

Of the baker’s dozen of Cardinals minor league free agents, only four have signed for the upcoming season. They are four of the five position player free agents, with all eight pitchers still without contracts for 2017.

Noticing a trend here?

  Pitchers  Thr Tm   Position Players  Pos Tm
Minors FA (13) Jeremy Hefner RH Mem   Efren Navarro 1B Mem
  Deck McGuire RH Mem   Michael Ohlman C Mem
  Justin Wright LH Mem   David Washington OF Mem
  Tyler Waldron RH Mem DL   Jonathan Rodriguez 1B Spr
  J.C. Sulbaran RH Spr   Jose Fernandez OF PB
  Silfredo Garcia RH PB        
  Jonathan Escudero RH SC        
  Gerwuins Velazco RH SC        

The above statement was technically correct, though one of the free agent hurlers, Jeremy Hefner, formally announced his retirement recently.

The four free agent hitters to have come to terms on minor league contracts are Efren Navarro (Detroit), Michael Ohlman (Toronto), David Washington (Baltimore) and Jonathan Rodriguez (Minnesota).

Six of the 13 free agents were homegrown Cardinals, with hitters Washington and Rodriguez joined by pitchers Justin Wright, Silfredo Garcia, Jonathan Escudero and Gerwuins Velazco.

None of the 13 ever reached St. Louis, with catcher Ohlman the only one to have been on the 40-man roster at any point. Hefner had prior MLB experience with the Mets. All of the others are career minor leaguers to date.


Other Minor League departures (13)

13 other Cardinals left the organization in a manner other than free agency and Rule 5 during this past off-season. Specifically, 12 were released and one, pitcher Harley Holt, hung up his spikes for good.

  Pitchers  Thr Tm   Position Players  Pos Tm
Minors Chris Thomas RH Spr   Josh Swirchak 2B Peo
release (12) Angel Estevez RH DSL   Carlos Torres OF Peo
  Sebastian Nunez RH DSL   Riley Drongesen C SC
  Blake Higgins RH GCL   Luke Doyle IF JC
  Julio Mateo RH JC   Oscar Cotes 3B DSL
          Hector Linares 3B DSL
          Dylan Melendez C DSL
Minors Harley Holt RH Peo        
retire (1)              

Most of the releases were at the lower levels of the system, with only three of the 12 released players having ended their Cardinals stints in full-season ball. They are reliever Chris Thomas (Springfield), plus two Peoria players, second baseman Josh Swirchak and outfielder Carlos Torres.  


In conclusion

40 players have left the Cardinals organization since the end of last season – 11 from the 40-man roster and 29 minor leaguers.

In Part 2 of this annual series, I will take on a similar analysis of all 25 of the new Cardinals who have arrived for 2017.


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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