Cards Ink Catcher Michel Hernandez to ML Deal

The St. Louis Cardinals have re-signed five minor league free agents and inked nine others to 2006 contracts, including five players with major league experience.

The Cardinals' Player Development organization has been busy in recent days, as 14 minor league free agents have already been signed. Hoping to plug gaps in the system, among the nine newcomers are three catchers and two left-handed pitchers.

 

Eleven of the players will be assigned to Triple-A Memphis and two, left handed pitcher Sam Walton and catcher Brent Cordell, were inked to Double-A contracts.

 

Michel Hernandez

Five of the new players have seen time in the major leagues, including catcher Michel Hernandez. The 27-year-old has been given a major league contract, and as a result, will be added to the Cardinals' 40-man roster. With 2005 back-up catcher Einar Diaz a free-agent, it appears that Hernandez will be given ample opportunity to win the reserve job behind starter Yadier Molina.

 

Hernandez fled Cuba in 1996. He was originally signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent in May, 1998 and worked his way through their system. Hernandez was added to their 40-man roster in November, 2002 and was called up when rosters expanded in September, 2003, making his major league debut at that time.

 

Hernandez was claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies and spent the 2004 season with their Triple-A club. In January, he signed with the San Diego Padres and after participating in spring training as a non-roster invitee, Hernandez played for the Portland Beavers (Triple-A) during 2005. Each of the last two seasons, Hernandez set his career high with 31 RBI. His .288 batting average this past season exceeded his previous minor league career mark by 36 points.

 

Ramon Nivar

Second baseman Ramon Nivar, who will be 26 in February, was signed by the Texas Rangers as a non-drafted free agent in 1998. The Dominican Republic native has stolen as many as 39 bases in the minors and was named the Rangers' Minor League Player of the Year in 2003 after hitting .345 between stops at Double-A and Triple-A.

 

Nivar made the Rangers' opening day roster in 2004, where he also saw time in the outfield. After 18 at-bats, he was returned to the minors before April was out and remained there for the rest of the season.

 

He went to camp with the Baltimore Orioles this past spring and split his time primarily between Double-A and Triple-A, playing centerfield. He hit just .198 at the latter stop. Nivar also got 13 at-bats with the big club during 2005.

 

Brad Voyles

Right-handed pitcher Brad Voyles became a professional in 1998 after signing with Atlanta and made the majors via the Kansas City Royals system. He appeared in 40 games as a reliever during the 2001-2003 seasons and became a starter in Triple-A in 2004.

 

Voyles signed with the New York Yankees as a free agent last December. Though the Yanks were thin in starting pitching throughout 2005, Voyles spent the entire season in Columbus (Triple-A), where he registered a 6-5 record with a 4.95 ERA.

 

Prentice Redman

Outfielder Prentice Redman was the New York Mets' tenth round selection back in 1999. The right-handed hitting speedster has stolen 246 bases in his minor league career, although only 29 of them in the last two years.  

 

Redman made his only major league appearances during the 2003 season, when he hit just .125 in 24 at-bats. His career minor league batting average is .271, generated over seven seasons, but he has traditionally has struggled against lefties. Redman has good range and a strong arm in the outfield.

 

John Webb

Right-handed starting pitcher John Webb was originally selected in the 19th round in the 1999 draft by the Chicago Cubs. He moved to the Tampa Bay system in 2004 and while pitching primarily in Triple-A, Webb also logged 13 unimpressive (10.80 ERA) major-league innings across the last two seasons for the Rays. Over his minor league career, Webb has posted a 35-33, 3.96 mark.

 

Brian Esposito

Catcher Brian Esposito was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the fifth round in 2000 and converted to the mound for a brief period in 2003. Esposito moved on to the Anaheim system, then signed with the Texas Rangers in April, 2004. He spent a majority of the last two seasons in Double-A for the Rangers, where he hit .218 and .228, respectively.

 

Rich Rundles

Left-hander Rich Rundles was the Red Sox' third-rounder in 1999. He joined the Expos organization in 2002 and has been a starter at the Single-A and Double-A level the last two seasons for the Expos/Nationals. His career minor league record is 20-34, 3.53.

 

Sam Walton

Left-handed pitcher Sam Walton was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the seventh round way back in 1997. He pitched in Double-A for the Devil Rays the last two seasons, posting ERAs over six in a relief role. The Cardinals signed Walton to a Double-A contract for 2006.

 

Brent Cordell

Switch-hitting catcher Brent Cordell was drafted by the Cardinals in the 37th round in 1998 out of high school, but did not sign. He did join the Tampa Bay system after his 23rd round selection in 2001. In his third season in A-ball in 2004, Cordell had a decent season offensively, hitting .276 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI in 341 at-bats for Bakersfield. Cordell spent the first part of the 2005 season with the Sioux Falls Canaries of the Northern League and finished with the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. The Cardinals assigned Cordell to Double-A.

 

Returnees

Pitchers Randy Leek, Andy Cavazos, outfielder Brian Martin and infielders Milko Jaramillo and Juan Diaz were re-signed by the Cardinals. Each agreed to a Triple-A deal for next season.

 

Pos.

Player

Age

Former Org.

2006 Contract

OF

BRIAN MARTIN

25

Re-signed

Triple-A

RP

ANDY CAVAZOS

24

Re-signed

Triple-A

1B

JUAN DIAZ

32

Re-signed

Triple-A

LP

RANDY LEEK

28

Re-signed

Triple-A

SS

MILKO JARAMILLO

26

Re-signed

Triple-A

LP

SAM WALTON

27

Tampa Bay

Double-A

CA

BRENT CORDELL

25

Tampa Bay

Double-A

RP

JOHN WEBB

26

Tampa Bay

Triple-A

LP

RICH RUNDLES

24

Washington

Triple-A

OF

PRENTICE REDMAN

26

New York Mets

Triple-A

CA

BRIAN ESPOSITO

27

Texas

Triple-A

CA

MICHEL HERNANDEZ

27

San Diego

Majors

2B

RAMON NIVAR

26

Baltimore

Triple-A

RP

BRAD VOYLES

29

New York Yankees

Triple-A

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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