With nine potential free-agents this off-season, the Cardinals' 40-man will undergo a significant overhaul during the off-season, as it does most every year. Read more on that later in this article.
The first roster actions have already occurred as right-handed reliever Andy Cavazos was added to the 40-man, while the team outrighted catcher Mike Rose and shortstop John Nelson, removing them from the 40-man roster. Rose has become a free agent while Nelson remains with Memphis.
Following the 2006 season, Cavazos, 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, was eligible for minor league free agency for the second consecutive season. By re-signing with the Cardinals and having been added to their 40-man, Cavazos cannot be selected by another organization in this December's Rule 5 draft.
As it turns out, Cavazos is no stranger to Rule 5. The Texas native was the fifth round pick of the Texas Rangers in the 1999 draft and joined the Cardinals system via the Triple-A phase of the 2002 Rule 5 draft.
Cavazos has followed a long road to reach the 40-man for the first time. After four seasons mostly at Class A as a swingman – starter and reliever - in the Rangers' system, he converted to relief during the 2003 season in Peoria then spent all of 2004 with Tennessee.
Cavazos began the 2005 season at Springfield (Double-A), was sent down to Palm Beach (High Class-A), but then returned to Springfield, effectively splitting the season between the two stops. His ERA at Springfield was 4.03 and overall he fanned 67 while walking just 14 in 60-2/3 innings.
The right-handed reliever will turn 26 years of age prior to the 2007 season, so is not considered a hot prospect. He is said to have good velocity on his fastball, but is considered a fly-ball pitcher.
Still, Cavazos' 4.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2005 was third-best on the entire Cards' minor league system and his 2006 Memphis splits demonstrate he is equally effective against lefties (.236 opposing batting average) and righties (.230).
The organization has liked Cavazos for a long time, as evidenced by his selection to participate in the Arizona Fall League following both the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
I spoke with Cavazos in Arizona both years. Here is the link to Cavazos' audio interview from the AFL last year at this time.
In 2006, Cavazos was a non-roster invitee to the Cardinals Spring Training camp before pitching in 20 games for Springfield and 44 games for Memphis, all in relief.
With the Redbirds, Andy posted a 1-5 record with four saves and a 3.51 ERA, fanning 55 in 56-1/3 innings. He walked 16 and allowed just two home runs. In 16 games with Springfield, Cavazos held opposing hitters to a .094 batting average and posted a sparkling 0.45 ERA.
Cavazos is currently pitching in winter ball for Guasave in the Mexican Pacific League.
The nine possible Cardinals free-agents this off-season are starting pitchers Jason Marquis, Mark Mulder, Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver, catcher Gary Bennett, infielders Ron Belliard, Scott Spiezio and Jose Vizcaino and outfielder Preston Wilson.
In addition, the Cardinals must decide whether or not to pick up the $10 million option on outfielder Jim Edmonds for 2007 or pay him a $3 million buy-out, basically severance pay. A third possibility is for the team to re-negotiate a new contract with the 36-year-old centerfielder.
No matter what happens, there will again be significant roster churn for the Cardinals this winter. Come back here often to stlcardinals.scout.com, where we will keep you on top of all the action!
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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