First, outfielder Brian Barton was traded to Atlanta this spring for a pitcher that was released shortly after, Blaine Boyer. Now, infielder Brian Barden has the right to become a free agent either immediately or at the end of the season.
On Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals outrighted Barden to the Memphis Redbirds. Though the 28-year-old was already playing for the Triple-A club, what that means is that he was removed from the Cardinals organization's 40-man roster.
I have not yet been able to reach organization officials to get clarification as to whether or not Barden has already cleared outright waivers. When I do, I will update this article.
At this point, I am assuming he has been placed on waivers, but has not cleared. I do know that Barden is still with the Redbirds in Salt Lake City, though he did not play Thursday night.
Several things can happen next, including several choices of which Barden has the right to make.
1) If Barden is not claimed off waivers, he can accept the assignment and remain with Memphis.
2) If Barden is claimed off waivers, he will be placed on the claiming organization's 40-man roster. That club can then option him to the minors if they so choose. *
3) Because Barden was previously outrighted, he can declare free agency now.
* Those waivers are irrevocable, meaning the Cardinals could not pull Barden back if claimed. He would be gone, which is precisely how he joined the St. Louis organization in the first place. More on that below.
Though it is not an immediate decision like the others, if Barden remains with Memphis (option 1 above), because he was previously outrighted, he can declare free agency at the end of this season if not re-added to the Cardinals' 40-man by then.
By making the move at this time, the Cardinals signal that Barden was not a candidate for September recall to St. Louis. The recent trade for Julio Lugo, the emergence of Brendan Ryan, the improved play of Tyler Greene and the return of Khalil Greene all seemed to push Barden down in the infield pecking order. In removing him from the 40-man roster now, a spot is opened up for another player to potentially be added.
Additional supporting detail follows.
The Cardinals previously outrighted the right-handed hitter in March 2008, after seeing him in Spring Training that year. They had first added Barden to the 40-man upon claiming him off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks in August, 2007. He didn't let the move bother him because by May 2008, Barden became the organization's Player of the Month while with Memphis.
Due to a solid 2008 season as Memphis' shortstop, batting .285 with nine home runs and 35 RBI in 103 games and a successful stint with the bronze medal-winning Team USA in the Beijing Olympics, Barden's stock had rebounded considerably. In fact, able to play all infield postions, he was re-added to the 40-man roster and called up to St. Louis last September.
In 2009, Barden had a good March and made the Major League club out of spring training as the platoon starter at third base for the injured Troy Glaus. In April, he hit .385 with three home runs, earning the National League Rookie of the Month award.
Apparently, that would be Barden's 15 minutes of fame as a Cardinal.
After slumping to .132 in May and seeing his overall MLB average fall below .250, Barden was optioned to Memphis in early June. That led to a month of shuttling back and forth between the Redbirds and St. Louis and declining results in July.
Barden was called back up to St. Louis from July 6 until July 11, getting just two hitless at-bats. On July 22, he was recalled to St. Louis for a third stint in 2009. That stay lasted all of two days as Barden went right back down to Memphis when outfielder Matt Holliday was acquired via trade from Oakland.
Since most recently having been optioned out from St. Louis, Barden was just 3-for-28 (.107) with the Redbirds. That dropped his aggregate Triple-A line on the season to .222/.280/.333, actually worse than his MLB results of .233/.286/.379. Against right-handed pitching at the Triple-A level, Barden is batting just .186 this season.
With the move, the Cardinals' 40-man roster now sits at 37.
Update: Barden cleared outright waivers and elected to remain with Memphis. He will again have the right to declare free agency at the end of the season unless re-added to the 40-man.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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