St. Louis Cardinals: Jeremy Hazelbaker, Dean Kiekhefer Claimed Off Waivers

Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports /

A rapid offseason picked up even more speed for the St. Louis Cardinals today, as two rookies from last season’s rosters will have new homes in 2017.

The St. Louis Cardinals lost Jeremy Hazelbaker and Dean Kiekhefer to waivers on Friday, as St. Louis intended to outright both to the minors if not claimed to shore up the 40-man offseason roster. The Arizona Diamondbacks claimed Hazelbaker, while the Seattle Mariners claimed Kiekhefer.

Hazelbaker stepped up as one of the Cardinals’ unsung heroes in 2016. The 29 year-old considered quitting baseball before St. Louis offered him an invitation for Spring Training, but an impressive Spring Training performance and early injuries to others helped Hazelbaker work to the team’s Opening Day roster.

Hazelbaker finished the season with a .235 batting average, 12 home runs and 28 RBIs, highlighted by an April performance with a .357 OBP and 11 extra base hits.

One of his more profound moments during the season came on September 12, when he delivered a pinch-hit home run against Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks to break the deepest no-hit bid against St. Louis since 2012 (see video below).

Kiekhefer started 2016 in the minor leagues, where he served as a member of Memphis’ closer-by-committee group. The southpaw made his Major League debut on May 14, limiting the Los Angeles Dodgers to one run over 1.2 innings of mop-up work.

The 27 year-old posted a 5.32 ERA over 26 innings in relief, but made more of an impact on stopper roles with 20 scoreless appearances in 26 games.

Kiekhefer pitched the final two innings of the 2016 season, a decision that came shortly after the San Francisco Giants clinched the final NL Wild Card spot to eliminate the St. Louis Cardinals from postseason.

Although the Cardinals will lose a pair of left handers who quietly helped St. Louis stay within playoff contention until the final day, the vacancies create possibilities for the Cardinals in the offseason.

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With Hazelbaker, Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss not likely to return under their current situations, the Cardinals could potentially make breathing room for two or three new outfielders in 2017. This could mean pursuing a free agent bat such as Dexter Fowler (although our new co-expert warns against this–see the next post link below) or possibly promoting a product such as Tommy Pham to a larger everyday role.

Kiekhefer’s absence may also cause the Cardinals to reconsider their southpaw alignment in the bullpen. Kevin Siegrist may convert to more of a left-handed specialist if no one else within the system emerges, while veteran southpaws such as J.P. Howell and Brett Cecil will also become available in free agency.

Next: St. Louis Cardinals: Don't Pursue Dexter Fowler

These transactions mark the only offseason in which the St. Louis Cardinals have lost multiple players via waivers on the same day since Mike Matheny took over as manager in 2012.