St. Louis Cardinals: Roster moves reveal the plan for opening day

The St. Louis Cardinals made one round of roster moves on Thursday that were somewhat surprising. What do they tell us about the plan for the roster?

While the St. Louis Cardinals are about to have to freeze their roster due to the agreed deal between the MLB and the MLBPA, they made one last round of roster moves on Thursday.

If you’ll remember, the Cardinals had really only made one big round of cuts from spring training, and the players they did cut were not players that anyone expected to make the MLB team right out of spring training.

On Thursday, the Cardinals announced the following moves:

All of these players have played in the big leagues before, and in my own honest opinion, I could’ve easily seen a world where these four all made the opening day roster. However, it seems that none of them will.

For Junior Fernandez and Genesis Cabrera, this almost seems like a slap in the face. After both were solid last year, they both had stellar springs.

Over 6.0 spring innings, Cabrera gave up just one run and struck out eight. His run was just a solo shot and with Brett Cecil‘s health in question again, he could’ve joined Tyler Webb and Andrew Miller (maybe Kwang-Hyun Kim as well) as lefties from the pen. For Fernandez, he gave up two runs in 5.0 innings while also striking out eight batters this spring.

Alex Reyes is just trying to have a healthy year and thus far, he has. His spring was a little more tumultuous with four runs given up over 4.1 innings, he struck out nine in that time. Reyes walked three but in his first MLB-level action in a while, he had some rust to shake off. I predicted Reyes would be a late-inning option, but it seems the team would prefer him to work on his control more at AAA before undoubtedly joining the team later in the year.

For Cabrera and Reyes, the plan (according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch) is to stretch them out as starters in AAA. I have no issues with this as both are way more valuable there than anywhere else.

The option was there with the 26-man roster to carry three catchers, allowing one to pinch-hit on any given day. However, it seems the Cards want the now 25-year-old Knizner to get regular playing time at AAA.

That’s the right move, but again, 2020 will now be Knizner’s third season where he’s played at AAA. At some point, you have to play him or trade him, and without injury, he won’t have playing time.

So, with these four starting the year at AAA, who will be starting with the big club?

Looking at the bullpen, the eight players that will make up that group become more clear. This could all be a little different depending on when the season actually starts, but let’s assume for the purpose of this article that Miles Mikolas won’t be back from his injury and that Brett Cecil, even if healthy, won’t be included. Cecil was apparently “doubtful for the opening day roster” before he tweaked his hammy in a game.

Therefore, let’s also assume that Kwang-Hyun Kim takes Mikolas’ spot in the rotation. With all of that sorted, let’s get down to who’s in the bullpen.

The clear start to that group is John Brebbia and John Gant. From there, you will have Ryan Helsley, Tyler Webb, Andrew Miller, Daniel Ponce de Leon, and Giovanny Gallegos. That is seven, leaving the final spot in the bullpen to the big lefty Austin Gomber.

So there you go, there’s your eight-man bullpen for what would’ve been opening day. Three lefties and a lot of talent for sure.

For the bench, the team still had options, but it would’ve been Lane Thomas, Tommy Edman, Brad Miller, Matt Wieters, and likely Rangel Ravelo.

Note that Dylan Carlson not being on the list of players who were optioned does not mean he is starting with the big club, he’s not yet on the 40-man so they don’t have to officially option him.

Looking forward, when (if) baseball returns in 2020, there will likely be expanded rosters in order to deal with a shorter, second spring training. For that reason, things are still very much so in flux.

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However, these moves reveal the plan to keep Reyes and Cabrera as starters and to bring Ravelo/Gomber onto their first opening day roster. Baseball, please come back soon.