Cardinals make 40-man roster move, Wilking Rodriguez is now a free agent

In an effort to free up 40-man roster spots, Wilking Rodriguez was optioned by the Cardinals, and he has elected to test free agency.
Feb 23, 2023; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Wilking Rodriguez (58) poses for a
Feb 23, 2023; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Wilking Rodriguez (58) poses for a / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals made another 40-man roster move this evening, but this time, it involved a surprise name that many expected them to keep around in RHP Wilking Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was a Rule 5 selection last offseason by the Cardinals, as they grabbed him from the Yankees' organization in hopes that he could become an impactful bullpen piece in 2023. Unfortunately, Rodriguez experienced a shoulder injury in Spring Training, eventually having surgery in May that sidelined him for the entire season.

Per Rule 5 rules, since he did not reach 90 days on the Cardinals' active roster in 2023, he was once again under Rule 5 designation for the 2024 season. The Cardinals could not option him to Triple-A without offering his services back to the New York Yankees. The Yankees passed on bringing him back, and Rodriguez elected free agency instread of joining the Triple-A affliate and being off the 40-man roster.

This does not rule out a reunion with Rodriguez though. He'll likely search around baseball for a guaranteed Major League contract, but if he is unable to get one, he could very well resign with St. Louis and receive a Spring Training invite. The Cardinals still need bullpen help for 2024 and Rodriguez should be a low-cost flyer if they so choose.

The Cardinals now have one roster spot remaining on their 40-man roster, which they could look to add a player internally it between now and the Rule 5 protection deadline, with Adam Kloffenstein being the major candidate here. We covered other names to watch on the site last week as well.

The Cardinals are going to be looking to add multiple arms to their roster this offseason, so it will be interesting to see which other names are non-tendered, optioned, or traded in the coming weeks to free up more room on the 40-man roster.

Back to Rodriguez. While it's not shocking to see them remove him from the 40-man roster, I am surprised it happened while other names, such as James Naile, Jake Woodford, Connor Thomas, and some of the position player depth they have remained. Maybe those moves are coming soon, but I would have rather had Rodriguez going into 2024 than those names.

One difference that may drive that thinking is the fact that if Rodriguez did not make the team out of camp, they'd be in this position in March instead. At least with those names, they can option them down to Memphis and can be called up later as needed.

There may be some concern about Rodriguez's medicals from the Cardinals end, so there's a lot that could have factored into this. For now, Rodriguez is a free agent, and there is one less internal bullpen option for the Cardinals in 2024.