Cardinals players with minor-league options on the 40-man roster

Paying attention to the amount of options players has is critical for immediate and long-term roster construction.

St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

The St. Louis Cardinals, for the most part, have a pretty predictable Opening Day roster going into Spring Training. John Mozeliak has left the door open for competition at several positions, but that mostly has to do with a few bullpen spots and maybe who starts regularly at second base.

Even so, one of the things the Cardinals are embracing going into this season is having roster flexibility. The 26-man roster you open the season with will quickly change faces, so clubs have to be ready to use a chunk of their 40-man roster to weather the storm of injuries and poor performance that comes each year.

Knowing who's on the 40-man roster gives you a peak into the thinking and future decision-making of Mozeliak. It's far more likely we see players on the 40-man roster start with the club on Opening Day, and just as likely that they are some of the first players called up in the event of injuries or the need for a roster shake-up.

Another item of importance to watch is the number of minor league "options" players have. Players on 40-man rosters have options that are used any time a player is sent to the minors, allowing the club to not pass them through waivers. Only players with five or fewer years of service time have options, otherwise they must consent to be optioned.

Only one option is used per season, but clubs and promote and demote a player up to five times before it turns into an outright assignment. Once a player runs out of options, they must be designated for an assignment in order to pass them through waivers. At that point, the other 29 Major League clubs have the ability to claim that player and add them to their 40-man roster.

Only one option is used per season, but clubs can only promote and demote a player up to five times before it turns into an outright assignment. Paying attention to the number of options a player has will help you better understand why some players may be getting opportunities in St. Louis, and why they are choosing to be patient with others.

Here is a comprehensive list of the number of options the players on the Cardinals' 40-man roster have remaining (information comes courtesy of FanGraphs' RosterResource).

Three options remaining:

1. INF/OF Brendan Donovan
2. 2B Nolan Gorman
3. CF/SS Tommy Edman
4. SS Masyn Winn
5. OF Dylan Carlson
6. RHP Ryan Fernandez*
7. C Pedro Pages
8. OF/1B Alec Burleson
9. RHP Sem Robberse
10. RHP Adam Kloffenstein

*Fernandez is a Rule 5 selection, so if the Cardinals option him from their roster, he returns to Boston.

Two options remaining:

1. OF Lars Nootbaar
2. OF Jordan Walker
3. INF Jose Fermin
4. RHP Ryan Helsley
5. RHP Andre Pallante
6. 1B Luken Baker
7. INF Jared Young
8. OF Michael Siani
9. LHP Drew Rom
10. RHP Nick Robertson

One option remaining:

1. C Ivan Herrera
2. LHP John King
3. INF Buddy Kennedy
4. LHP Zack Thompson
5. LHP Matthew Liberatore
6. RHP Riley O'Brien

Zero options remaining:

1. LHP JoJo Romero

How could this impact the Cardinals in 2024 and beyond?

While most people do not think of a player's minor league options very often, they have a huge impact on roster construction in both the immediate and long-term future.

The first and more immediate example would apply to someone like JoJo Romero, who has zero options remaining. If the Cardinals decide to remove Romero from their roster at some point this season, they must designate him for an assignment, remove him from the 40-man roster, and allow all other teams an opportunity to claim him

It's also important to watch the number of options other players have, as they will force major roster decisions from the Cardinals in future years. For example, if any of the players with one option remaining, such as Zack Thompson or Matthew Liberatore, are sent to Memphis this season, they'll have zero options remaining in 2025. That would mean that next season, they would have to remain on the roster the entire season or be designated for an assignment as well.

Player performance is the number one driver of roster decisions, but the options players have had to play a role as well. If the Cardinals prioritize players with three options remaining on the roster over guys with just one, there's nothing wrong with that, but it creates roster pinches later down the line that may force some hard decisions.