If I hadn’t told you, dear reader, that I needed to get in my reps and I’d try to write every day this week, I’d probably forgo this post. After all, the MLB season has actually gotten started as the Mariners and A’s are playing as I write this in Tokyo. So this may be a short post (if that’s possible, Mr. Schwarz) and perhaps I can catch an inning or so before heading off to work.
The problem with writing after a spring off day, of course, is that there are fewer things to react to and discuss. We talked about the fifth starter and Brett Cecil‘s injury yesterday. We also commented on Jedd Gyorko‘s injury, which if it keeps him on the IL to start this season will probably mean that the debate between Yairo Munoz and Drew Robinson–which as Bernie Miklasz writes, really shouldn’t be a debate even without Gyorko’s lame calf–will be put on hold for a week or two.
The only real thing left to be decided is the bullpen, which was the topic of yesterday’s UCB roundtable question which Adam Butler of Bird Law posited. I’ll leave it to him to put up all the answers, but when you work out the math correctly (unlike what I did yesterday–probably shouldn’t have tried to toss off an answer between tax returns), it looks like the last spot is probably going to boil down to John Brebbia and Dominic Leone, because those are the only two in the mix (besides Jordan Hicks, who isn’t going anywhere, and Alex Reyes, which we’ll get to) that have options left. Andrew Miller, Chasen Shreve, John Gant, and Mike Mayers are either going to be on the roster or, in the case of the latter three, out of the organization.
In theory, Reyes could go down to Memphis and try to stretch out to be a starter there, but the club, fairly so, wants him to start in the major league bullpen and work his way to the rotation there. You can’t blame them. After two lost seasons, you want to see Reyes making some sort of contribution to the big league club. The span of control they have over him has dwindled due to his surgeries that kept him on the MLB DL (as it was in those olden days) while accruing big league time. There’s no particular reason to “waste” more outings at Memphis if you can do that transition on the fly in the bigs. I’m still cautious to see how that works, because it feels like something that you plan for but then opportunities force your hand, but it does sound like it could be done.
Neither Brebbia or Leone really deserve to go to Memphis. Brebbia especially was one of the strongest arms overall in the pen last season, though he had his hiccups just like everyone else. Leone is coming off an injury-plagued year, but has thrown six scoreless innings this spring with a .238 batting average against and a 1.17 WHIP. Couple that with his effectiveness in Toronto and in most any other year, he’s a lock to go north. If the Cards were just taking 12 hitters, he’d be going (but then we’d still be talking about Munoz and Robinson, with both possibly ticketed to Beale Street if Gyorko was healthy.)
The club could try to deal off one of the out-of-options guys like they did with Josh Lucas last year (though, IIRC, Lucas had options, they just needed the spot on the 40-man for Hicks). Normally, I’d say that the club wouldn’t want to give up some depth that they most likely are going to need this season. However, if they are looking at Carlos Martinez returning as a reliever and making the same rotation transition that Reyes is planning for, that would mean that both Leone and Brebbia would be in the minors when he returned. I don’t know that you can plan for this, but at that point you don’t have anyone that has options that you would send down and you still have a potential return of Cecil and Luke Gregerson. (Like I say, I don’t know that either one of those guys will really play a part but stay with me.) You have Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Austin Gomber, and Daniel Ponce de Leon, among others, that will likely need a spot in the bigs at some point this season. A move will have to be made sometime, whether now or as the season goes on.
Of course, you always have the “baseball works itself out” motto, but with as many non-movable parts as the club has, dealing someone like Mayers (assuming there is a market for him, which you’d have to think there is a small one at least) for a non-40-man prospect that isn’t necessarily close to the bigs might be the best way of solving this roster crunch. The Lucas trade happened right at the end of spring last season so there’s still time for that sort of thing to happen this year. I’m not saying that I expect it, given the general path of least resistance motto, but I think it’s a real possibility.
The Cards get started on the last stretch of Jupiter games today, taking on the Marlins for the next-to-last time. Ponce de Leon will go for the Cardinals in what probably will be his last appearance before he gets sent to minor league camp. He’ll show up in that Memphis game on Monday, though, there’s no doubt about that.
Now, let’s see if that game is still on…..