As part of the agreement that the owners and players came to this week, there will be a roster freeze from Saturday until camps reopen. I’m not 100% sure what that means for those that stay on the major league roster but aren’t, you know, major leaguers. The main one in this camp is Dylan Carlson, of course. Does he get treated like a major leaguer? So he doesn’t get paid like a minor leaguer, but is eligible for some of that advance $170 million? I’m sure the people involved know but from the outside looking in, it doesn’t seem to make much difference if you are on the major league or the minor league roster. You still aren’t playing.
However, the Cards did send down four players before the gates shut. When Matt Wieters re-signed, we knew that Andrew Knizner was going to spend much of 2020 in Memphis, so his demotion made plenty of sense. The other three, though, were a little intriguing. Especially when you look at them through the lens of what baseball may look like when the game returns.
St. Louis sent down three pitchers–Genesis Cabrera, Junior Fernandez, and Alex Reyes. Individually, they all can make sense. Fernandez was one that I thought would make the Opening Day roster given his debut last year and his good spring, but he also was at three different minor league levels last year. He was good at each one, but command is still an issue. He’s going to be in St. Louis at some point and time this season, but depending on who actually made up the roster, you could see why he’d get squeezed out. If nothing else, he still has options.
Cabrera and Reyes also could use a little sharpening around the edges. It really wasn’t a surprise to see Reyes get sent down given how little he’s been able to pitch in the last three years. The biggest argument for keeping him in the majors would be not to waste any more time in non-MLB play with him, but he can use Memphis to build up some stamina, hopefully, and maybe reassert himself as a starter option for 2021.
Cabrera I really thought might go north, given how he made the postseason roster last year and retired all six batters he saw in October. There’s no doubt that command has been a problem for him, but he’d looked pretty good in spring. It’s possible, probable even, that they’d like to see him stretch out as a possible starter as well.
So all those make sense, especially when you factor in that Miles Mikolas, Andrew Miller, and probably Brett Cecil are going to be healthy by time this season starts. The club may have wanted Cecil to go on a rehab assignment if everything had worked out normally (and he hadn’t pulled his hamstring at the end of spring training) but now they are basically going to have just half a season or so to get anything out of his last year on the contract. I imagine that they’ll go ahead and promote him.
But when you have 29 players going north, probably 15 of them pitchers, it’s a little surprising you’d go ahead and close off these three guys. I mean, the Cards could bring them up again, but they’ve already burned an option, an option that they might not need to. (That said, options don’t count if a player returns in 20 days or less. Assuming that doesn’t count the roster freeze, that might come into play here.) You have to figure starting pitchers are only going to go 3-4 innings for the first time or two through the rotation. You could almost have a double starting rotation. Jack Flaherty/Austin Gomber, Mikolas/Cabrera, Carlos Martinez/Reyes, Dakota Hudson/Kwang Hyun Kim, Adam Wainwright/Daniel Ponce de Leon. That only leaves you five other relievers, but if you are committed to letting these guys soak up six or seven a night, that might be enough.
I’m not actively advocating that piggy-back rotation idea for the first month, but you could see how it would work. Sending down arms that should be also able to give you multiple innings when you will need them is a strange concept. I look forward to seeing how permanent a move it is!