This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Oscar Mercado
Stats: 20 G, 32 PA, 3 R, 3 2B, 5 RBI, 2 SB, 1 CS, .290/.313/.387, -0.2 bWAR
Statcast: 0.0% barrel, 29.6% sweet spot, 104.2 max exit velocity, .304 wOBA, .274 xwOBA, 12.5% K, 3.1% BB
Who says you can’t go home? Mercado was a hometown boy born a rolling stone. Well, St. Louis wasn’t his hometown, but the organization drafted him in 2013, only to trade him off to the then-Indians for Jhon Torres and Connor Capel before ever making his debut. (Capel at least played nine games for the Cardinals after eventually making the majors before winding up in Oakland; Torres topped out at A ball and was released last season.) Mercado got his chance in Cleveland, thriving in 2019 (and became the opening act to the “why did we let them get away” chorus that got stronger soon after) before tapering off in subsequent seasons.
He may have crashed into a pot of gold after leaving St. Louis but the luck soon faded. The Cards picked him up last season, in part for outfield depth, in part I imagine out of nostalgia. With the outfield glut they had, though, I don’t think John Mozeliak and company expected Mercado to actually complete the circuit and he’d be able to take it in as part of the major league club. Yet when Dylan Carlson got injured in May, there he was, making his debut as a member of the home team in Busch Stadium. He even got three hits in his first start and three games later had another three hit outing, fueling the “feel good story” vibes that the club desperately needed after a miserable April.
It didn’t last, though. Mercado only got three more hits in 15 games afterwards, mustering only four starts from May 22 until he was released in early July. The club eventually realized they had enough outfielders and wanted to give Luken Baker a shot, so they parted ways once again with Mercado. The Padres signed him to a minor league deal but released him six weeks later. The Dodgers then gave it a shot but Mercado never made it back to the big leagues after he left St. Louis.
Perhaps it’s true that you can’t go home again after all.
What’s in store for 2024: Mercado is, remarkably, only 28 years old (he’ll turn 29 right before Christmas). As of this writing he’s a free agent and it’s likely another year of bouncing from club to club on minor league deals, hoping that there will be an opportunity where he can spend some time in the majors. It wouldn’t be unheard of to see him bloom at this age but I don’t think anyone is going to be putting him in the same category as Randy Arozarena and Sandy Alcantara when it comes to former Cardinal prospects.