After stops and starts earlier in the week when testing issues kept the Cardinals from the field, it seems like they’ve started to find their rhythm over the last few days. All the workouts and games have been moved to the evening, which makes sense given the blazing summer heat that is running through seemingly everywhere currently. We’ve not heard of any drawbacks from people that are in camp, though there are still some like Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes that haven’t made it to camp and, by this point, have to be considered very questionable for Opening Day.
Which would seem to put up some significant issues for the bullpen. With John Brebbia also out because of his Tommy John surgery and Genesis Cabrera and Ricardo Sanchez (who, let’s be fair, wasn’t likely to make a push for a spot anyway) held back by positive COVID tests, the arms that will be backing up the starters are getting a little thin on the ground. That’s not great, given how many relief innings there are going to be especially early on with the starters working their way up to full strength.
Let’s say the starting rotation is Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Carlos Martinez, Dakota Hudson, and Adam Wainwright. That means that, with the 30 man roster, you could have between eight and twelve other arms that would be in Busch on Opening Day. My guess is that it’ll be more like ten with a couple of extra bats carried early on as well (though, with the DH, they may not be as needed). So which ten are we looking at?
Well, since he’s healthy and is under contract, Brett Cecil would seem to be one. It’s possible the Cardinals would cut him, given that they’d only owe him 60 games of salary, but given the costs that have been incurred this season, paying someone not to play for you would seem a little unlikely. Besides, the Cards have held on to him this long, they probably want to see if that sidearm motion would help out at all.
Kwang Hyun Kim is two. It’s going to be interesting to see how they use him, whether he’ll be a guy that comes in right after the starter a couple of times a week and pitches two innings or if he’ll be more of a guy that goes three or four once. Obviously, though, he’s on the roster.
Andrew Miller is under contract and not going anywhere, even as they still try to determine just how he’s going to be able to earn his vesting option, if it is possible. For 2020, though, he’s a Cardinal.
The club has stuck with John Gant, signing him to a one-year deal when they could have non-tendered him. There’s still the outside chance that they’d let him go since he’s out of options, but I think they’d have done it by now if they weren’t going to let him have a shot at redeeming himself after that terrible second half.
That leaves us six spots. Tyler Webb is out of options, but with Cecil and Miller and the fact that the three batter minimum starts this season, that might not be enough. I know, I know, I’ve just been talking about them not wanting to pay players that aren’t playing for them, but Webb’s a guy making the minimum. He’ll make just over $213,000 this year. That’s probably something they can swallow. Then again, he was probably the most effective lefty they had last year. I think they’d probably at least start the year with him on the roster.
The next five are pretty much up in the air. You have Daniel Ponce de Leon, Austin Gomber, and Ryan Helsley that are on the 40-man roster. Given the state of things, I think that definitely gets them on the squad this season. Gallegos and Cabrera will probably return eventually (I do wonder about Reyes, because it would be cruel but expected if he missed basically a third year) but until then I think you definitely run with these two.
If I’m not missing anything, we’re out of 40-man guys. Which means that, if Gallegos and Cabrera aren’t available, some roster moves will have to be made to get more arms on the squad or you go with more hitters. There’s logic either way. The problem is that there’s not a lot of obvious moves to get people onto the 40-man, plus with a limited pool of players you don’t want to be letting people go without due consideration. If the Cardinals wanted to add Kodi Whitley, they could do so fairly easily by putting Brebbia on the 60-day IL. That would mean the Cardinals would have nine bullpen arms. With many of them going multiple innings, this might be all they want to do. It might not be worth trying to find a place on the 40-man for a Zack Thompson or a Johan Oviedo only to see their time reduced (or see them sent to Springfield) after Gallegos or Cabrera get back to playing. Even if, for some reason, those guys don’t return, after two weeks the rosters need to be cut and it could be that they return to Springfield then anyway.
(Of course, using the Brebbia card means it becomes a step more difficult to get Dylan Carlson on the roster as well. Something to consider.)
It’s going to be difficult for us to really get a feel for how people are making their case to be on the squad when we just seen press box video on occasion and no stats are truly being kept. Still, figuring out who will be trotting in from the bullpen could be the most interesting thing of the next couple of weeks.