What is the 40 man roster going to look like?
Yesterday, J.P went over the Cardinals’ payroll, which as he explained, is slightly more complicated than usual thanks to Nolan Arenado’s situation. I thought I’d piggyback on that, and do a quick overview of what the roster will likely look at once the dust settles. But I’m not interested in forecasting potential additions. Well, I am, it just doesn’t happen to be what this article is about. Now, I’m looking at the current roster and making cuts.
Since the playoffs are ongoing, nobody has actually entered free agency yet. The Cardinals 40 man roster, including players on the 60 day injured list, stands at 45 players. You cannot place a player on an injured list over the offseason, thus something’s got to give. Of course, a lot of this just solves itself. There are players who will become free agents five days after the World Series and are removed from the 40 man in the process.
Let’s go position-by position. The Cardinals have four, if healthy, locked into the rotation starting pitchers right now: Dakota Hudson, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, and Adam Wainwright. None of them are getting traded either, unless there’s some bombshell, out of nowhere trade that happens. But it won’t. The competition for the 5th spot, if the Cardinals choose to stick with internal options, are Matthew Liberatore, Johan Oviedo, Alex Reyes, Angel Rondon, Zack Thompson, Jake Woodford, TJ Zuech, and I suppose technically Jordan Hicks if they’re at all for real about a move to the rotation.
Of that group, only Liberatore, Oviedo, and Reyes are really realistic candidates, and I would personally kick Reyes out of the likely group myself as well. They need to add a starter for sure. Anyway, Liberatore and Thompson aren’t actually on the 40 man and won’t be added until the Cardinals want them to start a game. The rest are probably not going anywhere. We’re at 10 pitchers.
In the bullpen, the Cardinals really only have four absolutely in the bullpen on Opening Day if healthy guys. Reyes, Hicks, Woodford and even Zuech have a halfway decent shot of being in the bullpen. In the first three pitchers’ case, their status as a starter will probably dictate whether they’re in the bullpen. If they’re in the majors, they’re probably in the bullpen. In the latter case, I assume he’s moving to bullpen full-time, whether in Memphis or St. Louis. Maybe a wrong assumption, I’m just not seeing a future major league starter there even if I blink in red so I don’t see the point.
As for the four certainties, we have Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley, and Kodi Whitley. That’s the list. Luis Garcia and TJ McFarland are free agents. They may be added, but remember, that’s not what this article is about. The less certain members of the bullpen are Junior Fernandez, Justin Miller, Johan Quezada, and Brandon Waddell. I’ll get the two easy ones out of the way. Fernandez will come back, Miller will not. Gut feeling here: Quezada had essentially a lost season, so I think they’ll give him another go. Waddell feels like a guy you DFA. I don’t see much in his stats to suggest he’s worth keeping and he’s going to be 28 next year. We’re at sixteen.
Moving onto the position players, catcher is easy. Whether right or wrong, I suspect Yadier Molina and Andrew Knizner will remain the starter-backup in the MLB. I also suspect Ivan Herrera and Ali Sanchez remain with the team. Herrera, especially at his age, had a good season at AA, but he seems like a guy you plan to not be ready for the majors for any of 2022. Sanchez is just a backup catcher. Might even be a better one than Knizner, thanks to defense. If Molina or Knizner get hurt in 2022, they’ll want someone other than Herrera to call up, at least for first half. All four catchers on the 40 man return.
In the infield, you will generally need six infielders – four starters, two backups. The Cardinals carried seven most of the year, thinking Tommy Edman should play OF and Jose Rondon could play OF. Mike Shildt is gone so forgive me for the optimism, but I think they stick with six. Really depends on if the DH comes and who they plan to use at DH. There are five certainties in the infield: Nolan Arenado, Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Edmundo Sosa. Yes, DeJong might be traded – hell Sosa might be traded – but again we’re not making any moves yet.
Jose Rondon is a tough one. He played well in limited opportunities and he’s still pre-arbitration so he’s as cheap as they come. He’s also not all that useful on this roster to be honest. It’s not a large sample, but he has pretty extreme splits with a 102 wRC+ against LHP and 45 wRC+ against RHP. While I doubt his profile over a large sample is anywhere near that extreme, the simple fact is that he’s probably quite a bit better facing lefties. For the same reason Albert Pujols really doesn’t fit on this roster is the same reason Rondon doesn’t: they do not need a guy whose primary role is hitting lefties off the bench at all.
Rondon is obviously not going to start over Arenado or Goldschmidt unless they have the day off and Edman is so much better against lefties, he should literally never sit against lefties. Which leaves Sosa and DeJong. Sosa is seemingly better against RHP with a 110 wRC+ to 84 wRC+ against LHP. But probably not. He struck out more and had less power against RHP with only a marginally better BB rate. He even got hit by a pitch more against lefties. How did he hit better? Well he had a .353 BABIP. .241 against lefties. He also didn’t really show a proclivity for hitting right-handed pitchers better in the minors, for example in Memphis in 2019, he had a .893 OPS against LHP, .778 against RHP.
On the other side of the coin, DeJong might actually have reverse splits. He has a career 106 wRC+ against RHP, 88 wRC+ against LHP. He has a higher ISO against RHP and strikes out quite a bit less (also walks less). This is admittedly a bit off topic, but I can’t exactly write an article article debunking that Sosa is better against RHP so here’s two paragraphs here about it. Anyway, Rondon would rarely start over either of these guys in any case. BUT I do think they at least keep him through spring training, because there’s no harm and he’s not really a bad bench option. You can always cut him later.
Max Moroff – remember this guy? – he’s getting DFA’d guaranteed. Juan Yepez has already been added to the 40 man roster. Nolan Gorman doesn’t need to be added until the last minute much like his good buddy Liberatore, so he won’t be over the offseason. I’ll address the additions, of which there are a couple, at the end. We’re now at 26 players.
We have some certainties again: Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbaar, and Tyler O’Neill. There are only two other outfielders on the 40: Austin Dean and Justin Williams. Much in the same vein as Quezada, Dean basically had a lost season and for that reason, I think he may return. Williams, on the other hand, is out of options. I’m not sure you can keep a guy with his track record with no real route to playing time to prove himself. He’s got four players ahead of him on the depth chart already. We’re at 31.
Now addressing the players the Cardinals have to add, I only see one pitcher and I’m not sure they’ll add him. In AA and higher, the Cardinals have just three starters who are Rule 5 eligible: Griffin Roberts, who was injured the whole year, Edgar Gonzalez, who was injured the whole year, and Domingo Robles, who had a 6.09 ERA and bad advanced stats in AA. As for the relievers, Jacob Bosiokovic is the only guy I want to protect, but he has such little evidence of him being good, I don’t know if they will add him. 32.
In the infield, there’s only one guy I protect now that Yepez is secured and that’s Brendan Donovan. I’ve seen Kramer Robertson thrown out there, and I would not. Don’t see a whole lot of risk to exposing him. I can’t see his profile being successful in the majors. He has a 54.2 GB% in Memphis and relies heavily on walking a lot, which I am normally a fan of, but pitchers in the majors are just not likely to walk a guy 13% of the time who has no power. He will also be 27 next year. 33
In the outfield, Alec Burleson doesn’t need to be added until he’s promoted next year, so he won’t be. Nick Plummer will be added, but I’m trying to trade him immediately. His AA stats look flukey as hell. I’ll also add Connor Capel. I would also try to trade him if possible. He has less flukey stats at AAA at the same age as Plummer but he also is behind two other left-handed hitters in Burleson and Nootbaar, and I don’t really think he’ll jump them. But for now the only cost is a 40 man spot and they can afford both until a trade comes along.
So we finish with 35 players on the 40 man. Since I only guaranteed four bullpen spots, you figure two of them go to starter candidates. So you’ll need to add two members of the bullpen and ideally one starter from the outside (if not more). And they may sign a bat of some sort too. Which would put them at 39. But the Cardinals will probably both 1) trade somebody already on the 40 man and 2) go waiver hunting such as their pickups of Quezada and Sanchez, both claimed in February of 2021.
This will be an interesting off season to say the least.