The Minor Leage Outfield Mambo

The Cardinals won last night against the Pirates.  Just barely.  The Pirates have been playing worse than the Cardinals (yes, that’s possible) or it may have been an entirely different ballgame.  The offense again was practically non existent, a run in the first inning was all they could muster.  Allen Craig shows sporadic signs of life, but then sinks into a coma again.  Jhonny Peralta went 2 for 4 last night; whether this is a sign of better things remains to be seen.  Kolten Wong continues to falter at the plate.  The bench currently consists of Daniel Descalso, who is hitting .115, Mark Ellis,  who is hitting .125, Shane Robinson, who is hitting .100 and the guy who never pinch hits, Tony Cruz, who is hitting .417.  Finally, there is the man formerly known as the Cardinals starting CFer, Peter Bourjos, who is hitting .174 in very limited time at the plate.  Which, if he actually were an official bench bat, would be better than the starting shortstop and the starting RFer, but I digress.

Yep, the bench, sans Tony Cruz, is pretty pathetic.  In fairness, Mark Ellis missed the first couple of weeks of the season on the DL and has only had 16 ABs, so I think a little leeway is in order.  Shane Robinson, usually a decent pinch hitter, has not fared well in only 20 ABs, and Daniel Descalso is, well, Daniel Descalso.  Cardinal Nation, however, in it’s yearly demonstration of panic and paranoia, has issued a fatwa against the bench, and is calling for an immediate call up of someone with a batting average from Memphis.  There is only room for an outfielder, since you couldn’t pry Daniel Descalso away from Mike Matheny with a crowbar and a blowtorch.  There are 5 outfielders to choose from at Memphis, but only 4 of them are hitting.  The 5th, Tommy Pham, is arguably the best defender of the bunch, but his bat has not reached it’s potential as of yet.  The remaining 4 are Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, and Joey Butler.

Last night on the Fox Sports Midwest pre game broadcast, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was asked about the possibility of a Memphis call up to shore up the bench, and his response was:  (a) it’s premature (thank you I have been vindicated); and (b) all of the Memphis outfielders except Joey Butler are young and developing and need to stay in Memphis and play everyday.  Mozeliak did not preclude the possibility of using Joey Butler, but he reiterated the premature part, indicating that for the the time being Butler will remain in Memphis.

There is some minor difficulty with the idea of bringing up Butler.  He is not on the 40 man roster, a fact which in and of itself is not particularly troubling if there is room on the roster.  However, Butler has the distinction of having formerly been on the 40 man roster, but he was removed recently by outright assignment to the minor leagues.  Now, it’s not impossible to restore Butler to the 4o man roster, but one of those pesky roster rules would then come into play and complicate matters. A player cannot be removed from the reserve roster by outright assignment more than once in his career without his permission.  If a player receives a second outright assignment, he has the right to refuse said assignment and elect free agency.  If the Cardinals restored Butler to the roster, he would then have the right to refuse being removed again and sent to the minor leagues.  This is significant only in the sense that if the Cardinals believe Butler has any future with the organization, they would be discouraged from removing Butler from the 40 man roster should a need arise for a spot for other reasons (for example, adding Stephen Piscotty, who is currently not on the 40 man roster).    Adding Butler would bring the roster total to a full 40, so any future 40 man roster moves would require someone to come off the roster.

Just as a side note, Shane Robinson, he of our current bench, and likely target of a trip to Memphis should Butler be added, has also had a prior outright assignment in his career.  He can be sent to Memphis without removing him from the 40 man roster, however, as he does have one option year remaining. Joey Butler also could be sent back to Memphis without removing him from the 40 man roster.

Taveras and Grichuk are already on the 40 man roster, as is Mike O’Neill, who is currently manning the outfield in AA Springfield.  Prospect James Ramsey, also at AA, is not on the 40 man roster.  Memphis outfielder Tommy Pham is in the same boat as Joey Butler, having been previously outrighted off of the 40 man roster.

So that is the current crop of outfielders from which to choose should a roster move be made.  Piscotty and Ramsey are pretty much not on the table at the present time due to their lack of 40 man roster status, and Butler and Pham have previous outright issues with which to deal.  Mozeliak has already indicated a desire to leave Taveras and Grichuk in Memphis.  O’Neill is also an option and he is hitting .333 at Springfield, but he doesn’t have any power, a fact which would likely make him a less attractive candidate among the Cardinal faithful.

The minor league revolving door is kind of squeaky.  Perhaps waiting a bit longer, as Mozeliak has suggested he intends to do, would not be such a bad thing.  You never know what might happen.  It is baseball, after all.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

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