The St. Louis Cardinals 2020 season began on July 24th and was brought to an abrupt halt on July 30th. They played 5 games between July 24th and July 29th and then were forced to put their season on hold by COVID until August 15th.
This post today is going to take a look at the transactions that followed and try to answer the question how has COVID affected the Cardinals' franchise in an off-the field manner. How has it affected their 40-man roster? Is it still affecting them today?
To set the stage, you have to understand certain rules in baseball.
There is a 40-man roster. A player must be on the 40-man roster in order to play in a major league game.
In order to be moved to the minors from the major league club, the player must still have one of three seasons' worth of options available to them - or be on a rehab assignment.
In order to be moved off of the 40-man roster, a player must go through waivers, on which any other team may claim that player and their salary.
If a player is on the 10-day DL* they are still needed to be carried on the 40-man roster.
If a player is moved to the 60-day DL, then they are NOT counted towards the 40-man roster.
*I used DL for disabled list, which I completely forgot was now called the IL for injured list. Oops.
John Brebbia and Jordan Hicks were moved to the 60-day DL and restricted list, respectively, by July 13th. They did not then count towards any of the 40 players on the 40-man roster. The Cardinals then released Brett Cecil to clear another spot on the 40-man on July 22nd, just two days prior to the season's commencement. Brad Miller hit the 10-day DL on July 22nd (retroactive to the 20th). Miles Mikolas hit the 10-day DL on July 28th, as Giovanny Gallegos came off of it.
All of those were prior to COVID's stranglehold on early August.
After playing their July 29th game and prior to playing their August 15th game, the St. Louis Cardinals made TWENTY-NINE TRANSACTIONS!
Brad Miller got re-instated
Kodi Whitley went on the DL
Paul DeJong went on the DL
Yadi Molina went on the DL
Carlos Martinez went on the DL
Junior Fernandez went on the DL
Rangel Ravelo went on the DL
Austin Gomber went on the DL
Austin Dean went on the DL
Ryan Helsley went on the DL
Lane Thomas went on the DL
Edmundo Sosa's roster status was changed (what does this mean?)
Malcom Nunez was invited to spring training (apparently NOT the Alternate site?)
Masyn Winn was invited to spring training
Ryan Meisinger was invited to spring training
Jesus Cruz was invited to spring training
Kramer Robertson was invited to spring training
Bryan Dobzanski was invited to spring training
Pedro Pages was invited to spring training
Max Schrock joined MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site (added to 40 man)
Roel Ramirez joined MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site (added to 40 man)
Alex Reyes joined MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site
Genesis Cabrera joined MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site
John Nogowski joined MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site (added to 40 man)
Ricardo Sanchez joined MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site
Seth Elledge joined MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site (added to 40 man)
Dylan Carlson joined MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site (added to 40 man)
Rob Kaminsky joined MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site (added to 40 man)
Miles Mikolas was moved from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL, opening up yet another roster spot for the Cardinals
(I re-ordered the above list to be like announcements closely aligned with each other, as opposed to chronological. The order of these did not matter too much since the end result is the same in terms of games played.)
For those who stopped counting, I did at first, that was 10 players sent to the DL despite zero games being played, and 9 people brought up from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site. This, again, all between games were played. As an added wrinkle, you could have more than 40 men on the 40-man roster this year if someone was on the COVID DL - which was treated like a 60-day DL spot, except they could come off of it whenever they were cleared.
The moves were just getting started:
The Cardinals played a double header on 8/15/20 - sweeping it from the Chicago White Sox.
8/16/20 - The Cardinals optioned Jake Woodford TO the Alternate Training Site because they had a single game the next day and thus didn't have that extra man due to the doubleheader.
The Cardinals played one game, losing to the Chicago White Sox, on 8/16/20.
8/17/20 - Jake Woodford, Nabil Crismatt (added to 40 man), and Ryan Meisinger (added to 40 man) joined MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site for a doubleheader that day. John Nogowski and Roel Ramirez sent back TO the Cardinals Alternate Training Site to make room for two of those three, with the double header's extra man availability providing the space for the third.
The Cardinals played a double header on 8/17/20 - splitting it with the Chicago Cubs.
8/18/20 - Jake Woodford and Rob Kaminsky sent back to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site while Jesus Cruz (added to 40 man) joined MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
The Cardinals lost to the Cubs on 8/18/20, setting up for another double header the next day.
8/19/20 - With a looming double header, there was another spot to fill on the roster, The Cardinals activated Austin Gomber from the DL, sent Jesus Cruz and Ryan Meisinger to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site, and brought both Jake Woodford and Johan Oviedo (added to 40 man) to MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
The Cardinals spilt a double header with the Cubs on 8/19/20. The Cardinals then got a brief reprieve. They only played 7 games over their next 7 days, with no double headers. Between 8/20/20 and 8/26/20, the Cardinals went 5-2 against the Reds and Royals, but still had to make a bevy of moves.
8/20/20 - Activated Yadier Molina from the 10-day DL and placed Matt WIeters onto the 10-day DL. Optioned Nabil Crismatt and Jake Woodford TO the Cardinals Alternate Training Site and then brought Woodford back.
8/21/20 - Sent Alvaro Seijas from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site to Springfield, ending his season.
8/23/20 - Sent Seth Elledge to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site and brought Paul DeJong back off of the DL.
Of course, when that stretch was over, the Cardinals went back to the double header derby on the 27th of August, playing their 16th and 17th games in 13th day with zero days off. They would play one more the next day to have 18 games in two weeks without a day off - which wouldn't come until September 3rd.
8/27/20 - Andrew Miller to the DL, Junior Fernandez's roster status changed, Seth Elledge back to the majors from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site and Edmundo Sosa TO the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
8/28/20 - Post double header, Seth Elledge was sent to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
8/29/20 - Another busy day. Besides losing their 4th straight game, the Cardinals made 8 moves. They sent Ricardo Sanchez to the DL. They sent Daniel Ponce de Leon, Junior Fernandez, and Max Schrock to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site while bringing up John Nogowski, Seth Elledge, Ryan Meisinger, and Rob Kaminsky from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
8/31/20 - Lane Thomas' roster status was changed. Ricardo Sanchez was moved to the 60-day DL, ending his season and creating room on the 40-man roster.
9/1/20 - And this is when the dominoes start to fall. The combination of 40-man rosters and Cardinals Alternate Training Site size caps had not yet been reached at this point - at least not with overlap. Cardinals activate Ryan Helsley from the DL. Rob Kaminsky sent to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site. In doing so, both of those were full and Jesus Cruz was designated for assignment (DFA'd). Cruz could have been selected by any team in the majors at that point. More on this in a moment*.
9/2/20 - Rangel Ravelo was activated from the 10-day DL, while Dexter Fowler was added to the 10-day DL. Ryan Meisinger was optioned to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site while Rob Kaminsky was brought back from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
FIRST OFF DAY IN A WHILE!!!
9/3/20 - Jesus Cruz cleared waivers and rejoined the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
After clearing waivers, Jesus Cruz is still in the organization today. Jesus Cruz threw 39 pitches to 7 batters for the St. Louis Cardinals this year. His average fastball was only 91.1 mph, with a sinker coming in at 91.3. His changeup came in at 84.9 mph and his slider at 83.5 mph. He was hit and he was hit hard in those 7 batters, giving up 3 hits, a walk, and 2 runs while recording just 3 outs.
9/4/20 - Matt Wieters came back from the 10-day DL and Andrew Knizner was optioned to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
9/5/20 - Andrew Miller came back from the 10-day DL and Kwang-Hyun Kim was placed on the 10-day DL. With yet another double header to be played, Nabil Crismatt was added from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site to be the extra player that day.
9/6/20 - Nabil Crismatt was sent to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site prior to the Cardinals taking their 3rd straight against the Chicago Cubs (who will beat them the next day to even up the season series at 5-5).
9/8/20 - Ryan Meisinger was DFA'd (again, so another team could have grabbed him at this point). Carlos Martinez was taken off of the 10-day DL. Dylan Carlson was sent to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site while Daniel Ponce de Leon was brought back from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
The Cardinals split a double header with Minnesota on the 8th, didn't play on the 9th, and split a double header with the Tigers on the 10th.
9/9/20 - Daniel Ponce de Leon was sent to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
9/10/20 - Ryan Meisinger cleared waivers and was sent to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site. Johan Oviedo joined the 10-day DL while Austin Dean came back from it. Nabil Crismatt was brought back from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site to MLB for the double header.
After clearing waivers, Ryan Meisinger is still in the Cardinals organization. Like Jesus Cruz, he threw a fastball, sinker, slider, and change this year as well. The arsenal is almost exactly the same there.The results were much better in 62 pitches in the 13 batters he faced (while recording 8 outs).
9/11/20 - Nabil Crismatt was sent to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site, but then the team got word that Giovanny Gallegos was headed to the 10-day DL. Nabil Crismatt was brought back from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site. The Cardinals also signed free agent Akeem Bostick.
9/13/20 - The Cardinals invited a couple of more pitchers (Austin Warner and Tommy Parsons) to spring training, I can only imagine in anticipation of losing some pitchers eventually to another team off of the waiver wire. The Cardinals finished a series with Cincinnati, getting 2 of 3 taken from them.
9/14/20 - Austin Dean went back on the 10-day DL, but Kwang-Hyun Kim was brought off of it. Daniel Ponce de Leon was brought back from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site for a 9/14 double header. The Cardinals would also play a double header on the 16th of September, setting up this dizzying allotment of transactions.
9/15/20 - Daniel Ponce de Leon sent back to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
9/16/20 - Rob Kaminksy DFA'd. Nabil Crismatt and Lane Thomas sent to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site. Justin Williams, Junior Fernandez, and Max Schrock brought to MLB from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site. Oh, and Johan Oviedo's roster status changed by the Cardinals.
9/17/20 - Johan Oviedo moved to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
With ANOTHER double header on the 18th, the Cardinals...well, here ya go:
9/18/20 - sent Rob Kaminsky (who cleared waivers) and Max Schrock to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site while bringing to the majors from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site Daniel Ponce de Leon, Nabil Crismatt, and Dylan Carlson. They needed that extra player because Dakota Hudson was sent to the 10-day DL.
After clearing waivers, Rob Kaminsky stayed with the Cardinals. Kaminsky is a lefty that throws a 91.6 mph fastball, 84.9 mph slider, and 83.1 mph change up. He threw 85 pitches to 21 batters this year over 5 games, getting 14 outs. His 1.93 ERA and 1.07 WHIP were very good...at least partially living up to the previous prospect status hype from many moons ago.
9/19/20 - Daniel Ponce de Leon sent back to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site following the double header.
9/20/20 - The Cardinals traded international bonus money to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Domingo Robles - ANOTHER pitcher that wouldn't have to immediately be on the 40-man. After taking 4 out of 5 in Pittsburgh, ending on the 20th, the Cardinals would end the year by taking 4 of their next 8 against Kansas City and Milwaukee to end their regular season, making the playoffs without needing to play 2 in Detroit to end the season. (HOW'S THAT FOR A RUN ON SENTENCE? i'm leaving it...) There was a double header on the 25th of September against Milwaukee.
Here are the moves that get us there.
9/21/20 - Giovanny Gallegos and Dexter Fowler were both brought back off of the 10-day DL and Justin Williams and Nabil Crismatt were sent again to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
Additionally, the Cardinals again had to test waivers by placing Roel Ramirez (who came over in the Tommy Pham deal) on them. Roel Ramirez was the poor guy who pitched like Mike Mayers for 2/3 of an inning and may never see the majors again, despite being kept in the system by the Cardinals.
9/22/20 - Dakota Hudson had to be shifted to the 60-day DL to create more room on the 40-man roster. Kodi Whitley was also brought back from the 10-day DL and Junior Fernandez was sent to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
9/24/20 - Carlos Martinez was sent to the 10-day DL, ending his season, and Johan Oviedo was brought back from the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
9/25/20 - John Gant was placed on the 10-day DL, ending his season. Roel Ramirez was invited back to spring training after clearing waivers. Due to the double header that day, despite only sending Ramirez to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site, the Cardinals still were able to bring back to the majors both Daniel Ponce de Leon and Nabil Crismatt.
9/26/20 - Daniel Ponce de Leon was the one chosen to send back to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site.
9/27/20 - Until today, when Nabil Crismatt was also sent to the Cardinals Alternate Training Site once Austin Dean was activated from the 10-day DL.
All of that SOMEHOW led to only 4 players being placed on waivers throughout the actual season. Part of that was because of the several others who had to be added to the 60-day DL. However, that still shouldn't have been a problem because Kolten Wong, Adam Wainwright, Brad Miller, Yadier Molina, and Matt Wieters all hit free agency on 10/28/20 (with later John Brebbia and Rangel Ravelo joining them)...however, on October 30th, the Cardinals had to activate their 60-man DL players onto the 40-man roster again for the offseason. That meant that despite not getting a pitch from Jordan Hicks or John Brebbia or Miles Mikolas this year, and not getting a pitch from Dakota Hudson or Ricardo Sanchez in 2021, the Cardinals had to put the five of them back into the organization's 40-man roster.
Ricardo Sanchez was out-righted to Memphis along with Nabil Crismatt when those moves occurred. This allowed Sanchez to bypass being placed on the 40-man. He was not taken and is still a Cardinal. Nabil Crismatt is not. He made it to Memphis' roster, but like the rest of baseball now plays for the San Diego Padres' organization. That could very well be a loss to the Cardinals.
Max Schrock was also a roster casualty, as the Chicago Cubs selected him off of waivers when the Cardinals could not keep him on the 40-man either. I don't believe he'll be such a loss.
Having to put those 5 back onto the roster, and utilize so many players (19 position players and 26 pitchers for 58 games) due to COVID was a complete assault on the Cardinals' system. The Cardinals had to put at least 6 players through waivers that they might not like otherwise to have done due to those players potentially 1) playing again that season or 2) being another key piece to the puzzle in a subsequent season - like I think they would have liked Crismatt to try to be. For the Cardinals to not take a bigger hit than they did (essentially losing just Schrock and Crismatt to other franchises) simply due to roster moves that had to take place throughout the season was a huge victory in itself. For the team to go 30-28 (with two games removed against potentially the worst team on their schedule) all while dealing with this was incredible.
Of course, COVID's impact becomes ever more present off the field (for now, on the field once the season starts) when you consider that they might lose Kolten Wong, Adam Wainwright, and Yadier Molina simply because they're afraid to spend the money on them due to losses in 2020, but that is another argument altogether.