Before making their moves toward a new look for their late-inning relief, the Cardinals gave former All-Star closer Trevor Rosenthal his release and, in the process, began fine-tuning the 40-man roster.
The Cardinals made a series of moves Monday that included presenting Lance Lynn with a qualifying offer he’ll inevitably reject and allowing Rosenthal to join Lynn in the free-agent market, which swung open to all teams Monday evening. Rosenthal will miss most of the 2018 season as he recovers from elbow surgery, and that absence made keeping Rosenthal on the roster less attractive to the Cardinals than opening a spot for a new player, or to protect a prospect.
Rosenthal’s representative, Scott Boras, and the Cardinals had discussions about a multi-year contract, one that would probably have kept the righthander with the team through 2019, but could not come to an agreement.
The Cardinals had control of Rosenthal’s rights for 2018, though as an arbitration-eligible player he would be a due a raise on his $6.4-million salary and yet only be available to pitch toward the end of the season, possibly for its final six weeks. The Cardinals had to weigh his 2018 salary and having him under contract for 2019 against creating an opening on the 40-man roster that they could use in the coming weeks. They sided with the roster, and rather than wait until December to decide on Rosenthal they made the move Monday.
The Cardinals also removed shortstop Alex Mejia and catcher Alberto Rosario from the 40-man roster to create two more openings. Both players were “outrighted,” and since it was a second time for Rosario he becomes a minor-league free agent.
Major League Baseball’s deadline for qualifying offers was Monday at noon, and throughout the game eligible free agents were tabled one-year, $17.4 million contracts. Players, like Lynn, have seven days to accept or decline. Lynn has previously stated he will decline so he can pursue a multi-year deal, probably with other teams. By giving Lynn a qualifying offer the Cardinals secure a compensatory draft pick after the second round if Lynn signs with another team. That could give the Cardinals some room if they want to pursue a free agent that will cost them a pick.
Scouted when he was a shortstop at Cowley Community College in Kansas, Rosenthal was the Cardinals’ 21st-round pick in 2009 and became a success story for the team’s late-round approach to the draft. He became an emblem of how the team wanted to prioritize athletic ability, urge its scouts to advocate for “gut feel” picks, and develop pitchers around arm strength. The righthander reached the majors in 2012, emerged as a velocity-fueled force for the pennant-winning team in 2013, and then had back-to-back 40-save seasons in 2014 and 2015. His 48 saves for the 100-win 2015 team is the single-season club record.
That same summer he was an All-Star.
Use, fatigue and splotches of walks caught up with Rosenthal in 2016, when Seung Hwan Oh took over the closer job. Rosenthal won it back late in 2017 and converted 11 saves before his right elbow came apart. A ruptured ligament required reconstructive surgery and will now leave him rehabbing — and then out to land a contract this next season.